House debates

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Northern Territory National Emergency Response Bill 2007

Consideration in Detail

Bill—by leave—taken as a whole.

9:02 pm

Photo of Jenny MacklinJenny Macklin (Jagajaga, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Families and Community Services) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—I move opposition amendments (1) and (2):

Page 9, after clause 5 (after line 14) insert:5A Review of operation etc of Part 4The Minister must cause to be conducted, as soon as practicable after the first anniversary of the day on which this Act receives the Royal Assent, a review of the operation and effectiveness of Part 4 (Acquisition of rights, titles and interests in land).
Clause 132, page 93, (lines 12-17), omit subclauses (1) and (2), substitute:
Subject to subsection (3), the provisions of this Act, and any acts done under or for the purposes of those provisions, are, for the purposes of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, special measures and are consistent with Part 2 of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.
Subject to subsection (3), the provisions of this Act, and any acts done under or for the purposes of those provisions, are not laws as described by subsection 10(3) of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

Amendment (1) relates to the requirement we seek that a review be conducted one year after the commencement of part 4 of this bill. The review would examine part 4 only: namely, the sections dealing with the acquisition of rights, titles and interests in land. This relates principally to the new five-year leases over township areas but also includes the town camps.

The government has indicated, and we agree, that there is a need to facilitate better housing and infrastructure. The government has also argued that the five-year leases over townships in Aboriginal communities will facilitate the rapid improvement of housing and infrastructure. The government argues that taking on the responsibility as the effective town landlord is necessary to quickly improve the vital infrastructure in these communities that is necessary for better housing, and we would argue that it would also be very helpful for improved economic development.

The lease process, of course, is going to be new and untried. We think it will need to be handled very sensitively, and we understand that, if it does work well, it could deliver significant benefits. Through this review, we want simply to examine how effective this has been in operation and to assess the progress in establishing infrastructure and housing in both the townships and the town camps. If the situation became stalled or mired in any sort of legal process and were not delivering the outcomes then we would want to fix it. The review will give us a progress update so that we do not get distracted from the main goal of fixing infrastructure in these communities.

Amendment (2) moves the same amendment as I moved earlier in relation to the Racial Discrimination Act, so I will not repeat my remarks.

9:05 pm

Photo of Bob KatterBob Katter (Kennedy, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I support the opposition spokesman, the honourable member for Jagajaga, on these amendments and urge the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs to adopt them. I think they are eminently sensible. There are a lot of things in here that give me cause for concern. I have had discussions with Bev O’Brien and Maureen Power, two very sensible and intelligent ladies from North Queensland, and I agree with their position that there are a lot of things here that are worrying. A review in a year’s time seems to me eminently sensible and I urge the minister to accept the proposal.

Photo of Mal BroughMal Brough (Longman, Liberal Party, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I have two quick comments. Firstly, it is the preserve of any government to review any of its legislation or provisions within that legislation at any time. Secondly, with regard to the request to have a review after 12 months, the leases are going to be done in three blocks. Some of them may not happen for six months, in which case it would be totally inappropriate, within the short period from when they have been enacted or empowered, to expect to see the sorts of changes that we are looking for. For that reason the government rejects the opposition’s amendments.

Question put:

That the amendments (Ms Macklin’s) be agreed to.

Bill agreed to.