Wednesday, 15 August 2007
Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Welfare Payment Reform) Bill 2007; Northern Territory National Emergency Response Bill 2007; Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Northern Territory National Emergency Response and Other Measures) Bill 2007; Appropriation (Northern Territory National Emergency Response) Bill (No. 1) 2007-2008; Appropriation (Northern Territory National Emergency Response) Bill (No. 2) 2007-2008
It is no great surprise that we are not going to reach agreement on this. The simple position the Democrats are putting forward, and why we will certainly persist with our amendment, is that we do not believe that taking total control of Aboriginal land—in the way that the minister is now reaffirming they are doing—is necessary to achieve the extra provision of infrastructure and housing that the government say they are going to fund. I think it is good that we get on the record as often as possible the government’s commitment to fund and resource the provision of that infrastructure over this full five-year period, but the core issue before the chamber at the moment is whether or not the total takeover of these parts of Aboriginal land is necessary to achieve that outcome.
I point back to the question I asked about the reason behind it, the motivation behind it. I do not want to keep referring to Noel Pearson, because, as I said, there are many other Indigenous people other than him, including many from the Territory, but the key point of his argument—and it reflects the feedback I have received from many Aboriginal people in the Territory—is that it is absolutely imperative for them to retain some control over their land. I have heard nothing that the minister has put forward today that indicates why they have to lose total control over their land and total control has to go to the federal government to enable these things to be done. That is why it is imperative that there be some degree of representation of Indigenous landowners in the decision making about what happens on their land. Frankly, I just do not believe there are any that would say, ‘No, we don’t want you to build extra housing on our land.’ That is just a ludicrous suggestion. When you boil it down, that is what is being put forward here—that unless we take total control we are not going to be able to build these houses. That is just ridiculous. It is not something that would be accepted anywhere else in the Australian community and I do not see why it should be accepted here.
That part 4, clauses 31 to 64, stand as printed.