Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 17 May 1995
Parliamentary Record 10
Debates for 7th Assembly 1994 - 1997; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 7th Assembly 1994 - 1997
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Wednesday 17 May 1995 This bill sets out to address a problem that has come to light. I am not sure just how recently and just how it came to light, but there is a problem with the operation of the Lands Acquisition Act. The bill corrects what must be recognised as an anomaly in the act. It was found that subsection (1A) of section 46 did not apply where the minister approved a grant of a community living area in a situation where the pastoralists and the Aboriginal group were in disagreement, or where the ministers approval was not in accord with the tribunals recommendations. The opposition supports the amendment because it properly empowers the minister to approve and declare that community living area in the face, for example, of intransigent pastoralists or where agreement could not be reached between those 2 groups. In the second case, it makes it clear that the minister can approve a living area different from that in the tribunals recommendation. The amended section 46(1 A) is shorter. It is worded more simply and it deletes the offending wording in the act which read either by agreement or by reason of the acceptance by the minister of a recommendation. Certainly, the opposition will always support amendments that shorten and simplify legislation. Of course, on this occasion, it also corrects the operation of the act. I spent some time discussing the issues surrounding this with people from the Central Land Council and I found there was quite strong resentment over the whole process of land acquisition. I believe that this stemmed, at least in part, from the fact that, when Prime Minister Hawke and Chief Minister Perron first signed the memorandum of agreement in 1989, the land councils were not consulted, were not part of that process and were not involved in the discussions. I found that the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Gerry Hand, had argued strongly for the land councils to be involved in that process in the face of Prime Minister Hawke maintaining that this was an agreement between 2 governments, and that land councils were not governments and therefore were not to be included. Prime Minister Hawke may well have been technically correct but, over time, I believe that decision not to involve the land councils was proved wrong because they have continued to believe that the whole process has been flawed as a result of their exclusion from the consultations and discussions. Central Land Council Director, Tracker Tilmouth, believes that there may be up to 3500 people in the Central Land Council region who cannot obtain a living area under current legislation because of its failure to recognise traditional attachment to land as the real basis for Aboriginal people applying for excisions. He believes that, because the memorandum was signed without any negotiations with the land councils or consultation with Aboriginal people, it does not reflect or recognise obligations under traditional Aboriginal law. He further said that Aboriginal people would be able to apply for an excision only if they have the consent of the pastoralist or if they can prove past residence on the pastoral lease and can demonstrate that they need an excision. The Central Land Council Annual Report of 1993-94 stated that the councils concerns in relation to the legislation, outlined in the 1992-93 annual report, continued unabated. The restricted eligibility criteria deny Aboriginal peoples legitimate needs to establish community living areas on the basis of their traditional attachment to land which has been alienated by pastoral leases. I take the ministers point that there is to be another debate later this year on the Pastoral Land Act. However, I wanted to make the point that, from the viewpoint of the Central Land Council, the government can do what it chooses with this legislation because, in 3308
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