Territory Stories

Parliamentary record : Part I debates (24 April 1985)



Parliamentary record : Part I debates (24 April 1985)


Debates for 4th Assembly 1983 - 1987; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 4th Assembly 1983 - 1987




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Northern Territory Legislative Assembly

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES Tuesday 23 April 1985 of tha national land rights model for negotiation and that we are ready to enter negotiations in a constructive manner. It was in just such a constructive manner that I agreed not to proceed with a number of legislative proposals un Aboriginal affairs as indicated in His Honour the Administrator's speech at the opening of this session of the Assembly. However, while the Territory government is prepared to enter the negotiations in an open manner, we are alert to the need to insist on clarity and precision in the negotiated provisions of the model and an absence of ambiguity and inconsistency. In that regard, there are a number of inconsistencies and ambiguities in the model. For example, Aboriginal community living areas on pastoral properties and the needs of town campers are put forward as subjects for Aboriginal land claim rather than under existing and adequate legislation. The mining royalty arrangements proposed are far from clear and lack the necessary precision. The situation regarding national parks and the preservation of prior interests of the public in those parks need clarification. Questions of prior interests generally in land the subject of a claim or grant, for things such as recreation, mining, the use of water courses and access to public roads, have also to be determined. Inconsistencies and ambiguities such as those must be ironed out to avoid unnecessary reference to the courts for interpretation or on constitutional grounds. That brings me, Mr Speaker, to the first of the matters I raise as a part of the Northern Territory's preferred basis for consultation or negotiation. It is highly likely that Commonwealth legislation of a national character in the area of Aboriginal land rights, and particularly any Commonwealth attempt to impose such legislation on a state, would give rise to issues in the High Court to test its constitutional validity. The model envisages the imposition of the Commonwealth provisions on a state only where state law is non-existent, inconsistent or incompatible. The Northern Territory is not accorded that privileged position. In relation to the Northern Territory, the federal minister said, in releasing the model, and I quote from his press release of 20 February 1985: 'As a consequence of this exercise, I will be reviewing the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act to ensure that it is consistent with the national approach as finally endorsed'. Again, in a speech on 16 March to the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, he said: 'Many of you, I know, are concerned about the government's intentions regarding the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. The government does intend amending that act to ensure that it is consistent with the national approach'. The federal minister also indicated that intention in his discussions with me. Honourable members on both sides of this Assembly should agree that that is not an equitable, rational or progressive approach by the Commonwealth. If the Commonwealth accepts that, fundamentally, the legislative prerogative for land rights rests with the states, then the firm position of the Northern Territory government is to insist on the same prerogative. The Northern Territory government will insist on repeal of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act and will insist on the right to legislate on Aboriginal land rights with the same freedom as the states. On that basis, I give an undertaking of this government that land rights legislation of this Assembly will be consistent with the Commonwealth preferred model to the extent that various state legislative enactments are similarly consistent. When considering the model, it needs to be remembered that the Northern Territory already has the constitutional capacity to legislate in some areas such as pastoral lease excisions for community living areas, urban land, needs-based claims and sacred sites protection, and has so legislated or been prepared to legislate. A fundamental position 6f the Northern Territory government will be that there must be no further intrusion by the Commonwealth into Northern Territory responsibilities. 733

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