Documents - Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (18:14): Senator Siewert is quite critical about this report, but I have to say to the chamber and to anyone listening that it is a question of who you would believe on assessing these issues: either KPMG, an organisation with a wide and high reputation for accuracy and common sense, or the Greens political party. I would suggest that most Australians would go to KPMG. I thought Senator Siewert's quite unfortunate criticism of the report emphasises the shallowness of the Greens' approach to most of these issues.

I did not want to refer to the whole of this particular document but to the part of the document relating to land reform. I have said a number of times that, for Indigenous people to reach their potential, they really need to have some form of land titles system which actually benefits them. I appreciate the Northern Territory is slightly different, but we have had native title legislation for 20 years and I cannot really see where it has benefited anyone—most importantly, Indigenous people. What the government should be really looking at is how Indigenous people can be given the opportunity, which every other Australian has, of using their land for their benefit and to improve their lives. To me, for all of the debate that has gone on over many years—mainly, I might say, by people living in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Perth who, with respect to them, I think never really understand these situations—we really need to get some sort of system in relation to land titles that actually brings benefits and a better lifestyle to Indigenous people.

Regarding the Northern Australia white paper, which is now a year old, about which the minister delivered the first annual report just yesterday, there was a lot in that document which attempted to address the issue of land titles generally, but importantly in relation to Indigenous people and land in the Northern Territory. This report, of course, refers to the reforms under the Stronger Futures program in the Northern Territory specifically. Under the act, the Australian government enacted a package of land reform measures which were intended to extend opportunities for voluntary long-term leasing, particularly in relation to community living areas and town camps. Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Regulation 2013 amends the Northern Territory legislation to allow the community living areas landowners to grant leases and licences for a broader range of purposes and to increase the threshold requirements for ministerial consent from 12 months to 10 years. By easing leasing restrictions and broadening the categories of habitable land use to enable economic participation, the Stronger Futures act measures are regarded to be compatible with human rights and the rights of Indigenous people to self-determination.

The report goes on and it is worth reading. It is taking steps towards what the government believes, and I believe, is a better arrangement for Indigenous people and the land that is theirs. It enables them to treat a parcel of land as theirs that they can build upon, be proud of, improve and, perhaps in cases, even make profits out of. That is where I think, in the interests of our First Australians, we have to look at it and try to advance that so that land ownership means something in a tangible form to Indigenous people and leads to a better lifestyle, more independence and greater pride for these Australians. (Time expired)

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