Standing and sessional orders

Ms HUTCHINS (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs) (16:07:13) — In terms of the amendments that have been put forward by the opposition, I would say that this government absolutely cannot support those amendments, particularly point 4 of those amendments, which omits the paragraph which talks about the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition and representatives of the Greens — let me emphasise — ‘responding’ to the visitors’ remarks. That is not debating the bill in any way, shape or form. Let me just set the record straight: the opposition and all parties in this house will have an entire five weeks to consider their position and their comments on the bill once this house adjourns at the end of this week, so the excuses that have been put forward about proper process are ones I absolutely do not concur with.

We have certainly paved the way when it comes to the issue of a treaty process and talking about a treaty. Yes, this is not the usual process, but this is a process that we believe will give the opportunity for Aboriginal traditional owners, our representatives from the treaty working group, to be here on the floor to make remarks about the process so far and the importance of what we will be considering in detail, in debate, when this house recommences after the Easter break.

Certainly with regard to the comments that were made by the member for Northcote, I think there was a lot of stretching of the truth there. In fact, let me just emphasise that the Federation of Victorian Traditional Owner Corporations has representatives on the Aboriginal treaty working group — on the now known working group — who will be represented here tomorrow. So to say that traditional owners have not been included in this process is simply not true. And the community assembly that was formed was very much at arm’s length to the government’s work on this bill. The concept was put forward, the work was done, in response to looking at an opportunity for them to have some independence so that Aboriginal organisations and Aboriginal traditional owners and Aboriginal people from across the state could be invited to participate, nominate and be a part of that process going forward. I am very proud to be part of making this the most inclusive process that we could make it.

I was actually a little astounded by some of the comments made by the opposition. I am not sure it is right to compare traditional owners to the rest of mainstream Victoria. Quite frankly, to say that there has been bipartisan support around this process so far I think, again, is very much stretching the truth. I have tried to engage the opposition. On many occasions we have tried to engage the opposition. We have invited them to forums to be a part of this process and, quite frankly, they have been absolutely silent. It astounds me that they want to take away the opportunity to say whether or not they will stand on the pathway to treaty.

Ms Victoria interjected.

Ms HUTCHINS — Yes, I know you have been there. You also hid from being in photos with the treaty working group because you were not sure where you stood on this and whether you wanted to be a part of the process going forward. I think the reality is that those opposite are scared. They are scared of this issue, and that is why they have not engaged. That is why they have stretched the truth on this. I would say get on board and support it.