Wednesday, July 14, 2004

WA bid to recognise 'original custodians' stalls

Western Australia's Opposition has rejected a Government proposal to amend the state's Constitution to recognise Aboriginal people as the original custodians of the state.

The Opposition says the Government was trying to ram through a change which it believes could lead to Aboriginal land claims.

In two weeks, a joint sitting of Parliament is being held to mark the centenary of the parliamentary building, as well as the 175th anniversary of the founding of the Swan River colony.

Indigenous Affairs Minister John Kobelke says the Government had hoped to use the occasion to amend the Constitution to recognise Aborigines as the original custodians and promote reconciliation.

But he says the Opposition rejected the proposal.

"It doesn't matter what you suggest, the Liberals oppose it," he said.

"They really do not have any policies or programs to take this state forward."

Upper House Liberal MP Norman Moore says he finds it galling that the Government would want to rush through critical legislation in just one sitting.

"Quite frankly, it's a very controversial issue," he said.

"There are significant potential legal ramifications of land ownership in Western Australia."

Mr Kobelke says the Government will seek to amend the Constitution at a later date.

By The Bone 14 July 04


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