House of Representatives
17 November 1976

30th Parliament · 1st Session

Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.

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The Clerk:

– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:

Aboriginal Land Rights

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:

That the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill 1976, does not satisfy the Aborignial needs for land in the Northern Territory.

Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled, should:

  1. Extend the freeze on European claims to the unalienated Crown Lands of the Northern Territory until 12 months after the passage of the Bill; and to provide for speedy lodging and hearing of Aboriginal claims. The hearing of Aboriginal claims has been postponed as a result of government decisions, Aborigines should not be penalised;
  2. Amend the Bill to ensure:

    1. The removal of all powers to pass Land Rights Legislation from the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, particularly its control over sacred sites, entry permits, control over the seas adjoining Aboriginal land, the fishing rights of non-aborigines, the right of Aborigines to enter pastoral stations and control of wildlife on Aboriginal land.
    2. The control of Aborigines of all roads passing through Aboriginal lands.
    3. The restoration of the Aboriginal Land Commissioner’s powers to hear claims based on need as well as traditional claims lodged by Aborigines.
    4. The restoraton of all powers vested in Land Councils and the Land Commissioner in the 1975 Land Rights Bill.
    5. A provision that any Government decision to override Aboriginal objections to mining on the basis of national interest be itself reviewed by both houses of parliament.
    6. A provision that land-owning groups of Aborigines may apply to form separate trusts if they wish.
    7. The removal of artificial barriers to traditional owners imposed by the Territory Borders on all tribes so affected.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Viner, Mr Dobie, Mr Hurford, Mr Les Johnson and Mr Les McMahon.

Petitions received.

Budget 1976-77

To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:

The Budget will increase unemployment to unprecedented and crisis proportions at a time when hundreds of thousands of Australians, especially school-leavers, young workers and apprentices, are without work; the Budget completes the dismantling of Medibank as a simple, effective universal health insurance scheme, providing basic coverage for the total community; the Budget, by its heavy cuts in urban and transport programs, will worsen the quality of life available to many Australians; the Budget will compel state governments to reduce their services and increase charges; the Budget reduces spending on Aboriginal affairs by 30 per cent and returns expenditure on Aborigines to pre- 1972 days; the Budget seriously disadvantages migrant groups, most notably in employment and health, and leaves room for concern over the future of ethnic radio; the Budget, despite the government’s earlier rhetoric about defence threats to Australia, continues to hold the size of the armed services at present levels; and the Budget, despite all the above, still cannot be expected to reduce Australia’s annual inflation rate below twelve per cent.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the 1976 Budget be redrafted to provide for economic recovery within the guide-lines laid down by the Australian Labor Government’s 1975 Budget.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Armitage, Mr Cohen, Mr Les McMahon and Mr Antony Whitlam.

Petitions received.


To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:

That, although we accept the verdict of the Australian people in the 1975 election, we do not accept the right of a Governor-General to dismiss a Prime Minister who maintains the confidence of the House of Representatives.

We believe that the continued presence of Sir John Kerr as Governor-General is a cause of division among the Australian people.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will call on Sir John Kerr to resign as Australian Governor-General.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Armitage, Mr Hurford, Mr Jacobi and MrWallis.

Petitions received.


Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:

The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:

That those who have retired and those who are about to retire, are being severely and adversely affected by inflation and Australian economic circumstances.

The continuance of the means test on pensions causes undue hardship to them.

We call on the Government to immediately abolish the means test on all aged pensions.

To ensure a pension for all on retirement, and a guarantee that all Australian citizens will retire with dignity.

Acknowledge that a pension is a right and not a charity.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Garland and Mr Martyr.

Petitions received.

Symphony Orchestras

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of theundersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that we are deeply concerned at the threat to the continuation of symphony orchestras throughout Australia posed by the IAC and Green reports.

We believe that the Government should not allow the symphony orchestras of Australia to be reduced in any way at all.

Your petitioners humbly pray that your honourable House will take steps to ensure the continuation and growth of our symphony orchestras, thereby ensuring that the quality of life of the people of this country shall be maintained.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray . by Mr Graham and Mr Jacobi.

Petitions received.

Symphony Orchestra in Newcastle

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, the humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Hunter Valley Region respectfully showeth the lack of a resident professional symphony orchestra in Newcastle and surrounding areas, with consequent denial to the citizens of adequate provision of concerts, opera, ballet, school concerts, teaching of various orchestral instruments and career opportunities for young musicians.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament give due and early consideration to the provision of funds, in association with the N.S.W. State Government, Local Governments and the community of this region, for the establishment and maintenance of the Hunter Symphony Orchestra, consisting initially of 40 players, located in Newcastle and serving the cultural needs of the 500 000 inhabitants of the region, in accordance with the proposal and budget submitted to the Industries Assistance Commission.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Charles Jones and Mr Morris.

Petitions received.


To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble petition respectfully showeth:

That Medibank has proved to be the cheapest and most efficient means of bringing health care to Australian citizens and that the citizens of Australia have received Medibank as a great and valued social reform.

That Medibank has proved itself to be a far superior system of health care than was offered by the private funds prior to July 1975.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will observe the promise made by the Prime Minister in his policy speech that ‘We will maintain Medibank and ensure the standard of health care does not decline ‘

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Cass and Dr Jenkins.

Petitions received.

Child Care

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully urge that:

There be continuing and expanding support for Child Care of all forms with particular emphasis on the needs of children whose parents either work or are furthering their education.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrEllicott.

Petition received.

Australian Shipbuilding Industry

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens respectfully showeth:

  1. That a viable shipbuilding industry, we believe, has to be retained in the national interest.
  2. That the Australian Government instead of destroying our shipbuilding industry should assist the industry by bringing the technology of the present yards up-to-date.
  3. That Australia’s defence capacity is partially related to our industrial strength; particularly our ability to build and repair ships.
  4. That shipbuilding and repairs play a vital role in the economic stability of Newcastle and Whyalla.
  5. Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government place immediate orders with the Australian shipbuilding industry.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Armitage.

Petition received.

Television Programs

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Government of Australia.

We the undersigned electors in the state of New South Wales, wish to protest in the strongest terms against the obvious lowering of censorship standards with regard to current programs and planned future programs being broadcast on ABC and commercial television stations.

We also ask that consideration be given to a tightening of laws with regard to pornography and the banning of both imported and locally produced pornographic literature.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Cohen.

Petition received.

Australian Broadcasting Commission

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government;

  1. Subscribe to the view that the Australian Broadcasting Commission belongs to the people and not to the government of the day whatever political party,
  2. Eschew all means, direct or indirect, of diminishing the independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission,
  3. Reject all proposals for the introduction of advertising into ABC programs,
  4. Develop methods for publicly funding the Commission which will prevent the granting or withholding of funds being used as a method of diminishing its independence,
  5. Ensure that any enquiries into broadcasting in Australia which may seem desirable from time to time shall be conducted publicly and that strong representation of the public shall be included within the body conducting the enquiry,

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Cohen.

Petition received.

South Africa

To the Speaker and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that many Australians are concerned at the recent outbreak of racial riots and killings in South Africa.

We your petitioners do therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government:

  1. Call upon the South African Government to eliminate apartheid and racial discrimination;
  2. Withdraw the Australian Trade Commissioners from South Africa, in accordance with UN resolution 341 1G (December 1975)

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.

Petition received.

Aboriginal Land Rights

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:

That the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people seek justice in this land which is rightfully theirs.

That they cannot begin to have their freedom and independence until all discriminatory laws are abolished and land rights are granted.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that land rights be granted now, on these conditions:

  1. Immediate ownership rights by tribal groups of land they continue to occupy.
  2. That all existing lands designated as Aboriginal reserves be handed over to the respective Aboriginal groups, and that the land be effectively controlled and owned by the Aboriginals in that area under their law and customs.
  3. That Aboriginal lands include total rights to all natural resources, and that present mining and prospecting be suspended until negotiations are held with Aboriginals.
  4. That land ownership and control be legally protected and regarded as inviolable.
  5. That Aboriginal people be compensated for the loss of all Aboriginal designated reserves, tribal lands, and other lands revoked by the Commonwealth and State governments.
  6. That before compensation is decided negotiations be held to acquire those lands plus any other lands deemed necessary by the respective Aboriginal groups and tribes for their survival and benefits.
  7. That any ‘Crown Lands’ which are of traditional or sacred significance to Aboriginals be ceded to them in perpetuity.
  8. That all sites of anthropological or traditional significance to Aboriginals other than those on reserves or Crown Land be opened to the use of Aboriginals without fees or constraints.

And that legislation be passed to abolish the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Acts and their regulations and by-laws.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Haslem.

Petition received.

Metric System

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the metric system and request the Government to restore the imperial system.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jarman.

Petition received.


To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:

  1. That the use of uranium as a source of energy is currently unacceptable as it presents problems including radioactive waste, military implications and environmental degradation.
  2. b) That there can, at present, be no assurances that radioactive materials exported for peaceful purposes will not be used in the production of nuclear weapons.
  3. That there is not, as yet, any known safe method of disposing of radioactive wastes, nor is there likely to be.
  4. That the export of uranium from Australia is internationally irresponsible and is not, in the long term, of benefit to Australia.
  5. That the export of uranium from Australia discourages importing countries from investing research and development funds in finding viable alternatives.
  6. That only the overdeveloped industrial nations will benefit from Australian uranium and the gap between these countries and the energy-starved third world will increase yet further.
  7. That the securing of land rights by Australian Aborigines, promised by successive governments, is prejudiced by uranium mining.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government will immediately cease the mining and prohibit the export of uranium until perfectly safe methods of final disposal for radioactive wastes have been guaranteed; will greatly increase expenditure on research into safe, clean and inexhaustible sources of energy; and will aid underdeveloped countries in their efforts to secure a fair share of the world ‘s energy resources, while at the same time honouring its obligations to the future of humanity.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Peter Johnson.

Petition received.

National Day of Prayer

To the Speaker, and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:

Whatever our ideology, in the sight of God, we, as a nation are politically, economically and spiritually sick and in need of healing.

We, the undersigned, are Christians, and as such recognise the Bible as the word of God, and in 2 Chronicles 7: 14 we are told: ‘If my people which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sins, and will heal their land ‘.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in the House assembled will designate a Sunday of your choosing as ‘a national day of prayer for the healing of our nation’ and to have the day and date of this event published in the daily Press.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McVeigh.

Petition received.

Dockyards at Newcastle

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Newcastle respectfully showeth:

That shipbuilding and repairs play a vital role in the economic stability of the Newcastle region.

That a recent study by the Hunter Valley Research Foundation showed that 50 000 people were partially or wholly maintained by the State Dockyard.

That stability is at present in jeopardy, as a new ship order is required within the next few weeks if serious unemployment and hardship is to be avoided.

That the previous Government’s plan for the building of a graving dock in Newcastle should be continued as proper ship repair facilities are a vital factor in the maintenance of a viable shipbuilding industry.

That the Government’s election pledge to restore business and employment can be implemented in Newcastle if new orders and a graving dock are granted.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government place immediate orders with the Newcastle State Dockyard and implement the previous Government’s plan to build a graving dock in Newcastle.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.

Petition received.

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Mr E G Whitlam:

– I ask the Prime Minister a question. My question refers to this week’s edition of the Bulletin which reached Canberra this morning. I am sure that the attention of the Prime Minister will have been drawn to the cover, which states ‘Exclusive: Canberra Leaks Defence Secrets to Russians?’, and to the story inside, which alleges that the Prime Minister is deeply dissatisfied with certain aspects of the present administration of the Defence Department’, in particular ‘security and evidence of communications between Australian Defence officials and Soviet authorities’. I should add that the report contains no substantiations of these allegations. They are merely assertions by the author who, however, as the Prime Minister would know, in the past has claimed contacts at the highest level in the Liberal Party. In view of the extreme gravity of the allegations and the publicity they undoubtedly will attract both here and overseas, I ask the Prime Minister whether he can categorically deny the substance of the report. If not, will he inform the House what measures are being taken to remedy the allegedly inadequate security within the Department ofDefence?

Prime Minister · WANNON, VICTORIA · LP

– This Government is not in the habit of acting upon a published report. It takes its own decision about whether it wants to act in certain matters. I will quote what the honourable gentleman said because, although it may seem strange, I have not read this article at this point. To use the honourable gentleman’s terms, if the article quoted me as being deeply dissatisfied with some aspects of the Defence Department’s administration, that would be completely and utterly false. I have great respect for both the Minister for Defence and the head of that Department. Sir Arthur Tange is one of the most distinguished public servants that this country has ever produced. He is a man of great dedication, of immense integrity and great intellectual capacity. He is the kind of public servant of whom any country could be overwhelmingly proud.

Mr E G Whitlam:

– Any government.


– Yes, any government. I am sure the honourable gentleman knows that Sir Arthur Tange served the honourable gentleman’s Government with complete and absolute loyalty. Let me make that quite plain. It would have been very unfair to the administration of the Department of Defence had I not done so. I am aware that some documents have appeared in the Press or that some parts of some documents have appeared in some newspapers over a period of time. To the best of my recollection, they are documents which were not issued to this Government but which were written and prepared before November 1975.

The words in the documents appearing at different times in the media have been checked against the actual documents so that the dates and the documents can clearly be put side by side. To the best of my recollection, there has been no quotation from documents produced during the period of this Government. Honourable gentlemen may have to read an interpretation into that.

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-My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is it a fact, as suggested in today’s Melbourne Age, that Australia has taken sides in the Sino-Soviet dispute?

Minister for Foreign Affairs · KOOYONG, VICTORIA · LP

– I read with some interest the editorial referred to. I recall that same newspaper in an editorial commenting favourably on a lengthy statement I made on Australian-Soviet relations some months ago. It would appear that the newspaper does not always rely on its own research material or the published facts on government policy before writing its editorials. The editorial did accuse the Government of joining the Chinese side in the Sino-Soviet conflict. This certainly is not so. We have sought to improve Australian-Chinese relations not merely for bilateral contact but because we believe strongly in the desirability of China being better integrated into the international system of diplomatic communications and discussions than it has been to date. Any other course would be totally unnatural and potentially dangerous. It seems to me that it is totally wrong for people to assume a one-to-one relationship between our policy towards the Soviet Union and our policy towards China. Our policy towards one is not a function of our policy towards the other. We do not accept that there is for us a necessity to choose between them or to take sides. Our policy towards each country will be shaped by our perception of the relationship between our needs and interests on the one hand and its policies on the other. Any other view ignores the facts and frequent Government statements.

We of course recognise China’s links with insurgency movements. We do not approve of them and we have said so. We hope, for the sake of stability in the region, that these links will be broken, albeit that we recognise that it would be unrealistic to expect that to happen overnight. As far as alleged anti-Sovietism is concerned, I have stated publicly before on more than one occasion that it is our desire to have friendly and extensive relationships. During our period in government we have had ministerial exchanges, participation in trade exhibitions, further sales of beef, the signing of a cultural agreement and new programs of co-operation in science and technological areas. Nevertheless, as we have indicated, we believe there is ground for reasonable concern about some of the Soviet Union ‘s policies, in particular the magnitude of the Soviet arms buildup. What I have said today is a mere summation of detailed statements which have been made publicly, which are on the record and which have been variously reported in the past. One would presume that there is a duty on an editorial writer to check the stated policies of the Government before setting up his own straw man only to knock it down. In other words, the criticism fails because the interpretation is false. The editorial is attacking its own creation and not the policy of the Government.

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-I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether the action to prevent Telecom Australia in Darwin from passing on messages from Fretilin in Timor was taken in response to a request from the Indonesian Foreign Minister. Further, I ask whether this action places Australia against world opinion as expressed by the tenor of the current United Nations debate on East Timor.


-I call the Minister for Post and Telecommunications.


-This question about the United Nations cannot be answered by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications and therefore I asked it of the Minister for Foreign Affairs.


– I am very happy to answer the question. It is primarily a matter for the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. But if the honourable member is so anxious to hear me on the matter I shall answer, but I point out that I will not be able to give the detail which would be within the purview of the portfolio of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. As I understand the matter, attention was drawn to the fact that the receipt of messages from overseas by Telecom Australia was outside its charter. It has been requested that the practice of passing on messages received from the Darwin outpost radio which purport to emanate from a Fretilin transmitter in East Timor should cease. The Minister for Post and Telecommunications can go into the detail of that and the reasons behind the decision. The matter is not linked to any action taken in the United Nations. When the resolution stops coming in and out, as it has done over the last week or so, our attitude in the

United Nations-as I have indicated in the Parliament- will be given on the vote in the United Nations Fourth Committee. As the honourable member will recall, a resolution tabled by a number of countries came into the Fourth Committee a week or so ago and it was withdrawn. Another resolution was cosponsored by the following countries: Algeria, Benin, Congo, Cuba, Cambodia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mozambique and Tanzania. That resolution is now on the table. I assume that a vote on the resolution will be taken on 17 November. There is no connection between these 2 matters.

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-My question which is directed to the Minister for Defence is on the same subject as the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition. Has the Minister seen the article referred to? If so, can he add anything to what the Prime Minister has already said?

Minister for Defence · MORETON, QUEENSLAND · LP

– I would not like to leave my right honourable friend with the impression that I am without occupation but, unlike him, I have read the article. The cover of the magazine and the article represent an unconscionable slur upon every person who wears the Queen’s uniform and upon every person who serves with the Department of Defence. The author makes charges of the utmost gravity. I read the article not only as the Minister ultimately responsible to this Parliament but also, I trust, with the mild discipline of a lawyer. The author offered no evidence whatsoever to support any of his charges. But evidence, I apprehend, is not one of the continuing preoccupations of some journalists who are our associates, and evidence is not to be found in this article which in any way supports the grave charges he has made. I join with the Prime Minister in saying that, to the best of my knowledge, I am not aware of any classified defence material which has in any way been improperly disclosed since the advent of the first Fraser Government.

Beyond that, I say this: The article makes a charge concerning officer resignations. I make 2 observations concerning that. The author alleges that the officer resignation rate is worsening, or he uses words to that effect. That is simply not true. I think it has been the common concern of all honourable members that the resignation rate has been too high. It has been impossible to find one single reason why the rate has been so disturbingly high, but if the author of the article would care to look at the White Paper on defence, which he seeks to disparage in a rather anaemic fashion, he will find the answer which repudiates his contention in most explicit terms. The only other reference I make is to the paragraph which commences with this felicitous term:

The younger critics of the Russell Hill establishment say that for all the much vaunted integration of the bureaucratic superstructure and elimination of separate service departments, it remains dominated by dilettantish diplomatics and stodgy bureaucrats who still let the three services make all the real equipment and force structure decisions independently and on the basis of what suits them best.

The author of the article does not seek to identify the critics. They remain anonymous; their qualifications are unstated. He seeks to redeem them by applying to them the adjective younger’. I say in conclusion that the author of this article has, over the years I have known him, written a great deal of mischievous and meretricious nonsense. He has now ascended his Everest.

Mr Yates:

– I wish to raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I beg leave to move that the matter be referred to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Privileges. At what time and when should that matter be referred to that Committee on Privileges?


-The honourable gentleman is entitled to bring up a matter of privilege at any time. If he brings it up he needs to establish a sufficient basis for me to be satisfied that there is a prima facie case of an issue of privilege. I leave it to the honourable gentleman to pursue his own course.

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-My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. Has the Minister received any reports that medical practitioners in provincial cities in New South Wales, particularly in Orange, Dubbo, Mudgee, Cowra and Wagga Wagga, are either individually or in concert refusing to provide medical treatment to Medibank Standard patients, even to the extent of walking out of an operating theatre, harassing patients and inserting advertisements in newspapers? If so, what complaints has the Minister received? What action has he taken or does he intend to take to stop this despicable premeditated sabotage of Medibank? Does the fact that medical practitioners in country areas appear to be the main offenders add any urgency to the prohibition of such unethical conduct?

Minister for Health · GWYDIR, NEW SOUTH WALES · NCP/NP

– I am aware of the reports that some doctors in some country centres- the emphasis is on ‘some’- are providing limited honorary service to Medibank patients pending the resolution of a dispute which has occurred between the New South Wales Health Commission and the Austraiian Medical Association in New South Wales. As I said a week or so ago, I deplore the fact that some doctors in New South Wales are behaving in this way. I recognise that a difference of opinion exists between the New South Wales Health Commission and the doctors concerned. This problem is not occurring in all country centres but certainly it is occurring in isolated country towns. Where it is occurring I appeal to doctors and to all concerned to try to resolve a situation that is not in the best interests of the public or of the medical profession.

I have been in touch with the Minister for Health of New South Wales and have offered him any help that I can give to try to resolve what I regard to be a most unfortunate set of circumstances. Officers of my Department have been in touch with the New South Wales Health Commission to try to get a complete briefing on this situation so that we may be in a position to give the assistance that may be necessary. It is surely time that the minority of doctors concerned recognise that the modifications that we have made to Medibank do ensure viable private medical practice in Australia. Because of that I expect the minority of doctors concerned in the country areas of New South Wales to do the right and proper thing by those people who choose to stay with Medibank Standard and to pay their Vh per cent levy, and particularly the pensioners who have a right to hospital and medical treatment free of any cost to them.

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-I ask honourable members to resume their seats for a moment. I have been thinking on what I said in response to the honourable member for Holt some minutes ago. I do not want him to be under any misunderstanding. I said a matter of privilege could be brought up at any time. By that I meant that the Standing Orders allow an honourable member to rise to his feet at any time. I do not want him to understand that that meant that he can allow an issue of privilege, if he wishes to raise one, to be left until some time in the future. A requirement in relation to a matter of privilege is that the matter be brought up at the first possible opportunity. I make that clear to the honourable member.

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– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security assure pensioners that they will not be disadvantaged by the new income test which will come into effect on 25 November, under which income received will be taken into account in calculating pensions instead of both property and income being combined as before? Will anyone receive less pension than previously? Will anyone who has a pensioner health benefit card lose it when the new income test is introduced? Can the Minister explain the taxation provisions as they apply to age pensioners? Will pensioners who receive income in addition to their pensions be taxed under the legislation which was first introduced by a Labor Treasurer in measures associated with the disastrous Hayden Budget?


– The answer to the first question is: Yes, an assurance can be given that no pensioner will have his pension reduced by reason only of the change from the merged means test, which takes into account income and property, to the new income test which will take effect as from 25 November this year.

Mr Scholes:

– Will they be denied future increases?


– I shall go on and give the honourable member the actual facts. If a person’s pension has been affected by property in the past the Department of Social Security will reassess entitlement under the new income test. In many cases the reassessment will result in an increased pension. The reassessment may indicate that some people’s pensions should be reduced, but the Government decided that no one’s existing pension will be reduced as a result of the change to the income test. However, such beneficiaries will not get any further increase in pension until they are entitled to a higher amount under the income test. This is regarded to be a very fair way to take into account that particular problem. The position will be similar in respect of eligibility for a pensioner health benefit card. No one will lose it when the new income test is introduced merely because of the change to an income test. Furthermore, the change to the new income test will mean that some pensioners will for the first time be entitled to a pensioner health benefit card and to standard Medibank cover without paving the Medibank levy. Pensioners who receive age, invalid or widows pensions or supporting mothers benefits from the Department of Social Security will not pay tax if they have no other income. The invalid pension paid to men under 65 years of age or women under 60 years of age is not taxable. However, people receiving income in addition to a pension may have to pay tax. As the honourable member for Darling Downs has said, it is true that some pensioners who are in receipt of income above a certain level other than a pension will be paying tax as a result of the Hayden Budget that was introduced last year. However, every action has been taken to ensure that nobody will be disadvantaged as a result of the new arrangements that have been made by this Government in the current Budget.

Mr Morris:

-I rise to a point of order. I require that, under standing order 321, the Minister for Health table the documents from which he has been quoting.


– Was the honourable gentleman reading from the document?


– Yes, Mr Speaker.


– Was it confidential?


-I table the document. Indeed I seek leave to have the document incorporated in Hansard.


– A request has been made for leave to incorporate the document. Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

The document reads as follows-

An assurance can be given that no pensioner will have their pension reduced by reason only of the change from the merged means test, which takes into account income and property to the new income test which will take effect 25 November 1976.

If a person’s pension has been affected by property in the past, the Department will reassess entitlement under the new income test. In many cases, the reassessment will result in an increased pension.

The reassessment may indicate that some people’s pensions should be reduced, but the Government decided that no-one’s existing pension will be reduced as a result of the change to the income test. However, such beneficiaries will not get any further increase in pension, until they are entitled to a higher amount under the income test.

The position will be similar in respect to eligibility for a Pensioner Health Benefit card. No-one will lose it when the new income test is introduced merely because of the change to an income test. Furthermore, the change to the new income test will mean that some pensioners will, for the first time, be entitled to a Pensioner Health Benefit card and to standard Medibank cover without paying the Medibank levy.

Pensioners who receive an age, invalid or widow ‘s pension or supporting mother’s benefit from the Department of Social Security will not pay tax if they have no other income. Invalid pensions paid to men under 65 years of age or women under 60 are not taxable. However, people receiving income in addition to a pension may have to pay tax.

It is important to note that Pensioners who are liable to pay taxation are able to make arrangements with the Department of Social Security to have taxation instalments deducted fortnightly if they would prefer this to paying a lump sum at the end of the financial year.

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– My question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, is supplementary to the question asked of him yesterday by the honourable member for Fremantle regarding comments made by Major-General Stretton. It is also supplementary to the question asked by the Leader of the Oppositon of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations regarding police inquiries into alleged Cabinet leaks. I ask the Prime Minister: Does he still stand by the statement he made on television last year, during the term of office of the former Labor Government, that in some circumstances public servants would be justified in leaking documents?


– If a public servant was clearly of the view that a government or a Prime Minister were breaking the law, there might be extreme circumstances that would allow such action to be taken.

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-I draw to the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs reports that Israel might be excluded from participation in the European Group of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. Can the Minister advise the House whether this is so? If it is so, what action does Australia propose to take about this matter?


-The Government would deplore Israel being kept out of the group of its choice in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. It will be recalled that the UNESCO General Conference meeting in Nairobi from 26 October through to the end of this month, has under consideration an application by Israel for membership of the European Group. Australia strongly supports acceptance of all applications for membership of UNESCO’s regional groups for program purposes. We consider that countries should be free to join in appropriate groupings and that the composition of the grouping should be left to the members of the group concerned. When the list of members of regional groups for program purposes was considered at the last conference in 1974, a proposal to include Israel in the European Group was not adopted.

It might be wise to recall that on that occasion Australia was not then, as it is now, a member of the Asian Group but was a member of the European Group. The vote on the question of Israel’s admission into the European Group was deadlocked 30 in favour and 30 against. The Australian Labor Government of that time abstained from that vote. As a consequence Israel was subsequently not admitted to the European Group when the vote was taken because the Group had not made a recommendation in favour of Israel’s admission. Australia is not now a member of the European Group. It is in the

Asian Group. But we strongly support Israel’s right to participate in bodies such as this and we hope that the European Group will signify its acceptance of Israel’s application to join its region. Australia, as I say, although a member of the Asian group in this context, would strongly support such an outcome, in contrast to what occurred in 1974.

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Dr J F Cairns:

-I ask the Prime Minister a question about the Newport power station. In answer in a question on this subject recently he took a position in support of the Victorian Government. He would be aware that the place where this power station is proposed to be built is one of the most industrially polluted areas in Victoria, if not in Australia. It is polluted with industrial smoke, chemicals and noxious trades.


-Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to ask his question and not to give information.

Dr J F Cairns:

-Would the Prime Minister consider taking up a position with the Victorian Government which would allow this station to be built in an area which would not increase that high level of pollution, rather than supporting the Victorian Government in pressing for the building of the power station at Newport and therefore damaging the area still more by pollution?


-The honourable gentleman has made a number of assumptions in his question which, as I am advised, have not been borne out by the examinations undertaken by the Victorian Government. The Premier of Victoria is one who certainly has been in the vanguard of protection of the environment; his record stands as second to none in that regard. I am quite certain that the Premier of Victoria would not pursue an activity or a State enterprise such as the construction of a power station if it were contrary to the broader interests of the natural environment. Of course, the honourable member for Lalor would be well aware that the deadlock over this power station is not just a matter of the environment. It is a question of power and political power. The unions that control the production of coal and the coal fired power stations at Yallourn will have less political power in Victoria once a natural gas station is built. That is why those unions, amongst others, have sought to prevent the station being built- so that the base of their political power in controlling Victoria’s power supplies can be maintained. That position is not going to be allowed to prevail.

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– I address my question to the Minister for Construction. Recent newspaper reports would suggest that there has been no indication of recovery in the building industry. Can the Minister say whether recent statistics bear out this gloomy prediction?

Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence · BOOTHBY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · LP

– I have seen a number of Press reports in recent weeks and I can only assume that there must be a prize to be awarded to some journalists in some newspapers for finding the most gloomy heading. The Australian Financial Review only last week carried the heading: ‘No joy for building industry in ANZ survey’. The same newspaper ran a similar heading the previous week. That heading was ‘Grim construction outlook’. Those 2 headings are absolutely false. In fact there is a continuing improvement in the construction industry right around Australia. Perhaps I could quote some figures just to prove that. The articles written under the headings to which I have just referred contained statements such as ‘There was no sign of improvement in commercial and industrial building’. The journalists concerned should read the figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. If we refer to just a couple of sets of figures, particularly in respect of work that has commenced, the work that has been done, the work that is under construction and so on, we find that there is a continuing uplift in all areas. Admittedly the figures go only from January to June, but they are improving consistently. The figures show that the value of work commenced to June this year is up by 17 per cent on that for the same time last year. The value of work under construction is up by 6 per cent, the value of work done is up by 7 per cent and the value of work to be done is up by 7 per cent.

Mr Morris:

– Why do you not incorporate those figures too?


– I was hoping that somebody would invite me to do so.


-Order! Is the Minister asking for the table to be incorporated in Hansard.*


– Yes, Mr Speaker.


-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

The document read as follows-


– I would like to continue by citing some other figures. Another important figure that I mention is that the value of work to be done from 30 June onwards totals nearly $ 1,000m. This is the equivalent of 10 months’ work and is the highest figure for the last 2 years. The number of approvals- these would indicate an intent by someone to commence work- in the non-residential area in September this year was up 44 per cent over August. Total approvals in September were up 3 per cent on last year’s peak. The cost of building materials- I think this is relevant too- both in the housing and the nonhousing sector has shown the lowest increase in 4 years since November 1972. More importantly, the private sector is now shown to be dominant over the public sector in commencements, work done and approvals. I think it is reasonable to claim that our economic policies are working and that in fact we are getting on top of inflation. I am pleased that some of the figures have been incorporated in Hansard.

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Mr Antony Whitlam:

– I refer the Minister for Primary Industry to the statement of an interview with him in today’s Australian Financial Review wherein he is reported as saying that the Government’s car quotas are entirely different from the prospective quotas on beef imports of the Japanese Government because the former are applied only after a Tariff Board inquiry. Did the honourable gentleman not see the statement of the Prime Minister, made in Adelaide on 1 November this year, guaranteeing that car imports would not be allowed to exceed 20 per cent, even though the subject was at that time under consideration by the Industries Assistance Commission? What then is the essential difference between Japan’s action on beef and the car quota policy to which the Prime Minister arbitrarily committed the Government prior to receiving the IAC report?

Minister for Primary Industry · NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES · NCP/NP

-I am delighted to see that the honourable gentleman has an interest in the beef industry. I rather suspect that his inclinations are not particularly sympathetic, but that is no more than one would be expecting of members of the Opposition. It is equally true that during the time the Labor Party was in government some quite significant arbitrary changes were made to the tariff system without regard to employment, without regard to investment and without regard to the Australian economy. That practice has not been followed since we have been in government. We have ensured significantly that when there is to be any variation to assistance the Industries Assistance Commission has an opportunity to submit a recommendation to the Government. With respect to the motor vehicle industry, as indeed with every other industry, when imports are to be varied or when tariff rates are to be changed there is a reference, after which the decision is taken by the Government.

In the instance of the variation of beef quotas, on the other hand, the Japanese Government, with minimal notice, has made what appears to be a very significant change in the quantum of beef which is expected to be imported into Japan during the first 6 months of 1977. That particular change was made, of course, without any public inquiry and without consideration, as is given in the public forum of the IAC, to the points of view of domestic consumers in Japan or other interests within Japan, be they producers or otherwise. The change was made on an entirely political basis. Our concern is that Australian producers should not be prejudiced in that way by actions of that sort. It is for that reason that I responded as I did in the House yesterday and suggested that we would need to consider a renegotiation of the Australia- Japan Fisheries Agreement. It is for that reason that we hope the letter and intent of the Japanese-Australian agreement of cooperation and friendship might be applied to ensure a continuity of access to the maximum degree not only of Japanese products to Australia but also of Australian products, particularly agricultural products, to Japan.

page 2763




– Would the Minister for Primary Industry care to elaborate on his Press statement and on Government policy relating to household support for near-bankrupt primary producers? Who would decide eligibility -


-Order! The honourable gentleman is not entitled to ask for an opinion. He can ask for facts.


– I was asking for an explanation of policy. Who would decide eligibility for such support and what are the criteria relevant to this sort of support?


-The question is in order. I call the Minister for Primary Industry.


– The concept of household support emerged, yet again, from an Industries Assistance Commission report regarding the assistance that should be available in the case of an industry which required Commonwealth or government support. It is, as we see it, a very worthwhile extension of the present available forms of rural reconstruction assistance. It is my hope that legislation enabling the extension of rural adjustment generally can be introduced into the House before we rise for the summer recess. There have been extensive negotiations between the Commonwealth and the States regarding the terms of the extension of rural adjustment and significant agreement has been reached. I am hopeful now that the approach made to the States will ensure a rapid response from them so that we can proceed to introduce the legislation.

Household support, as part of the total package, is intended to be available at the time that a farmer, not being eligible for either debt adjustment or farm build-up assistance, has been notified to that effect. In order that he will not then be left entirely to depend on his own resources, it is intended that there should be available this capitalised unemployment benefit to ensure that he can have some income until he has worked out his future. The idea is that for the first 12 months the household support would be available on a quarterly basis. After the first 6 months it would be necessary for the farmer to have given some indication that he has been taking steps to leave the land. In some circumstances, the support could be available on a quarterly payment basis for a further 12 months.

In those circumstances it would be necessary that he had actually taken steps to leave the land. It is intended that the support would be made available by way of a repayable loan if the farmer does not leave the land. But in circumstances where he actually had taken steps to leave the land and leaves the land, it would become a grant. In addition, of course, funds are available to ensure that assistance is provided to him if he takes steps to leave the land. That is embodied in another part of the rural adjustment scheme. I am sure that the whole package will be a very worthwhile and humane extension of assistance to a group of people who tragically are very seriously disadvantaged under the present structure of the Australian economy.

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Mr E G Whitlam:

– Since the Minister for Primary Industry has announced that the Government will take into account Japan’s reduction in beef imports from Australia when it considers the renewal of Japan’s fishing rights in Australian waters, I ask him whether there are any arrangements between Australia and Canada, the United States of America, the European Economic Community and Great Britain which could also be reviewed in the same way, in view of the unilateral decisions on minimal notice which those customers have also imposed by way of quotas or even bans on their imports of Australian beef?


-I commend the Leader of the Opposition for the suggestion. Perhaps out of the Law of the Sea conference, which will deal with the question of the extension to 200 miles of Australia’s fishing rights, similar circumstances might arise. Indeed, we already have a number of applications from countries seeking to take advantage of what we hope will be a 200-mile fishing limit. In negotiating access rights and fishing rights we will have in mind what sort of an opportunity should be given initially to Australian fishermen and also to other sectors of the Australian economy. Unfortunately there are no other immediate extant negotiations to which we can turn, but it is true that there is a necessary renegotiation of the Australia- Japan Fisheries Agreement emerging in about 9 days time- it might be 10 days time- and as a result there no doubt will be a necessity for us to consider what action should be taken if the peremptory steps have been decided on by Japan with respect to beef and there is an expectation that we should provide without question very significant concessions to Japanese fishing vessels.

page 2764




-I ask the Prime Minister: In view of the favourable reference in the Fraser Island environmental report totimber harvesting activities on Fraser Island, will he give an assurance that such activities will not be affected in the event of Fraser Island being declared part of the National Estate?


– On behalf of the Government I can give that assurance. Timber harvesting has been part of the activities on Fraser Island for a very long while and on the reports that I have had it is an activity which there is no cause to doubt. Those involved in it may have any concern they might have felt put at rest.

page 2764




-My question is directed to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that the Japanese Government has announced a number of expansionary fiscal moves, including a selective increase in government spending, in an effort to promote economic recovery? Are the Japanese policies an example of a government simultaneously seeking to combat inflation and unemployment? Are there lessons in this for Australian domestic economic policy? Would the Treasurer like to clarify his answer, given yesterday, concerning the revised forecast of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and bring his answer into line with published OECD statistics and other information?


-The honourable gentleman clutches at straws. Of course I have seen reference to the recent package of economic measures brought down in Japan; but the honourable gentleman would not expect me to make any judgment inside or outside this House on whether those measures are appropriate for the Japanese economy, because that must remain the judgment of the Japanese Government. However, I want to say to the honourable gentleman in a quiet way- I do not want to be seen as being abrasive- that in the first place he should understand that I would describe the measures which have been brought down as amounting to very little by way of additional stimulus. If the honourable gentleman digs further into the package he will find that some of the components of the package of measures cover expenditures which were already included in the fiscal year 1976 Budget but which had been delayed in the Diet. Finally I say that the honourable gentleman might take some notice of the fact that as I am informed, the general account Budget deficit does not show any increase as a consequence of those measures. There certainly have been no reductions in taxation, again as I am informed, as a consequence of those measures. I stand by the answer I gave yesterday relating to the OECD figures. I do not think that the honourable gentleman questioned that. In relation to statistics, I repeat what I said yesterday, namely, that 1977 will be a year of sustained economic growth in the world community.

page 2764




– Can the Minister for Defence advise why female recruits are not accepted into Army bands, at least in Western Australia, when many other sections of the Army accept female recruits? Will the Minister investigate the situation with a view to changing this aspect of recruitment policy?


– I think it was in 1933 that Western Australia went off on a frolic of its own and tried to secede from the Commonwealth- a spirit of endeavour which, I am informed, persists in other parts of the country today. If I may say so to the honourable gentleman, at first blush I see considerable merit in the proposal. Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition could help me. I think during the war years there was an Air Force song with a touch of bawdiness about it called Will Nellie Beat the Drum? For myself, I do not know what all the implications may be, but I say to the honourable gentleman that I will undertake to examine the matter in the most meticulous and careful way.

page 2764




– My question is directed to the Treasurer. The Treasurer would be aware that during the term of the Labor Government legislation was introduced by the then Treasurer, the Honourable Frank Crean, to prevent Norfolk Island being used for income tax avoidance schemes and that that legislation prevented those abuses. Has the attention of the Treasurer been drawn to the report of the Norfolk Island Royal Commission, which indicated that tax avoidance schemes were still being practised on Norfolk Island, mainly in regard to Federal estate duty and State stamp duties? Will the Treasurer take urgent action to bring in appropriate legislation to prevent these abuses?

Mr Armitage:

– And have a look at the New Hebrides, too.


– I appreciate very much what the honourable gentleman has brought to my attention and to the attention of the House. I have certainly not seen the report of the Royal Commission, but I can assure the honourable gentleman that this Government shares his determination and, I would hope, that of all members in this House to make sure that neither Norfolk Island nor the other islands in its vicinity in that part of the Pacific Ocean can be used as tax avoidance havens. I will give the honourable gentleman’s suggestion very serious and early consideration with a view to seeing whether there are areas that can be tightened up to stop tax evasion and to stop the use of Norfolk Island as a tax haven.

page 2765


Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations · Corangamite · LP

– For the information of honourable members, I present the report of the Royal Commission into matters relating to Norfolk Island.

page 2765


Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs · Bennelong · LP

– Pursuant to section 88 of the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act 1974, I present the annual report of the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1976.

page 2765


Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs · Warringah · LP

– For the information of honourable members, I present a review of the activities of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to the year ended 30 June 1976.

page 2765


Minister for Productivity · Balaclava · LP

– For the information of honourable members, I present the annual report of the Patent, Trade Marks and Designs Office for the year ended 30 June 1 976.

page 2765


Ministerial Statement

Minister for Health · Gwydir · NCP/NP

– by leave- The House will be pleased to learn that the Government has agreed on the need to proceed urgently with the contraction of a high security off-shore animal quarantine station. Subject to satisfactory arrangements concerning the site, the station will be established on Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

Mr Kelly:

-Hear, hear!


-That is the site that was recommended in 1973 by the Public Works Committee. I am sure that the honourable member for Wakefield will be delighted with that decision. The Government is anxious to ensure that maximum opportunities exist for Cocos Islanders to be employed in the construction of the station and that it will be of direct economic benefit to them. The station will be used for the importation of genetically superior animals which, for quarantine reasons, are now prohibited entry into this country. The Station will therefore be instrumental in the development and proliferation of livestock herds which are better adapted to our environmental conditions. The result will be increased unit productivity, reduced costs of pest control, and reduced production losses arising from pests and parasites.

Mr Lusher:

– Will it get rid of the Labor Party?


-These factors are of general importance but are particularly relevant to our vast beef producing operations in the northern areas of Australia. For the cattle industry alone, it has been estimated that tick eradication measures and production losses from that pest approximate $40m per annum. That sum is far less than it cost the industry as a result of the other pest to which the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) referred. Further, increasing costs are reducing the use of tickicides with consequential and compounding adverse effects on productivity. The development of genetically tick resistant herds is a practical answer. This has become an economic necessity.

Under present quarantine arrangements, live cattle, sheep and pigs are a prohibited importation from all countries except New Zealand. Animals of most genetic value to Australia are not generally procurable from that country. The risk of disease now precludes direct importation from such countries as Africa, Japan, Indonesia and India where proven tick resistant strains are available. When the off-shore station is available it will be possible to arrange importation from any of these countries without disease risk. The establishment of the station is therefore the only means by which Australia can obtain direct access to the best genetic material available in a number of countries, without exposing our livestock industries to an otherwise unacceptable disease risk. This is a practical and responsible approach to the needs of Australia and the realities of the disease risk which we constantly face.

The proposal has the strong support of the Australian Agricultural Council and of agricultural interests throughout Australia. I might point out that Australia is the only major agricultural livestock producer which does not have access to facilities of this kind. We are therefore at a relative disadvantage with our competitors on world markets until the station is established. The Government’s decision has been made in the light of the direct and substantial benefit which will accrue to Australia’s livestock industries and hence to Australia and Australians generally. It is the Government’s intention that negotiations with the Clunies-Ross Estate on all issues concerning the availability of the site for the station should be commenced as soon as possible.

I look forward to an early and satisfactory resolution of all issues so that the project can be commenced without delay. Construction costs are estimated at $6.36m which it is expected would be spread over three consecutive financial years. Commencement of construction would be subject to availability of funds.

Mr Lionel Bowen:

-I seek leave to make a short statement on this matter.


-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Smith · Kingsford

-! note with interest the Government’s decision on this matter. It is a matter of record that certainly there is a need for a quarantine station off-shore from Australia for the reasons that have been mentioned. For these same reasons Australian primary industry has been under some disadvantage because of advantageous genetic strains which could not be obtained by artificial insemination and the like. The House will recall that there was a select committee dealing with these matters. At one stage it was discussing the question of Christmas Island because that Island is under Australian ownership and control. For some reason which may or not be valid now it was suggested that it would be wrong to have the quarantine station there because it could affect the extraction of superphosphate. It could be that diseased superphosphate would be brought into Australia and that it would affect Australia’s primary industry. I very much doubt whether that was a valid premise. I certainly think the problem could have been overcome. For that reason, apparently, it was suggested that Cocos Island would be more suitable. I think that is the position. No superphosphate is available on Cocos Island.

However, what I think has been the great tragedy of Cocos Island is the fact that the people there are not able to lead a normal life. They become the property of the Cocos Island Estate. They do not have normal industrial conditions. They are not paid in money. The whole of their private lives, property and affairs are subject to the peculiar situation which is applied by the people who virtually own most of those islands. I am not too clear what the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) has in mind when he says that it is intended to negotiate with the Clunies-Ross Estate on all issues concerning the availability of the site. We certainly think it would be far better to put the quarantine station on the island which we as an Australian nation now own. We should not place a quarantine station on some part of the islands which is the property of the CluniesRoss family. If, as envisaged, this quarantine station is the source of employment for the Cocos islanders I think it is more important that they should be paid directly an appropriate and proper wage. There should be a guarantee that that wage will go to their bank accounts which they will administer. We should not have the dreadfully unsatisfactory situation which has prevailed for years where government contracts are let to the Clunies-Ross Estate and the proceeds of those contracts are paid to the CluniesRoss Estate, not to the people. The people themselves are merely given some sustenance from the point of view of everyday livelihood.

When I had a chance to look at this situation I encouraged the then Government to open bank accounts for the islanders to guarantee that the full amount of the proceeds of the contract was paid to them, so that they in turn could remit whatever portion they thought fit to the CluniesRoss Estate for their other needs such as food, lodging or rent. We would not then have the reverse situation which had prevailed for so long under which they had no rights at all. They were subject to a virtual dictatorship. Their freedom was inhibited and they had no access to or control over their own money. Underlying this situation was the fact that there were no adequate educational opportunities on Cocos Island until the Australian Labor Party Government took a definite stand. This also meant that young people had no opportunity to advance themselves in life or to get proper employment on either Cocos Island or Christmas Island or in Australia. We would welcome these people as suitable immigrants.

Accordingly, if this project is to proceed we would like a firm undertaking from the Government that those people employed in the quarantine station will be paid the proper adult award wage and that that wage will be paid to thenbank accounts. We would like to guarantee that nobody else will have lien or charge over any portion of that payment. Unless we get that guarantee we say to the Government that we will not support the establishment of a quarantine station under the types of conditions which otherwise would prevail. We believe that those conditions of the past ought to be altered to a new set of conditions. These people should have their own entitlements, rights and standards. They will be paid the money which will be their property. No part of the money will be paid to the estate in any form unless there is some valid reason with which the islanders , agree. I again suggest, with all the problems in my mind, that another look at Christmas Island would not go astray. I am certain that we could overcome all the difficulties which will obtain where the ownership of the island is not ours and where substantial sums of money will be paid to a small group of people who do nothing for Australia, except for their own gain. If one may say so, these people have done very little to promote the interests of the people of Cocos Island.

page 2767



-The House will recall that during question time the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) indicated that he may wish to raise a matter of privilege. I informed the honourable member for Holt that in order to give such a matter precedence over all other business I would have to be satisfied that a prima facie case existed. I have since, as a matter of courtesy, been informed by the honourable member for Holt that he does not propose to pursue the matter.

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Discussion of Matter of Public Importance


-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:

The serious effects on regional centres of the Government’s economic policy.

I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.

More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-


-Every honourable member in the House will be aware that the employment and development opportunities and the general welfare of regional centres are largely dependent on a few of the most vulnerable manufacturing industries and the general wellbeing of the national economy. Regional centres are usually the first to suffer in any situation where there is a recession in consumer demand and where economic conditions are less than what we desire. The present Government came to office on guarantees that it would protect the interests of people in regional areas. The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) who is at the table came to this Parliament as a result of undertakings of that nature. The Government has so far moved substantially in the opposite direction. A considerable number of its policies are in fact adding to the burdens and problems of regional centres rather than detracting from them.

Most honourable members will be concerned at the reports provided by one of Australia’s leading industrialists to the Government’s economic policy committee, namely, that if the policies at present being pursued by the Government are continued the unemployed section of the workforce could amount to 600 000 people by 1978. I think it is also important to note that a substantially higher proportion of those persons seeking employment, especially young people, are to be found in regional and non-metropolitan areas. I think the House has to take note of the fact that there is evidence that the Government is ignoring the real economic trend signs which are available to it Most honourable members will be aware that prior to the recession of 1974 one of the major indicators of problems ahead- an indicator, incidentally, which the Department of the Treasury ignored- was the buildup of stocks in retail establishments. People who have taken the trouble to look will be aware that, for instance, the Myer Emporium Ltd reported a 30 per cent rise in stock holdings for 1975-76. The stocks of G. J. Coles and Co. Ltd rose by 2 1 per cent, of David Jones Pty Ltd by 20 per cent, of Waltons Stores Ltd by 23 per cent and of Norman Ross Pty Ltd by 22 per cent. These are significant rises in stock buildups, They do not augur well for an improvement in the economic conditions. They indicate consumer resistance.

The non-metropolitan and regional areas are very much more dependent on consumer demand and movement of goods than are the capital cities where many of the low fluctuation industries and most of the Government employment exists. When this Government came to office one of its first acts was to cancel proposals to transfer to regional areas segments of the Australian Public Service departments and other statutory bodies. This cancellation took away from some centres, including the one I represent, an opportunity for the provision of white collar employment which is so desperately needed in those areas in order to employ young people who are coming on to the labour market and who are unable to find jobs in normal industrial or business activities. The low level of opportunity is well known to every one of us. The Government has taken other decisions. Today we heard the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) supporting on purely political grounds one of those decisions affecting non-metropolitan areas. A decision has been made in relation to the shipbuilding industry in Newcastle and Whyalla, particularly Whyalla. The Government so far has announced no proposals which would indicate that it will give any real assistance to that area, yet it is a non-metropolitan area which is almost totally dependent for employment on the continuation of the shipbuilding industry. That area will have to be abandoned.

The Government has proposed a scheme to finance in a limited way the relocation of persons who move from one area to another to seek employment. Last week the Minister for environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman), who is at the table, announced certain proposals relating to Fraser Island, proposals which were supported by the Opposition. However, proposals to compensate those people who lose their jobs as a result of that decision are non-existent. The Government has repudiated those people. The Prime Minister was asked a question about compensation, and not once in his reply did he mention those people who would lose their employment as a result of the decision. The decision was made in the national interest, but its burden will be carried by one town and a small number of people. The Government is not interested in people. The Prime Minister’s answer clearly indicated that he does not consider that the employees, who will be the worst affected in the long term, are worthy even of consideration when compensation is spoken about.

The Australian Industries Development Association annual report, which was released on Monday, indicates just how difficult the problems of regional centres are going to be. Manufacturing industry is the basis for most of the existing employment in those areas. The textile, shoe and motor car industries and a number of other associated manufacturing industries are the most vulnerable. In its report AIDA made this statement:

The issue we raise this year is the dismantling of manufacturing industry which has been taking place over recent years and which is now gaining an alarming momentum.

No one disputes that the problem is not new. What must be pointed out is that it is gaining momentum; it is not slowing down. At the current rate, manufacturing industry will substantially disappear in a very short period of time unless some action can be taken to reduce the alarming momentum which is referred to in the report.

There is another area of which the Government ought to be taking note. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch), judging by his answers to questions in this House, seems to ignore all indicators and seeks to project an air that nothing is wrong and that no person is entitled to point out that there might be some mistakes in Government policy. He himself during his period in Opposition did everything possible to talk down the economysomething he now accuses every critic of seeking to do. In a comment in the Age the following statement appears in relation to investment, something on which the Government seems to place great value:

The expectation of a December Commonwealth loan has discouraged investors until they see what the new interest rate will be.

People are scared of the market- its fluctuations have caused uncertainty among investors who cannot see any improvement in it in the near future’ . . .

Those are problems which affect the whole of the country, but they affect the non-metropolitan areas to a far greater extent than they affect the metropolitan areas.

I want to make one other point. Today at question time the Prime Minister answered a question about the Newport power station. He justified not placing that power station in the Latrobe Valley of Victoria, where there are adequate supplies of brown coal- a natural fuel. If placed in that area, the power station would provide employment in a declining employment opportunity area. However, the Prime Minister’s justification for not doing so was that this would break the grip of certain trade unions in the area on the power supplies of the State. I do not know how naive people can get. It must be assumed that the Prime Minister does not know that the people who will work in the power station at Newport will be members of the Electrical Trades Union, just as the people who work at other power stations are members of that Union.

Mr Falconer:

– That was not his justification at all.


-I was there when the Prime Minister made the statement; the honourable member was not. The Prime Minister made the statement in the presence of the directors of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd at Geelong, and I was sitting 2 seats away from him. I think the honourable member ought to remain silent. The Prime Minister’s justification for siting the power station at Newport is to achieve a political objective and not an industrial or environmental objective. He is seeking to use a declining and valuable resource, in natural gas, for that station in order to arrive at an environmental decision. Since the environmental impact study was conducted it has been disclosed that the power station will be changed over to other forms of fuel if natural gas becomes in short supply, and that it will be a continuing rather than a peak load station. So there are changed conditions.

But that is not the point I wish to make at the moment. That is another argument. The Prime Munster is arguing that the power station should not be placed in an area where employment opportunities are needed and where many of the problems in recent years- I say this for theenefit of those people who care to understandhave been caused by declining employment opportunities and threats to people’s homes and way of life. In many cases, in order to remain in the Latrobe Valley, people have had to accept reductions in status which have amounted to up to 25 per cent of their salary ranges, purely to retain employment in the area. If there is unrest, it is because there is no long term planning and because no consideration has been given to the future long term requirements of the people who live in these areas. For a base political reason, the Prime Minister would seek to deny those people some opportunity to extend their employment potential.

Recently a number of alterations have been made to tariffs and to some of the proposals for the management of the economy. Some of those alterations in fact have assisted, and I do not demur to that. One decision which could have very serious consequences in the long term was the decision to move away from the proposition relating to car plans, whereby the Toyota and Nissan companies will be allowed to enter Australia as separate entities instead of on the basis of participating in a consortium. This will have the effect of placing very severe pressure on the existing manufacturers in Australia and almost certainly will result, in the long term, in at least one or two of those manufacturers going out of business. I think that is a major departure which will have very serious consequences. I hope that the consequences do not occur in a regional area, but I fear that that could be so because one of the three existing manufacturers must go. One of those manufacturers is in Geelong and the other two are in Adelaide and Dandenong.

The Government is not showing any concern at all for the specific and special problems of those people who seek to live outside the capital cities. It is prepared to pay $ 1 ,900 to enable them to go to the cities. In Maryborough, where as an act of national policy their job opportunities are to be removed, the Government will give them that amount and little more. In other areas all the encouragement is for people to leave the country centres. The direction given to the Commonwealth Employment Service is to move people out of the country areas and into the capital cities in order to find employment. The general thrust of the Government s economic policy is to ignore the real problems which exist outside the metropolitan areas in the regional centres, where there are no alternative employment opportunities, and to press on with a restrictive economic policy which will end in disaster unless the Government does something about it and does it very quickly.

Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development · Bass · LP

– I was surprised to hear the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) begin his speech by reminding me that I came into this House in June last year because of the previous Government’s economic policies which almost destroyed the economic community in the electorate of Bass in which I live. Probably it is necessary for me to go even further and to remind the honourable member what the economic circumstances were then and, I might say, which still existed in December 1975 when the previous Government was swept out of office at the national election. It was at that time last year that Australia was suffering from probably its most serious postwar recession, with consequent record unemployment. Prior to the general election in December 1975 we argued that economic recovery would take a full 3-year term. Immediately we came to office we began the long haul to fulfil that promise, that is, to bring economic recovery to this country. The honourable member is correct in necessarily acknowledging that the whole thrust of support to regional centres must depend on the Government’s general economic policy. It might be desirable to go through that matter, to begin with.

As the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) has made clear on many occasions, the thrust of our policies is to achieve single digit inflation by the end of this financial year. We must recognise that inflation and unemployment will not be wiped out overnight. As the Treasurer said on Budget night: . . even on a not over-optimistic view of things they will be steadily reduced by the budgetary and other policies to which this Government is adhering.

If we can achieve this- I am confident, and the whole Government is confident, that we willthen the economic circumstances of people throughout the country, not just in regional areas, will return to the prosperity which they enjoyed before the Labor Government did so much to destroy our national economy.

In February the Commonwealth Government sought to bring home to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that full wage indexation, by locking the economy into double digit inflation and a disaster level of business profitability, ran completely counter to hopes of sustained economic recovery and a return to full employment. The Arbitration Commission’s decisions of May and August in respect of wage adjustments for the consumer price index movements in the first 2 quarters of 1976 held out hopes for some further moderation of inflation during the remainder of this year. Much depends on the decision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the current wage hearing.

I should like to examine some of the ways in which the Government has moved to restore economic prosperity throughout this countrynot just in the cities, not just in the rural areas and not just in regional centres, but throughout Australia as a whole. It is beyond dispute that the enormous damage was done to the economy because of the explosive growth of wages which beset Australia in late 1973 and accelerated in mid- 1974. It is instructive on occasions such as this to compare developments in wage costs in Australia with those of the United States of America which, of course, is the centre of gravity of the world’s economic system. From 1968 to 1973 the consumer price index rose in Australia at an annual rate of S.3 per cent and in the United States of America at an annual rate of 5 per cent. But in 1974 and again in the first part of 1975 wage costs in Australia escalated dramatically. The recent wage explosion in Australia is out of character with the earlier Australian experience and also is out of character with developments in the United States. It simply cannot continue if Australia is to have any hope of getting back to reasonable stability in the economy. Recent evidence suggests that some progress has been made in winding back the excessive rate of wage escalation in the economy; but it is clear that further progress must be achieved on this front.

Wage restraint, however, represents only one facet of the Australian Government’s antiinflationary strategy. In the Budget the Treasurer indicated that restraint on Commonwealth Government expenditure and on the size of the public sector is necessary to allow for that expansion of the private sector to which we are committed. There is no doubt that under Labor the private sector had run down dramatically. At the end of 197 5 the private sector was employing no more people than it had been employing 3 years earlier. The Government therefore moved to restrain growth in government expenditure. In 1976-77 Budget outlays are expected to increase by 1 1.3 per cent over actual outlays in 1975-76. Let us compare this with other figures. In 1975-76 the increase was almost 23 per cent and in the year before it was almost 46 per cent. These figures indicate the extent to which the Government has restrained growth in Budget outlays.

I deal now with taxation concessions. In doing the things I have outlined, the Government has matched restraint in its own spending with a number of important taxation concessions. The important key element of this strategy has been the introduction of full personal income tax indexation which was announced by the Treasurer on 20 May and which came into effect on 1 July. It represents what is perhaps the most significant reform of the personal tax system in our time and certainly the most costly in terms of revenue forgone. Indeed, the cost of tax indexation is estimated to be close to $ 1000m in this financial year. In addition, it was announced in the Budget that the Government had decided to take a substantial step in relation to a system of trading stock valuation adjustments applying to taxable incomes earned in the 1976-77 income year. This scheme, which will be phased in, will help to relieve businesses from the impact of inflation on their tax burdens. Legislation to be introduced in the present parliamentary sitting will provide full details of the scheme.

The honourable member for Corio alluded to small businesses. I agree with him in saying that they are very much a part of regional life and of the success of regional centres. They will benefit from the Government’s decision to ease the distribution requirements for private companies under the Income Tax Assessment Act. The essential point of aU this is that the restriction in the expansion of Government expenditure has enabled the Government to bring in confidence strengthening measures designed to boost the private sector. To do this priorities have had to be determined. It is tougher to determine priorities than it is to administer easy handouts. But in the present economic climate tough decisions have to be made if this Government- if any government- is to act responsibly.

The Labor Government argued that it was possible to spend oneself out of inflation. I suggest that is really what underlays the argument put up by the honourable member for Corio. All the evidence indicates that under the kind of inflationary conditions which we have been and still are experiencing ‘pump priming’ will only increase unemployment. Experience in the United Kingdom and elsewhere has demonstrated also that governments cannot spend their way out of recession when prices and costs are increasing rapidly. Though there is slack in the Australian economy at present- some of it does show up in the regional areas- further large increases in government spending and, consequently, in the deficit will not take up the slack on a sustainable basis. In the very short term such spending might have a positive effect on activity. In a short time, however, that effect would peter out and we would be left with the price effects. Inflation would take off again, with adverse implications for investment, consumer spending and employment.

The recently released consumer price index figures indicate that the broad thrust of the Government’s policy is beginning to work. Compared with the June quarter the all groups index for the average of the 6 State capital cities increased by 2.2 per cent. This compares with 0.8 per cent registered in the September quarter of 197S, which was artificially low because of the introduction of Medibank. The increase for the 12 months ended in September 1976 was 13.9 per cent, compared with 12.3 per cent for the 12 months ended in June 1976. Unemployment was mentioned by the honourable member. Of course, unemployment remains a very serious problem. We recognise that. But it will only be defeated when inflation is reduced and economic prosperity returns. Those who, like the honourable member for Corio, in the name of reduced unemployment call for higher Federal Government spending or bigger deficits or full wage indexation are unintentionally calling for even higher unemployment in this country.

We heard from the honourable member about the problem of youth unemployment. The Government recently announced 2 policy initiatives designed to alleviate the problems faced by unemployed youth. In addition, improvements have been made to the National Employment and Training scheme. Unemployed school leavers who have not been able to obtain stable employment will now be offered the opportunity of 6 months on the job training for employment under a special program. A community youth sports scheme has been introduced also. This will provide financial assistance to community groups, including recognised youth organisations, for supportive programs and services to the unemployed.

The honourable member mentioned the relocation scheme. I do not believe it is true to say that necessarily it is directed towards moving people to the cities. It is directed towards overcoming the employment difficulties of unemployed persons, wherever they may be, who are unable to secure continuing employment in thenpresent locality and /or who are without prospects of doing so even after retraining. This scheme will provide financial assistance in relation to fares and removal expenses to places of employment, wherever that may be. Let us look at some of the specific measures the Government has taken to assist regions or areas. In the case of rural regions, primarily dependent on rural production, the Government has made a consistent effort to ease the impact of the long term decline in the primary sector. It has begun to introduce a number of rural reconstruction measures on most generous terms. Currently, there are 4 ways in which the rural sector receives publicly funded adjustment assistance. These are the rural reconstruction scheme, the dairy adjustment program, the fruit growing reconstruction scheme and the Commonwealth Development Bank. The Government has adopted the view that people engaged in rural industries should be entitled to the unemployment benefit. It is a fact that Government assistance to the rural sector is higher now than it ever was under the previous Administration.

The Government has taken major steps to promote the development of mining. Generous taxation concessions have been granted to encourage development and these are already having an effect. Australia’s major centres will benefit from these decisions. Expansion can be expected in the main coal mining regions, where the development of new fields will boost employment. Oil and gas exploration will be stimulated and iron ore production will also benefit. The centres depending on these industries will benefit significantly. These include the Bowen Basin, the New South Wales coal fields, the iron ore and other projects in Western Australia, including the North- West Shelf, and many smaller centres. Newcastle, Wollongong and regional centres such as Gladstone and Mackay will be better off as the mining industry responds to the Government’s measures.

The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) specifically mentioned the manufacturing industry. The Government’s industry policy for manufacturers specifically recognises regional problems. The Government has provided an important stimulus to the Geelong region by means of its motor vehicle assistance policy. In the light of that policy, as the honourable member well knows, the Ford Motor Co. of Australia Ltd has announced a major investment program for its Geelong plant. Borg Warner (Australia) Ltd, one of the main employers in the Albury-Wodonga area, has also benefited considerably from the Government’s policy in this area. If it had not been for the Government’s revisions of the local content plan, this company would have had difficulties in maintaining its Albury-Wodonga operation.

Mr Scholes:

– You wiped out the nonreversion provision. You took it out and then put it back.


– The recent announcement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on the shipbuilding industry indicates the Government’s concern regarding the regional implications in that industry and the willingness of the Government to negotiate a satisfactory solution. It is absolutely hypocritical for honourable members opposite to be criticising the Government for the problems in the Newcastle and Whyalla areas. The level of subsidy currently being provided is that which was determined by the former Labor administration. It is simply hypocritical for honourable members opposite to complain about the level of assistance for the shipbuilding industry when it was the former Government which introduced the current scheme under which this Government is labouring.

I refer specifically to the decentralisation policy which the Government is beginning to develop. On S November I announced that the Government had decided to continue its support for growth centres. The Government is providing a total of $21m to assist Albury-Wodonga, $4m to Bathurst-Orange and $5m to Macarthur in this financial year. In the next financial year, the Government will continue to offer assistance to those centres on a matching basis. Although I indicated that no funds would be provided for Geelong or Monarto for 1976-77, I also indicated that Commonwealth support for these centres would be reviewed as the Government further develops its decentralisation policies. On that subject, the Government is presently considering what other measures it should adopt to assist State decentralisation development. Our review of decentralisation policies provides every opportunity for considering steps which can be taken to assist the development of country centres. However, it must be recognised that the States too have a part to play in the promotion of their decentralisation programs.

The Government will continue to take a very close interest in the economic welfare of regional centres which are of such importance to the nation’s welfare. But these centres can only succeed when the national problem of economic prosperity is solved as well.

Mr Scholes:

-Mr Deputy Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Before I call the honourable member for Corio, I want to make one comment in regard to what was said by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman). The Minister was speaking to the matter of public importance and the honourable member for Corio interjected. The Minister said it was hypocritical for this matter to be raised and for criticism to be made. I took it that the Minister was referring to the matter in general terms and not to the honourable member for Corio as an individual. It was for that reason that I did not ask the Minister to withdraw the word hypocritical’.

Mr Scholes:

– I claim to have been personally misrepresented. The Minister stated that I had made certain statements about the motor industry and also that the present Government, by restoring the non-reversion clauses to the motor car plan, had saved Borg-Warner. The present Government removed the non-reversion clauses. They were in the plan when the Government came to office. I suggest that the Minister is not entitled to attribute to me or to the Labor Government an action taken by his Government, which then saw the error of its ways and reversed that action.


-The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) started his speech by saying that he would not have won his seat in Parliament if it had not been for the policies of the previous Labor Government. I put it to the House that if he was fighting that same election campaign now, he would not be here after an election. The Opposition and this country are fed up to the back teeth with listening to the tired old excuses of this Government that the problems facing this nation are the fault of the Labor Government. The Liberal-National Country Party Government has celebrated its first year in office and things are worse now than they ever were before. I do not know how long the Government expects to get away with blaming the Labor Government for all the present inadequacies of the economy. Its support is running out fast. The Government’s supporters are absolutely appalled at its failure to come to grips with the problems of the economy, particularly the problems referred to in this matter of public importance, that is, problems experienced in regional areas.

I understand that last night or this morning the well known businessman, Mr Rod Carnegie, in an address to the Government parties, predicted that unemployment would hit 600 000 within 3 years unless the Government reversed its economic policies. When this Government was elected to office it made a lot of promises, particularly in the area of Gosford- Wyong which I represent. Gosford-Wyong is one of the prominent regional areas in this country. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on a local radio station said that a Liberal Government would end unemployment on the Central Coast. That statement would bring a hollow laugh if it was repeated today. I seek leave to have the unemployment figures for the last 2 years incorporated in Hansard. I have shown them to the Minister -


-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

The document read as follows-


-I thank the Minister. The number of people unemployed, which was 2175 in November 1975, is now a fraction under 4000.

It rose under the previous Administration to approximately 3500. Under this administration it has risen to over 4000 and has remained at that level ever since. In fact, unemployment is now running at between 20 and 30 per cent higher than it was in the last months or at any time of the previous Labor Government.

Mr Baillieu:

– Will you say that again?


– I will repeat that. Unemployment is now running at 30 per cent higher than it was during the period of the Labor Government. The local candidate promised the world. He promised the building industry and the housing and construction industry that under a Liberal Administration things would start to happen again. He promised that men would be back at work, profits would be raised, and activity would start again. However, virtually nothing has happened. Industry has remained stagnant. The lights have not been turned on. In the last few months I have been approached by a number of industry groups, including the building and construction industry and the local automobile industry, both of which are desperately worried about this situation. These are the people who, by their donations and electoral support, enabled the Liberal Party to poll its highest vote for years in that area. It did so throughout the country.

These are the people who expect results. They are certainly not getting results in New South Wales and least of all in the area of the central coast, which depends on 3 factors for its prosperity. It depends on the building industry primarily and on tourism and retirement. Let me quote some of the figures. There are 3994 people unemployed on the Central Coast. Of this number, 451 are directly attributable to the building industry. These people consist of bricklayers, carpenters, plasterers, painters, plumbers, tilers and electricians. But there are many, many hundreds more who are in the allied trades. These include storemen and packers, unskilled labourers, clerks and salesmen. There are hundreds more who are affected by the failure of the building industry and the inability of this Government to give that industry the impetus that it was promised. What is going to happen in the next few weeks when school leavers come on to the labour market? I have said that 4000 people are unemployed in my area at the moment. The number must reach somewhere near 5000 and above early in 1 977.

Let me mention the specific breaches of promise that were made by the previous candidate in the last election and supported by the then Liberal shadow Minister and the alternative Prime Minister- the janitor at the time- who is the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). He promised that funds would be made available in regional areas of sewerage; that there would be a continuation of building programs for schools and hospitals; and one of the most blatant breaches was that the commitment made by the Labor Administration in respect of Old Sydney Town would be honoured. All these specific promises have been breached. In the electorate which I represent activities in the areas of sewerage, schools, hospitals and tourism depend on the injection of funds to enable the area to acquire the prosperity that it so desperately needs. There has been some minimal activity in the area of roads, preschools, child care and welfare facilities. Although I do not want to go into the details now, it is almost nothing.

A great deal was said by the then Opposition about the Labor Government’s proposal to establish a growth centre in Warnervale- Wyee. The Liberal candidate opposed it and said that under a Liberal Government funds would be spent to rehabilitate and to resuscitate existing areas. What a laugh! There is absolutely no sign of any funds coming through for those purposes. Much publicity has been given to the problems of the areas of Maryborough and Queenstown. I accept that something must be done in these areas. My Party accepts that the areas have significant problems, problems of great social need. My Party accepts that we as a parliament and the Liberals as a government must do something about Maryborough and Queenstown. We have been told that because of the Fraser Island decision and because of the closing down of the Mount Lyell copper mine 300 to 400 people could lose their jobs and probably double that number could be affected indirectly. But what is going to be done about regional areas like the Central Coast which has the highest unemployment rate in Australia? Nowhere has another area of that size 4000 people out of work. The percentage of people out of work is about 14 to 15 per cent. I have great sympathy for Maryborough and Queenstown. But what about the problems of an area where the rate of unemployment is way above that of Maryborough and Queenstown?

There are things that can be done, which this Government promised would be done, but of which, as I said before, we have seen no sign. The first thing that is needed is the injection of funds into areas of public works. Sewerage grants are an essential. If the building industry is to proceed sewered areas are needed. But the provision of sewerage is years behind because of the neglect of the previous State Government and of the present Federal Liberal Government. We had just started to catch up when the previous Labor Government was in office. Some $5m worth of federal funds were injected by that Administration. As a result we were starting to catch up on the years of backlog.

Last week the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) and the shadow Minister for Industrial Relations, the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), and I outlined the changes that a Labor Government would make in a regional employment development scheme. If ever there was a need for Regional Employment Development schemes, it is in areas such as the Central Coast and in regional areas.

Mr Corbett:

– How did your RED scheme go?


-The RED scheme went particularly well. Thank you for your interjection. In my area there were 850 people employed. The number of people unemployed came down from over 3500 to about 2700. This scheme solved many of the unemployment problems of the Central Coast.

Mr Corbett:

– Why did you cut it out?


– It was stopped for a while because of cutbacks that were made in the Budget of 1975, but we were assured by the then Treasurer that if unemployment was still high in 1976 the RED scheme would be reintroduced.

Finally I want to quote from a paper that I do not often quote in this House. I think in this case Nation Review is worth quoting because it points to the inadequacies of this Government. The article which I wish to quote was written by Mungo Maccallum and it states:

The deficit was running out of control. Investment had slumped. The stock market was at a disastrous low. Interest rates, already high, had risen yet again. Australia’s international reserves were running down at the rate of $200m a month. Unemployment was at its highest rate for 40 years, and expected to climb still further when the new crop of school leavers hit the market. The climb out of the international recession was faltering: Indeed, the budget, designed to restore business confidence, had reduced it to a new low. Industrial unrest was widespread. Productivity was almost at a standstill.

That is the legacy that we have had of 12 months of Liberal Government.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.


-It is interesting to me that speakers from the Opposition side seem to have a rather narrow view of what constitutes a regional centre. We have heard pleas made for Newcastle, Whyalla, Geelong, Yallourn, Maryborough and Queenstown. I have not heard any comments about other centres that may be the hub of great areas of agricultural production or other forms of production in this country. The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) made no mention of the sort of places which I would have thought should be included as regional centres and which in his own State might be Ballarat or Benalla, or even the Bacchus Marshes and the Benambras. This Government’s policy is to secure the survival and development -

Mr Scholes:

– Where is Benambra?


– In Victoria near Omeo. I thought that the honourable member might know.

Mr Scholes:

– Oh, 2 people live there.


– That is right, and in my opinion 2 people are important- just as important as the 100 000 or so who live in Geelong. I think that is one of the greatest problems that the honourable member’s Government had; it adopted the view that people living in small country areas and in isolated areas were not to be worried about. Our Government’s proposition is to secure the survival of the development and progress of regional centres and of the smaller centres surrounding regional centres on which they are dependent, contrary to the previous Government’s declared policy of strangulation and destruction in almost every area of government for these regional centres and those other smaller centres. This destruction came about through the unbridled inflation which was allowed to develop under the previous Government. I agree with the honourable member for Corio when he says that regional centres are some of the first to be hit by problems in the economy. Surely to goodness this is what we saw during the term of the previous Government. We saw inflation having a disastrous effect on rural industry, escalating costs out of all proportion; inflation having a disastrous effect on the small business sector which is so important in regional centres. We see small business going to the wallindeed much of it has already gone to the wall- in regional centres. This is happening also in our country industries.

It is interesting to note that the honourable member for Corio mentioned the Australian Industries Development Association report. He used that report to imply that manufacturing industry was the basis of all regional centres. That again I think is an indication of what the

Labor Party regards as regional centres. But there are some regional centres that do have a manufacturing sector. What a disastrous situation we had when tariff cuts were introduced in the previous Government’s regime. I ask honourable members who represent areas where there are clothing factories or other industrial factories to see what has happened to the viability of these enterprises. Unemployment, of course, hits country areas and regional centres more particularly and earlier than larger areas.

We have the great problem of young people not being able to find employment in regional centres and having to go to cities from where they seldom return. It was during the previous regime that the greatest incidence of and increase in unemployment occurred. I cannot agree with the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) that the panacea to all these problems of employment is to resurrect that extravagant, ill-administered, ill-conceived and totally ridiculous Regional Employment Development scheme. I can find very few local government councils, for example, in my area that would agree that the RED scheme is the solution to unemployment in regional centres. We are committed to providing schemes which provide relocation opportunities and retraining opportunities. Above all we intend to encourage and we have encouraged people to help themselves. This philosophy is strange to the Opposition.

Let us look at local government. This is an area in which there has been a wide variety of schemes, such as the handouts, which tied local government to the centralist philosophies of the previous Government. Again this Government is committed to ensuring that local government becomes a viable and meaningful third tier of government. Of course the Government has made significant contributions in untied grants to ensure that this aim can be carried out. It has allowed local government also to make its own decisions instead of imposing them from Canberra. That is what local government surely is all about. The people should be able to elect their representatives who know best the local problems and requirements. I cannot pass from local government without referring to roads. If there ever was a program totally pitched against regional centres and the areas that rely on them it was the Jones program that slashed rural road funding. The present New South Wales Government is perpetuating many of those attitudes.

Mr Cohen:

-Thank God for that.


– The honourable member for Robertson says: ‘Thank God for that’. Does he say thank God for the fact that passenger fares have been cut by 20 per cent and rail freights have been increased by 7 per cent? Passenger fares were cut at a net cost of $ 10m. The 7 per cent increase in freight rates gave a net return of $ 1 6m. In other words, those people who have virtually no recourse or alternative, such as the wheat growers who cannot shift their produce in any way other than by rail, are subsidising city commuters to the tune of at least $6m.

The New South Wales Government is not even prepared to support the regional and country areas in their local roads programs. The New South Wales Government says that there is no legislation to provide for the support. It says that since there is not legislation it cannot support those areas. I think that is another kick in the teeth to the country people. Let me refer to another decision of the present New South Wales Government. It has legislated to peg rates without any consultation whatsoever with the local government associations and organisations. The policy is directly contrary to the wishes of the Australian Council of Local Government Associations. I could go on and outline areas in the field of post and telecommunications where this Government is recognising the disabilities of distance and isolation. It has provided concessions for the installation limits on telephone lines.

I would like to close my speech, however, by referring to the policies on decentralisation and regional development that were put forward so strongly by the previous Government as being so successful. All honourable members will recall the noise made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) about how disastrous this Government’s decentralisation and growth centre program would be, how it would be scrapped and how it would be abandoned. He said, for example, this afternoon that the Government dismantled the program of Public Service relocation. I assure the honourable member that the present Government has not overlooked that need to carefully consider where government activities should be located so as to provide tertiary employment outside metropolitan areas. This Government retained the committee set up by the previous Government to review the location of governmental activities. This has continued. I trust that this type of approach to decentralisation will be part of our overall decentralisation policy.

I refer now to the rather pathetic bleatings in the Press statement of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition issued on 7 November following the statement of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) on growth centres. After all the huffing and puffing that went on prior to that, all the Deputy Leader of the Opposition could say was contained in one page. He said that there was not enough money, that we were intimidating the States and that we had forgone our representation on the development corporations particularly those in New South Wales. It is high time that a careful review was made of moneys going to growth centres. Growth centres are not the only form of decentralisation. I am pleased to say that this Government is looking at additional forms of decentralisation in co-operation with the States. This Government looks to a real, meaningful and co-operative form of federalism. Why should Canberra stick its fingers into the corporations’ affairs by telling them what they should do from here? Why on earth should we have representation on the development corporations of Bathurst-Orange or Macarthur? We have no wish whatsoever to subscribe to the centralist philosophies of the previous Government which could not in fact mind its own business and had to interfere with both State and local governments and in fact with individuals’ own affairs. This Government is prepared to support State schemes on decentralisation

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion has now concluded.

page 2776



-I have received advice from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that he has nominated Mr Bungey to be a member of the Standing Committee on Expenditure to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Mr Macphee, the Minister for Productivity.

page 2776


Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.

page 2776


Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.

In Committee

Consideration of Senate’s amendment.

Clause 4.


Senate’s amendment-

In paragraph (b) (ii), after ‘are ‘, insert ‘ordinarily’.

Mr Eric Robinson:

– I move:

That the amendment be agreed to.

The amendment was made by the Senate following discussion between the Commonwealth Ministers involved and the Victorian Minister for Local Government, Mr Hunt. The purpose of the amendment is to provide the States with greater flexibility as to the form of the hearings of local government grants commissions. The amendment is of a minor technical nature and does not change the substance of clause 4 (b) (ii) which still requires that hearings of local government grants commissions in connection with the distribution of Commonwealth assistance to local government under the new tax sharing arrangements be held in public except in extraordinary circumstances.


-The amendment moved by the Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Eric Robinson) may be, as he calls it, a technical one, but it is indicative of the mess surrounding this legislation. The Committee will remember that on the last occasion this Bill was before it a number of other amendments were made at the last minute by the Government dancing to certain tunes and reacting to pressures that were brought from elsewhere. On that occasion the Opposition made its position quite clear. It had no part of this legislation which was part of the so-called new federalism. The Opposition indicated that the amount of money made available to local government through this Bill was totally inadequate. It was not related to a growth tax; it was related only to income tax which, in times of tax indexation, we believe will not be a growth tax.

We made it clear that local government would be uncertain of the amount of funds it was to receive in the future because of the ability of the

Treasurer (Mr Lynch) to declare that certain parts of income tax were not income tax for the purposes of the calculation. We made it clear that we believed that the expertise in the Australian Grants Commission should be used rather than setting up all these separate bureaucracies- the local government grants commissions-in the States. We made it clear that there ought to be a maximum of 30 per cent of the amount being made available under this Bill for per capita grants rather than a minimum of 30 per cent, which, for example, has given rise to Western Australia making 80 per cent of the funds available on a per capita basis. Of course, the consequence has been that far less is available on a needs basis for the topping up process.

Having made all those points, I state that the Opposition did not intend to become involved in these messy amendments which were introduced. This amendment is just another of those messy amendments. I think that, in drawing up this legislation, the Government ought to be ashamed of itself in relation to the whole concept it has adopted. It does not bring credit to it. The Opposition, while washing its hands of it, will not oppose the amendment. I felt it incumbent upon me to make those remarks about it.

Mr Eric Robinson:

– In response to the remarks of the shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), I think I ought to make it perfectly clear to him and to the Committee that the Government is very proud of this legislation. It is a tremendous improvement in the financial structure of local authorities throughout Australia. Local authority people throughout my State of Queensland and other parts of Australia which I have visited recently- indeed, local authority people everywhere- have welcomed this as a very desirable initiative. It gives them a very real ability to plan their financial expenditure, which they were not able to do under the previous Administration. We are delighted to see that our federalism policy is being accepted throughout Australia. One of the great attributes of this Government is that, when it introduces a piece of legislation such as this, if there is a response from local authorities or from State governments we are happy to listen to them and we are happy to come back with amendments where they improve the Bill. The amendments which were made before and on this occasion are designed to make the Bill a better one and are designed to make for better legislation generally. This will go down in history as one of the most forward looking moves within the economy of this country that we have seen for many years.

Amendment agreed to.

Resolution reported; report adopted.

page 2778


Second Reading

Debate resumed from 3 June, on motion by Mr Viner:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs · Stirling · LP

- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate is resumed on this Bill, I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill, the Aboriginal Lands Rights (Northern Territory) Bill and the States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bill, as they are associated measures. Separate questions, of course, will be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, therefore, that you permit the subject matter of the 3 Bills to be discussed in this debate.


-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 3 measures?

Mr Les Johnson:

-Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House just to say that the Opposition recognises that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) ought to have charge of these Bills; but we appeal to him to reconsider the proposition that there should be a general debate on the 3 cognate measures. Two of the 3 Bills are of the utmost significance- especially the Aborginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill, which only today was the subject of some 42 Government amendments. Of course, in addition to that there is the consideration that the Opposition has probably in excess of 20 amendments to the Bill. Our responses are not fully developed at this stage. The complexities of the Bill are such that there is a great deal to be said for having separate debates. I put it to the Minister that, in view of the great interest in this legislation right around Australia, he might allocate more time for debate. In any event, he should separate the debates so that the significance of the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Bill and the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill might be fully understood.

Mr VINER (Stirling-Minister for Aboriginal Affairs)- I will respond shortly to my friend, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson). It is the desire of the Government to have a joint debate on these 3 cognate measures. I recall that, when the former Administration introduced its land rights Bill and councils and associations Bill, it sought to have a joint debate, which was proceeding at the time of the dissolution of the Parliament. Arrangements have been made between the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) and his opposite number on the Opposition side that the debate on the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill should proceed to the Committee stage and that then the debate should be adjourned until the resumption of the sitting of the House the week after next. That should give the Opposition ample time to consider its amendments. Together with the second reading debate that will proceed today, it will give the Opposition ample time to consider the Government’s amendments and whatever the Opposition wishes to put forward during the Committee stage.


-! point out that if there were a joint debate on these cognate Bills it would not mean in any way that there would not be a debate during the Committee stage of the consideration of the Bills. I anticipate that the amendments are to be moved in the Committee stage. There would be no limitation during the Committee stage of the consideration of the Bills by agreeing to this. However, the Chair is in the hands of the House. It is a decision for the House. If the House agrees to a general debate covering the 3 measures, I will allow that course to be followed.

Mr VINER (Stirling-Minister for Aboriginal Affairs)- Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement.


-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.


– In my second reading speech on the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill 1976 I invited constructive comment and suggestions on the content of this most important and complex piece of legislation. I indicated, however, that it was not intended that the rights to be established by the legislation should be watered down. Representations have been received from many people, Aborigines and others, organisations with special interests such as the mining industry, as well as churches and groups anxious to see that Aboriginal interests were properly considered by the Government. I wish to thank all of those who took advantage of the opportunity offered by the

Government for public debate and consideration of the Bill introduced on 4 June. It is also worthwhile noting that the representations received have come from all parts of Australia- a clear indication of the depth and spread of public interest in Aboriginal land rights. The Defence Force Ombudsman, Mr D. 0. Hay, gave valuable assistance to the Government by analysing the hundreds of representations and crystallising key areas requiring further consideration and decision by the Government. The changes to the Bill decided upon are the result. I shall now outline these changes to give notice of the nature of amendments which I shall move in Committee.

Land Trusts and Councils

Amendments will be proposed in relation to land trusts to ensure that the concept of them as title-holding bodies having no independent power of initiative is consistently maintained and clearly expressed. As indicated before, the basis of the arrangements in the Bill is that the traditional owners instruct the land councils and, through the land councils, the trusts on such matters as the grant of leases of Aboriginal land. To further ensure that the Aborigines with traditional rights in land guide the action of land councils, an amendment will provide that a land council should express the wishes as well as the opinions of Aborigines in its area. An amendment will be made to ensure that parts of areas vested in land trusts may be transferred to other trusts, to allow for the eventual possibility that title to land may be held directly by individual descent groups. In the light of representations received from Aborigines the Government has reconsidered its earlier decision that the councils should not handle land claims and that the Aboriginal Legal Aid Services instead should assist in the formulation and presentation of claims for recognition of traditional Aboriginal land. An amendment will provide for traditional owners who have claims on traditional grounds to land outside reserves, and who need assistance in pursuing their claims with the Land Commissioner, to be assisted by the land councils.

The Government has affirmed that the land councils in the Northern Territory have the central responsibility in relation to administration of Aboriginal land. Provision will be made for land councils to perform any function that may be conferred by a law of the Northern Territory. In particular, it is intended that complementary Territory legislation should provide for land councils to be involved in arrangements for entry to Aboriginal lands, arrangements for wildlife conservation and protection of sacred sites in Aboriginal land. To help ensure that the land councils administer land in conformity with the wishes of Aborigines with traditional interests in land, the power of a land council to delegate its powers to its members or its staff will be limited. A council will not be able to delegate final decision making on the acquisition and granting of interests in Aboriginal land, or consent to the grant of mining interests or on the allocation and distribution of moneys received from the Aboriginals Benefit Trust Account. These important decisions must remain with the full councils.

Amendments are proposed to those sections dealing with the membership of land trusts, land councils and the Aboriginals Benefit Trust Account Advisory Committee to provide that Aborigines who are traditional owners of land in the relevant area are eligible for membership even if they live outside the area. Amendment will be made to clause 11, which provides the machinery for granting an Aboriginal land title to unalienated crown land recommended by the Aboriginal Land Commissioner, in order to clarify the cases such as Wave Hill, Willowra and Kildurk pastoral properties which are technically alienated lands. Thus in the event that the Land Commissioner recommends these areas to be treated as Aboriginal land title can be granted by the creation of appropriate land trusts.


As I indicated in introducing the Bill, it is the Government’s intention, as it was Mr Justice Woodward’s recommendation, that existing rights in land should be fully protected. In order to give practical effect to that intention in relation to existing mining interests, and to meet legal obligations the Government proposes a number of changes in the Bill. Under agreements in relation to mining at Gove and Groote Eylandt, the Government has contractual commitments to grant additional leases of land reasonably required by the companies. It is intended that companies should negotiate for additional leases when required, as has been recent practice for example at Gove over red mud leases. If, however, negotiations between the companies and Aborigines break down- which experience to date suggests will not occur- the Bill will provide that a lease of Aboriginal land may be granted on the recommendation of an arbitrator, if he determines that a land council has unreasonably refused to consent to the grant of a lease of land required to meet these commitments.

There are several specific situations in which it is considered necessary to provide a specific exemption from the general requirements of the Bill for Aboriginal consent to mining. Where application for mineral leases on land which becomes Aboriginal land under the Act or by a successful claim on traditional grounds to unalienated Crown land had been lodged previously to 4 June, being the date of introduction of the Bill, but not granted as a result of a freeze imposed in December 1972 pending decisions on land rights, the grant of a further mining interest will not be subject to consent but the applicant companies will still be obliged to negotiate fair terms in accordance with the Act. That situation will also apply in the case of the Ranger project where the Government is morally bound by an arrangement entered into by the previous Government, so that if the Ranger uranium deposits are developed in the light of the second report of the Fox Commission of Inquiry then the Ranger companies will be obliged by the Act to reach agreement with the Aborigines concerned if their pending Aboriginal land claim over part of the Ranger project area is successful. In the last mentioned respect the Government has decided to empower the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to act on the report of the Fox inquiry rather than having to put the Aboriginal land claims before the Aboriginal Land Commissioner. I mention that the Northern Land Council and the Oenpelli Aboriginal Council both requested that this be done. It should facilitate both the early conclusion of the land claims and completion of the inquiry’s second report. Petroleum interests, also frozen since December 1972 like those held by Magellan in Central Australia as considered by Mr Justice Woodward, will be dealt with in the same way by clarifying amendments.

Amendments are proposed to ensure that the procedures for consent to mining conform more exactly to the principles proposed by Mr Justice Woodward. In his report he envisaged that consent would be negotiated normally at the stage when exploration rights were applied for and that the right to develop any minerals or petroleum discovered should be subject only to the adequacy of the notice given of development intentions and the final negotiation of fair terms. This would mean that a second consent at the development stage of a mining operation would not be required provided the proposed development is substantially within the description given at the time permission to explore was sought. In that situation, however, it will of course be necessary to negotiate terms and conditions with the land councils.

The provision in clause 41 for an inquiry into whether the national interest requires that exploration or mining should proceed will be deleted and instead the Bill will provide for the tabling of a proclamation of a national interest decision before both Houses of Parliament. Either House will have the power to disallow the Government’s decision to override Aboriginal refusal to consent. This change is proposed in response to the many representations by Aboriginal groups and others seeking restoration of the provision proposed by Mr Justice Woodward for parliamentary review of any Government decision to override Aboriginal wishes in relation to mining.

A number of other amendments will be introduced in Part IV which deals with mining. The Bill will be amended to ensure that the final agreement in relation to mining development will be made in the knowledge of the conditions on which the Government is prepared to grant a mining tenement, including the rate of royalty payable for the particular venture. Thus any agreement with Aborigines will take account of royalties payable to Government and to Aborigines and, should arbitration be necessary, those considerations would be taken into account by the arbitrator. The provision relating to agreements for mining will be amended m order to reflect more clearly Mr Justice Woodward’s intention that any negotiated payments should go not to individuals, but to communities or groups.

Provision will be made to make it clear, where the Bill like the former Labor Government’s Bill left some doubt that the requirements of consent and agreement on terms and conditions for mining on Aboriginal land applied equally to mining undertaken under the Atomic Energy Act as it does for mining carried out under the mining ordinances of the Northern Territory. This also means that the Commonwealth itself will be bound as much as any private mining companies to the consent procedures of the Bill.

Reciprocal Legislation

I indicated in introducing the Bill that some relevant matters were to be covered by the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly in complementary legislation: The protection of sacred sites and wildlife in Aboriginal lands and the control of entry into those lands and adjacent waters. It is now intended to spell out in the Bill, however, guidelines stipulating the kind of laws which should be made by the Legislative Assembly, and to guarantee recognition in those laws of traditional rights. For example, an offence will be written into the Bill for unlawful entry onto a sacred site; Ordinances dealing with sacred sites will have to protect traditional interests in accordance with Aboriginal wishes; traditional Aboriginal rights to enter Aboriginal land must be provided for; protection or conservation of wildlife in the Northern Territory, including wildlife on Aboriginal land, must operate through schemes of management formulated in consultation with Aboriginals and the right of Aboriginals to utilise wildlife resources; and Ordinances regulating entry to seas adjacent to Aboriginal land to a distance of 2 kilometres must provide for the right of Aboriginals to enter and use the resources of those waters in accordance with Aboriginal tradition.

The Leader of the Legislative Assembly and the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Adermann) have assured me that the Territory legislation will be worked out in consultation with Aboriginals and with my involvement and agreement. I wish to emphasise this point and remind the House that Territory legislation does not become law unless the Commonwealth assents to it. This means that all the legislation will conform with the principles adopted by the Federal Government in this Bill and as outlined in the amending provisions I shall introduce.

The Government is very conscious of the deep concern of Aboriginals about these areas of law which go so directly to some of the fundamentals of Aboriginal traditional life. Aboriginals can be sure the Government will not fail in its responsibilities, but the Government is also concerned to see that the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly is involved in the operation of the Commonwealth’s legislation in the interests of harmony, and not confrontation, between ail peoples of the Northern Territory.

Because the Government recognises the heavy burden this Parliament carries in seeing that this legislation is the best that the Parliament can provide for the Aboriginal people the Government has decided to establish a joint parliamentary committee to report not later than 31 May 1977 on the adequacy of the provisions of the Bill dealing with identification of traditional owners and their relationship to the land councils and the adequacy of laws of the Northern Territory relating to entry on Aboriginal land, the protection of sacred sites, wildlife conservation and entry to seas adjoining Aboriginal land.

Tanami Wildlife Sanctuary

The Bill as introduced, by a printer’s error, included in the Schedule of lands to become Aboriginal land by the passing of the legislation the Tanami Wildlife Sanctuary. It includes, I am advised, traditional country of the Walpiri people. Consistently with the Government’s decision to require claims to Aboriginal land off existing reserves or mission areas to be heard by the Aboriginal Land Commissioner, Tanami will be deleted from the Schedule. If a claim is made to Tanami, I would fully expect the observations of Mr Justice Woodward on Tanami to be taken into account in the formulation and determination of the claim.


I have said before that I believe that the passage of legislation to grant land rights to Aboriginals in the Northern Territory will be a most significant and progressive step in the social and political history of this country. It will, at long last, signal Australian acceptance of Aboriginals as a people having a unique and distinct culture within Australian society. I am confident that the Parliament will give the Bill the attention it deserves and will find that the amendments I have here outlined briefly will strengthen the essential provisions of the Bill while guaranteeing proper protection of existing statutory and other rights as recommended by Mr Justice Woodward. The Bill in its final form will be what the Government set out to achieve in putting it to public scrutiny over the past 5 months- ‘the best practicable instrument for effectuating the Government’s purpose and Aboriginal aspirations’. It is those aspirations which have guided us in all work.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)There is nothing dealing with that statement before the House. The question is: ‘That the Bill be now read a second time’. I call the honourable member for Hughes.

Mr Les Johnson:

- Mr Deputy Speaker, I am not sure whether it might not have been appropriate to have proposed that the debate on the statement be adjourned. I am not sure how you regard the situation. I gained the impression that you were in a bit of a dilemma.


-At that stage there was no motion concerning the statement before the Chair and I was not quite sure whether the statement was to be incorporated in a motion. The only question before the Chair at that stage concerned the second reading of this Bill, which is the motion that is now to be discussed.

Mr Les Johnson:

– I seek clarification of what you have said, Mr Deputy Speaker. Is the question before the House the motion for the second reading of this Bill or these Bills?


– Although the debate is a cognate debate and honourable members can cover the subject matter of all the Bills, the actual question that is put is that one Bill be now read a second time. A separate question will be put for each of the other Bills at the end of the cognate debate. The main thing with a cognate debate is that it allows honourable members to mention matters covered by other Bills while they are discussing a particular Bill. A separate question is then put on each of the other Bills.

Mr Viner:

- Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to have the statement I have just delivered incorporated in the cognate debate.


-Is leave granted?

Mr Les Johnson:

- Mr Dep’uty Speaker, I would like clarification of what is intended. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has proposed that the statement he has made be incorporated in the cognate debate. In any event, it is to be recorded in Hansard. What additional quality will emerge from the proposal that the Minister has made other than the fact that it is going to be a part of the debate in the sense that it will be recorded in Hansard.


-In the strict sense, the Minister’s moving that the subject matter of his statement be incorporated in the cognate debate will mean that honourable members speaking in this debate can mention the subject matter referred to by the Minister. Without his doing that, in the strict sense the subject matter of the Minister’s statement is not before the House and therefore, again in the strict sense, according to the Standing Orders should not be mentioned. If it is accepted by the House that it should be included in the cognate debate it will mean that all the subject matter mentioned by the Minister will be then open for debate by any honourable member speaking in this cognate debate. Leave is granted. The statement of the Minister will be incorporated in the cognate debate. I suggest that I should again call the honourable member for Hughes and that his speaking time should commence as from this point. The question is: That this Bill be now read a second time ‘.

Mr Les Johnson:

-The events of the last minute or two have shown the very exceptional circumstances that apply to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill. The fact of the matter is that there are 2 other Bills as well as that Bill now before the Parliament. The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill, as has been indicated by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), is unusually complex. When all is said and done the Bill, which he introduced in June of this year, contains some 73 clauses. Today, by way of a second second-reading speech, the Minister has indicated his intentions to move, on behalf of the Government, some 42 amendments dealing with most complex and significant issues, some of which could be regarded as being even more important than the major tenets of the Bill itself. I do not believe that this is good enough. Here we have legislation which has been contemplated by the Parliament by the people and by the Aboriginal community over a number of years. It is just not good enough to have these important provisions sprung on us in this way.

Mr Donald Cameron:

– I rise to a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. It may be that the honourable member for Hughes is unaware of the fact that the Government has acceded to the request of the Opposition that this Bill not be dealt with in the Committee stage until a later date. The fears which have been expressed by the honourable member are groundless.


-There is no substance in the point of order. I think that that has been already covered.

Mr Les Johnson:

– The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) does not seem to appreciate the fact that the Opposition is just as entitled to respond to this new package of propositions in the second reading debate as it is at the Committee stage of the debate. The tradition of this Parliament in respect of anything of significance is to give oppositions and the community at large at least a week’s notice. That has not occurred in respect of these matters which are to be the subject of 42 amendments. Clearly it ought to be conceded that the Aboriginal people who are hearing this for the first time today, as the Opposition has heard it for the first time today, are entitled to gather together and to organise some response. I am not going to labour this point endlessly but obviously this is a very unsatisfactory way of handling very important legislation. With 42 amendments sprung on the Parliament this day there is not one page of explanatory notes provided. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs would acknowledge that integrating this legislation is a most complex process. One would need a battery of Queen ‘s Counsel to set about it in an effective way during the course of this day.

At least I am pleased to have the assurance that there will be adequate time to formulate amendments. I certainly hope that the time provided to debate the amendments will also prove to be adequate because many honourable members on this side of the Committee will want to speak about them. The Minister today has drawn attention to very dramatic changes in the legislation, the abrogation by this Parliament in many respects of very important issues and the transfer of responsibility for those issues to the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory; matters to which the Aboriginal people, in their organisations around Australia, have already expressed very strong opposition. We have had vague assurances about what the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Adermann) will do to put the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs into the picture about these things. We have been told about how the Legislative Assembly will cooperate and all the rest, but this sounds very vague and unless it is incorporated in this legislation it does not seem very meaningful to me.

I doubt whether I will have time today to talk about the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Bill although I would like to do so because I was the Minister who first introduced such legislation into this Parliament. I doubt whether I will have time to talk about the States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bill and I would like to do so since I was the first Minister to introduce a Bill into the House which contains the concept now contained in that legislation. I will have to content myself with making some remarks about the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill. On 16 October last year on behalf of the Whitlam Government, I introduced into this House a Bill with the same title as that before the House today. On that occasion I said:

In the field of Aboriginal Affairs, this is undoubtedly the most important legislation ever to be introduced into the Australian Parliament.

For most urgent and vastly different reasons this Bill is equally important to the Aboriginal people. In form the Bill introduced by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on 4 June this year loosely follows the Bill I introduced 12 months ago. In substance, however, this Bill radically alters the aims of the 1975 Bill and substantially modifies the recommendations and intentions of Mr Justice Woodward whose reports formed the basis of the Labor Government’s Bill.

The establishment of the Woodward Royal Commission and the consequent introduction in 1975 of the Aboriginal Land (Northern Territory) Bill was a direct result of the 1972 commitment by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) that a Labor Government would legislate to give Aboriginals land rights, ‘not just because their case is beyond argument, but because all of us as Australians are demeaned while the

Aboriginal people are denied their rightful place in this nation’. Those were the comments of the Leader of the Opposition in 1972. That pledge came after 23 years of neglect of the Aboriginal people by the Liberal-Country Party coalition and in particular their outspoken claims for land rights. A further indication of the morale and standing of the Aboriginal people in Australia was given by the Senate on 20 February last year when it carried a motion moved by Australia’s first Aboriginal parliamentary representative, Senator Bonner. That motion was:

That the Senate accepts the fact that the indigenous people of Australia, now known as Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, were in possession of this entire nation prior to the 1 788 First Fleet landing at Botany Bay . . .

That motion was accepted by all parties in the Parliament, including the National Country Party, despite the misgivings and disquiet it aroused from the National Country Party’s colleagues in the Northern Territory.

The legislation we are debating today represents a cynical sellout to the National Country Party and other vested interests in the Northern Territory. It represents yet another nail in the coffin of Aboriginal self-determination, yet another inspired step back in Aboriginal affairs by the Liberal and National Country parties. This legislation, if passed without substantial amendment, will be a tangible indictment of this Parliament and, in particular, this Government for its failure to respond to the needs and aspirations of the indigenous people of Australia living in the Northern Territory. The Bill before the House has so vastly changed the intentions of the Bill I introduced last year that many Aboriginal organisations have contemplated opposing the Bill in its entirety. The Opposition, however, with the support of large numbers of interested parties, including the Australian Council of Churches, the Northern and Central Land Councils of the Northern Territory and vast numbers of Aboriginal groups and communities will not oppose it. Despite the Government’s proposed intention to patch up this legislation at the Committee stage, and that was what the statement by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs today was all about, the Opposition intends to move a substantial number of amendments. It is hoped that the Government will see fit to accept these amendments in the spirit in which they will be movedthat of representing to the people and, in particular, the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory a bipartisan policy on land rights.

The history of Aboriginal, claims for land in this Parliament goes back over a number of years. However, let me take as my starting point the claim made in the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory in the case of Millirrpum v. Nabalco and the Commonwealth in 1968, which is known as the Gove land rights case. In that case, Mr Justice Blackburn, speaking on the question of land and in relation to the Aboriginal people, said:

The fundamental truth about the Aboriginals’ relationship to the land … is that whatever else it is . . . it is a religious relationship. There is an unquestioned scheme of things in which the Spirit Ancestors, the people of the clan, particular land, and everything that exists on and in it are organic parts of one indissoluble whole . . .

Mr Justice Blackburn went on to discuss the doctrine of ‘communal native title’, the central question in the Gove land case. The basis of the Aboriginal claim was that their predecessors laid claim in 1 788 when the subject land became part of New South Wales to those parts of the subject land then before the court and claimed by Nabalco and the Commonwealth. The court rejected the Aboriginal claim that the Aboriginal social and economic system was such that the territory acquired by the Crown in 1788 was a conquered rather than a settled or occupied territory. From this central point Mr Justice Blackburn held that the Aboriginal parliament, through the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain, could exercise power over the whole of the Commonwealth and in particular that land claimed before the court. In the interim report of the commission established to investigate how land rights could be granted statutorily, Mr Justice Woodward, who was a counsel in the Gove land rights case, pointed out that the Aboriginal concepts related to land owning have no parallel in European law. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard an extract from the first report of Mr Justice Woodward on Aboriginal land rights, entitled Aborigines and Their Land.


– (Mr Giles) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

The document read as follows-

page 2784


page 2784



(Taken from first report, paras 20-65 )

In the first place, it is accepted that, wherever else man may have evolved, it was not on this continent. The Aborigines came here from the north and came to an uninhabited land.

The origins of these people who found their way here are obscure. But they must have come, over a period of time, by way of what are now Indonesia and New Guinea. In doing so, they must have covered at least forty miles of water in what can only have been bark canoes.

What is clear is that the Aborigines are genetically a uniquepeople and that they have been here for a very long time. The small parties which landed initially must have taken many hundreds of years to spread, as they did, over the mainland. In spite of some dissimilarities between the Tasmanian Aborigines and those of the mainland, there seems to be no cogent evidence to suggest that the Aborigines of Australiadid not have a common origin. As to the length of time over which Aborigines occupied Australia before 1 788, it can only be said that recent archaeological work has established a period of upwards of 30 000 years.

The Aborigines lived entirely by food gathering and hunting. They tended no herds and planted no crops. In good seasons they lived well; in bad years they suffered.

Anthropologists are agreed that different groups of Aborigines claimed identifiable areas of land as their own. There was no part of the continent left unclaimed, although higher mountainous regions may have been seldom visited.

It has been estimated that, in 1788, the Aboriginal population of Australia may have been in the order of 300 000. So far as the Northern Territory is concerned, it has been suggested that a typical population density for semi-desert country would have been one person to thirty or forty square miles. In the more productive areas closer to the coast, six or eight square miles per person would have been more likely.

This then is the background against which the social organization of the Aborigines must be considered, and, in particular, meaning given to the ‘traditional rights and interests of the Aborigines, in and in relation to land ‘. On enquiry, it soon becomes clear that the social organization of the Aboriginal people is highly complex. The problem of understanding it is made worse by a number of factors. These include, firstly, the difficulty of expressing many Aboriginal ideas and arrangements in English terms. Even simple words such as ‘owner and ‘tribe’ can be misleading. Some words used by anthropologists such as ‘horde’, ‘clan’, and band’ have been given more precise meanings in their writings on the subject, but they have not always been used in the same way and so require definition each time they are used.

Further, some Aboriginal concepts related to land-owning have no parallel in European law. The most important and widespread of the rightsin land that lie outside European arrangements is the managerial interests of a nephew in the country of his maternal uncle. Everywhere the religious rites owned by a clan were the ‘title deeds’ to the land and could only be celebrated by clan members. Such rites, however, could not be held without the assistance of the managers whose essential task it was to prepare the ritual paraphernalia, decorate the celebrants and conduct the rite. The agreement of managers had to be secured for the exploitation of specialized local resources such as ochre and flint deposits and for visits by the clan owners to their own sacred sites.

Yet another difficulty arises from disagreement among anthropologists as to the exact nature of the relationship between Aboriginal organization for land holding and for land usage. These disagreements may be mainly matters of emphasis, but they are still quite important.

It may be that much of this professional disagreement stems from the lack of reliable information as to the situation which existed before white contact. In almost every case, detailed study by trained anthropologists has occurred a number of years after Aboriginal ways of life have been influenced, if not radically changed, by contact with Europeans. Much recorded information comes from older men and women talking of the past -often at some distance from the scene of the events being discussed.

A further difficulty arises from the fact that Aboriginal social organization differs from one area to another. What is true of north-east Arnhem Land may not even be true of the Daly River area south of Darwin, let alone the Macdonnell Ranges, Western Australia or Queensland.

In spite of the difficulties referred to, the following statements can be made with some confidence that they are generally true of the Northern Territory and likely to be true of many other parts of Australia.

It is common to speak of Aboriginal ‘tribes’ and this is a useful description of people such as the Aranda and Pitjantjatjara. The distinguishing marks of such a group are a common language, a commonly used name for that language and thus for the people speaking it, and an identifiable tract of country where those people live or used to live.

The term has also been used for a group of related people, speaking different languages but living in adjacent areas. However, to avoid confusion, I shall refer to such a grouping as an ethnic bloc.

In neither of these cases- the tribe or the ethnic bloc- is there any attempt to achieve political or social unity. The relationship between the different segments of a tribe are often no closer than those between such segments and groups from other tribes. In no sense can the tribe be regarded as the basis of Aboriginal social organization. Smaller groupings have to be identified for this purpose.

The sub-divisions of a tribe can usually be identified by dialectic variations. Although sharing a common language, some words will be different, sentence construction may not be the same and differences in pronunciation will usually be noticeable also.

In some cases this dialect group within the tribe does represent the key social unit. In other cases this is to be found one step lower down the scale- at the level of the clan. I use this expression to mean a local descent group- a sub-division of a dialect group larger than a family but based on family links through a common male ancestry, although those links may be back beyond living memory.

Since the clan appears to be more commonly the key unit, I now turn to consider it in more detail.

Membership of such a clan is determined at birth, since, for land-owning purposes, the child automatically becomes a member of the father’s clan. (The word ‘father’ is used throughout although it would be more correct to speak of the mother’s husband. This presented no problems to the Aborigine because conception was believed to be the work of spirits.)

Mother and father will come from different dans, for a child cannot marry within the clan, but must marry a member of another clan. The rules or preferences which decide that clan vary from place to place, but can be quite strict. They have had to be relaxed in some areas as clans have dwindled in size or disappeared.

The members of a clan retain that membership throughout their lives and, indeed, thereafter. The link between an Aborigine ‘s spirit and his land is regarded as being timeless. The land-owning clan is merely a group of people who share the same links with the same land.

Thus these clans have close spiritual associations with particular tracts of land. Their religion or mythology teaches them that particular areas were given to them, or claimed on their behalf, by their spirit ancestors in the Dreamtime. For this reason there are specific stories, songs and ceremonies linking these spirit ancestors with particular places. The more important the place is to the legend, the more sacred it is.

These spirit ancestors were in some cases part animal, bird, insect or plant. They could also, for example, be related to rain, wind or stars. But in all cases they had human characteristics, whatever their outward form may have been.

Some country, because of these legends or of its natural resources (which are frequently linked together) is more important than other country. But, although boundaries may be blurred, all country is of some importance and is identified with some clan or other grouping.

The spiritual connection between a clan and its land involves both rights and duties. The rights are to the unrestricted use of its natural products; the duties are of a ceremonial kind- to tend the land by the performance of ritual dances, songs and ceremonies at the proper times and places.

One further point remains to be made. It is apparent that a clan, being of only moderate size, can die out This must have happened on occasions even in the days before white contact. With the coming of the white man, such instances must have occurred more frequently even in the Northern Territory. Since the produce of all land is important and, in Aboriginal belief good seasons depend on ritual observances, it was normal for the sacred objects and ceremonies of that clan to be taken over or cared for by another closely related clan. Since, as I have said, the connection of Aborigines with their land is timeless, commencing before birth and continuing after death, this taking over should be seen as a form of trusteeship rather than a transfer of rights.

All that has been said above about the clan is equally true of the dialect group referred to earlier except that, being larger, marriage within the group is likely to be quite common. It will still be governed by strict rules as to kinship which will determine which members are acceptable as spouses.

It may help to clarify the complicated position I have been describing if the situation is considered from the point of view of a typical Aborigine of Arnhem Land in the years before white contact.

Let us assume the case of a mature man. His immediate family consists of one or more wives and their respective children together, in all probability, with some older peopleperhaps one of his or his wife ‘s parents or an elder brother or brother-in-law. Even when food is scarce, this family unit is likely to be added to by relatives or friends. The father and his children, of course, belong to one clan along with his father, brothers and sisters (who may not be in the group).

The wife or wives come from, and still belong to, a different clan. If there are several wives, they may not belong to the one clan, although it is quite likely that they will. The mother, if she is present, will almost certainly belong to a third clan. Because of the intricate kinship systems observed, it is unusual for a man to take a wife from his mother’s clan. Friends and other relatives could come from any one of a group of neighbouring clans with which there are friendly relations. In the group the dialect of the central clan will predominate, but other clans will use their own dialects and will be understood.

The other members of the central clan in this example will be scattered among a number of similar family groups. They will all be related by patrilineal descent but the exact relationship may have been forgotten with the passage of time. In several other cases, as in this one, the clan will provide the nucleus of the group. In other instances, some other clan will provide the nucleus and members of this clan will be present as wives, relatives or guests. The total membership of the dan-men, women and children, may be about 30 to SO.

The family group which has been described mav move about by itself, or, particularly when food is relatively plentiful, may join with other groups to constitute quite a large band-perhaps 30 to 40 people. Whether large or small, this band constitutes the hunting and food gathering social unit. It moves over the country in a predictable but not rigid pattern which depends on the availability of food resources at particular places and particular times. It varies in numbers as groups or individuals join and leave. In doing so, it will probably spend a good deal of time on the country which is held by the clan, but the head of the family will certainly expect to be welcome in the country of bis mother’s clan. He will also visit freely his wife ‘s country or that of any other member of bis group. Indeed he may decide to go to any of the neighbouring areas except, perhaps, those where some ill-feeling has arisen or is traditional between his clan and the local landholding group.

The trouble he takes to obtain express or tacit permission will depend upon the strength of his claim to hospitality, arising from personal ties of relationship, traditional clan affiliations or totemic relationships (which are explained below).

Where the band is a large one, it may be difficult to say that it has any one clan as a nucleus. This is particularly true when large groups gather at a special time and place for major ceremonies of ritual songs and dances. On these occasions several related clans will have special responsibilities to perform or to manage the ceremonies, but many other clans will also be represented.

The head of the family will know exactly where his clan’s land begins and ends. If circumstances take him away from it for any length of time, he will make a point of returning for major ceremonies if and when he can and, in particular, for the initiation of his sons.

This is his country in the clearest sense of that term. He may however speak of some other place or places as being his country, either because he was born there, or because his mother first became aware of her pregnancy there and so believed that the spirits conceived him there, or because the place is associated in mythology with a totemic or spirit figure which is either his personal totem also or the totem of his clan. The clan, for example, may have the bandicoot as a totemic figure, but the head of this family may have been born at a ‘honey-bee Dreaming’ place, which is imbued with the spirit essence of a mythical honey-bee man. He will then have a special relationship with other Aborigines sharing the same totemic figures. Each of his relationships with these spirit ancestors will be substantiated by stones and songs which include their doings in the Dreamtime on the clan’s land and at the place of his birth.

The picture so far painted is, I believe, accurate for North Eastern Arnhem Land. Even here there is some doubt as to just how much time, before white contact, a typical clan member spent on his own land. In other parts of the Northern Territory, some different considerations apply. Thus on Melville and Bathurst Islands the Tiwi people, largely cut off from outside contact, developed some rules of their own. In some parts of the Territory, clan social membership was inherited from the mother, although landholding seems always to be inherited from the father. In others, where the landholding clans or dialect groups were larger and their country more extensive, they seem to have lived almost entirely on their own land except in times of severe drought Even so, their wives had to come from other groups and this led to a good deal of visiting, sometimes for protracted periods.

Up to this point I have concentrated on the situation which existed before white contact. In those days of intimate association between men and their land there would, I believe, have been no difficulty experienced in recording the allocation of country between landholding clans or dialect groups. Today the degree of difficulty will vary from place to place.

Because of the spiritual beliefs of the Aborigine about his land, his connexion with it is not broken by the fact that he may have lived away from it for many years. Certainly traditional ways of life have, to varying extents in different places, been departed from. Missions and settlements, with their assured food supplies, medical attention and other material advantages, have attracted Aborigines to settle, more or less permanently, in one place. Very often this is miles from their own country and, as older men die, accurate information becomes harder to obtain. Rituals are observed less often and not at the traditional sites. For the present- day enquirer, the problem is made much worse by the fact that Aborigines had no need, in the past, to be specific in their use of names for clans or other groups. Perhaps the most commonly used description was the name of the lan.guage or dialect spoken by a particular people. However, as I ave said, it seems clear that the larger language group was never a social or political unit and so never a land-holding group. In some cases the dailect group would constitute the land-holding unit and in other cases land would be held by a sub-division of that dialect group- a clan. In either case its membership was determined by common patrilineal descent

But even if the land-holding group was identical with the dialect group, it was not in its capacity as a dialect group that it held the land. It did so as a descent group and, usually, by another name. This name might well be the same as, or derived from, the particular totem of the group. In fact there could be serveral different names, some of them sacred and used only in ceremonies, for the same people.

Common usage complicated the position further because the people themselves would have little use for a group name, speaking only of ‘us’; and neighbouring groups might refer to them by reference to totemic relationships or to the name of a leading figure in the group or to a particular place frequented by the group. Indeed in some cases it is hard to discover whether a sub-group of a particular dialect group holds a piece of country to the exclusion of the other subgroup, or whether they are merely specially associated with that area, which is nevertheless held by the whole group. Aborigines further afield might well group a number or clans together and refer to them as ‘ the people of the north ‘ or ‘the people of the desert’. Such a description could easily be mistaken for a tribal name.

I have no doubt that, even today, the necessary information is available to divide much, if not all, of the Northern Territory into dialect group or clan regions. If the right people could be taken out to the right places, to demonstrate the position on the ground, I believe that there would be little disagreement. I have so far come across no case in which ownership of land has been disputed among full-blooded Aborigines. But the task of obtaining the necessary information from different informants, having different degrees of knowledge, and then converting it into clear terms for record purposes, could undoubtedly be a very long and difficult one. Since detailed surveying would be necessary, the job would certainly take a number of years and the expense would be very great.

Mr Les Johnson:

-I thank the Minister and the House. The recommendations of the second and final report of the Aboriginal Land Rights Commission which was presented by Mr Justice Woodward formed the basis of the Land Rights Bill that was introduced into the Parliament 13 months ago. Speaking during the second reading debate on the 1975 Bill the present Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott), who was then spokesman on Aboriginal affairs for the then Opposition, sought to refer that Bill to a standing committee of the Parliament for a further report. That Bill, which was the result of IS months of investigation by Mr Justice Woodward and 18 months of consultation with Aboriginal groups, lapsed on the dissolution of the Parliament. It had been widely debated and generally accepted by Aboriginal communities throughout the Northern Territory. I just recall the fact that, despite the good intentions of the then Opposition to refer this whole matter to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, when it came into Government it did not seem to think that that was a good idea. Of course, that proposed Bill has never seen the light of day from the standpoint of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. So it is clear that honourable gentlemen opposite say different things when they are in Opposition and when they are in Government.

In June last year, reacting to pressures from vested interests and in particular from the National Country Party dominated Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory and the Australian Mining Industry Council, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) introduced a new, redrafted Bill with the same title.

Mr Haslem:

– Have you asked the Mining Industry Council whether it likes it now?

Mr Les Johnson:

-The differences are vast and, as honourable members will note from the number of amendments to be moved by the Opposition, they are substantial. In the 5 months since the introduction of this legislation the Government has failed to initiate debate on the changes; rather, it undertook another bureaucratic study. I can understand the honourable member for Canberra liking that kind of process. We are told that the result of that examination of submissions is reflected in the amendments which are to be moved by the Government. That report, however, has not been tabled in the House; nor has it been made available to those persons who made submissions to the inquiry. We are expected- I am speaking for the whole Parliament now, not just the Opposition- to accept without question that this Government, which so shamelessly capitulated to the mining industry only last week, has stood firm on behalf of the Aboriginal people in relation to this Bill. If that is so, why not let the Australian people read the submissions and the report which was based on them? Let the Australian people decide whether the changes made to the Bill introduced last year by the Whitlam Government are acceptable.

The most wide ranging and far reaching alterations to Labor’s Bill relate to the transfer of legislative power from this Parliament to the

Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. These powers include the control and declaration of protection of sacred sites, the control of entry to pastoral properties, the control of entry to Aboriginal lands and access to the sea adjoining Aboriginal lands. The Opposition opposes this transfer of power and, in particular, opposes the deletion of that clause of the 1975 Land Rights Bill which provided that this Parliament, through regulation, could override any Northern Territory legislation. This final provision followed directly on the recommendation made in paragraph 740 by Mr Justice Woodward, where he stated:

It is important that the basic legislation of the Australian Parliament be protected in such a way that its provisions cannot be eroded by the effect of any Northern Territory Ordinance.

The Opposition proposes to move in the Committee stage a number of amendments to reinstate the Australian Government’s jurisdiction over these matters, as Mr Justice Woodward recommended and as the Australian people decided in the 1967 referendum. A further point of concern both to the Labor Opposition and to Aboriginal groups in the Northern Territory is the restriction on the functions of the land councils in the Northern Territory imposed by the 1 976 Bill. The 1975 Bill gave legal recognition to the already existing Northern and Central Land Councils established on the recommendation of Mr Justice Woodward. The new Bill gives wide discretionary powers to the Minister to set the boundaries and to limit the operation of land councils. Mr Justice Woodward, in paragraph 359 of his second report, recommended that land councils have power to:

  1. Co-ordinate and make claim to vacant Crown lands.
  2. Make representations to the Land Commission about priorities and expenditures of moneys for land purchase and land development.
  3. Issue entry permits to non-Aborigines visiting Aboriginal lands and arrange for Rangers and others to check the permit system is observed.

The 1976 Bill eliminates these 3 specific functions. The important power to make representations about priorities and expenditure is deleted from the functions of the councils. The issue of entry permits is to be handled not by Aboriginal land councils but by the white, Darwin based, Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. This is, of course, despite the attitude to the contrary expressed during the debate on the 1975 Bill by the present Attorney-General and then spokesman on Aboriginal affairs.

On perhaps the most important function of all- that of co-ordinating land claims- the Government has reverted to the provisions of the Labor Bill which followed Mr Justice

Woodward’s recommendations. This function, which the land councils have been actively and successfully pursuing since their formation, will now be retained by them. I hope that the Minister will ensure that the additional funds which would have been made available to the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service for this function will now be made available to the councils. Obviously they will have very great difficulty in functioning and fulfilling these functions unless they are able to employ and deploy the expert personnel necessary to gain an active appreciation of these important matters. However, despite reverting to Mr Justice Woodward’s original intention with regard to the land councils’ co-ordinating role in land claims, this Bill has severely limited the range of claims which are to be heard by the Land Commissioner. Mr Justice Woodward proposed that an Aboriginal Land Commissioner be appointed to determine claims from Aboriginal people which were based not on traditional grounds but rather on need. In his second report he stated:

The difficulties in which many of these people find themselves do arise from the loss of their traditional lands or the loss of their sense of Aboriginal identity caused by their mixed ancestry. Whatever their reasons for living in a town, it can certainly be said that most of the fringe dwellers of the cities have suffered more from the coming of white settlement than have those still living on reserves or cattle stations.

Mr Ruddock:

– Where was that quoted from?

Mr Les Johnson:

-That is in the Woodward report. I am surprised that the honourable gentleman has not read it. These claims, which have been heard by the Interim Commissioner, Mr Justice Ward, whose reports have been widely accepted, are now to be heard by the Northern Territory Lands Board and not by the Commissioner. This is a complete abrogation of the recommendation of the Woodward Commission and of the spirit and intention of the 1975 Bill introduced by the Labor Government. An example of what will result can be seen in the claim of the Gurindjis. Their claim for land at Wave Hill began a decade ago. In August last year the then Prime Minister finally handed over leasehold title to part of their claim. The freehold title was to pass with the royal assent to the Bill introduced last year. Under this Bill it seems that the Gurindjis could be denied their land. Ten years after their claim was first lodged it is to go to yet another tribunal, from what I gather from the Minister’s remarks this afternoon.

Then there is the question of Tanami. The Walpiri people of Yuendumu and Hooker Creek are to suffer a similar indignity. The Minister has stated that despite a recommendation by Mr Justice Woodward in paragraph 150 of his report that the Tanami Desert people be included in any transfer of land to Aboriginal ownership because of the close traditional ties to the Walpiri people- the largest tribe in the Northern Territoryand despite the inclusion of the Tanami Desert in schedules of both the 1975 and 1976 Bills, it is now to be excluded. The land in question has been subject to continued attempts to transfer it to a reserve for the Walpiris since 1935, and its inclusion would be seen as a major measure of good faith by an administration which has ignored its claims for 41 years. The amendment to exclude this land should and will be seen as a gross insult to a people who suffered the most recent massacre in Australia’s history when 3 1 of their tribe were murdered in revenge killings in 1928. Honourable members opposite, if they accept nothing else, should fight to retain this land in the schedule. I commend it to them and to the House.

Mr Ruddock:

– That seems to conflict with your earlier quotation.

Mr Les Johnson:

-It is in regard to mining that perhaps the most intensive lobbying campaign has been conducted and the most extensive changes made to the 1975 Bill. Honourable members and the public will have noticed the huge advertising campaign undertaken by the Australian Mining Industry Council, allegedly costing over $ lm, to put across its point of view that Aborigines should not retain the right to veto mining on their land. These claims have been rejected not only by the Aboriginal groups but also by members of the Government Parties -Senator Chaney, Senator Bonner and Senator Baume -

Mr Ruddock:

– And the Government.

Mr Les Johnson:

– . . . who wrote letters to the newspapers and made their position clear in respect of this matter. One of the most obnoxious clauses of the Government’s original Bill- that permitting a secret inquiry into whether mining on Aboriginal land is ‘in the national interest’- is to be removed. The new clause, recognising the overwhelming vote of the 1967 referendum to give the Parliament legislative power in Aboriginal affairs, wil reinstate that provision in the 1975 Bill which makes any such declaration subject to disallowance by either House of this Parliament.

Mr Ruddock:

– Whose decision was that?

Mr Les Johnson:

– The new Bill, however, provides that Aborigines -


-Order The honourable member for Parramatta is on the speakers’ list and will be able to speak in a little while to come. I hope that he will retain his patience until that glorious moment.

Mr Les Johnson:

– The new Bill, however, provides that Aborigines shall receive the rate of royalty only at the time this Bill is passed. Any subsequent increases in the royalty rate will go to the Aboriginal people who own the land only at the Minister’s discretion. In my view, this provision smacks of the ugly paternalism and discrimination which has highlighted Aboriginal affairs in Australia from the time of the white man’s settlement here. The Opposition vigorously opposes this provision, which alters the Woodward Commission’s intentions and aspirations for financially secure independent Aboriginal development based on a sensible and Aboriginal-controlled exploitation of minerals on their land. The Opposition will move to have the provision deleted from the legislation.

Some comment must also be made about other important changes in the Bill. Firstly, in relation to power over roads, the 1975 Act gave the Aboriginal councils power to control the use of roads running through their land. The 1976 Bill makes all such roads public places. Thus the Aboriginal people have no effective control over tourists and others who now enter their land, destroy their privacy, and in many cases infringe their traditional religious and sacred sites. Yet another important omission from this legislation is that provision of the 1975 Act which extended Aboriginal land rights 2 kilometres into the sea. This omission has upset a large number of Aboriginal communities as it offers them no protection of their fishing and religious rights off their land. The Yirrkala people, in a submission in September, stated it quite clearly when they said:

To us the sea means as much as the land, we have songs, dances and sacred stories which go from the land to the sea.

Their words have been echoed by the Aboriginal community of Groote Eylandt and the people of the Tiwi tribe on Melville and Bathurst Islands. Another matter of grave consequence is that the definition of ‘Aboriginals’ in the 1976 Bill is limited to Aborigines living within the Northern Territory. Again, this smacks of paternalism and discrimination and portends perhaps the Minister’s fears of the articulate and educated Aborigines of the south influencing their northern brothers and sisters. The Labor Government in 1975 considered this matter, and after wide consultation determined that the Aboriginal people themselves should decide who should benefit and who should influence their decisions. For this reason, amendments will be proposed to delete such discriminatory passages throughout the Bill.

Finally, might I add one additional matter which has relevance to the land rights legislation and also to the States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bill, that is, the matter of a treaty of commitment between the Australian Government and the Aboriginal people. Such a treaty would oblige the expenditure of a minimum amount, expressed in percentage terms, of each annual appropriation and would have the effect of removing the individual funding of Aboriginal affairs from direct political confrontation. Such a treaty may in some way indicate to the Aboriginal people the firm commitment of the Australian Government to Aboriginal affairs and in some way compensate them for the loss of thenland. Might I point out to the House that this Bill, which the Government has had before it since it took office on 13 December, has been the subject of widespread debate amongst both the Aboriginal and white citizens of the Territory and throughout Australia. The Opposition hopes that its passage through this House will be speedy but considered and that the amendments to be moved by the Opposition will find support from the Government benches. These amendments are not made in any spirit of partisanship or political point-scoring. They represent the considered opinions of persons who have been concerned with the Aboriginal cause, and in particular with Aboriginal land rights, for a number of years. I commend to honourable members the amendments circulating in my name and hope that in the Committee stage they will be given earnest consideration.

Mr Kevin Cairns:

-The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill may have aroused widespread debate and interest amongst the Australian community in the past 5 months but it certainly did not arouse a very widespread sense of understanding or interest amongst members of the Opposition. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) seemed to be the only one interested in what was being said. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) might have imagined it was an immigration debate for all the interest he was taking. But there was one aspect of the propositions put by the Opposition in the debate which characterises most of their contributions in this House. Members of the Opposition always have to organise their propositions in a litany of hate. If one followed what they said, it was this: They dislike the provisions in this Bill, but in terms of disliking those provisions they made it quite clear that they dislike pre-eminently the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, they dislike the miners and they dislike the Government. They had a special sense of vitriol for members of the Country Party, whom I presume can take care of that little proposition by themselves. Opposition members always imagine that reciting a litany of hate is a substitution for a rational discussion of what should be a very important and rational Bill.

This is one of those Bills which are only understood when seen in terms of their details. The details of the Bill will in fact verify its validity. An attempt to understand the details of the Bill will verify the sincerity of those who take it in their turn to criticise it. It was quite clear that the details of the Bill were neither understood nor comprehended by the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), and I will deal with that in the course of my remarks. Might I spend a moment making a short defence of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), although I am sure he will make a defence for himself. He is used to doing that. On 1 1 November the Minister made a very comprehensive Press statement in which he made clear the 4 areas in which he claimed he was going to introduce significant amendments to this legislation. Those amendments have been moved. We shall wait until debate of this legislation at the Committee stage to see to what extent those amendments have been understood.

I am delighted for a number of reasons to be associated with this measure. Land legislation has always been of pre-eminent and very great significance in Australia. In fact, in the 19th century the principal debates in the parliamentary assemblies of Australia were always over land legislation. Such legislation made and broke governments. It put oppositions in and governments out. Land characterised 2 things- the distribution of wealth in the community and also the nature of the culture of the community. The history of Australia in the 19th century in terms of the States is characterised by the history of those parliamentary assemblies in terms of land legislation. I hope that the significance of this legislation, which is going to apply very sensitively and appropriately to the Northern Territory, can be seen in that light

Land has introduced words into the language. This land Bill will introduce new words into the Australian language. I believe that it will also introduce a new sense of culture, of wealth and of responsibility among many people who are going to have to deal with this legislation. We ask only one thing, that is, that in order to make this legislation work the whole matter be approached in a spirit of commonsense and of balance. Unless it is approached in that way it will not work. There has to be a sense of goodwill and of sincerity about this legislation. Five principles to apply in respect of Aboriginal land legislation have been made quite clear in the Woodward report. I believe that those principles underline the spirit of this legislation.

A spirit of simple justice animates the Government’s purpose in introducing this legislation. The Government has introduced this legislation knowing that there has to be social harmony, and that is enshrined in this land legislation. The Government knows that the holding of land is crucially important to those who are economically and socially depressed. From the other side of the world words such as ‘proletariat’ and lumpenproletariat’ have derived primarily from those who lived in cities and in large areas of population but who did not have land. As those words have entered our vocabulary, so we hope this legislation will introduce a new vocabulary in terms of experience in the Northern Territory. This legislation was introduced because people needed to be provided with a sense of identity and, not least of aU, in order to make Australia’s position in the world better understood. It is quite clear that in the 1950s and 1960s and in the early 1970s attitudes in Australia towards land and towards Aboriginal rights for land had a way of being quickly ventilated in the United Nations. So Australia ‘s position in the world will be judged also by the nature of this legislation and the spirit of goodwill with which it is approached.

I can only compare the introduction of this legislation with one other experience in Australian life. I believe that it represents the introduction of a new sense of law and order- a new province of law- in the same way that industrial legislation that was introduced in Australia in the late 19th century and early 20th century represented a new province of law and order. There are many parallels between that industrial legislation and the legislation that has been introduced here. One only has to go through the procedures, and the une and writ of authority that are enshrined in this legislation to see that socially it is as significant as was the new province of law and order in which Australia was a leader in the world. I believe that the significance of this legislation ought to be understood, having aU those things in mind.

The Government does not flee from the proposition that this legislation contains an exquisite difficulty. Of course there is an exquisite difficulty and that difficulty is in representing 2 cultures and in synchronising the rights of those 2 cultures. I believe clause 70 of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill seeks to do that. It does not seek to submerge one culture in what would be understood to be our culture. So it ought to be understood in regard to any difficulties which are claimed to exist with this legislaion that the legislation seeks to synchronise the 2 cultures. A recognition of legitimate rights to land, not by European tradition but by Aboriginal tradition, are enshrined in this legislation. Many experts around Australia have indicated the processes whereby that right to land should be exercised. These processes are different from those which we have understood to apply. This legislation has gone out of its way to recognise those new principles, and unless they are recognised in fact and understood in fact the legislation will fail. So there needs to be understanding, a sense of sincerity and a sense of very great sensitivity in relation to this legislation.

It is in that sense that I refer- I believe rather sadly- to a copy of a press release which was put on my desk just a little before I came into the chamber. It was released by a gentleman called Eames from the Central Land Council in Alice Springs. It refers to a member of this House and a senator in the other place who are very highly respected by supporters of the Government. The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) is very highly respected, as is Senator Kilgariff. I do not believe that it makes for a sense of sensitivity or understanding when words such as those contained in the Press statement are issued by the solicitor for the Central Land Council, remembering that the land councils are the centres of authority and power in this legislation. I shall deal with that dynamic in a moment. The final paragraph of this Press statement states: -If Calder and Kilgariff have any courage then their campaign on behalf of rnining and pastoral interests will cause them to vote against the land rights bill.

He may be disappointed. The Press statement continues:

They will be the only people who will do so and Aborigines in the Northern Territory will quickly judge the motive behind their gutter campaigns.

In the introduction of legislaton which requires sympathy and understanding for the Australian people I do not believe that those are the kinds of words and sentiments that ought to be used against members of Parliament from the precise Territory in which the legislation is going to find effect. If ill-will develops on account of statements such as this the ill-will will lie with people such as Eames who have issued those statements.

In the 10 minutes that are available to me I shall consider the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill. In every Bill there is a dynamic and in every piece of legislation there is a part of that legislation which enshrines the allocation of power and authority. It is quite clear that this Bill depends upon trusts. It depends upon councils. I want to refer to the future requirements of the legislation, in fact, those which ultimately will judge the success of what is being done today. The councils are the essential dynamic of this legislation. They are a new concept. They are also a source of enormous power. So one has to be careful to ensure that that power is carefully, fruitfully and correctly exercised. I refer to clauses 24 and 26 of the Bill in order to make clear what that power happens to be. Clause 24 sub-clause (2) makes it clear that the Aboriginal councils will hold very great power in respect of conciliation procedures. Clause 24 sub-clause (3) makes it clear that ultimate authority will rest with the councils in the implementation of this legislation. I refer in particular to clause 26(1), which states:

Subject to this Act, a Land Council may do all things necessary or convenient to be done for or in connexion with the performance of its functions and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, may -

I believe this is a very great power-

  1. give lawful directions to Land Trusts holding land in its area concerning the performance of their functions;

That is the key point in terms of the authority contained in this Bill. Therefore, the functions of the councils are going to be the crucial element.

I was pleased to note that one of the amendments which the Minister has moved and to which the Opposition has taken exception requires the land councils not only to ascertain and to express the opinion of Aborigines but also to obtain knowledge of the wishes of the Aborigines whom they represent. An added and very important requirement is to be placed upon the land councils so that they do not become overwhelming and overweening bureaucratic organisations. We know that the land councils must be sufficiently large to have the expertise to represent the people whom they represent and to order the events within their communities. We also know that they should be sufficiently close to the traditional holders who will be determined not to be separate and distinct from them. That flexibility, in terms of the working out of those 2 principles, will ultimately measure, I believe, the success of this legislation and the ability of the land councils to do what they say they can do.

Therefore, I suggest that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in accordance with clause 20 of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill 1976, should divide the Northern Territory into at least 2 areas and establish Aboriginal land councils for each area. It may be that in the long run the Minister will have to exercise flexibility in the operation of clause 20 ( 1 ) of the legislation which refers to the numbers of land councils which are appropriate. The size, the number and the ability to function of the land councils are the heart and soul of this legislation. They will determine the writ of authority and respect which will go with the implementation of this legislation.

I turn to clause 19 (2) (b) which deals with the purposes for which the land will be used. It is quite clear that the land can be used on the authority of the land councils through the Trust for a variety of commercial purposes. I hope that in the long run the use to which the traditional land will be put will testify to the success of the legislation. Clause 19 (2) (b) states that the land could be: for use in the conduct of a business by the Aboriginal, the Council, or Association, not being a business in which a person who is not an Aboriginal has an interest that entitles him to share in, or to a payment that varies in accordance with, the profits of the business.

This clause enshrines the future interests of the traditional Aboriginal land. It will have force only in accordance with the self-motivation of those who represent the recipients of this land. The development of co-operative enterprises will measure the extent to which this clause has force. In any sense whatsoever it is the key to this legislation. It is the dynamic of this legislation.

I wish to refer quickly to 2 other matters in the 5 minutes that are left to me. The speech of the honourable member for Hughes makes clear that the Opposition cannot get away from its hatred of the mining industry. It dislikes the mining industry almost as much as it seems to dislike the National Country Party and, of course, the Liberal Party. Let me make it quite clear that the ultimate prosperity of the Northern Territory and the ability of its people to have a high standard of living will depend on the vitality, the expansion and the development of the mining industry. Nobody in this House wants the mining industry to destroy the life of any person or any group or any traditional group of people in the Territory. That is against the spirit and the sense of the legislation. On the other hand, one has to face facts. On occasion, one has to have doubts. I refer, for example, to Borroloola. I have seen maps of the claims for traditional land situated between the proposed lead zinc mining development at Borroloola and the Sir Edward Pellew Islands. I have seen the maps which coincide with the proposed pipeline to the coast on areas which are claimed as Aboriginal land. If one has common sense, one will see that if mining is prejudiced unjustly, everybody will lose. I make a comment in passing which will not receive universal support from this side of the House. I hope we do not have the stoppage of too many efficient mining operations, such as the operation on Fraser Island.

The authority to consent agreements, as contained in clauses 39, 40 and 41, will be retained in the Bill. The requirements for enterprises such as the Mereenie field to enter into agreements, if the gas which is there is developed, will be retained. But there will also be a judgment as to whether undue or unfair conditions are being placed upon those agreements. A judgment will have to be made by the Parliament and by the Minister. But the first judgments, the important and significant judgments, must be made by the land councils.

I refer to one matter which seems to have escaped the attention of the Opposition with regard to the Northern Territory. The Northern Territory is moving towards Statehood and it would be ludicrous to deny the Territory legitimate rights of legislation in areas which, it is understood, would be controlled by the Territory. On the other hand, in the spirit of the 1967 referendum and in the spirit of statements that have been made, a significant and an overweeningif I might use that word- authority must be retained by this House. I am delighted that the Government, in order to manifest its goodwill, has decided that a parliamentary committee should be established to oversee the operation of this legislation and to report on positive moves made in Canberra and in the Northern Territory between now and 3 1 May next year. This will not mean an end to the measurement of the adequacy of the legislation, both in Canberra and in the Northern Territory. However, a first report is due by that date.

If anything attests to the goodwill and the sense of the Government that does. The committee can have any matters referred to it by the Minister. It can determine the adequacy of the clauses contained in the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill relating to the identification of the traditional owners of land and the means of establishing the views of such owners to the satisfaction of the relevant land council. The committee will be a joint committee of both Houses of the Parliament. For the Opposition to try to whip up a degree of hate, not against the Government but against the Northern Territory having in mind those provisions is, I believe, unjust and unfair.


-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.


– I suppose it is something when a Queensland member talks semi-favourably about land rights for Aboriginal people. For the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) to come here and talk to honourable members on this side of the House and even to most of his colleagues as if he had suddenly seen the light and the rest of us had not is a piece of absolute nonsense. However, late learner that he is, slow mover that he is, we are glad to have him on our side even if it is only partially.

The honourable member started by saying that we on the Opposition side have a number of hates. He said that we hate the Country Party. We do not hate the Country Party. We just would not trust it politically with anything to do with human rights, particularly Aboriginal rights. We do not hate the miners. We recognise, like everybody else, that a great number of the things which make life possible come out of the ground. But we believe that the mining industry has been one of the great vandals of history. One has only to go to Captain’s Flat, not so far from here, to see what has to be done about miners to keep them in order. That need be considered only against, say, the public enterprise of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria in its Yallourn fields to see what the difference is. The Opposition does not hate the miners but we know full well that the mining industry has to be brought under very close scrutiny and control, particularly where human rights are concerned. We feel that they ought not to be let loose on the problem at all.

The same applies to this Government. It stands against most of the things which we, on this side of the House, stand for. It stands against the people for whom we stand. It is denying most of the promises on which it was elected only 12 months ago. With regard to the Bill, my friend opposite says that it should have rational discussion and should be seen in terms of its details. Two of the Bills before the House, the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Bill and the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill are of a fundamental importance to the Aboriginal people of Australia. They are both big steps towards giving the Aboriginal people a proper place in this community. But how are we going to talk about these things in detail? We know the stumbling way in which the legislation has been brought into the Parliament and put on the notice paper and taken off again. Now we have this Bill with its 73 clauses on 38 pages and the 43 amendments brought in today. How is anyone going to understand it at this stage? With a proper respect for the intellectual capacity, at east when it comes to trying to obscure issues, of my friend the honourable member for Lilley, how would he know anything about it either? So I resent the fact that the debate on these issues is to be shortened. However, I hope that we will be able to deal with the details when we come to them at the Committee stage.

We are debating a matter of great national importance. As my friend said, it is an introduction of a new sense of law and order. This legislation has been drifting into this Parliament for at least the last 13 years- I suppose since the discussion and debate on the Yirrkala question nearly 14 years ago back in 1963. It is 12 months or more since we introduced this matter into the House. It is getting on for 4 years since Mr Justice Woodward was appointed to look into the matter. It is a long time- 3 years or longer- since he brought down his first report. Although I have a proper respect for the intentions behind the legislation I would say this: It has been hesitant in getting here; the Government has been reluctant in bringing it in. We know that there is a great deal of opposition from people in the National Country Party. We know that people in the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory will do their best to sabotage the legislation. We know that much of the apparatus in this Bill is tentative; and that the attitudes expressed in it will be altered as time goes on. I add that the procedures here have been confusing. We will have little time in this debate to talk about the councils. But I appreciate the fact that at long last the legislation has arrived in this arena. I think it was one of the last things that I sent along the pipeline when I was the Minister 3 years ago. I recognise the fact that the delay in the introduction of the legislation concerning councils is no reflection on anybody; neither do I lay too many charges of undue delay in respect of the land rights legislation as I recognise the great difficulty that is involved in drafting such legislation. Before I conclude my remarks on the speech made by my friend the honourable member for Lilley I would like to mention 2 mattersthe question of parliamentary supervision and scrutiny of this legislation and the way it will work. We now have a perfectly good committee of this House concerned with Aboriginal affairs. It has a perfectly good chairman as long as he is given strong guidance. I think that we should perhaps increase the number of members on the Committee. However, we should not create another one.

I would like to say a word on behalf of Mr Eames from the Northern Territory who has remarked on the legislation and was criticised by the honourable member for Lilley. He is deeply involved in the land rights question and, I have no doubt, in the whole operation of Aboriginal advancement. He is a man who is giving great and dedicated service. He would know much more about this matter than my friend the honourable member for Lilley or myself, and his suspicions are relevant because he lives in the area in which one necessarily must be suspicious of many of the people who will have a part in trying to make decisions about this operation. One does not do anybody any good by pouring scorn upon the people who work in Aboriginal affairs. This has been too much of a theme in recent times.

I think it might be worthwhile to remind honourable members how we have got here. It has been a long haul. In 1967 the people of Australia overwhelmingly said to the Australian Government: ‘Get on with the job of Aboriginal advancement’. I think that a referendum on this question was passed by something like 90 per cent in Victoria and 88 per cent or 89 per cent throughout Australia. There were perhaps only 2 or 3 polling booths in Australia that did not carry a majority vote. What that meant was that this Parliament has no right whatsoever to abdicate its responsibility in respect of land rights and hand any control, any possibility of interference, over to any State government or particularly to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. We speak here of the most overwhelming vote that any proposition in Australia has ever received. It is a job for this Parliament and this Parliament alone. We shall deal directly with the Aboriginal people and maintain that position. When the time comes to amend it we will go back to it. So I make a strong appeal that we do not put any faith whatsoever in, or pass any of our responsibilities whatsoever to, the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. I make the same appeal so far as the State governments are concerned because we speak here on a national issue. We must not at any point allow local parochial interests to intervene. It is one of the facts of parliamentary life that we in this arena can speak with less fear of immediate interference from small groups of people than can our colleagues in the State parliaments and municipal councils. But I say that this is a question for the nation and it can be dealt with only by the national Parliament

As I have said, it has been a long haul. When I hear my friend the honourable member for Lilley almost spraining his elbows and bis arms to pat himself and the Government on the back in this matter I am reminded of the long history of colonial peoples in the world and the efforts of people, even such strange people and nondemocrats as George III, to try to ensure that people should get their proper rights. The Spanish ‘Laws of the Indies’ of 11 June 1S94 stated:

We command that the farms and lands which may be granted to Spaniards be so granted without prejudice to the Indians . . .

Then we come to what George III had to say in 1763. One would have thought that my friend the honourable member for Lilley would have caught up to 1763. He said:

And whereas it is just and reasonable, and essential to our interest, and the security of our colonies, that the several nations or tribes of Indians with whom we are connected, and who live under our protection, should not be molested or disturbed in the possession of such parts of our dominions . . .

Mr Lusher:

– Who said that?


– That well known leading radical who would probably even spurn the National Country Party as being too reactionaryGeorge III, King of Great Britain in 1763. This reference can be found in the Library. For the benefit of my friend the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher), the Library is that room off Kings HaU. The doors are often open. He can find his way in there. He should go and have a look at the documents there. The document from which I am reading is entitled The Instruments of British Policy 1763-1765. The almost wistful commands of the British monarchy 2 centuries ago are spelt out there. They said much the same to Governor Phillip. They said: ‘You will conciliate their affections’. They said much the same to Cook. They said:

You are also with the Consent of the Natives to take possession of Convenient Situations in the Country in the Name of the King . . .

He was told that he was to take possession of the land with the consent of the natives. This was a continuing theme. How long must it go on before we accept it as a strong principle? On 19 February 1836 the following direction was issued in respect of South Australia provided always that nothing in these our Letters Patent contained shall affect or be construed to affect the rights of any Aboriginal Natives of the said Province to the actual occupation or enjoyment of their own persons … of any lands . . .

So we are here at last. How far has it brought us? First of all, what about the rest of Australia? What about the questions of compensation? What about the answers in this legislation to the threats from the mining industry? If we must talk about these things let us talk frankly. The history of the mining industry and this Parliament in association with Aboriginal communities is a sad one. Let us consider the case of the Yirrkala people. I was on the committee that examined the grievances of these people. We went to Yirrkala, we sat out under the trees and we talked to the Aboriginal people. We had been assured beforehand that all the Aboriginal people had been consulted, that they knew what it was all about. But of course they did not and they could not. So their land was taken from them. We now have this huge development from which many people I presume are making immense gains; and, in regard to royalties, in a certain way, so too are the Aboriginal people. But honourable members opposite should take a trip there and see the difference between the living conditions of Aboriginal people on their land and the living conditions of the non-Aboriginal people on what used to be Aboriginal land. Now we see the threat to the people of Oenpelli We know what has happened on Groote Eylandt even though I believe that the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd has played the game pretty fairly. We know what is happening now to Aurukun. We know what has happened to Weipa. The facts are that the social impact of development by mining companies on Aboriginal communities is of such immensity that the Aboriginal communities cannot handle it and we do now know how to help them to handle it.

This is one area where we must mark time. That is why, for my own purpose, I would say in this instance that we should give no consideration to anybody else’s rights, whether national or otherwise, to go and mine land at all, until the Aboriginal people can handle the impact. Mining companies are not the only threat to the lands of the Aboriginal people. There is the sacred matter of development and the roads that must run through Aboriginal lands- I think they will be declared public land- and what that means. There is always the continuing pressure of the pastoralists. There are always the social pressures. One question that we will have to consider very deeply, as will whichever committee happens to be charged with the responsibility and whichever Minister may be charged with the responsibility, is how Aboriginal people handle propositions that are put before them. They are an honest and straightfoward people, unaccustomed to dealing with the roughness of our modern commercial and industrial practices. People who have something on offer and who want to mine the land say to the Aborigines: ‘We will pay you this much money and we will do that much for you’. In the common ordinary language of our times, I suppose it is very easy to be conned. The Aborigines have always found themselves in the sad position that their defenders often had to be the people who were also selling them out. We have to do something to protect them against the possibility of being persuaded into getting rid of their rights for the time being.

I see this legislation still with a partly open mind. In other words, I believe that these amendments may answer some of the questions we are putting to the House; but I have my doubts. Is this just a ritual piece of legislation or is it for real? It cannot be for real, if the Legislative Assembly is to be left in the act. I would not care if it were the New South Wales Government, the Victorian Government or the South Australian Government. This is not their function. In matters of land rights and the advancement of the Aboriginal people, particularly the protection of this fundamental principle, this Parliament must accept the full responsibility. Only this Parliament can be the adequate continuing watchdog. I hope that we will remove such clauses from the Bill.

Let us think for a moment of what we mean by ownership’. In the 20-odd years since I first became involved in Aboriginal rights we have had lots of discussion. First of all some Aboriginal people said that what they wanted was land like everybody else has- freehold land. It is a reasonable enough proposition that people should want land for themselves, but of course it is not reasonable if one is taking land in trusteeship for the rest of time. In a way the time has come for us to think of some new word. As one who was responsible for administering Canberra for a couple of years, I continuously ran into the conflict between people about freehold, leasehold and so on- the kind of title by which people hold land. We are talking of traditional lands, traditional usage and the traditional people who should have the land. I do not think we can define this in any of the terms known to the English language. Perhaps we should have some original legislation called the Aboriginal Domains Act, or something of that sort, lifted out of the ordinary context in which we think of land. It is very difficult for us to think of land as not being something which can be bought and sold. I take it that the legislation, no matter how much it is amended or altered, will ensure that people cannot trade in the land. I think that is fundamental. We are trustees of the land. The Aboriginal people to whom we are passing the land will be trustees for future generations, just as they are the heirs of the countless generations who preceded them.

I hope that in the Committee stage of this Bill we will see the matter as a communal exercise. I recognise the difficulties that my colleagues opposite may well have. They have advanced a long way in the last ten or fifteen years. We are not trying to create a new nation. We are not trying to create Bantustans, apartheid or anything like that. We have to give the Aboriginal people a place in this continent which they feel is absolutely theirs. It is a psychological and spiritual need. I recall that one of the missionaries in Yirrkala, when giving evidence to our Committee, said that the Aborigines do not use the land and that they do not have a sense of ownership. He said that they get spiritual refreshment from passing across it. I think that many other Australians are starting to feel much the same way about their environment. Therefore, to people such as myself this is a fairly historic moment. We have been associated with Aboriginal rights from the very beginning. I recall that in 1963 1 personally took action in the court in Darwin to stop a mining development. It did not earn me all that many cheers in this House. Sir Paul Hasluck- Mr Hasluck, as he then was- tried to have me removed from a select committee because of my action. However, we eventually came to an armistice and we have proceeded along this path. I am sorry that we have not time to debate the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Bill and the States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bill. I appeal to honourable members to examine these matters thoroughly in the Committee stage. The Minister, who already has shown a capacity to change his attitude, his ideas and his wordage, may well, under our guidance, do even better.


– It is always a pleasure to follow the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). After his first token political remarks he got down to the business of talking about the Bill and ite purpose. I think he demonstrated his abiding interest in Aboriginal affairs. I was very touched by his kind references to George III, as undoubtedly all honourable members would have been. We in Parramatta have an abiding interest in George

III, the last king of the United States and the first king of Parramatta.

It is a significant Bill to which we are addressing ourselves today. I want to take up some of the remarks of the honourable members who have spoken before me. The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) mentioned a parliamentary committee and the matters which that committee would examine and report upon to the Parliament. He mentioned the date by which the committee would have to report. For the time being I have the pleasure of chairing the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. I understand that it is recommended that the committee will be a joint committee comprising the 8 members of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and 6 members from the Senate, chosen in equal numbers from the Government and the Opposition. Knowing the quality of the members who serve on the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, I am pleased that they will have an opportunity to participate in this important area.

Mr Kevin Cairns:

– Why do you not name them?


-I do not think it is appropriate that I go through the names at this point. Two of the members have spoken before me in this debate. When I touch on some of their more political remarks I trust that they will not think it unkind of me. They have deigned to treat this important debate as an opportunity for political points scoring. I think that was unfortunate. I think that in the area of Aboriginal affairs, in which there has emerged in essence a bipartisan approach, an attempt to divide the nation or to divide parties against parties, persons against persons and Aborigines against Aborigines, is not a very good ploy and is quite unbecoming.

I regret very much that the honourable member for Wills defended Mr Eames, a gentleman whom I have met and who, I must say with some respect to him, is a very diligent person in his examination of legal matters. But I must say that I found him to be one who was perhaps a little too earnest. He has obviously demonstrated this by his capacity to delve into the political area and get away from the legal area in which he has a special responsibility. It is most unfortunate for him to be prepared to make comments about parliamentarians who have proper interests to protect and to pursue. They represent a total electorate of Aboriginal people as well as other people in the Northern Territory. He criticised them simply for putting the views of the total community whom they represent.

However, it was the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) who introduced the most invective into this debate. I consider that most unfortunate. He point scored more so than anybody else, if I can say that about what he had to say. He attempted to put the view that the Australian Labor Party Bill was the one which had adopted almost in entirety the Woodward recommendations. I have seen papers prepared. I have looked at the Woodward report. I have looked at the Labor Party Bill and at our Bill. Each of them differs significantly. The large number of areas that must be covered cannot be covered without diverging to some degree. Honourable members have only to look at the comparative paper- the one that I have in my hand at this time- to appreciate that whilst Mr Justice Woodward made certain recommendations, when we come to put them into a legal document they cannot always be followed in their entirety. But, I think in terms of the good intentions that we have displayed and the interests that we have in this question, we have gone as close as we reasonably could be expected to go in putting the general recommendations into a legislative form. It is totally unfair for honourable members opposite to say that the Opposition is relying upon the Woodward report, that the Government is not and that in some way we have been deficient.

Mr Kevin Cairns:

– It is unfair.


-It is certainly unfair. It is a dishonest approach. The honourable member for Hughes spoke of a $ 1 m advertising campaign by the mining industry and said that it was designed to undermine the purpose of the Bill. He then suggested that the Opposition certainly was not influenced by that and that a number of honourable senators had taken a certain approach in relation to the mining veto. But he then ignored the fact that the Government intends to give to the Parliament the final decision. I think all these suggestions are certainly taking this matter to its extreme. The honourable member forgets the very fundamental basis of our Bill, the recommendations and the amendments that have been proposed, amendments which I entirely support. He endeavours to point score on those in a quite dishonest way. In my view, he showed a lack of preparation because information was available to him some week ago to enable him to see the direction in which the Government was moving in relation to some of these matters that we have discussed already. He ignored the importance of consultation, something which I consider is of the utmost importance. He relied upon a quotation from the Woodward report to denigrate the rights of traditional owners and to say that in some way the rights and claims of people who had moved away from their traditional lands- very often people who may be only of part Aboriginal blood and living in fringe areas- were somehow more important and more significant. I have looked in vain for a generalisation in the Woodward report that would substantiate that claim. I cannot find it. What I do find is that Woodward divided up the recommendations. He discussed the traditional areas- the Aboriginal reserves. That is the first area in which he makes major recommendations. Honourable members have only to look at clause 144.2 of the report to see this. He talks in the summary of the recommendations about traditional lands. He deals with the land holding corporations, which should be called land trusts, and says that they should hold land for the benefit of all those having traditional interests in or rights over it. He acknowledges the importance of traditional land interests.I think he elevates the matter to that important place by making it the first area of Aboriginal lands with which he deals. He then goes on to deal with other significant areas- land claimed by Aborigines, including vacant Crown land, and pastoral leases. Finally, he makes reference to the city and town dwellers. In that, he deals with the fringe dwelling situation.

Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.


– Before the suspension of the sitting I was addressing some remarks to one of the 3 Bills being debated cognately, the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill. I want to say in response to the remarks by honourable members opposite that history will record that it was the Liberal and National Country Parties which pursued and brought to finality land rights for Aborigines, that it was a government of our persuasion which commissioned the Woodward report, and that it is a government of our persuasion which brought in this legislation that was enacted into law.

Mr Keating:

– That is an over-simplification, is it not?


-It is certainly not an oversimplification when we look at the nature of the remarks passed earlier in the debate. I am surprised to hear the honourable member, who has joined us now for the first time in the discussion on this important legislation, interjecting so early. The fact is that these are the parties which brought in the initial report upon which this legislation is based, and these are the parties which will have carried into the law of the land Aboriginal land rights, and that ought to be remembered.

The whole commitment which is embodied in the 3 Bills that we are debating- the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Bill, the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill and the States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bill- is designed to advantage Aboriginal people. The Bills demonstrate our commitment to that cause. The Aboriginal Councils and Associations Bill provides a framework to give support to Aboriginal people through government programs. It is substantially the same as the Bill that was previously introduced but it removes a great deal of the complexity and legal difficulties that Aboriginal bodies have experienced in being incorporated and in being in a form able to receive government assistance. When one looks at the nature of legislation that operates in the States and provides for incorporation in various forms one appreciates the need for a more uniform and simplified structure through which moneys can be got to those people. The States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bill is the vehicle through which the additional funds which were promised in the Budget and in respect of which announcements were made subsequently are to be made available for specific programs in housing and other areas. These are important Bills.

In my Party’s policy statement a clear commitment was given to Aboriginal land rights, and those who endeavour to say that we lack that commitment need only look at the document. It makes clear and emphasises something which I see as important and which Mr Justice Woodward saw as important, and that is a recognition of a fundamental principle to Aboriginestheir sense of Aboriginality was their affinity with land. This is a very important aspect. To me it is the most important aspect because I believe that people need a purpose to do and to achieve, and they will fulfil that purpose only if they are able to see their achievements and believe that what they are doing and what they have is of right. They will not fulfil it if they feel that something is a gift, something given to them to make them feel comfortable and make it easy for them. By way of example one need only look at the nature of probate and inherited wealth and the way it ultimately is frittered away by people who lack the purpose of those who earned it. It is much the same with land rights. If Aborigines know they have land as of right they will feel that special affinity with it. If land is given to them because we feel that it is nice for them to have land, they probably will not have that sense of purpose. It certainly will not help overcome some of the basic problems and deprivations which we know exist among Aborigines in certain circumstances. The policy document is one that I would commend to people to read because it recognises the importance of Aborigines gaining their inalienable title to land.

I also wanted to take honourable members through some of the comments of Mr Justice Woodward in relation to land because I believe there has been some harm done by those who suggested that he did not place a great deal of significance on the Aboriginal concept of land ownership and the traditional forms of land ownership. Mr Justice Woodward said:

The land owning dan is merely a group of people who share the same links with the same land.

These clans have close spiritual associations with particular tracts of land. Their religion or mythology teaches them that particular areas were given to them, or claimed on their behalf, by their spirit ancestors in the Dreamtime . . .

The spiritual connection between a clan and its land involves both rights and duties. The rights are to the unrestricted use of its natural products; the duties are . . . to tend the land by the performance of ritual dances, songs and ceremonies at the proper times and places . . . the connection of the Aborigines with their land is timeless, commencing before birth and continuing after death … his connection with it is not broken by the fact he may have lived away from it for many years

I have so far come across no case in which ownership of land has been disputed among full blooded Aborigines.

Those remarks are important. They make clear the importance of traditional owners in the structure of these Bills, the importance of land rights to Aborigines and the importance of giving them a purpose in life and an understanding of living and achieving. I am pleased that in this Bill emphasis is placed upon traditional ownership. I want to comment on a number of points in relation to clauses in the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill. Clause 7 (6), which deals with the constitution of Aboriginal land trusts, emphasises that all members of a land trust shall be Aborigines living in the area of the land council in the area of which the land of the land trust is situated. It makes it clear that those people must have that association, that they must be people who live in relation to that land within the area for which the trust is established. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) has mentioned an amendment which will give those traditional owners rights in relation to that land that they may not have enjoyed before. This has come out of the important discussions and consultations and further strengthens the Bill in respect of traditional ownership. Clause 22 which deals whith land councils is equally important. With the proposed amendment it will say, in part, that the functions of a land council are: to ascertain and express the wishes and the opinions of Aboriginals living in the area of the Land Council as to the management of Aboriginal land in that area and as to appropriate legislation concerning that land.

That provision is also important in relation to traditional Aborigines. In clause 47 ( 1 ) (a) (i) we see much the same point made. Clause 47 ( 1 ) states, in part:

The functions of the Commissioner are-

on an application being made to the Commissioner by or on behalf of Aboriginals claiming to have a traditional land claim to an area of land, being unalienated Crown land-

to ascertain whether those Aboriginals or any other Aboriginals are the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land.

If one goes on to clause 65, which deals with roads, one will see a similar responsibility to ascertain the wishes of the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land. Finally, if one looks at clause 67 one will see that it speaks of the traditional rights to use or occupy Aboriginal land. Because my time is limited, I simply draw that to the attention of honourable members.

I have raised those points in this discussion because a great deal of emphasis has been placed by some people on the subject of the traditional ownership of land. I believe that this Bill goes a very long way towards meeting most of the criticisms that have been offered. But one must realise that there are difficulties in going further and that, much as we might like to go further in relation to those who have this close association and a traditional right to own land, there are difficulties in assessing who those people are and the boundaries of the land which they are seeking without having to examine the claims over a very long period of time. That sort of examination would only delay further the opportunity for us to be able to give land rights to Aborigines. I think all honourable members would appreciate that time is important in this exercise and that, as well as that, it would be extremely costly to make such an examination.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.


– I want to concentrate on the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill. Firstly, I would like to support the criticism of some of my colleagues of the fact that, although this Bill was introduced on 4

June of this year, 42 -amendments to it were foreshadowed this morning. Although the Government has said that it will adjourn the committee stage of the debate on this Bill until we come back the week after next after the recess it is a fact that if these amendments had been known to members of the Opposition earlier they could have influenced their attitudes.

I agree with most of the honourable members who have spoken today that this is probably one of the most important Bills to come into this House for quite some time. It is certainly the most important Bill to come into this House concerning the Aboriginal people of Australia. Although the Labor Government introduced last year a Bill along similar lines concerning land rights- I feel it went a lot further- this BUI will have far-reaching effects. All we can hope is that if we are in a position to improve the Bill- we of the Opposition feel that we can make a contribution to improving it- our contributions will be accepted. It will be a big step forward.

We have to go back in time to realise what a debt we owe to the Aboriginal people and what a black past we have given them. All of thentroubles started from the day that Governor Phillip landed at Port Jackson, planted a flag and claimed the country in the name of King George III. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) said today that he was a radical. I saw an interesting program on This Day Tonight last week in which a couple of Australian Aborigines were shown landing at Dover in the English Channel and planting the Aboriginal flag. Unfortunately their boat was swamped just before they reached shore. Still they managed to get ashore and plant the Aboriginal flag. In doing so they claimed England. In a symbolic gesture they went round handing out beads to the bystanders. I think that is what happened in the first place in Australia. Of course, the position was reversed on this occasion.

From the time of the landing of Europeans in Australia the position of the Aboriginal people has steadily deteriorated. I am sure that we are all in agreement that our past in this respect is not one of which we can be very proud. For many years absolutely nothing was done for the Aborigines. Those people who were showing concern for what was happening to the Aboriginal people were voices m the wilderness. Certainly not a great deal of notice was taken of them. As a race we have not even had the decency to record the history of the Aborigines. If we look at the position of other indigenous people we will find that at least the history of how they have been decimated and so forth has been recorded. But we have not had the decency to do even that. I am sure that those who have read the books written by Professor Rowley will remember that he made mention of how we have taken the Aborigines out of our history books. That is a fact. There was a segment during a news program tonight about what some educationists have had to say about our attitude to Aborigines in our education system.

It has been claimed that if it had not been for the Aborigines during the early days when the white man was hugging the coast of Australia the white man never would have left the coast. They were able to assist the explorers. Many times they did so against their will. The early settlers who broke out from the coast did so mainly with the assistance of Aborigines. Many of them took Aboriginal women as their wives or companions. The early settlers relied upon the Aborigines to find water holes and so forth. Sometimes that was done voluntarily and sometimes it was done involuntarily. The degradation of the Aborigines has continued right through to the present.

As I have said, we have not even recorded some of the things that we have done to them, including the massacres that have taken place. These events have been recorded in other countries, but they have not been recorded in Australia. It has been claimed that in the early days of the settlement of the Eyre Peninsula, which is in my electorate, when the Aboriginal people were defending their rights and standing up to the settlers, the settlers had a big drive on horseback and drove a large group of Aborigines towards the cliffs and forced them over. This is denied by many people in the area, but some of the older people in the area say that it is quite a true story. A few years ago an Aboriginal group in Adealide wished to erect a monument at that place. The local council had reservations about the matter because it had no proof that that had actually taken place. But elderly people have assured me that it did take place.

The Aborigines have been subjected to all the prejudice and hatred that the white man can muster. Of course, it has meant that they have lived in a racist society. I think that many of us are racist. What did we do to their lifestyle? We pushed them into corners to such an extent that in many instances they became people who had had their tribal structures and their culture destroyed. It is only in the last few years that we have started to realise what we have done and tried to make amends for our actions in the past.

Most Australians know more about the American Indian than they do about their own indigenous people. I have always felt that it is interesting to make a comparison between the way the American Indian and the Australian Aboriginal have been treated. They are both indigenous people. Both races became the victims of the white man’s expansion and so forth. The American Indian was possibly in a much better position to resist the encroachment of the white man than was the Australian Aboriginal. In the first place, following the landing of the Spaniards in America and the spreading of the horse, the Indian became mounted, which meant that he was more mobile. In most cases the American Indian lived in areas where there were a lot more rivers than there were in Australia. So again he was more mobile and there were more means of communication. The American Indian possibly had access to arms right from the time the Spaniards first landed on the American continent. Apart from that, the weapons they had were at a much more advanced stage than were the weapons of the Australian Aboriginal. The American Indian was to be found in larger tribal groupings and, because of the better communications, whenever his land was being encroached upon he was able to get larger groups together and to put some resistance. Despite that, he went under too.

However, the resistance was such that the United States Government at least recognised the Indians and found that at times it had to draw up treaties with them. Those treaties were wiped aside when it suited the white people of that country. Large reserves were given to the American Indians under treaties, but if gold was found in those areas or if they covered good pastoral land the treaties were tossed to one side and ignored. The American Plains Indians were pushed into a corner over a period of about 30 years. They were pushed into very small reserves which possibly contained the poorest country in the vicinity or were in areas where there was no game and in most cases no water. Although the Indians resisted, they were smashed. At least the Americans recorded their history, whereas we in Australia have not recorded the history of our Aborigines. The American Indians, despite their problems, had a few victories. Some of us know about General Custer and the battle at Little Big Horn.

We know what happened to the American Indians; so what chance did the Australian Aborigines have? The Australian Aborigines were not mounted and the weapons they had were much more primitive than those of the American Indians. The Aborigines’ tribal structures were much smaller. They did not have the means of communication and the means of congregation so that they could put up some resistance. They went the same way as the American Indians. We chased them off tribal land and forced them into degradation, and we destroyed some of them. The Aborigines became a completely dispossessed people. The only recorded history we have of many of the things that took place is in their own history, in the stories that they can tell. I have been told that in the northern part of South Australia some of the older Aboriginal people can tell the story of Burke and Wills. That story has been handed down. They can tell about the tribe that looked after King after that tragic expedition. One can hear stories of Lasseter and his lost gold reef and so forth. This is the only history we have of them in many places.

While all this was going on, the concerned voices were in the wilderness. For many years the attitude of the white population was to assimilate the Aborigines into white society or to let them die out peacefully- and sometimes not quite so peacefully. Only in the last 25 years has there been any concern by the white population about what happened to our Aboriginal people. Possibly the watershed of that concern was the 1967 referendum which was carried throughout Australia by an exceptionally large vote and which the honourable member for Wills mentioned earlier- a vote in excess of 90 per cent. The Australian people voted overwhelmingly to allow the Federal Parliament to legislate for our Aboriginal people. From that time on the Federal Government has had much greater involvement. Even our predecessors, the LiberalCountry Party Government, started a scheme to assist Aboriginal people. The result was that more finance was made available to the States and things took a little turn. However, with the dispossession that had taken place, the matter of land rights for Aborigines became of great importance. This was something which had not been considered before. Following that we saw some court cases. There was one in the early 1970s involving land in Arnhem Land. That was the case in which Mr Justice Blackburn was involved, the Yirrkala case. We know of the decision that he handed down. That decision was based on white man’s law and in it the traditional rights of the Aboriginal people were completely ignored. It was a decision made within the very limited framework in which he had to work- the European law, the white man’s law, under which the rights of the Aborigines were given short shrift. Emphasis was given at that time to the need for a law to cover this aspect of Aboriginal life; that is, a law to establish land rights for these people.

In 1972 the Woodward Commission was established and also in that year the advent of the Labor Government gave a bit of a kick along to the provision of finance, etc., for these people. The fact that the Federal Government moved into this field led to an increase in finance to assist in areas such as health, education and housing, which had been of concern to the Aboriginal people and those concerned about them. That was an effort to bridge the gap that had existed for quite some time. I think everybody recognised the need for this land rights legislation. Following the establishment of the Woodward Commission and the presentation of its report in about 1973, the Labor Government in 1975 introduced its land rights Bill. I know that our Government was criticised for delays and so forth, but there had to be some examination of that Bill to ensure that everything was covered. We introduced that legislation last year and it was before the House until 1 1 November. We all know what happened on that day, when the Labor Government was tossed out of office in such a bad manner by the Governor-General. Now, after another 12 months, the LiberalNational Country Party Government has introduced this Bill.

From our point of view this Bill waters down some of the good provisions contained in the Bill introduced by the Labor Government last year and in many respects it departs from the Woodward report. One wonders whether this Bill would ever have been introduced if the Labor Government had not introduced its Bill last year. I say that because, following the initiatives taken by that Labor Government, this Liberal-National Country Party Government has now taken up a number of those matters and probably is claiming them as its own idea. Some have been altered. This Bill differs from the Labor Government Bill in very many important areas. Perhaps I should mention a few of them. Some of the controls which would have been in this legislation to cover this area have been turned over to the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory. We are a little fearful, because that legislative body comes under the influence of mining and pastoral interests.

Let us look at some of the major changes to the Labor Government’s Bill. The most wide ranging alteration relates to the transfer of legislative powers from the Commonwealth Parliament to the Northern Territory House of Assembly. This includes, firstly, the control, declaration and protection of sacred sites; secondly, the control of entry to pastoral properties; thirdly, the control of entry to Aboriginal land; and, finally, access to the sea adjoining Aboriginal lands. There are a few other matters in respect of which this Bill differs from the Bill we introduced last year. I understand there are some alterations in respect of royalties. I also understand that under this Bill control over roads through Aboriginal areas will be taken away from the Aborigines. The powers of the land councils also are to be restricted under this Bill. This goes against what Mr Justice Woodward said in his report. The Woodward report recommended that the land rights legislation ‘should be protected in such a way that its provisions cannot be eroded by the effect of any Northern Territory legislation’. In the suggested drafting instructions for proposed legislation the relevant clause states: the Ordinances of the Northern Territory shall apply to Aboriginal land . . . provided however that … no ordinance shall have any effect so as to diminish any benefit conferred upon Aborigines by this Act or to restrict any Land Council, Land Trust or the Commission in the discharge of their respective functions.

That quite clearly is what Mr Justice Woodward recommended and, of course, this Bill departs from that recommendation. There is no guarantee as to what the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly will do in respect of these things. Not so long ago we had the example of what happened at Aurukun on Cape York Peninsula. Despite assurances given by the Queensland Government, that Government rushed through legislation which was an affront to the people who had been fighting for the Aboriginal people and, of course, to the Aboriginal people themselves. We have all received correspondence from various organisations throughout the country which have tried to influence us in relation to this Bill. I have a number of letters here from church organisations. I have a letter from the Quaker Race Relations Committee which, in referring to the Bill, draws attention to the fact that that Committee is a bit concerned about the authority in a number of these matters in the Bill being handed over to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. I turn over a bit further and find that the Committee in the letter states:

The removal of all powers to pass Land Rights Legislation which the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly has been granted . . .

The Committee suggests that that is one of the matters which should be in the Bill. Another matter is:

The control by Aborigines of all roads passing through Aboriginal lands.

I mentioned that matter earlier. It also states:

The restoration of the Aboriginal Land Commissioner’s power to hear claims . . .

The restoration of all powers vested in Land Councils and the Land Commissioner in the Labor Land Rights Bill. A provision that any Government decision to over-ride Aboriginal objections to mining on the basis of national interest be itself reviewed by both Houses of Parliament.

I understand that the Minister is introducing an amendment to cover that matter. The Committee also mentions a few other things. I refer now to the Presbyterian Church. It mentions matters in a similar vein to those mentioned by the Quaker Committee. In the first paragraph it mentions its concern at authority being given back to the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory. The Australian Council of Churches does exactly the same thing. All these bodies are concerned about this power which was in the Labor Party Bill being given back to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. These are organisations which are supporting us. We have had correspondence from the Central Lands Council and from the Aboriginal legal rights organisation in the Northern Territory. These are all people who have placed the views of Aborigines first- hot the views of the mining interests or of the pastoral interests. We understand that 42 amendments are proposed to the Bill. Possibly there are some which we want to put before the House. We have not had an opportunity to examine those 42 amendments properly. We hope that some of the objections of which we have spoken will be covered by those amendments. We hope also that the amendments to be moved by our Party will be given consideration.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.


-There are 3 Bills before the House. I shall deal with only one, namely, the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill. It is a difficult Bill because it covers a difficult situation. I hope the matter will be approached in a bipartisan spirit. At least, I shall try to do so. Our first objective, surely, is to do what is best for the Aborigines and to look to their real advantage. I do not think their real advantage would be compatible with the maintenance of high tension between them and the Europeans in the Northern Territory. Anything which is in a Bill and which creates and maintains that tension will not be to the ultimate advantage of the Aboriginal people. Nor would it be to their advantage to take a line which was believed to impede entirely the prosperity of the Northern Territory. These circumstances set limits to what we might usefully and properly do for the Aboriginal people. We might ask: What is this land rights Bill? It gives traditional land to traditional people. That is its title. It states:

Providing for the granting of Traditional Aboriginal Land in the Northern Territory for the benefit of Aboriginals, and for other purposes.

That is what the Bill is about. When one looks at it one finds that its main purpose is the allocation of reserves and the giving of title in reserves. That is not its only purpose but that is the main drive and impact of the Bill. In addition to this, it envisages other things. It envisages a continuance of the policy whereby we have purchased pastoral properties in the Northern Territory and elsewhere for the benefit of Aboriginal people, and particularly for the benefit of Aboriginal people who have some traditional link with those properties. One thinks, for example, of Utopia, Wave Hill or any one of those areas which have been purchased. I hope that more of them will be purchased. This policy was started under the previous Liberal-National Country Party Government when I was the Minister. It has been continued under the Australian Labor Party Government and I believe it will be continued now. In addition, the Bill envisages acquisition of proper dwelling areas- sit down places is what the Aborigines call them- for other Aborigines in the Northern Territory.

Although the Bill is concerned mainly with reserves, that is not its only concern. But this Bill is for the traditional Aborigines. I think we have to remember that they are different from the Aborigines most people know. Perhaps 90 per cent or 95 per cent of the Australian people come into contact with Aborigines in Redfern or Moree or perhaps as tourists in Alice Springs. But they do not see the real, traditional Aboriginal. It is mainly towards his benefit that this Bui is directed. I am not saying for one moment that Aborigines, other than the traditional Aborigines, do not have needs and do not need, require and deserve benefits and help. I am talking about what this Bill does. It is about traditional Aborigines and about maintaining their rights over traditional land. I ask: What is best for these Aborigines? What is needed for them is change, but gradual change. The fault of which we have been guilty in the past is that we have put upon these traditional people pressures of change which were too vast and too urgent for them to assimilate. They have broken in the process. This is what we must avoid. Sure, we must bring change; we must help these people into a new way of life. But let the change be only as fast as they can assimilate without breaking.

If we go to the Northern Territory today we will see terrible evidences of this break where the traditional Aboriginal is not getting something better but something much worse. For these people there has been a deterioration in their real way of life even when their material standards have risen. I am not for one moment saying that we should not help them to raise their material standards. We should help them to raise thenstandards as fast as they are capable of assimilating change. But we do them no kindness when perhaps to salve our own guilty consciences in the matter we try to impose upon them burdens which they are not capable of bearing. Now, let me come to the reserves. We should be maintaining for the Aborigines the integrity of their traditional reserves. As honourable members will know, there are two or three big reserves about which we are talking. They are not just little island reserves but real areas which are capable of maintaining the integrity which the Aboriginals desire so that they can have time to assimilate the change. There is Arnhem Land, with its adjacent islands; there is the big central reserve; and there is the Daly River reserve. These are big areas. They are not just little islands in a sea of European development, but something which can be traditionally Aboriginal until the Aborigines are ready to take the change.

I am worried to some extent that some features of this Bill, and equally of the Labor Bill which was its predecessor, do not sufficiently maintain the integrity of those big reserves. That integrity cannot be maintained if there is an incursion of intense economic activity into the reserves. No big mining venture in a reserve can be conducted without destroying the traditional Aboriginal society and the traditional Aborigines who are associated with it. That is true even though the people who are conducting that intensive mining have the very best will in the world and do everything that is possible. Let us take Groote Eylandt, for example, where the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd has leaned over backwards to do everything it can. I could not criticise one thing that the company has done, and yet its impact upon the community has not been at all favourable. Indeed, I hope that things will improve, but on the last occasion I was at Groote Eylandt there was starvation among the Aborigines, for the first time in memory- starvation at a time when there was a flood of unaccustomed money coming in, but gambling and other things had taken away its impact for good.

If one goes to Yirrkala or Gove or Nhulunbuy, call it what you will, one will find that the only refuge for the traditional Aboriginal is to leave the centre and go down to Caledon Bay or Blue Mud Bay or down to the centre of Arnhem Land and live away. He is not living entirely in traditional fashion. He has some kind of elementary schooling, he has his land rover, perhaps, or an outboard motor on his boat. He has some medical services. He probably has access to an aerodrome where emergency supplies or visitors can come in. But he has separated himself from the activity which was destroying him. I believe that this outstation movement which the Aborigines have chosen for themselves in these reserves illustrates the only real hope they have of coming successfully through the transition from thenway of life to our way of life. I am not saying for one moment that they can always remain in their traditional way. I think that is something which they would not desire, and whether they or we desire it, it would not be possible.

Although there is some protection in the Bill against mining incursion, I am not certain how great that protection will be in practice. It is a very difficult problem. We say that we must give to the Aborigines control over their own property and their own destiny, but if that means permission to barter it away then it will be bartered away. We know the manipulations that go on. Anybody who has been to Arnhem Land knows about them. Aborigines, in good faith perhaps, make bargains whose impact they do not understand, and we in good faith sometimes believe that they understand what they are doing. I remember an Administrator talking to me about how he went across to Yirrkala and told the Aboriginal people there everything about what was going to happen when the bauxite plant moved in. He was completely honest. He told them everything. I do not think he concealed anything, and they gave their consent. But when they saw what happened they were appalled because they had not envisaged it or realised it. Even today there is circulating among honourable members a statement about an Aboriginal on a land councilthere is no need to mention his name; honourable members will know to whom I am referring- who has been signing things of consequence without knowing what he has signed, not because he was deceived but because that is the kind of thing that happens. Under this Bill there is not enough protection for the Aborigines, almost against themselves in a way. There will be manipulation. I would Uke to have seen the Aborigines in the reserves having full mining rights, but I would not Uke to have seen them with the ability to barter those rights away in such a fashion as to bring in intensive industries and destroy their communities.

The Northern Territory has got to develop. There has to be mining there. For example, it will be almost impossible and a crime against Australia to hold back development on some parts of the Alligator River. But to breach the integrity of Arnhem Land, to allow mineral exploration up from Roper River through Blue Mud Bay and the Parsons Range would destroy the refuge. Even the Labor Government was giving concessions or making arrangements for prospecting in the Ngalia Basin adjacent to and to some extent in the Yuendumu Reserve. Do not let us think of this as being something which comes from one side of the House. I think perhaps both sides of the House might do a little bit of thinking about this problem. Then there is the question of roads. Sooner or later the Arnhem Highway will be constructed from the East Alligator River across over the Liverpool River and into Nhulunbuy. Sooner or later it will go through, but I had rather it be later than sooner because as that highway goes through, and it can go through under this Bill, it will destroy the Aboriginal life in the country through which it passes. Later- in 10 years time. 20 years time, I do not know how long- it will be safe and desirable to build that highway. I fear it should be built now. I fear the pressure that will come from other Aborigines, the people who come up into the Northern Territory from the south. They are better educated than the traditional Aboriginals. Perhaps they do not know as much about their own law but they do know a lot about the white man’s law and the white man’s way and they tend to control and manipulate Aboriginal organisations with which they are associated. One cannot blame them. After aU, it is an opportunity for them. But I wonder whether perhaps they realise the extent to which they, who are not traditional, are destroying the way of life of the traditional people whom they seek to dominate and control.

I think that this Bill is defective and I hope that the House will accept an amendment to the definition of ‘Aboriginal’. In clause 3 ‘Aboriginal’ is defined as a person who is a member of the Aboriginal race of Australia. That is fine if one is not dealing with traditional land. A man who has one sixty-fourth part of Aboriginal blood would still be a member of the Aboriginal race of Australia and would still qualify under this definition. Some of these people will be able to dominate and control the areas into which they come. It was Professor Rowley, I think, who brought forward the first definition of Aboriginal that was used in the Department of Aboriginal

Affairs. I amended it a little when I was the Minister responsible for that Department and it has been used in the Department ever since. An Aboriginal, under that definition, is somebody of Aboriginal descent who claims to be an Aboriginal and is accepted as such by the community with which he is associated. Even that small protection, which is not sufficient in relation to this traditional situation, has been removed from the Bill.

The Bill deals with traditional land and the rights of traditional Aboriginals are worth protecting. If we have any decency we will look to these people about whose land we are talking in this Bill. An Aboriginal is perhaps in some ways less ready to trust another Aboriginal -

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.


– At the outset I would like to refer to 2 issues mentioned in the debate by the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock). One point I mention for the record is that the Labor Government was in fact the Government which took the initiative to set up the commission to investigate matters related to the campaign for Aboriginal land rights. The honourable member for Parramatta clouded the issue during the course of his speech. That was not the only issue. He maligned Mr Eames, a person who has done more for the Aboriginal people in one minute than the honourable member for Parramatta has done in his whole life.

I refer to an attack that was made on Mr Eames by Pastor Paul Albrecht and his missionary colleagues, Mr Stoll and Mr Ziersch. In a letter to the Bulletin dated 20 November 1976 and headed ‘Land rights hangup’ Mr Eames had this to say:

Pastor Paul Albrecht and his missionary colleagues, Mr Stoll and Mr Ziersch, base their opposition to Aboriginal land rights … on misconceptions and misreadings both of the legislation which has been proposed and the response to it by Aborigines. Their opposition is also motivated by a well disguised self-interest and political conservatism which has allowed them to confuse their political support for the Country Party with their responsibilities to Aborigines.

Mr Sainsbury:

– Who wrote that?


-It was written by Geoff Eames. In another paragraph Mr Eames states:

Pastor Albrecht ‘s views on ‘the Aboriginal reality’ should not be regarded as authoritative. A leading authority on Aboriginal traditional ownership of land, Dr Nicholas Peterson, has said of Albrecht ‘s proposals that ‘while couched in anthropological terms (they) do not reflect the Aboriginal reality as understood from a wide range of research ‘.

Despite the fact that there have now been more than a dozen detailed refutations of Albrecht ‘s opinions he has never responded to those criticisms. The powerful vested interest groups which also oppose land rights have, however, adopted Albrecht ‘s opinion with great enthusiasm and considerable relief.

The other point concerning this Bill is that it should be based on the sentiments and opinions expressed by such people as David Anderson, the executive member for information and communications of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee, Mildura. Mr Anderson suggests that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) should not arbitrate and decide on any matter as important as Aboriginal land rights and claims without thorough reference and consultation with Aboriginal leaders. The consultation could be achieved through a co-ordination body such as the National Aboriginal Claims Commission, formed as part of any compensation legislation. Mr Anderson suggested in a letter published in the Bulletin of 13 November that these discussions could take place on the following principles:

The elimination on this continent of present political exploitation and social repression of any underprivileged minority.

The continuance of positive and meaningful policies by the Minister to restore dignity and confidence to Aboriginal Australians.

The minimum disruption of our community.

Invoilable legislation setting aside our land and sacred rights in certain areas (regardless of whether such land is currently occupied by our people).

In the event of land restitution proving mutually impracticable we seek equitable compensation.

Any national acquisition of land from Aborigines must bring with it fair compensation.

In circumstances where Aboriginal land is used to exploit natural resources the Aborigines receive continuing and realistic royalties, together with funding for housing, job and vocational training, employment, social development and cultural opportunities.

Recompense and safeguards must be obtained by Aboriginal communities that are not necessarily relocated but who become likely subjects of social disruption caused by the presence of rnining or other commercial venture.

Mr Anderson also stated:

The NACC, acting on behalf of all Aboriginal Australians, wishes to avoid emotionalism on these matters and treat them in a straight out business fashion.

I think that Mr Anderson’s comments reflect the sentiments with which every member of this House should direct the course of this Bill. My colleague, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), earlier tonight made a most authoritative assessment of the history, principles and inadequacies of the Bills before us. He made a most compelling case and I commend his arguments to the House. For my part, I wish to concentrate on bringing one or two specific injustices in the Bill to the attention of the House. Before I do, I would like to say how sad I am to see the present Government departing so far from the principles and sound practice of the land rights Bill introduced by the Whitlam Government into this House in October 1 975.

The most wide-ranging alterations to the Labor Government’s Bui relate to the transfer of legislative power from the Commonwealth Parliament to the control of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. Unfortunately, this is becoming a rather tiresome recurring feature of this Government’s legislation. It has become obsessed with the ideology of federalism. It has made a god of it. It treats federalism as an inflexible principle to be enshrined and acted upon at all times. Federalism should not be an end in itself but a means to a greater end, namely the maximisation of opportunities of democratic participation and accountability. We, on this side of the House, are less convinced that federalist arrangements are the best means of achieving that end.

Mr Sainsbury:

– This is a land rights debate.


-I am sure that the honourable member would never know it. The notion of federalism, as outlined by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has the effect of turning back the clock. In the same way, this legislation will allow procrastination to reign supreme and allow the Government, supported by its yappers on the back bench, to pass the buck and dodge its responsibilities. However, if the Government is to present this facade, it should temper its federalism with a bit of flexibility and common sense. On a number of occasions the Government’s anxiety to remain doctrinally true has had the very opposite effect to what it is supposed to do. Instead of maximising opportunities and participation, it has done the complete opposite. That will be the result from this Bill as well. By being a Pontius Pilate and casting off its responsibilities to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, it is in effect reducing the opportunities for Aboriginal peoples to effectively control their own destinies, as I will shortly demonstrate.

What are these responsibilities which the Government has blithely handed over to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly? There are principally five of them. The first is access to the sea adjoining Aboriginal land. Against the specific recommendations of the Woodward report, such access is now to be subject to territorial law. This will have a major effect on the fishing interests of Aboriginals, and will also affect their overall welfare if minerals are discovered within this limit. Some sacred sites also will be affected. The second is the control of entry to pastoral properties. The weaknesses of the existing ordinances were specifically referred to by Mr Justice Woodward, and the Labor Government’s 1975 Bill attempted to remove these weaknesses. The present Minister has not indicated that this matter will be acted on by the Assembly, and judging by their performance in the past there is little chance of such action.

Each of these matters deserves to be discussed at much greater length. However, owing to the constraints of time under which we work, I have decided to concentrate my discussion on the other 3 important areas of transference of power to the Legislative Assembly 3 areas which will almost certainly be the subject of complementary legislation at some time in the future. Honourable members will be aware that the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly wished to control all land rights legislation. It did not quite win that battle but it did pretty well notwithstanding. It is rather glib for the Minister to maintain, as he did in his second reading speech, that he has received assurances from the Leader of the Legislative Assembly that the Assembly is fully prepared to co-operate in the introduction of complementary legislation in the areas which accord with the spirit of the Bill. God knows what the amendments do. Nobody has even had a chance to examine them sufficiently enough to know exactly what they say. The Aborigines themselves place no store on such assurances. They know that Dr Letts, the majority leader in the NTLA sees a stepped-up mining program as necessary for the provision of an economic base for statehood, to which he is totally committed. Honourable members who saw Dr Letts on Four Comers in March will know that this is so. So why does the Government swallow these assurances so readily? Why does it not listen to the Aboriginal people who know their land rights will be summarily dealt with by the NTLA, and who are outraged by what they see to be the Federal Government’s betrayal of their interests.

I now want to speak briefly on the third area likely to be the subject of complementary legislationthat of entry permits to Aboriginal land. These will no longer be in the control of the land councils as under the 1975 Bill. Now entry permits will be issued through the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. This, I would submit, is totally inappropriate. The appropriate body to handle entry permits, as the 1975 Bill recognised, is the land council. The land councils are, in the first place, representative of the Aboriginal people. They are composed of representatives of the different Aboriginal peoples from the areas in which they operate. It is these bodies which are best placed to determine whether permits should be issued, not the members of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, or the Northern Territory Administrator whose distance from the issues involved renders them singularly unsuited for the task. The Minister might be prepared to accept the bland assurances of Dr Letts. Like the Aborigines, I am too cynical. Permits for entry into Aboriginal land need to be controlled by the traditional land owners free from Government interference. All those yahoos, including the honourable member for Swan, may laugh. They should go up to Areyonga and some of the areas in which Aborigines are being treated like second class citizens. They should have the guts to have a go.

It is easy to see that the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly is caving in to the rabid nonsense of the argument which asks: ‘Why should they be allowed to keep us out? It’s a free country’. It is too easy to see the NTLA engaging in shameful acts of paternalism and political censorship by refusing entry to people who it believes would be ‘bad’ for the Aborigines, such as people it deems to be stirrers. Indeed, I believe this nice piece of political cynicism may well be the motivation behind this aspect of the Bill. In fact, if there are people in this House who are sceptical of this claim, let them take note of Dr Letts’ proposal that police have automatic right of entry without permits. Other public officers, such as teachers, stock inspectors and health inspectors, will have to seek permits. Why should we distinguish between types of important public officials in this way? Honourable members will forgive me, I hope, if I come to these obvious conclusions.

Mr Martyr:

– No, we don’t.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I note that the honourable member for Swan and the honourable member for EdenMonaro are both listed to speak on this Bill. I suggest that they keep their replies to the honourable member for Melbourne until they are making their speeches.


– When the honourable member for Swan gets his riding instructions from Santamaria. Fourthly, I wish to discuss the crucial issue of control, declaration and protection of sacred sites. Responsibility for this, too, has been handed over to the Legislative Assembly. The Assembly has had an ordinance to control sacred sites for some time. It is generally regarded as the weakest such legislation in Australia, and not one site has been declared in the last 18 months despite constant requests from Aborigines. The declaration of sites is a highly political activity. A site declared where an open cut mine is about to be dug could prejudice the mining operation. This is the real reason to fear the Assembly controlling the declaration of sites.

In any event, Assembly men have shown that they believe sites are tiny patches of land around which one can place a fence. They have no comprehension of the real meaning to Aborigines of sacred sites. This situation is just not good enough. There needs to be more adequate protection of sacred sites. The proper seat of jurisdiction should be the land councils, with ultimate safeguards provided in the form of legislation passed by this Parliament. We take the responsibility, not the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. Moreover, this needs to be done as a matter of urgency because the existing NTLA ordinance is totally inadequate. Very few sites have ever been declared under the ordinance, even though many sacred sites have been documented, and constant demands made that they be declared. Yet the Country Party dominated NTLA does nothing, and by its inactivity reveals its true motivations.

One example of the importance and urgency of this matter is seen in the Mt Isa area where Mt Isa Mines Pty Ltd wants to put a pipeline through an area full of sacred sites. If they are able to destroy the sacred sites before they are declared, then the Borroloola people have lost evidence for their traditional claim to that land. Yet this Government would have us believe that the NTLA, dominated by the National Country Party which shamelessly acts as an electoral front for its clients in the mining industry will act to thwart the wishes of its great and powerful clients.

Finally, I wish to discuss briefly the issue of Aboriginal rights to hunt protected wildlife in Aboriginal lands. The Government’s Bill makes no provision for this matter. Again, it has been left to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, which has indicated that it intends insisting that Aborigines walk and only use traditional weapons when they hunt, whereas at present they use cars and rifles. It has been put to me by individuals that old men of 75 and 80 years of age have to walk to their traditional sites. It is a disgraceful situation when these men are hunted down and are not permitted into these areas in their cars. Does the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) deny that? Is not that the truth?

Mr Calder:

– You must be joking.


-If he does not go, he should go along to the Areyonga community and tell the people there that he does not believe them.


-You tell them they are not telling the truth.


-Order! I would suggest to the honourable member -

Mr Calder:

– When were you last there?


-I was there this year.


-Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Melbourne that he should not ask the honourable member for the Northern Territory to comment on his speech at the moment when I have just asked that there be no interjections.


– Let me just say that as a general principle I believe that where possible preservation of such an important part of our heritage as our unique wildlife should be the responsibility of the Australian Government. Especially should this be the case in this instance, though not because Aboriginal hunting threatens species with extinction. The Aborigines are dependent on meat obtained from hunting. One study found that, between May 1974 and March 1975, 60 to 70 per cent of the meat diet came from hunting.

Moreover, many eminent conservationists, including senior officers of the Division of Wildlife Research of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, have affirmed that Aboriginal hunting poses no threat to the survival of native species, although introduced animals such as foxes, camels and rabbits do, and overstocking by pastoralists does. Between them these examples of the white man ‘s stupidity- some, unfortunately, are contemporary examples- have driven many species to extinction. Moreover, the reason why modern weapons and vehicles are frequently used for hunting is that in many cases the old hunting skills tragically have been lost. To tell Aborigines to hunt on foot with traditional weapons is therefore ludicrous. It is like dropping a batch of members of this House- God bless them- in the outback, arming them with nulla-nullas and telling them to go off and catch some dinner. Yet this is precisely what the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly is proposing to do. Honourable members opposite would starve to death. They have never done a day’s work in their fife.

Time is short. This Bill has many enormous implications. I would Uke to go on and talk about the anti-social greed of the grasping mining com- panies whose record in relation to Aboriginal and rights is a shabby one indeed. I would Uke to have had the opportunity to say something in depth about the emasculation of the land councils. In connection with the latter, I ask the Government to restore the powers of the land councils and land commissioners, as recommended by the Woodward Commission and as previously operated under the Labor Government. I will finish on this point: This is a most important piece of legislation. What I have not covered in this speech in the second reading debate I certainly will take the time to talk about in the Committee stage. I hope that we will have the necessary time to examine what these amendments really mean. If they run true to form they will finish up as a sleight-of-hand trick, Uke the rest of this Government’s legislation. I also hope that in this one instance the Government does not become confused and run riot with the crippling ideological grip of its doctrine federalism. I hope that the Government allows the Federal Parliament to take into account the problems of the Aboriginal people and that it has enough guts to make the appropriate decisions to protect them.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.

Northern Territory

– I am afraid that I have not the time to deal thoroughly with all the remarks of previous speakers. I hope that sometime later I Will be able to deal with them. I certainly would like to ask the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) to go to Areyonga and try to get the local Aborigines to show him their sacred sites. He has been complaining. I am asking him to go there and see how he gets on. He might find out why the sacred sites are not mapped, why they have not been declared and so on. I also would like him to go to the Northern Territory and talk to Mr Ron Withnall or Mr Rupert Kentish, men who have been in the Legislative Assembly for many years. The latter has lived in Arnhem Land for 39 years and is married to a . Goulburn Islander. People such as them will be making the local legislation which the honourable member has rubbished to such extent. He should go to the area and find out -

Mr Innes:

– I have been there.


-Once, yes. I support the introduction of land rights for Aborigines in the Northern Territory. This Bill, it is hoped, will give Northern Territory Aborigines the ability to practise their law and traditions on their own land in their own manner. This is good. I am sure that all Territorians and Australians will be pleased that this has come about.

Having said that, I admit that I do not agree with some parts of the legislation. I will say more on that later. The 1975 Bill on the same matter, which was introduced by the Labor Party, would have been a disaster for Aborigines and Europeans in the Territory, had it got through the House. That Bill was discriminatory, divisive and utterly disastrous. Both Aborigines and Europeans in the Territory know that. The 1976 Bill is based on the previous Bill- the Labor Party’s almost unannounced vote-catching Bill. Few had a chance to see it before the 1975 elections. People did not know what was going on. They did not have the faintest idea what it was all about. I do not think that they really understand it to this day. However, this Bill is an improvement. Much work has been done on behalf of the Aborigines and by the Aborigines to find out about the implications and the meaning of this Bill. It is hoped that this Bill will satisfy the Aborigines’ traditional land aspirations. I believe that a real effort has been made by this Parliament to find the right solution on land rights, so that the traditional owners may control their land. I hope that the thrust of this Bill is successful.

I would like to warn the Government on several aspects of this legislation. The first concerns the definition of ‘Aborigine’. This matter has been raised every time a Bill has been introduced concerning Aboriginal land, councils, associations and so on. Only very recently I heard a definition from a man who is not supporting me in what I as a Territorian am trying to do for traditional Aborigines. This man is on the side of the large land councils and supported the previous Labor Bill. A correct definition of ‘Aborigine’ is not contained in this Bill. It was not contained in the Labor Bill. The definition of Aborigine’, which I heard very recently was: Someone of Aboriginal descent who is accepted as an Aborigine by Aborigines in the community in which he lives’. That is a very sound approach to the definition of ‘Aborigine’. It was given to me by a man who is respected very much in certain quarters and who had a lot to do with the compilation of the Woodward report. I hope that some notice will be taken of that definition.

This Bill concerns the granting of traditional land in the Northern Territory for the benefit of Aborigines and for other purposes in the Northern Territory. This is relevant, as this land in the Northern Territory is Aboriginal land. It is not southern land, eastern land or western land. We Territorians are keen to see that the rightful owners gain the ownership and control of thenland. I turn now to the land councils. It is generally reported from various sources that the Aborigines support the Bill. All Aborigines welcomed land rights; but they did not understand in the first place the land councils as envisaged in the Bill. They understood the land councils to involve their own clan- the tribal landowners. I hasten to assure the Minister that I feel he has done much to alleviate this problem. But I am warning the Government generally of it. I would like to read what Dr Peter Ucko said about this matter. He said:

I have a tape … of a meeting which I held with several traditional leaders immediately after the meeting of the Central Land Council.

This is dated 20 July; so it would have been the one in Alice Springs about that time. He continued:

In this interview these traditional people make it very clear to me that they do not consider that anything like a Land Council can adequately reflect their traditional interests.

That is what the Doctor had to say then. Of course, in addition we had the submission from Stoll, Ziersch, Pfitzner and Fargner. I think the Minister has received their conclusions and also those of the Hay Committee, so I will try not to mention them in detail. About the same time, I received a letter dated 29 July from Dr Sharpe who said similar sorts of things. It is a quite long letter and I do not want to have it all incorporated in Hansard because it goes into some detail. I will try to read some of what she says, writing from Alice Springs:

I have learnt a lot more about the social structure in Aboriginal society since being here; . . . The position is that traditionally, land ownership is vested in a patrilineal clan, the leader of which ascends to the position according to a system not unlike our royal succession. He makes all decisions for the group, he will not discuss matters to do with his group with leaders of other groups, particularly groups traditionally hostile to his own (and such could be near neighbours). If younger unrecognised men attempted to decide for the group, the penalty was death.

This was written in July 1 976. She continues:

The traditional penalty is still current in Central Australia, and whites in Aboriginal confidence know of deaths, presumed or ‘proved’ by white authority to be due to other causes, which are penalty deaths for infringement of tribal rules. Any attempt to get clan leaders together to discuss matters will lead either to no real communication, or to friction and possibly deaths. Hence the very real danger is that the setting up of a council or advisory group to decide land rights will bring bloodshed and decimation of Aborigines here.

She goes on to ask the person to whom the letter is written to use influence to scrap or modify the present Bill. I do not know Dr Sharpe, but this is what she has written and I think people should know that these things have been written. So much for Dr Sharpe. Also, I would like to incorporate in Hansard two of the transcripts which came from the Aboriginal people. I have asked the Minister about their incorporation. They are 2 transcripts taken at random from a file of such transcripts which I would say is about 2½ inches thick. These came from an area just to the east of

ELMORE: Aboriginal land law is like this. Each people’s tjurunga only goes up to one point From there he has to turn back. The next group takes it on from there. Don’t try to boss over other people’s country. Over there, or over there or somewhere else. People will think, ‘Hey, what’s that bloke trying to do?’ They will say, ‘What shall we do with that bloke? He’s trying to claim some of our land.’ Well, they’ll give him the finger-sign. This finger-sign (showing with right forefinger and middle finger placed on left palm), when that’s used, a man is finished (dead). If you behave, you’re all right. Not tricky. No ! You get into trouble.

The other day Luther and I went out west to have a look at our country. We went to the cave. Hello! this thing is empty. Someone has taken all the tjurungas. Might be Papunya mob or Haast’s Bluff mob or someone. Not too long ago. We could see where someone have made a big camp. Empty tins were lying around. They camped here. Well, we’re looking for these people now. If the people that took the tjurungas admit it, they have to give it back!

ESROM: Anybody can’t claim another people’s land. Anyone (other than the owner) can’t be given Ljiltjera. No way. Hell get killed.

ELMORE: That’s it. That’s the way. That’s true.

ESROM: Yes. The Kutungula (manager) for that land will say, ‘This man (irrpalterama) is trying to usurp our rights; you go and kill him. Be finished with it. ‘

ELMORE: That ‘s how it is.

ESROM: That’s how it (the Aboriginal law) stands.

ELMORE: That’s Aboriginal law. White man’s law, on the other hand, is different. This law here (pointing to Land Rights Bill) that’s white man’s law; what this is saying, that’s theirs!

ESROM: White man’s law is different. Whoever put up (formulates) the law to look after tilings (Aboriginal land), he has to do it the right way.

ELMORE: Well be all right if we stay in our own place along this line (diagram showing how each group owns a

Hermannsburg extending along to the Macdonnell Ranges. Another one comes from an area south east of Haasts Bluff. I seek leave to have those 2 transcripts incorporated in Hansard.


-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

The documents read as follows- certain section of land according to the travels of the ancestors). Like that You must tell them what we think and how this (our law) is the real thing. They (the Government) must act according to our word. You (talking to Gary Stoll) are passing on our word. That ‘s our word.

ESROM: Aboriginal people are frightened of (respect) their own law. They’re not frightened of (won’t respect) white man’s law. (Land Bill). I understand Aboriginal people’s thinking. Aboriginal people will kill for tjurunga. I understand all that The thing is that that’s not their place (referring back to the usurpers); they don’t go to their father’s place. They are only there under false pretences. If I go to Papunya and say, ‘This is my father’s country.’ they 11 send me back, or they might kill me. ‘You 11 have to go right back. ‘ If I don ‘t go they TI kill me. I have no right to talk that way. That’s how they work. White man doesn’t realise that. The words of various individuals are here. (Indicating the Land Rights Bill.) Words that are at variance with our law! They (white people) don’t see all the various (Pmarakutwia) Land-owning bosses. No! By the method of voting they picked up ideas and turned them into this (Land Rights Bill).

ELMORE: That’s hard. He (the Land Council) doesn’t know the law, doesn’t know the Tjurunga. He should now look after the places or be the boss of the land? (Chuckle) Oh, no. That’s wrong one!

ESROM: With this law they’re (white people) only making out. But our law has to be run by our law! Anyone can’t come in later on and make a claim to land without my Kutungula mob (managers or custodians). He has to see them first There will be trouble hanging over his head. He will be called and a ‘cleanskin stone’ (unmarked) will be given him. ‘All right, you reckon you’re the owner (Pmarakutwia), you put the correct marks on it. You’re the owner; we’re only outside people.’ Everybody is watching him.

ELMORE: All present are watching him.

ESROM: Everybody is watching him work. When he’s finished he says, ‘That’s it. This is my dreaming, my tjurunga. ‘ Well, the others will say, ‘They’re the markings of a different place, those marks you have made on this stone. You must get killed. ‘

ELMORE: They tell him straight out.

ESROM: That’s it He put the marks of another place on that stone. He must die. They tell him, ‘That’s not yours; that ‘s not your place. We know your father’s place but these are his markings, not those. You have borrowed the markings of somebody else’s tjurunga. You must die! ‘

LUTHER: If we want something, say a truck for the group, they never do it.

JACK: It never happens.

LUTHER: They say: ‘Yes, well see’. That’s all. They think like this: it’s Aboriginal people who are putting in this request, they shouldn’t speak to the Council like that. There are all these kinds of concerns about which they should make a report to Government; they should tell Bob Huey, too. That’s how it should be, since they are the ones who are trying to represent us. They didn’t think about bores, that we had nothing.

LUTHER: They make themselves boss. The Land Council. They didn’t give us a truck. They should think. Something for us to use to cart things, like fire-wood, rubbish. Nothing! This is so. That time, they said that we were to see them; anybody wanting something should see them. That’s wrong.

YANKIE: They should be more ready to help.

LUTHER: Yes, they’ll have it easy (get what they want) once that law is set up. Only they haven’t done anything for us. Yes, we see that clearly.

LUTHER: Here’s another point of concern? What if one of these old people dies- how are we going to take him or her to the cemetery? Do we carry him on our backs?

JACK: That’s right; we’re suffering because we have nothing.

LUTHER: That’s another concern, see?

JACK: Or if someone gets sick we can take them.

LUTHER: We could take them to the hospital here. These are main concerns about which they should be thinking before anything else.

LUTHER: No-one comes here. Only he (Rex) comes if the pump breaks down; you come, I’m saying, if the pump breaks down, to fix it.

JACK: We appreciate that.

LUTHER: We appreciate it. That’s saved the plants from dying: now they’re growing.

JACK: With his (Rex’s) help, we’re eating the vegetables now. I feel really happy to be eating them now.

YANKIE: I can’t be boss over these two (Luther and Jack). I’ve got nothing to do with this garden and I can’t be boss over it; that ‘s theirs.

LUTHER: This is hard to accept.

JACK: Very hard.

LUTHER: This is what I think: There, in Alice Springs, the Land Council is boss, you see? If some mining begins, the Council will be boss, won’t it? The Council is putting all the money in the bank there in Alice Springs. They don’t give any to anyone, do they? (Don’t give according to Aboriginal system of distribution.) They send it to a different group. As they see fit. They are clearly boss. They are standing there now. That ‘s how it is. That ‘s quite wrong.

JACK: That’s very bad.

LUTHER: They haven’t considered the fact that these people, the Mission, have been our father from the start, they were our father. That was right, you understand? Saved the people in the big droughts, the Mission. That ‘s how it is.

LUTHER: That’s their idea, but Aborigines think this way: They should give us our land, helping us in various ways, and then someone should be here to assist and look after us. That’s what we think. That’s strange what they’re doing. That shouldn’t be. They have deformed tongues. (They can’t speak the language.) They are capable of saying things, but that’s all. They can’t speak with an understanding of Aboriginal law, or an understanding of Aboriginal kinship, they can’t

LUTHER: That’s what they should learn, see? (Laughing). That’s white people’s, that’s a white man’s idea that they’re bringing out. (More laughter). That’s it, what they’re doing there. But what Aborigines are thinking is, ‘Why do those people there want to have the say to kick out people (Mission) who are valuable to us?’

JACK: We should just live happily in peace.

LUTHER: In peace, that’s all. We should just create peace.

JACK: Just like we are here now, in complete peace and harmony.

LUTHER: I can see in this document that the Land Council is taking everything away from the people, see? It says it here in this Bill. We can see it all. We can see what they’ve written; it’s there.

If someone talks wrongly, tries to be boss over others, he 11 get killed. In town there he might leave the others and go off somewhere, go hunting, perhaps, while the others are sitting down, and then they kill him.

That white man, those half-castes, can’t come in, that’s the law, Aboriginal law, tjurunga.

When we read this document we feel as if we were naked.

JACK: Yes, that’s true.

LUTHER: When we ‘re told what it all means.

JACK: Naked; we feel as if we were naked. (Laughs a bit. ) Well, that ‘s our feeling.

LUTHER: We’re thinking: ‘We’re not the owners of the land ‘, (according to this Bill); that’s how it seems to us.

JACK: Just our balls showing (an idiom meaning ‘We’ll be left with absolutely nothing’), that’s what it’s like.

When they held the first meetings and the big discussions took place we were really pleased. They gave us some money and the Government helped us and we really appreciated this.

According to that Bill we ‘d say we were naked; well, that ‘s our feeling.

LUTHER: We can see that clearly.

JACK: We can’t be pleased with this. We were pleased before because we thought . . .

LUTHER: (Interrupting): We should have told them this in the beginning, hey? Right at the start we should have told them, pushing them out right at the start, see?

We are not getting our land.

They are putting a railway-crossing (blocking our way) by putting this Land Council here.

JACK: They’re making us naked; they’re really harming us.


– The success or failure of the legislation depends on the ability of the land councils and trusts to operate as one would hope they would and, I am certain, as the Minister hopes they would operate, that is, properly in the interests of the Territory people, be they the Aborigines or Europeans. But there are doubts. I have heard them spoken about not only in Central Australia but also in Arnhem Land. This concern is expressed in a telegram to the Minister dated 21 October from nineteen of the leaders in the Alice Springs area. They come from as far away as Docker River down in the corner of the Western Australian Territory border, Mt Ebenezer, Papunya, Alcoota, Tea Tree and Maryvale. Honourable members can see that the representation covers a very wide area. I have asked the shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), for permission to incorporate this telegram in Hansard.


-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

The document read as follows-

For Attention: Senator B. Kilgariff

Copy of telegram sent today 2 1 October 1976 59:

To: Minister for Aboriginal Affairs

This is my thought and the other Aboriginal men stop we are not satisfied land trusts go to anyone I am land trust myself according to my law stop Please we want you to come to us on Thursday to talk about this matter stop We want to see you come and talk with us stop Mr Eli Rubuntja and we other men stop We are leaders of Aboriginal people stop We want to see our land rights in our own land stop


Colin Malananka, Hermannsburg

Eli Rubuntja, Alice Springs

Paulus Wiljunka, Maryvale

Immanuel Rutjinama, Napperry

Eric Pananka, Ti Tree

Manarie Armstrong, Hermannsburg

Conrad Raberaba, Hermannsburg

William Ungwanka, Hermannsburg

Davey Inkamala, Alcoota

Leo Tjukintji, Docker River

Sam Pjakamara, Papunya

Trevor Wantama, Papunya

Ginger Kamara, Papunya

Nahassem Ungwanaka, Hermannsburg

David Tommy, Docker River

Kanya, Papunya

Peter Bullah, Mr Ebenezer

David Moata, Papunya

Albert Ward, Alice Springs.


– I thank the House and the shadow Minister. In addition, a petition was presented on 3 November 1 976. What I am saying is that there seems to be a general opinion which is supported throughout Australia, including this place and the Northern Territory, by certain people who are expressing views. I am speaking like this only to try to get through to the Government that when the proposed committee has been formed it will have to look very carefully, as has been mentioned by the Minister, at the operation of the lands rights legislation and give consideration to the complementary legislation being passed by the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. So I am saying that there are many things that have to be looked at when this legislation is passed. I do not have time to read the petition which was presented in the Parliament. I t seems to be the butt of a certain amount of criticism which I hope to have time to discuss. Briefly, it states:

That Aboriginal law does not permit pieces of land held under separate Aboriginal title to be placed into land trusts encompassing more than one piece of traditionally held land.

That Aboriginal law does not permit an organisation or a body made up of Aborigines from different clans to speak on behalf of -

And so it goes on. These are the things I am trying to get written into the record. I am supporting the legislation, but on this occasion I warn about these things. This is the petition about which Mr Eames is so concerned. I have a letter here signed by a Mr Huey, the Assistant Director, southern branch of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, which is dated 3 November 1976 and in which he says that50 Aborigines representing communities- the sorts of ones that I have mentionedspoke with him. He states:

After a fairly exhaustive discussion several important things became clear and at their request I undertook to convey to the Minister this view- (a) that the Bill does not adequately recognise their land owning system and (b) that they would rather wait for individual land trusts to be formed, recognising this will inevitably delay the grant of land title to them.

There is a lot more of this in that vein. I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard also.


-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

The document read as follows-

Pastor P. Albrecht, Superintendent, Finke River Mission, P.O. Box 48, Alice Springs, N.T. 5750 3 Nov. 1 976

Dear Pastor Albrecht,

As agreed after my meetings with the Aboriginals at the Mission Block on 27 and 28 October, the following is a summary of the report which I have submitted to Central Office in Canberra.

About 50 Aboriginals representing communities from Hermannsburg and a number of cattle stations have today concluded a series of meetings to which I was invited for lengthy periods on 27 and 28 October.

These men were mostly important ones from the areas concerned. The discussion grew out of their understanding that the presently proposed bill will shortly be passed and I was invited to further explain its provisions especially in regard to land trusts and land councils. It should be noted that the conference was held at the Lutheran Mission Block to which a number had come on Mission business only to some how hear of the Government ‘s ‘go-ahead ‘ presumably from Albrecht. The other representatives were therefore summoned so that the meeting became a Land Rights conference.

After fairly exhaustive discussion several important things become clear and at their request I undertook to convey to the Minister their view that the present Bill (a) does not adequately recognise their land owning system and (b) that they would rather wait for individual land trusts to be formed, recognising that this will inevitably delay grant of title to them.

Whether or not some of these people had been brainwashed is difficult to assess and is probably not relevant. One can only be impressed by the strength of their convictions that the Bill does not satisfactorily achieve land rights and’ that it will cause serious friction.

The meeting on 28 October was at my request as I wanted them to have a further chance to hear the provisions again explained. Pastor Albrecht was present for this session for translation which was subject to check by Wenton Rubuntja Chairman of the Land Council.

Time did not permit an exhaustive discussion of their attitude to the Land Council but from the discussion on the first day it is practically certain that they reject this concept also.

It was made clear to them that it was the Government’s intention to pass the Bill substantially in its present form and that therefore they would need to make a special request to the Minister to consider excluding Hermannsburg, Jay Creek, Utopia and Ti-Tree from its operation (I realise the last two are not within the present framework.) Prior to this we had gone over at length the problems involved in separate land trusts for each clan group and the delays involved in surveys and transfer of title, the lack of safe-guards during that time etc. None of these arguments had any impression.

Naturally I told the group that I did not know what the Government’s reaction to their request would be. Clearly the whole issue is of considerable importance to them and clearly we must look at the legal implication i.e. does the Bill presently allow an option for the Minister not to establish a and trust in respect of certain areas described in the schedule: and to provide for the exclusion of certain areas from the operation of the clauses dealing with the establishment of land councils. At present it would seem that it is obligatory on the Minister (the word ‘shall’ is used), to establish a land trust for each area in the schedule and to establish two land councils encompassing the whole of the Northern Territory. Would appreciate advice on your reaction. ‘

This information is furnished to you on the understanding that you will disseminate it amongst the groups concerned.

Yours sincerely,

page 2813


A/ Assistant Director (Southern Branch)


– This would answer the very trenchant criticism circulating around the House this evening concerning an honourable senator and myself. It was stated that we were guttersnipes or liars. But this is a letter written by a departmental official about the very petition to which we were referring. I would like to say now to the Minister that I am pleased to have received his assurance that primary industry- that takes in mining- will be adequately protected. Whether it is a matter of looking after Aborigines or whites, the Territory has to be financed, and we have the resources. These developments, as has happened in the past, have supplied money and jobs for Aborigines as well as for whites. So the hate we have heard poured out tonight by certain honourable members for mining companies and, needless to say, pastoralists is quite stupid, because when one gets into the Territory one finds that the Aborigines who might be working with the Yuendumu mining company, at Macarthur River or on a cattle station do not make these complaints. They are made by people who are advising the Aborigines what to say.

I am worried about the position of traditional owners, and it is on this point that I and my Senate colleague have taken a stand with respect to this Bill. I commend the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on his tremendous efforts to meet all opinion- our opinion, on the one hand, and the opinion of others, on the other hand- in trying to see that Aborigines in the Northern Territory get control and correct management of what is theirs and that they do not get short changed on any mining deals. I am in favour of that, and every mining company I have seen in the Northern Territory since I can remember has said: ‘We admit that there is a duty on our part to see that the Aborigines receive the correct royalty or the correct percentage of what should be their right with regard to their land ‘. I will not have time to go into this matter any further, but the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) in, I would hope, a humourous speech, said: ‘You do not trust the Country Party, especially when it concerns Aboriginals’. I remind him of the efforts of the Legislative Assembly in regard to the permit system.


-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.


– I do not want to join issue with the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) on anything that relates to Aborigines. We are 127 people in this House and we all need to be very modest in assuming that any of us are speaking for Aborigines. So what we are putting forward are tentative points of view that we are trying to vindicate. I want to turn to the reference made by the honourable member for the Northern Territory to the timing of the Labor Government’s 1975 Bill. He said that we were trying to sneak it through before an election. If the honourable member for the Northern Territory reflects he will recall that the late Labor Government assumed that having been elected in May 1974, the next election would be in May 1977. 1 assure the honourable member for the Northern Territory that when the Aboriginal Land Rights Bill was brought in we did not know that the Senate was going to withhold consent for Supply and that the Governor-General was going to dismiss us. We were very far from the illusion that we could sneak anything unscrutinised through this Parliament because we had more Bills rejected in the Senate in our 3 years of government than had been rejected in the previous 72 years. So we had no illusions about lack of scrutiny. We might agree or disagree with the Senate’s actions, but I am merely saying that people who experience those actions do not assume that their legislation is not going to be under parliamentary scrutiny. That is a logical enough point to make.

The other point on which I politically disagree with the honourable member concerns the devolution of the Aboriginal authority to the Legislative Assembly in the Northern Territory. I do not have to argue whether it would be better or not; I merely say that on democratic grounds in May 1967 in the one referendum in the whole history of this country which one could say was really carried, because it was carried in every polling place, the Australian people expressed the opinion that the national Parliament was the proper Parliament to handle Aboriginal affairs. I do not believe that we get from that result an authority to start divesting ourselves of our responsibilities towards Aborigines. However, that is a political point of view.

On the subject of the willingness of other people to speak on behalf of the Aboriginal people, I remember when I was a member of the

Select Committee on Aboriginal Voting Rights, which was set up by a Liberal government, that we were proceeding down the coast of Queensland and representatives of various organisations came before us to give evidence. None of these spokesmen were ever Aborigines. I developed the habit of saying: ‘Has your organisation any Aboriginal members?’ They would reply: ‘Yes’. Then I would ask: ‘Why don’t you put them in the witness box?’ Then there would be consternation. As this question was asked at every place as we came down the coast later some of the organisations were shamed into putting Aborigines in the witness box, and then one realised why they had not done so before. It was because the Aborigines never stuck to anybody’s policy line- not the policy line of the Communist Party, the Labor Party or the Liberal Party. They said genuinely and authentically what they believed, and the authentic voice of the Aborigine as I have heard it through interpreters- many Aborigines are magnificent orators in their own languages- never, but never, utters the slogans of New York Black Power, nor the opinions of mining companies, or of any of the other voices that are presented to us here.

The land rights question on the whole brings to us the authentic voice of Aborigines because the people with a claim to land in reality tend to be authentically Aboriginal. The tragedy of valid action on the question of land rights is that the States of Western Australia and Queensland are not taking the fundamental action that they should be taking and action on this question is virtually confined to the Commonwealth. I believe that the clan leaders from Galiwinku in the Northern Territory wrote to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) in that authentic voice when they said things such as:

We commence by saying that it is a sad thing for us that the Balanda- That is, the whites- people are constantly changing laws. We the Aboriginal people have established laws which are permanent and we make our decisions in agreement with our laws. We are fearful that having given our decisions and come to agreement with this Government a succeeding Government may change it all again. We also say that we consider Arnhem land belongs to Yolngu people and we must retain rights to restrict entry and this should be written into this Bill, If it is not and the permit system comes under the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly Legislation then the Administrator of the Permit system must ask the Yolngu (traditional owners) before he says yes. Yolngu must say yes first. If anyone wants anything (re permits) he must ask the Administrator and Adminstrator must ask us. In general matters Administrator or Minister must come back to the Yolngu traditional owners first. If anyone breaks the law that person should be fined S 1 ,000.

I will not read all the letter but the sentiments that are expressed in it are their sentiments. One of the honourable members who has been interjecting asked why matters should not be sent to the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory. Both in this letter to the Minister and in the evidence given before the Senate Select Committee on Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders whose chairman is an Aboriginal, Senator Bonner, there seemed to be expressed a distrust of handing things over to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. The Senate Committee made these comments in its recommendations and suggestions:

That the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill 1976, which was introduced on 4 June 1976, be considered for early passage through the Parliament

That the following matters should remain the responsibility of the Australian Parliament and Government-

Many of them do not under this legislation-

  1. Protection of fauna on Aboriginal lands.
  2. Right of entry on Aboriginal lands.

That is what these people have written to the Minister. The list continues:

  1. Protection of sacred sites.
  2. Processing of land claims in towns and other areas where traditional claims cannot be effectively established.
  3. Control of territorial seas adjoining Aboriginal land, within 2 kilometres of the boundary of the Aboriginal land.
  4. Rights of Aborigines to enter on pastoral leases.
  5. The right to rnining on Aboriginal lands.

That funds be provided to enable Aborigines to sustain themselves on any land which they are given.

That the Government accept cash compensation as an alternative to grants of land to Aboriginal people.

The Committee then makes some recommendations about the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. I quite agree with the honourable member for the Northern Territory that it is no use going round inciting hatred of pastoralists or mining companies. It does not follow, however, that we are obliged to agree with everything that they say. Senator Fred Chaney, who is a Liberal Party member of the upper House and the son of a former Liberal Party Administrator of the Northern Territory, was moved to deal with the mining companies because of references that they had made to the folly of suggesting that Aboriginal land owners should have some say over mining of their land and suggestions that they made that this right was not accorded to Europeans. Senator Chaney wrote: -I refer to the statement on mining and Aboriginal land published in your newspaper by the Australian Mining Industry Council.

The statement expresses concern about Aboriginal land owners being empowered to veto mining on their land and having in effect the right to sell rnining permits. It is said that these two powers are not available to Australians generally.

In fact owners of land in Australia are given substantial protection against mining without the land owner’s consent. The extent of protection varies from state to state, but in my state of Western Australia all developed and cultivated land is protected. Even pasture, including uncleared pasture, cannot be mined without the consent of the owner and occupier if it is in bona fide and regular use.

In many cases this gives the private land owner the opportunity to bargain with miners about the terms on which consent will be given.

If traditional Aboriginal land owners putting their land to bona fide and regular use in the traditional way are given the same protection, it cannot be said that Aboriginal people are given powers ‘discriminately’. Indeed the use of that term is regrettable as it may well cause unnecessary resentment.

As a lawyer I have represented white private land owners against mining companies and mining companies against white private land owners. In all cases I have found the land owners anxious to preserve their property rights and in Western Australia, at least, the law effectively enabled them to do it when the land was in bona fide and regular use as a farm or grazing property.

It must be remembered also that the law must be effective to protect both black and white land owners, not only against the legitimate mining companies but also against fringe operators who appear from time to dme and particularly when the industry is booming.

I think that was an extremely sensible statement by Senator Chaney pointing out that it is not unknown in Australia for land owners to have rights as against mining companies and therefore there was nothing outrageous in the proposal that they should have some authority over the land which will be declared to be theirs when they are confronted by a mining interest.

The alterations to the Australian Labor Party’s Bill that I object to strongly, for the reasons that I have already given, relate to the transfer of legislative powers from the Commonwealth Parliament to the control of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. They include the control, declaration and protection of sacred sites, the control of entry to pastoral properties, the control of entry to Aboriginal land and access to the sea adjoining Aboriginal land. It seems to me to be rather tragic that the Senate Committee picked up an opposite opinion on all of those points from the Aboriginal witnesses who apparently came before it. I think that this would justify some hesitation by the Government before going ahead with the changes that are proposed in these respects to what was in the Labor Party ‘s Bill.

The map which the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) was kind enough to supply to honourable members shows that very large areas of land are acknowledged as being in Aboriginal ownership by this Bill. It is so very important that other criticisms, except for the vulnerability of this matter, as I feel, to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, do not have to be made.

The areas marked blue, which indicate land to which an Aboriginal claim is not as yet established, are, by comparison with the areas marked red, where the claim is acknowledged, comparatively small areas.

The honourable member for the Northern Territory complained about inciting hostility to pastoralists and I think he is right in doing so. But they are not necessarily people who are sensitive to the needs of the Aboriginal community. In this respect I am not trying to depict them as being more villainous than the general run of Australians. Throughout our history we have not proved ourselves to be in any respect particularly sensitive towards the Aborigines. The Minister for Health (Mr Hunt), who recently cheered us with the statement that he made about the national trachoma and eye health program in relation to Aborigines, supported Fred Hollows, who I understand started his work under the Labor Government in the eye survey of Aboriginal people and others in the Northern Territory.

I think that one of the tactful aspects of the activities of the body conducting that program was that it recognised that all people in the Australian outback and not just Aborigines were in need of attention to their eyes. I believe that the whole of this operation began not particularly with Aborigines in mind but with the situation in mind that there were 280 ophthalmologists in Sydney but not one in Wagga and various other places. First of all, this body began thinking in terms of a country operation and, when it was suggested that the people most in need were Aborigines, there was agreement on that point. The Commonwealth Government backed the action and this body began to develop the tact of not being divisive when it was on a station but of testing mum’s eyes, dad’s eyes and the children’s eyes and providing them with glasses and then having access to the Aborigines.

What depressed me in the accounts I heard of the operations was the number of Aborigines sitting about on stations who had pearly white eyes, which was simply indicative of cataracts. I am only making the point that if one is sensitive and if one has common knowledge one would know that that was a condition of cataract and that the suggestion that there be an operation and the chance to have an operation could be offered. I do not think that it was established by that expedition that all the people in the Northern Territory were particularly sensitive to the health needs of Aborigines, even when they were as completely obvious as that. I think this applies to all the Aboriginal communities.

I am not suggesting that these divisions in the Australian community are unique between colour. I understand that it is not normal for ship owners to have dinner with waterside workers. We have all these sorts of cleavages of social association and normal social association in the Australian community. But there are large numbers of European people who do not have normal social associations with the Aborigines and therefore do not know what they think. They do not have to be remote from Aborigines in cities for that to be the truth. They can be living among them.

I have been thanked for being the founder of the isolated children’s grants and then denounced by the same people for extending scholarships to all Aboriginal children in the secondary level. That was descrimination. I say to the honourable member for the Northern Territory that if discrimination is justified I believe in it. Of course I believe in discrimination in a compensatory way. We are always discriminating in our legislation. We discriminate for people who were wounded in war with repatriation grants because they need them. Aborigines at the present time need a great deal of discrimination in their favour, and we did establish a system of compensatory education. I encountered in the Northern Territory the slogan that we were discriminating for Aborigines, and so we were. The only point was whether it was justified. They have b een discriminated against for long enough.

Mr Calder:

– They used to come home with my kids at the weekends. Is that what you call discrimination?


– I am speaking of the need for discrimination where people are in need. I am not speaking about adverse determination or accusing anybody of adverse discrimination at the moment. I was making a case for it. I found that many people who attacked me in the Northern Territory- they might have been quite righthad no idea that there was any case for any sort of compensation for Aborigines.

The honourable member for the Northern Territory must know that a Bill such as this, if it is supported widely in the Northern Territory, represents an immense movement of opinion in the Northern Territory compared with what existed in August 1 952 when I made a land rights speech in this House- so far as I know it was the first one- and the whole speech was regarded as rather ridiculous. When we were taking evidence in the Northern Territory many of the officers of the Crown held that we could not work out or devise a tribal title. Apparently we can. I merely say that this is an instance in which opinion has moved. The sad thing about this Bill is the devolution of Commonwealth responsibility back to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. I believe that that is a mistake and I believe that it is against the articulated opinion of the Aboriginal people and against the articulated opinion of the Australian people in a referendum.

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs · Stirling · LP

– in reply- I thank all honourable members who have participated in this important debate.

Mr Les Johnson:

– Are you closing the debate?


-Yes. I remind members of the Opposition who tended to be critical of the timing of the debate on this legislation that the anxiety of the Government to see this legislation passed through this House and the other place before the close of the present parliamentary session has been known for some time. The Opposition also knows that representations were invited from the public on the Bill that I introduced on 4 June. It is interesting to note that the Labor Party put in a representation to me. So it is not as if it had not formulated its ideas as to what ought to be in the Bill. It is not as if members of the Labor Party were caught unprepared for a debate today on the contents of the Bill and on the major points at issue which have been thrown up by the representations.

Let me finally put the position clearly: When the Government’s amendments were provided to the Opposition this morning it naturally enough desired time in which to consider them. After consultations between both sides, as is the courtesy of the House, it was agreed that the Committee stage of the debate on the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill would be stood over until the first week of sitting after the recess next week. That is at least the usual time afforded to an Opposition to prepare to debate a matter in this way and more than usual, if we like to get a little trifling, having regard to the notice that the Opposition received from my public statement last week.

In closing the second reading debate I could go on at some length and point out the many errors in the speech of the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson). It rather astounds me, having listened to a debate on a matter of public importance in which he led for the Opposition some time ago and having heard him again today to recall that he is a former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, more particularly when there were so many errors in his speech on the last mentioned occasion, just as there were in his speech today. I will have the opportunity during the Committee stage, when we debate particular provisions in the Bill, to deal with some of those errors.

Mention was made by the honourable member for Hughes and the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) of the matter of roads. I think there is some misunderstanding on the part of both honourable gentlemen about the provisions of the Bill. I shall refer to them shortly m order to clarify the point. In clause 1 1 (2) and clause 12 (3) of the Bill there is a reservation of public roads from the grant of freehold title. They are roads over which the public has a right of way. I am advised that the only such roads exist through the Yuendumu Reserve, being the beef road from Alice Springs to Western Australia; the Jay Creek Reserve; the Hermannsburg Reserve, being the roads to Palm Valley and Glen Helen; and the Beswick reserve, being the road to Mainoru Station. No permits have ever been required of people using these roads to travel on to other destinations. The exclusion of the roads from the Bill by the provisions I have mentioned will change nothing. With the greatest respect to both honourable gentlemen, if they had read the Bill they would have seen that clause 68 preserves the status of lands as reserves, being those lands which are outlined in the Schedule. This could mean that anyone using the public roads technically would still require a permit to enter an Aboriginal reserve and consequently Aboriginal control over the road is possible. Furthermore, clause 65 guarantees that no roads are constructed in Aboriginal land without the consent in writing of the Land Council. Clause 66 gives Aborigines control of entry into Aboriginal land and hence control of existing roads other than the public access roads I have mentioned.

Great play was made, particularly by honourable members on my side of the House, of the concern of the Government and of individual members to protect the traditional interests of traditional Aborigines. This is what this Bill is all about. The Government had been very careful to see that that is just what this Bill does. At all points where the interests of traditional owners are at stake the former Bill introduced by the Labor Administration has been strengthened by what we have done, so as to entrench in the law the interests of those traditional Aboriginal owners. I mentioned in my second reading speech, and I point this out to honourable members again, that clause 67 of the Bill is fundamental to all else that is provided. Clause 67 of the

Bill entrenches in Australian domestic law for the first time the customary rights of Aborigines according to their traditional interests. One might look at this legislation and the framework of it as creating within our framework of domestic law an umbrella’ underneath which the customary interests of Aborigines might prevail and be protected by Australian domestic law for the first time.

This is reflected in the position of land councils and their relationship to traditional owners, and the position of land trusts and the requirement that membership of the land trusts be drawn from traditional owners. I direct the attention of all honourable members who are concerned about these particular aspects of the legislation to what was said by His Honour Mr Justice Woodward in paragraphs 83, 84, 95, 96, and 361 of his 1974 report. Mr Justice Woodward was thoroughly conscious of the need to provide within Australia domestic law for the traditional interests of Aborigines. He was conscious of the need to provide a system of law within which the position of traditional owners is respected and entrenched. I know the views of Pastor Albrecht. I have sat with him and his 2 assistants at Hermannsburg for 2 days and discussed his propositions at length. I respect the views which he holds. However, they are not the views which are held by respected anthropologists or by others who have studied this area of Aboriginal interest for many years. With due respect to the views of Pastor Albrecht, I do not accept them. I think that what His Honour Mr Justice Woodward has provided in his report and what is reflected in this legislation will do all that is required to provide for the traditional ownership rights of Aborigines in the Northern Territory.

It was pointed out to me tonight by traditional Aborigines from the top end of the Northern Territory that the Aboriginal concept of the custodian of their land has a close similarity to our notion within our law and according to our concept of a trustee of land for beneficiaries. It was pointed out that there could be a conjunction of Aboriginal interest and Australian domestic legal interest through the identity of the Aboriginal who is the custodian and who might also be the trustee for the Aborigines of their land rights through membership of the land trust I feel that whatever might be said about the material provided to the House by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) from those Aborigines around Hermannsburg, there will not be the friction they fear when this legislation is put into operation. They will find that when the land trusts and land councils are set up in the way provided, when they operate in the way intended, there will not be the friction which has been spoken about. Nor will the legislation, as it operates, be so diametrically opposed to what nas been termed the Aboriginal reality as has been put forward by those antagonists of the legislation.

The honourable member for Mackellar always speaks from a depth of understanding and knowledge about Aborigines. He is concerned to maintain the intregrity of the traditional Aboriginal. So are we all. He is concerned to maintain the integrity of the Aboriginal reserves in the Northern Territory. So are we all. That is why, under this legislation, those reserves will automatically become Aboriginal land clothed with the title which this legislation provides. The intregrity of which the honourable member speaks in relation to rnining will, of course, be provided through the veto power which came under such attack from certain quarters within the community but which was maintained by the Government intact for the very good reason that we sought to maintain the integrity of Aboriginal ownership in the Aboriginal sense of what is their land. I . am quite sure in my own mind that the integrity of which the honourable member for Mackellar speaks will be maintained through this veto power and the other protections which are provided for in the legislation. This was a matter which perplexed His Honour Mr Justice Woodward. It perplexed many people as to how to balance the interests of Aborigines with the peculiar and unique nature of their interest in and and the demands of the whole Australian society for development where it is in the national interest.

It was proposed to Mr Justice Woodward that Aborigines should also have the rights to minerals within their land. He was not prepared to accept that, but did see it as absolutely necessary that there be adequate protection for Aborigines through the veto power and the other protections which he indicated and which are written into this legislation to see that Aboriginal interests are provided. The Opposition has made great play, as was to be expected, about the intention of the Government to allow to the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory room in which to pass ordinances with respect to the area which is called complementary legislation. I shall not repeat here what I said in my second reading speech, what I said in the public statement I made last Thursday and what I said in the statement which I made in the House preceding this second reading debate. I simply point out that what will happen is that the Legislative

Assembly will make laws in this area for the administration of sacred sites, for entry to Aboriginal land and for protection and conservation of wildlife. If those laws are not made in accordance with the stipulations in the Bill which will be introduced by the amendments, then those laws will be invalid. But even before that point might come, of course, the Commonwealth has statutory power to withhold consent to the ordinances. Of course, the ordinances do not become law until that assent is given.

I conclude by reminding honourable members opposite, as I have pointed out in my statement, that central to the Government’s desires is that administration of Aboriginal land be channelled through land councils. A function of the land councils will be to perform those functions which the Northern Territory ordinances will provide. Of course, the Government against the background of those observations will see that the land councils, the body representing Aborigines, will be centrally located in the administration of the ordinances in all these areas. I thank honourable gentlemen for their contributions. There is much more than can be said and will be said in the Committee stages to explain further the many errors which have been made, particularly on the Opposition side.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee

The Bill

Mr Les Johnson:

– I have an amendment relating to clause 30, which reads in part:

  1. Where the Minister approves any by-laws, he shall cause the by-laws to be laid before each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after the giving of his approval.
  2. If any by-laws are not laid before each House of the Parliament in accordance with sub-section (5), the by-laws shall be void and of no effect.
  3. Where any by-laws have been laid before a House of the Parliament in accordance with sub-section (5) of this section, sub-sections (4), (5) and (5A) of section 48 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1973 apply in relation to those bylaws as if they were regulations.

I move:

Omit sub-clauses (5), (6) and (7).

The issue is a quite elementary one. It is to this effect: The Bill proposes that in relation to Aboriginal councils which make by-laws there are to be disallowance provisions. Sub-clauses (S), (6) and (7) apply to those disallowances. Sub-clause (5) states:

Where the Minister approves any by-laws, he shall cause the by-laws to be laid before each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after the giving of his approval.

Sub-clause (6) goes on to provide that if the bylaws are not laid before each House of Parliament they shall be void and of no effect. Subclause (7) indicates that these processes are to be treated under the Acts Interpretation Act as if they were regulations. The simple proposition which the Opposition is seeking to put in relation to this question is that it is unnecessary. The Minister, who is very fond of talking about how inept other Ministers might be at this point in a debate, may not now have the benefit of a departmental spiel on this matter. I wonder whether he can give an effective account of why he has used this sledge-hammer to knock over an infinitesimal gnat.

We have a proposition that Aboriginal councils shall make by-laws, and shall make them about matters of very little consequence. They shall be made in respect of the charges to’ be made for garbage services, or to prevent the destruction of trees in the village council square, or to regulate the use of water or electricity supply services. They are the kinds of things that are done all round Australia by 800-odd local government authorities. Big Brother does not stand over the local government authorities in Australia, the shires and municipal councils. These sorts of provisions do not apply even in respect of pasture protection boards. Why has the Minister decided to invoke this heavyhanded paternalism in respect of Aboriginal councils? After all, one of the Bills we have been debating tonight is the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Bill, which is designed to legalise and incorporate Aboriginal councils. They are not councils which are sycophantic or subjective or second grade. They have the same kind of status as all the other bodies which make by-laws for white Australians all over the country. It so happens that in this matter for some unaccountable reason the Minister wants these by-laws brought into the Parliament and tabled in the House of Representatives and the Senate. The sub-clause states:

Where the Minister approves any by-laws, he shall cause the by-laws to be laid before each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days …

I should like to know whether there is any justification for this proposition. One can hardly imagine why the Minister would want these bylaws tabled. One thinks of a little council in the

Northern Territory, a council in a town with perhaps 60 people or 70 people. The people are gathered together to render a fairly infinitesimal but basic service unto one another. They elect their little handful of councillors, who decide on these fundamental things which are not even of importance in terms of the decisions taken by the councils of the City of Sydney or the City of Melbourne or the great shires and municipalities, none of whom have to come to this Parliament for approval of their by-laws or for a checking over of their by-laws by the Minister. One does not have to labour the point. Is there any justification for this provision? The Opposition puts in all fairness that it is excessive heavyhandedness, paternalism, unnecessary, not likely to render a service, probably not even likely to be treated effectively by the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances which looks after those matters. Because up to this point, the Minister has made no effort to justify this attempt to subject the councils to this process, the Opposition believes that the best thing to do with this rubbish is to withdraw it altogether. I think it would be a fair thing if the Minister indicated his good faith and agreed to the Opposition’s amendment.

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs · Stirling · LP

– I wish to indicate to the Committee that the Government will not accept the amendment. The sub-clause is a simple requirement for the tabling of by-laws made by Aboriginal councils established under legislation. Local government by-laws, if the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) wishes to take that analogy, are published and become public knowledge in that sense. This provision will make those by-laws public knowledge through their being tabled in the House. It is a simple proposition and I do not think it needs answering beyond that.


-First of all, let us examine what it is proposed to do. Aboriginal councils can be formed where 10 adult Aborigines living in a particular area desire that an Aboriginal council be formed in respect of that area. They may apply in writing, and so on. The legislation then provides that they shall be able to perform functions or services in respect of such matters as housing, health, sewerage, water supply, electricity, communications, education, relief work, roads and associated works, garbage collection and disposal, and welfare and community amenities. As a result of this legislation, that group of people will be able to administer its own affairs. Let us imagine one of the smaller communities with 5 or 6 families living on the fringe of a town in Queensland. They decide to form a council. They get their charter and they are in business. They make a by-law about the size of the garbage tins and the way the lids shall be fitted. The council having done that, the by-law comes to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner). It passes through the long tortuous path of the various echelons of the Department and eventually reaches the Minister. Bless me, it is then knighted, one might say. It is brought into the chamber, not only into this chamber but also into the Senate. I do not know why the Minister does not include in this Bill the necessity for the by-law to be approved by the Governor-General-in-Council.

This is an unnecessary intrusion into the affairs and the administration of the system. I do not think that any of the town councils which are developing in the Northern Territory are handled in this way. It may well be reasonable for such matters to be reported to the Minister and for somebody to keep an eye on the system to make sure that no civil rights are transgressed. I take it that that is the general rule for municipalities throughout Australia. In a way, this provision trespasses on the spirit upon which this legislation has been developed. This is a very important piece of legislation. It represents the efforts of both the previous Government and this Government to extract the Aboriginal people from underneath the umbrellas that have been put over them in various parts of Australia. For instance, I hope that the communities in Queensland will take the greatest possible advantage of this legislation and start to develop a life and style of their own.

In many ways it is a very adventurous piece of legislation in that it deals not only with matters of geography but also with groups of people who are social units rather than geographic units and who will be able to form themselves into councils. One of the great difficulties from which the Aboriginal people have suffered is their inability to become involved in community development in their own way. I wonder how many Aboriginal people are members of municipal councils in Australia? I think there might be one or two but I do not know that I have ever met them. They are a group of people who are naturally on the edge of things socially and in relation to community development. I hope that the Minister will have another look at this matter. When the Bill gets to the other place, we will give him a second opportunity to consider this matter by moving another amendment.

I would be with the Minister if I thought that there was any point in this provision, but I do not think that there is any point. The Aboriginal people are saying about almost everything we do: ‘But you do not apply that rule to nonAboriginal communities.’ One of the arguments they put in relation to land was this: ‘The ordinary Australian owns his land in this way. That is the way we want to do it. The average Australian does not have to go through this sort of program. Why should we have to do it?’ The situation here is that we ought not to produce in legislation, particularly adventurous legislation attempting to create a new social environment for the Aboriginal people, trappings which we do not have in other legislation.

My own belief is that we need a little more faith and a little less supervision of this nature. I do not really object to the notifications coming through to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs so that he can look at them. His staff might even do it for him. I take it he does some of the work himself. Honourable members say we had better keep an eye on this matter. I am one of the people who, in some ways, has doubts about absolute rights being vested in municipalities, particularly concerning personal, freedoms and things of that nature. For instance, there have been debates in this Parliament at various times about access to Aboriginal communities. It has been suggested that the community itself will decide whether one may or may not visit the community. I would not like that power to lie in the hands of the local council for the area in which I live. I would like it even less to be in the hands of many other local councils I have run into. They would quite often make sure that I would never come back.

I grant the necessity for people to be protected against infringement on their civil rights in situations such as this. I regard it as superfluous. I think my colleague the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) has defined this correctly. It will look like paternalism or big brotherism, whether or not that is what it is, and the best thing that can be done is to bluepencil it.

Amendment negatived.

Bill agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.

Third Reading

Bill (on motion by Mr Viner)-by leave- read a third time.

page 2821


Second Reading

Consideration resumed from 4 June, on motion by Mr Viner:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.

Bill committed pro forma; progress reported.

page 2821


Second Reading

Consideration resumed from 3 November, on motion by Mr Viner:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee

The Bill.

Mr Les Johnson:

– I intend to move the motion standing in my name which has the effect of amending sub-clause 2 of clause 7, which reads:

  1. 1 ) The Minister shall, as soon as practicable after 30 June in each year, cause to be laid before each House of the Parliament a report on the operation of this Act during the year ending on that date.
  2. A report referred to in sub-section ( 1 ) shall include a statement setting out the amount paid under this Act to each State during the year to which the report relates.
  3. For the purposes of this section, the period commencing on the date of commencement of this Act and ending on 30 June 1977 shall be deemed to be a year.

The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) has had a great day dropping things from great heights. He has been able to read to honourable member’s carefully prepared and nurtured briefings which he has received from his Department. He reads them quite well. However, as he demonstrated just a short time ago he lacks the capacity to think on his feet. He was unable to find an answer for the last proposition I put to him. I hope he will be able to find an answer to the simple proposition I put to him now because it is quite elementary and well within his capacities. It is simply to this effect. Since the Minister has now adopted, if not cannibalised, proposals which I put to the Parliament in 1975 in respect of the States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bill following receipt of advice from the AuditorGeneral in his special report of March 1974, it is now proposed to have continuing legislative authority by which funds will be made available to the States for the purpose of implementing the program of assistance to Aboriginal people.

This new development, this proposal for continuing legislation will obviate the need for similar legislation to be brought down on a periodic annual basis. The Minister is copying the proposal which I previously made that a report containing certain recommendations should be placed before the Parliament after 30 June each year. In sub-clause 2 of clause 7 references is made to the intention that the report shall include a statement setting out the amount paid to each State during the year to which the report relates. The Opposition is not antagonistic to that proposition. Obviously I should not be antagonistic to it since I breathed life into the concept when I was the Minister. But, after all, the Parliament will forego an annual opportunity of debating Aboriginal affairs. The Opposition contends that it might be reasonable that the Parliament might be treated to the consideration of being informed as to why these amounts were paid. The amendment is simply to that effect. I therefore move:

At the end of sub-clause (2) add: and the purposes for which the amount was paid.

If the amendment is adopted, sub-clause (2) of clause 7 will read:

A report referred to in sub-section ( 1 ) shall include a statement setting out the amount paid under this Act to each State during the year to which the report relates and the purposes for which the amount was paid.

I put it to the Minister that the Parliament might be well and truly entitled to have information to that effect. I hope that the Minister will not be able to find any good reasons why this amendment should not be agreed to.


– I support the remarks of my colleague the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson). The more information we have about the system presented to the Parliament, the better it will be. I wish to make a brief comment about a remark contained in the second reading speech of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) concerning the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account. I do not think it was an advance at all to change that system. All the Government needed to do was to produce a more effective way of either servicing it, supervising it or reporting on it. This is an area in which the greatest possible flexibility is required to change, from time to time, the appUcation of funds. I regard this as a retrogressive step, no matter who thought of it first. In this case I think that the report should cover the matters raised by my colleague the honourable member for Hughes. Just for once, some personal inititive should be shown instead of rubber stamping somebody else ‘s decisions.

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs · Stirling · LP

-The Government does not accept the amendment. It is quite superfluous. It adds nothing of any substance to the Bill. May I remind the honourable gentleman that when he introduced a similar Bill -

Consideration interrupted.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock:

-Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 18 February 1976 I shall report progress.

Progress reported.


-I propose the question:

That the House do now adjourn.

Mr VINER (Stirling-Minister for Aboriginal Affairs)- I require the question to be put forthwith without debate.

Question resolved in the negative.

page 2822


In Committee

Consideration resumed.

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs · Stirling · LP

– I would Uke to continue briefly my comments on the reason why the amendment is not acceptable. I was about to remind the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) that in the Bill which he presented to the House for the same purpose as the one I have presented the words that he now seeks to include were not in his Bill. As I said in my second reading speech, what this Bill will do will be to authorise the payment to the States of moneys already appropriated by this Parliament for that purpose. The purposes for which money is spent will be fully laid out and open to debate by the Parliament in the Budget debates. The honourable gentleman and the Opposition will have ample opportunity in the ordinary course of Budget debates to debate the appropriations of my Department annually.


-Whilst I might be what one might call the permanent Parliamentary optimist, I do not believe that the Government will give us any adequate time next year to debate this matter. I believe it is fantasy to think that a system will be created in the next 12 to 18 months under which there will be adequate debate on these subjects. Just consider the situation today: We have before us 2 major pieces of legislation, one of which covers 73 clauses I think, and the other one which carries out a significant parliamentary change, equally as complicated. We have dealt with these Bills more or less in one evening. Our experience is that the more we document matters the more chance there is of their being considered and understood. That is my first point.

My other point is this: What on earth does it matter whether we did not put our amendment in last year’s piece of legislation? It is quite obvious that if we adopted the approach of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) to these things and did not do anything new, we would still be back in the caves. We can almost hear the argument at the back of the caves: ‘No, we cannot go outside; we did not go out last year’. I ask the Minister to start to adopt a slightly different attitude, a more progressive attitude, to this kind of operation.

Amendment negatived.

Bill agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.

Third Reading

Bill (on motion by Mr Viner)- by leave- read a third time.

page 2823


East Timor-Petroleum Industry-Youth Employment Programs-Building and Housing Industry -Newspaper Report

Motion (by Mr Viner) proposed:

That the House do now adjourn.


-Yesterday the Fraser Cabinet decided to prevent Telecom, Darwin, from passing on telegrams from the Fretilin forces in East Timor. These Telecom messages are the only way in which the Australian people and the world can find out what is happening in East Timor. For example, we received a message on 11 November from Fretilin giving an account of heavy fighting near Nassuta, 15 kilometres south-west of Dili. The report stated that infighting there between 8 and 15 October, 140 Indonesian soldiers were killed. This indicates a high level of fighting. That these reports must be substantially accurate is indicated by recent Australian Press reports. On 2 1 October in the Canberra Times Bruce Juddery reported a joint intelligence organisation survey of the situation in East Timor. As we would expect from this agency, their report was proIndonesian. Nonetheless if we read between the lines the Indonesian’s military situation is grim in

East Timor. Mr Juddery’s report stated that the Joint Intelligence Organisation believed that the Indonesians controlled only half the area and half the people in East Timor. This is a dramatic confirmation of the Fretilin report of fighting within 15 kilometres of Dili. The JIO report also notes that Indonesia has withdrawn some troops from East Timor. This confirms Press reports that the Indonesians have had troubles in their troops ‘ morale in East Timor.

I have drawn attention to the military situation in East Timor because I want to make one basic point. That is that the Fraser Government’s hopes that Fretilin will disappear are false. Recently the National Miner of 1 November claimed that natural resource diplomacy was emerging as a major factor in shaping Australia ‘s policy towards Indonesia. That paper reported that the Indonesian generals have indicated through diplomatic channels that Australian companies with mineral and petroleum concessions in East Timor will be welcome to stay provided they negotiate their rights with the Indonesian Government.

Also the Age newspaper last month reported that the Australian Indonesian Business Cooperation Committee had urged the Government to recognise the attempted Indonesian annexation of East Timor. The Bank of New South Wales, the Australia and New Zealand Bank, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Ltd, Blue Metal Industries Ltd and the Australian Wheat Board and the Australian Dairy Board are among the members of this committee. From these reports we get some idea of the forces behind this Government’s betrayal of the people of East Timor. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) claims that we have not extended de facto or de jure recognition of the Indonesian invasion but that we recognise ‘realities’. May I say that this is just semantics.

If we look at the actions of the Government over the last few months we see what these ‘realities’ have led to. Aid has been given to the Indonesian Red Cross despite reports that this aid is finding its way to Indonesian military forces. Rogerio Lobarto, the Minister for National Defence, and Mari Alkatiri, the Minister for Political Affairs, of the Democratic Republic of East Timor have been refused entry visas into Australia. Mr Chris Santos has been refused permanent residency status in Australia. Military aid to Indonesia continues. Recently an Indonesian military mission came here for discussions. Timorese refugees from Indonesia’s unprovoked aggression have been refused special consideration for migration to Australia.

These actions are further evidence of our sell out of East Timor. They go beyond recognising realities’ to encouraging so-called ‘realities’. This Government reveals its true colours and it stands condemned by all enlightened people who seek peace and justice for all the people of Australia.


-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.


-On 9 September 1976 I spoke at length on the petroleum industry and the Royal Commission on Petroleum. My opening paragraph read:

I have watched with dismay over a period of many years an apparent lack of concern for an industry that has been thrown literally into chaos, particularly in Victoria. I refer to the petroleum industry, and believe quite firmly that certain recommendations -

I emphasise the word ‘certain’- of the Royal Commission on Petroleum, particularly in the area of marketing and pricing, should be the subject of close and careful scrutiny by this Parliament and should not be treated like some previous commissions’ recommendations have been treated-pigeon-holed for the term of their natural life.

I went on to mention an introductory paragraph of the report of the Royal Commission. I said that the Commission ought to be commended on it. It stated:

The Commission finds that all these complaints contain certain significant elements of truth. Let it be said in the interests of balance that there are elements of positive achievement. How the allegations came to be at least partly true is discussed in the Commission. Not to recriminate or to allot blame, but for the purpose of considering how the industry may be restructured on a basis once more rational and in better interests of the community, and of the oil companies, as well as those who find employment in the industry.

I made that speech on 9 September 1976. In October of this year a booklet was circulated by the Shell Co. of Australia. I do not know whether any other members read this booklet. It was extremely critical of the findings of the Royal Commission on Petroleum. An article in the Canberra Times of 20 October 1976 read as follows:

page 2824



Shell Australia has launched a scathing criticism of the findings of the Royal Commission on Petroleum.

In an unprecedented move the company has produced a 100-page booklet which describes the report as ‘factually incorrect’ and ‘analytically inept’.

The commission’s fourth report on the marketing and pricing of petroleum products, by Mr Justice Collins, was critical of oil companies marketing methods.

One of its central recommendations was the setting up of an agency to regulate investment and distribution in the industry.

Shell said the report was a disappointing work, not based on the evidence on record before the commission.

Symbolically, its very title is a misrepresentation’, Shell’s booklet says.

I read a very interesting article in the Newcastle Times concerning Mr Kevin Gosper, the general manager of marketing for the Shell Co. of Australia. The article reads:

Mr Kevin Gosper, the general manager of marketing for Shell Co. of Australia, criticised yesterday the varied forms of investigation into the Australian petroleum industry in recent years.

Addressing Newcastle Business Men’s Club, Mr Gosper referred to the recent royal commission on the marketing and prices of petroleum products.

He said it was not usual for a company that had already submitted its evidence to such an inquiry to find it necessary to issue its own publication of explanation. This was actually what Shell had done.

Most people were aware of the massive overnight increases in crude oil prices that occurred three years ago, contributing to the development of a world-wide recession from which recovery was now being made.

These price rises, beyond the control of Australian distributors, had become the source of organised campaigns against oil companies, particularly in the United States.

The number of inquiries into the oil industry had made great demands on staffs and had been costly. It had cost his company alone $ 1 . 25m.

This program of investigation had largely been instigated in the life of the Whitlam Government, which had hardly been sympathetic to the industry.

This is a highly competitive industry and is part of the free enterprise system-

I emphasise the word ‘ free’- as indicated by the variable discount signs at petrol stations from Swansea to Newcastle ‘, Mr Gosper said.

If that is the free enterprise system for which I came into Parliament, I am a little alarmed. Many of the poor service station proprietors in the Newcastle area are finding it difficult to compete in the market place. This is something at which this Government should look very closely.


-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.


– I would like to raise this evening the shortcomings of the community youth support scheme which has been projected by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). The scheme purports to assist people who are unemployed. Under the scheme community groups will receive financial assistance for supportive programs and for services to the young unemployed. This scheme is outlined in a document which has been received by members of this House. It involves job search orientation groups, voluntary community activities and vocational, hobby and interest expanding activity. Great things! What a conglomeration! People perhaps will have to be paid in kind. I am not quite sure what is meant. People may get some favour for mowing lawns. I am not quite sure what it is all about. The point is being missed. If the Government wants to do anything, it should be funding job creation and job placement programs. It has been indicated that they will not be funded. Local communities in which there is a disproportionately high percentage of youth unemployed will be encouraged to establish local committees to initiate and co-ordinate community efforts. Local Federal members will be given the opportunity to chair or to nominate chairmen of these local groups. God knows what we will do when this happens.

The Commonwealth Government community youth support scheme at least shows some initiative in organisation, but one must be dismayed that community self-help groups will not be funded for job placement and job creation programs. The majority of self-help groups are actively involved in job placement and are doing a very good job. I refer to groups of young people such as Jobless Action in Canberra, Get a Job in Blacktown, YOU in Fitzroy, Job Shop in Shepparton, Job Shop in Kyabram, Youth a Job Need in Deniliquin, Pace in Frankston and the Geelong YCW Unemployment Group. All these groups have the potential, if they are properly used, co-ordinated, funded and assisted by the local member in a real sense -

Mr Scholes:

– They should be encouraged instead of being sat on.


– Yes, they should be encouraged instead of being sat on, as the honourable member for Corio indicates. In the United States of America and Canada community groups are funded for these purposes. It is accepted that for some of the unemployed these groups will provide a more relevant and meaningful service. It does not have to be the Commonwealth Employment Service that places people in jobs. Young people might be more willing to go along and talk to people of their own age. The program seems to be totally inadequate when we go through the rigmarole that is outlined by the Minister.

At present the unemployed are virtually powerless and voiceless. The establishment of the self-help groups in the Victorian Federation of Self-help Groups is a tentative but significant step forward for the unemployed to participate in the decision making processes on issues that really affect them. The majority of unemployed want jobs. The Government should provide funds for job creation programs. To divert the unemployed into skill acquisition, motivation maintenance and voluntary work is to divert the unemployed and the unemployment issue away from the shortage of jobs to the shortcomings of the unemployed. To do something positive, the proposition needs to have some teeth. There has to be a program arranged around it, with proper co-ordination and organisation. The local members can do that. We ought to understand that the community self-help groups depend on the approval of the members of Parliament and local committees. I have taken the initiative in organising a meeting.

While the initial aspects of the scheme may be given some consideration, it is a pity that the Commonwealth youth support scheme attempts to define acceptable funded programs and unacceptable non-funded programs. I urge the Government to reconsider the requirements and implications of this scheme concerning the initiatives to non-government community organisations. When a program is being designed these organisations ought to be properly and adequately consulted. They ought to be funded in a proper way, with the accent on finding jobs. The Government should not dither around in the way -


-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.


– Much has been said in this chamber in the last few months by both Government and Opposition members about the building and housing industry. This is an industry that normally first feels the tightness of a recession and first responds to the surge of a boom. Whilst the former statement on recession no doubt will remain the same, it is questionable whether we can expect the industry to respond as vigorously to boom conditions in the future as it has in the past. The answer does not lie in the readiness of the developers and builders to get up and participate, but in the specific need for building constructions by consumers at the time when the economy shows signs of recovery. In one area, the building industry, we are losing consumer support to an extent that it may never return. That is in the residential type of construction. Costs of building, cost of interest, unrealistic demands for higher standards on construction and a housing grant that alienates lower income earners, has caused and will continue to contribute to a slackening demand for residential construction.

To take these points one at a time, let us commence with costs. The cost of the average residence in Mackay where I live has substantially increased over the past 3 years to approximately $28,000 today. Granted, wages, which bear heavily in the increase in these costs, have similarly inflated. The present average wage base, while it can more than sustain the outgoings of the normal household and living expenditures, also has to withstand the pressures of increasing taxes. The balance of this base wage is not then sufficiently strong to support or service a normal loan commitment of the present day value of an average house of $20,000. Those people on a low wage base are committed permanently to being flat dwellers. Secondly, the cost of interest currently averaging 1 1V4 per cent on a daily basis is set so high on an average loan of $20,000 that prospects of servicing a loan and interest at that rate are outside the resources of all but those who have job security and a higher than average weekly wage. Again, those on the lower wage are doubly cursed to being tenement and flat dwellers for their lifetime.

There is a problem which creates additional and sometimes unnecessary costs, where building standards are raised by a succession of authorities from local government, State governments and departmental authorities. These building standards are set to insure against acts of God- lire, flood, cyclone. They are set to provide maximum security on health standards, electrical wiring and for other regulations such as fire control. This inevitably requires additional costs in construction, double checking to ensure that standards are maintained and inspection fees, which all add up to a greater home cost but do not decrease the cost of fire brigade services, insurance premiums and rates and taxes. Is there not a limit or a degree of risk which we must ourselves accept? Do we have to provide in the construction of a house with a 50-year life, against a once in 500 years flood, a cyclone blast with windspeeds of 150 miles per hour or some other act of God as equally devastating and as unpredictable? If we do, we give our constructions a loading cost of a further 15 per cent to 20 per cent which deeper digs the grave of those present unfortunates without a home. Alternatively, as a society, we set ourselves the task through increasing costs to outwit all acts of God, but at what a community cost.

Lastly, I refer to the home savings grant scheme. I do not subscribe to handouts to those people who have no chance either because of their own self imposed deficiencies or inadequacies, of servicing the balancing debt structure on a home. But the scheme could be altered to allow those who have the will, desire and determination to own their own home to be encouraged, in spite of a lower income, to participate through a formula of a percentage of saving over a 3 year period and not a monetary amount. It can be proved that a family with an income of less than $150 after tax, after meeting essential living expenses, rental on a present residence, providing for children, has insufficient left for savings, particularly to the degree necessary to qualify for the maximum grant. Those people who are unlikely through their past savings to supplement their income should be permitted to receive a percentage of income and not a fixed amount.


– I want to raise a matter concerning an article that appeared in this evening’s Adelaide News written by a man- I will not give the title of gentleman because we have had to suffer this man’s deceit over a long period in this House- by the name of Trevor Kavanough. I think if we are looking for a prize Press idiot, this man would take the cake. I have had to quote from his articles before in the House. Either he is an idiot or he is an outright liar. He consistently reports, so-called, in the newspaper things that do not happen and things in which there is absolutely no element of truth- things which are totally the creation of his fantasy. I recall that some months ago I sent him a telegram concerning an article about the first Caucus meeting after the election. But tonight I understand that the Adelaide News carried a headline ‘Shadow Cabinet in Switch on Uranium’ written by Mr Kavanough. The article indicates, according to him, that the policy put by the shadow Minister, Mr Keating, was defeated and ‘represents a major victory for the Caucus left wing’- whatever that may be- ‘and for the anti-uranium lobby’. The article went on to state:

Mr Keating in a 24 page statement proposed that

Mr Shipton:

– Tell us the truth. Give us the story.


-Why do honourable members opposite not listen and stop acting like the clowns they are. They should listen and they might learn something. He stated:

Mr Keating in a 24 page statement proposed that Labor should continue with its decision to honour contractual agreements made by the Gorton and McMahon Governments and agreed to by the Whitlam Government.

According to Mr Kavanough, Mr Keating ‘s proposals were defeated. After the Caucus meeting this morning, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr E. G. Whitlam, released a copy of the resolution moved by Senator Button and seconded by Mr

Keating. After the caucus meeting this information was relayed to members of the Press and it included the names ofthe mover and seconder of the motion. The resolution was as follows:

That it is the opinion of the Parliamentary Labor Party following the publication of the Fox Report on uranium mining and the Fraser Government’s decision of 1 1 November 1976

That existing contracts for uranium mining should be honoured, provided that no new mining developments are permitted to take place;

That the Labor Party should continually press for stricter international safeguards and controls over the handling of nuclear materials;

That it be made clear that the next Labor Government will not be bound to honour any future contracts entered into by the present Government;

That if, in Government, the Labor Party is satisfied that the hazards associated with nuclear power have been eliminated and satisfactory methods of waste disposal developed the question of uranium mining be re-considered in the context of full public debate; and

That the Fraser Government deserves the utmost condemnation for its haste in announcing decisions on the mining of uranium without giving the Australian community dme in which to debate this highly important subject, thereby disregarding the Commission of Inquiry’s final recommendation.

That was the resolution moved by Senator Button, seconded by Mr Keating and announced by the Leader of the Australian Labor Party. How this clown, who to use his own words was being groomed for obscurity until a leader writer was suddenly needed here in Canberra and who finished up as the leader writer for the Daily Mirror and, I gather, the Adelaide News, could possibly get a story like that if he attended the Leader’s briefing is beyond my belief. According to him also, Mr Keating will not even be allowed to speak in the debate which starts tomorrow; a whole group of other people will speak when the debate commences. This will be a whole group of people who are opposed to Mr Keating ‘s views. All I can say is that if this is the sort of defeat that Mr Keating has had, I hope he keeps on getting beaten, time and again. It is about time that something was done about the total misreporting of people like Kavanough who cannot write a line about the events in this place that is not totally distorted, whether it concerns the Opposition or the Government. It is not interpretive writing. Members of the Press are entitled to interpret events how they like. But total misreporting does no credit to this place or to the members of the Press Gallery.


– I wish to make one very simple point in the minute remaining. It is all very well for members of the Opposition to rise in this place and abuse journalists, using such well considered and eloquent words as ‘idiot’. The facts are, of course, that it is a difficult profession.

Mr Howard:

– Scratch a socialist and they are very thin on civil liberties.


– Exactly, and it is intriguing. I thank the Minister for that interjection. This land of personal abuse is apparently the only weapon available to people ofthe capacity of the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) who just attacked the Press in that personal and offensive way. Whether or not Mr Kavanough is an effective or good journalist is a matter that any honourable member has his right to determine. I feel that no honourable member, and I stress the word ‘honourable’, has the right to use the terminology and style of the honourable member who just resumed his seat. I think his attack is a disgraceful one and I think his use of language is appalling.


-Order! It being 1 1 o’clock, the debate is interrupted.

Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs · Bennelong · LP

– I require the debate to be extended. I would like briefly to reply to the contribution made in the adjournment debate tonight by the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck). Ever since the honourable member for Franklin came into this Parliament he has exhibited an enthusiastic interest in those causes in which he believes. He has displayed an enormous amount of interest in the future of the petroleum industry in Australia. He has displayed considerable concern for the future financial and social position of a very significant number of small businessmen in our community, the independent petrol resellers. In company with a number of other honourable members on the same side, the honourable member for Franklin has pressed on me as the Minister having some responsiblity in this area the problems which are posed for those in the petroleum industry at present. As I informed the House several weeks ago, an interdepartmental committee report on the royal commission’s report has been furnished to the Government and I hope that the Government will be in a position shortly to make a decision on the recommendations of the royal commission.

I say to the honourable member for Franklin and to all other honourable members who are interested in this very complex issue that the Government is conscious of the problems facing independent petrol resellers in Australia. The Government equally though is conscious of the problems facing the petroleum industry which go much wider than those facing just one section of the industry. The oil companies are not without problems and we should not forget the right of the consumers of petroleum products in Australia to have a certain level of price flexibility which is consistent with” a competitive arrangement in a market of this nature. However, I can assure the honourable member for Franklin that the interest he has displayed in this area is noted by the Government. The cause that he argues is a very understandable one and one that will be given careful consideration by the Government when decisions are made on the future marketing practices of this important industry.


-Order! The debate having concluded, the House stands adjourned until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.

House adjourned at 11.03 p.m.

page 2829


The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:

National Estate Program (Question Nal 132)

Mr E G Whitlam:

am asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) What was the value and number of applications for assistance under the National Estate program awaiting approval in each State as at (a) 30 June 1975,(b)31 December 1975 and (c) 30 June 1976.
  2. What was the value and location of projects funded under the program in each State between (a) July and December 1975, and (b) January and June 1976.
  3. What is the value and location of projects to be funded in 1976-77.
Mr Newman:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. (a) Nil. Applications received under the 1974-75 program, which were not funded were regarded as lapsed as at June 1975.

    1. Applications for assistance under the 1975-76 National Estate program were invited by way of press advertisements on 9 July 1975. In addition separate submissions for assistance were invited from State Governments and National Trusts. Applications closed on 1 5 August 1 975.

The value and number of projects for which assistance was sought is as follows:

  1. Nil. Applications were not invited for a 1976-77 program, and any applications outstanding from the 1975-76 invitation were regarded as lapsed.

    1. (a) and (b) Applications for assistance were considered by the Interim Committee on the National Estate, and following this Committee’s recommendations programs were approved by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development in the caretaker Government on 25 November 1975 as follows:

A list is attached which indicates the individual projects approved, their location and value.

The financial agreements with the States relating to these programs were signed in late 1975/early 1976, and generally the programs were fully operational by early 1 976.

  1. With regard to 1976-77 the Government has decided as an economic measure to curtail spending on the national estate program. The $1,350,000 provided in the Budget is to be used where there are firm legal commitments arising from agreements made in previous years. In these circumstances no new projects are to be funded in 1 976-77.

Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission (Question No. 805)

Mr Brown:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Has the Minister seen the statement in the report of the President of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for the year ending 13 August 197S that in Hobart the Commission has no accommodation of its own and that it would be desirable if this were treated as a matter of urgency.
  2. Has the Government taken any action to provide the Commission with accommodation of its own in Hobart; if so, what action.
  3. Has the Government any plans to provide the Commission with accommodation of its own in Hobart; if so, what are they.
Mr Street:

– The Minister for Administrative Services has supplied the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

  1. Yes.
  2. and (3) Because of current economic restraints and the higher priorities of other Commonwealth accommodation requirements the provision of permanent accommodation in Hobart for the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has been deferred for the time being. However suitable temporary accommodation will be made available, at such times as the Commission requires, to enable it to sit in Hobart

Australian Judicature (Question No. 919)

Mr Clyde Cameron:

asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Is it a fact that there is no constitutional barrier against any Australian Government abolishing (a) the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, ( b) the Australian Industrial Court, (c) the Federal Court of Bankruptcy, (d) the Family Court of Australia and (e) the Supreme Courts of the Territories.
  2. If so, is a Judge of any of these Courts or the Commission entitled to reappointment to a Court or Tribunal that is established to carry out the jurisdiction of the Court or Commission that is abolished.
  3. Is the Chief Justice of the Australian Industrial Court entitled to become the Chief Justice of a new Court established to perform the main functions of the Australian Industrial Court.
Mr Ellicott:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. Yes.
  2. and (3) Not as of right.

Parliamentary Telephone System (Question No. 948)

Mr Garrick:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the widely held belief that members’ telephones have been connected to various electronic recording and listening devices.
  2. Is it a fact that the staff of some members and public servants are loath to use the Parliamentary telephone system when discussing confidential matters.
  3. Is it possible that telephone tapping could exist without the knowledge of the Minister or his Ministerial colleagues.
Mr Street:

– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

The question appears to refer to Parliament House. I have no responsibility for the House. The questioner might wish to address his question to the Presiding Officers.

Ethnic Radio Station 2EA (Question No. 956)

Mr Garrick:

asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:

Is the Government planning to destroy or place major restrictions on the operations of Sydney’s ethnic radio station 2EA.

Mr Eric Robinson:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

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High Court of Australia (Question No. 1053)

Mr Jacobi:

asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:

Are there any delays in cases coming before the High Court because there are insufficient judges to hear cases presently listed and the Full Court cannot sit in 2 divisions.

Mr Ellicott:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

I am informed that there is no substantial delay in cases coming on for hearing in the High Court once they are ready for listing. In any event, the solution to any delays that might exist does not, in my opinion, lie in increasing the number of Justices of the High Court or making provision for the High Court to sit in 2 divisions. It is also doubtful whether the Court could validly sit in 2 divisions. The proper solution lies in relieving the High Court of some of its present appellate jurisdiction and, to the extent the Constitution permits, of much of its present original jurisdiction, to allow the Court to concentrate on its role as a constitutional court and as the final general court of appeal in Australia. Legislation is already before the Parliament to achieve these purposes.

East Timor (Question No. 1127)

Mr E G Whitlam:

am asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Have hostilities in East Timor ceased.
  2. ) Have Indonesian troops withdrawn from East Timor.
  3. Does the Government accept the assertion by the Government of Indonesia that an act of self-determination consistent with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations has taken place in East Timor.
Mr Peacock:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. The Government is aware of reports that there continues to be some fighting in East Timor. Such fighting appears, however, to be limited to sporadic skirmishing outside the main population centres.
  2. The Indonesian Government now regards East Timor as pan of Indonesia. An Indonesian military presence thus remains.
  3. 1 refer the honourable member to statements I made on this matter on 20 July and 20 October.

Price of Beer in Victoria (Question No. 1159)

Mr Garrick:

asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Has his attention been drawn to the Victorian Government ‘s decision to outlaw the cut price sale of beer.
  2. Will he take action to prevent the Victorian Government acting contrary to the interests of consumers and free enterprise, by referring this matter to the Trade Practices Commission.
  3. Does the Victorian Government’s action amount to capitulation to vested interests contrary to the spirit of free enterprise and open competition.
Mr Howard:

-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. Yes.
  2. This is not a matter which falls within the jurisdiction of the Trade Practices Commission.
  3. It is not appropriate for me to respond to this question which seeks to debate actions by a State Government.

Islamic Law (Question No. 1223)

Dr Klugman:

asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Has his attention been drawn to a report of an interview with Colonel M. Kadhafi, the Libyan Head of State, appearing in Newsweek on 20 September 1976 in which the Colonel is reported as saying that Libya applies Islamic law against terrorism.
  2. If so, can he say what is the Islamic law referred to.
Mr Ellicott:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

I have seen a report of an interview with Colonel M. Kadhafi, the Libyan Head of State, appearing in the magazine Newsweek on 20 September 1976 in which Colonel Kadhafi is reported to have said that Libya is the only country in the world that applies Islamic law against terrorism.

Assuming the truth of the report, Colonel Kadhafi is no doubt well aware of what he meant by the reference to Islamic law but I do not know what Colonel Kadhafi meant by the reference.

Reciprocal Social Services Agreements (Question No. 1227)

Mr E G Whitlam:

am asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:

  1. With what countries are negotiations still being held on reciprocal social services agreements.
  2. When, where, and at what level were the latest negotiations held with each country.
Mr Hunt:

-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member ‘s question.

  1. 1 ) In response to an Australian invitation the following countries indicated their interest in the possibility of entering into negotiations for reciprocal agreements on social security:

Austria, Israel, Italy, The Netherlands, Turkey, France, Federal Republic of Germany, Malta, Sweden, Yugoslavia.

  1. Brief exploratory discussions took place in May /June 1975 in the capital cities of the countries named above. Australia was represented at senior third division level.

The matter was also mentioned when the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs met the Turkish Minister for Social Security, the Hon. Ahmet Mahir Ablum, in Ankara in June 1976.

Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme (Question No. 1482)

Mr Morris:

asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:

  1. Did he state in answer to my question No. 1191 (Hansard, 14 October 1976, page 1932) that details of the extension of the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme to southbound cargoes was presently being processed by his Department.
  2. If so, is he now able to say when an announcement will be made concerning the extension of the Scheme.
Mr Nixon:
Minister for Transport · GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · LP

-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. Yes.
  2. No.

Australian National Line and Stevedoring (Question No. 1324)

Mr E G Whitlam:

am asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Does he still believe it would be wise for the Australian National Line to have a window into the stevedoring industry so that government can be better informed about stevedoring operations (Hansard, 27 May 1976, page 2537).
  2. On what dates and from what shipping companies, stevedoring companies and interested parties has he sought views on what arrangements should be made to replace the Australian Coastal Snipping Agreement which expired on 30 September 1976 (Hansard, 7 October 1976, page 1623).
  3. Is the committee he appointed on 13 June 1976 to investigate the Australian Government’s transport business undertakings authorised or required to investigate whether the Australian National Line should undertake stevedoring operations.
Mr Nixon:

-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1)Yes

  1. In July the Secretary of the Department of Transport, on my instructions, approached some 70 shipping companies, stevedoring companies and interested parties, seeking views on arrangements relating to the Australian Coastal Shipping Agreement 1936. Those approached included all operating parties to that Agreement, and others known to the Department to be engaged at present in coastal shipping and stevedoring.
  2. 3 ) The terms of reference of the Committee would permit it to look at the question of whether the Australian National Line should undertake stevedoring operations.

Department of Administrative Services: Supply of Uniforms (Question No. 1376)

Mr Scholes:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Has the Minister terminated arrangements for the supply of uniforms to employees of his Department, by the Australian Government Clothing Factory.
  2. If so, will this cancellation result in uniforms not being provided to employees, in accordance with their terms of employment, during 1976.
  3. Are negotiations being made for the supply of uniforms by a private manufacturer.
  4. If so, is Australian-made cloth specified in the contracts.
Mr Street:

– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided me with the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

  1. No.
  2. See answer to ( 1 ).
  3. Small quantities of uniforms and other protective clothing are ordered from private manufacturers.
  4. No.

Blind Pensioners (Question No. 1445)

Mr Lloyd:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Is there discrimination against a particular age group of blind pensioners relative to other blind pensioners which has been brought about by actions of the former Labor Government.
  2. If so, what is being done to remove this discrimination.
Mr Hunt:

-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question.

  1. 1 ) and (2 ) There is no discrimination against any particular group of blind pensioners relative to other blind pensioners under the Social Services Act. If the Honourable Member is referring to the decision ofthe previous Government to tax the pensions payable to blind pensioners of age pension age, this is a matter for consideration by my colleague, the Treasurer.

Eucalyptus Dives, Piperitone, Menthol and Cineole (Question No. 1446) Mr Lloyd asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:

What is the import duty or tariff quota on (a) eucalyptus dives, peritone or menthol and (b) cineole.

Mr Howard:

-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

Eucalyptus dives oil, piperitone and cineole are free of Customs duty on importation into Australia. Menthol is subject to rates of duty as follows:

General Tariff-22.5 percent Preferential Tariff- 1 5 per cent Developing Countries Tariff- 1 0 per cent New Zealand Tariff- Free

No tariff quota arrangements apply to these goods.

Trade Commissioners (Question No. 1451)

Mr O’Keefe:

asked the Minister for Overseas Trade, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) How many Trade Commissioners has Australia spread throughout the world.
  2. In what countries are these Commissioners situated, and what authority have they to negotiate sales of products of Australian primary and secondary industries.
  3. Do these Trade Commissioners make a valuable contribution to the development of Australia ‘s trade.
Mr Howard:

-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. There are 160 Trade Commissioners and Assistant Trade Commissioners of whom 124 are located at overseas posts.
  2. Trade Commissioners are situated in the following countries and cities:

Arab Republic of Egypt (Cairo), Republic of the Argentine (Buenos Aires), Republic of Austria (Vienna), Bahrain, Belgium- Mission to the European Economic Community (Brussels), United States of Brazil (Sao Paulo), Britain (London and Manchester), Canada (Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver), People’s Republic of China (Peking), Fiji (Suva), Republic of France (Paris), German Democratic Republic (Berlin), Federal Republic of Germany (Bonn and Hamburg), Hellenic Republic (Athens), Hong Kong, India (New Delhi), Republic of Indonesia (Jakarta), Iran (Tehran), Iraq (Baghdad), Israel (Tel Aviv), Republic of Italy (Rome and Milan), Japan (Tokyo and Osaka), Kenya (Nairobi), Republic of Korea (Seoul), Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), Republic of Mexico (Mexico City), Kingdom ofthe Netherlands (The Hague), New Zealand (Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch), Nigeria (Lagos), Pakistan (Karachi), Papua New Guinea (Port Moresby), Peru (Lima), Republic of the Philippines (Manila), Poland (Warsaw), Saudi Arabia (Jeddah), Singapore, Republic of South Africa (Johannesburg), Spain (Madrid), Sweden (Stockholm), Switzerland (Berne and Geneva), Thailand (Bangkok), Trinidad and Tobago (Port of Spain), Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Moscow), United States of America (Washington, New York, Chicago and San Francisco), Yugoslavia (Belgrade).

The essential role of Trade Commissioners is to provide the commercial intelligence required by Australian exporters to enable them to exploit commercial opportunities in overseas markets in the manner most suited to their needs. Trade Commissioners also service the needs of associated departments and government agencies, including the Departments of National Resources, Primary Industry and Industry and Commerce, the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation and statutory marketing authorities. Trade Commissioners are not authorised to negotiate sales of products. However, they are frequently involved in trade discussions which lead to sales by Australian exporters and marketing boards.

  1. The Australian Trade Commissioner Service is highly regarded by the Australian business community. Trade Commissioners undoubtedly have made and will continue to make a valuable contribution to the development of Australia’s trade.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 November 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.