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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 3848

Mr CONNOLLY(12.20) —Naturally I must respond to some of the extravagant and extraordinary comments made by the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Hand). If he wants to describe miners generically as plunderers, so be it. But 16 million people in this country, including 160,000 Aboriginals, are facing a substantial lowering of their standard of living and the only way we can work our way out of the current economic mess which the policies of this Government and the attitudes of members such as the honourable member for Melbourne have brought to this nation is to see the facts for what they are. Members on both sides of this chamber would know that, if the 1976 legislation were being introduced today, under current economic circumstances the probability of the veto being in it would be absolutely zero because there is no way we could substantiate in the current circumstances approximately half of the Northern Territory, which contains known substantial reserves of minerals, being locked up for all time. To that the Government is now adding national parks, for good measure; so, well over 50 per cent of the Northern Territory will be locked up for all time. That is the essence of the case I put.

I am not here defending any specific community group; I am here looking after the interests of all Australians. That is the fundamental difference between my Party and the Party of the honourable member for Melbourne. That is why the Australian Labor Party will lose the next election. People are sick and tired of hearing all this heartstrings stuff from those such as the honourable member for Melbourne about plundering the resources of Australia. He should go back to wearing skins and running down the beach at Port Phillip Bay if he wants to, but that is not what most people are all about. We need to develop the resources of the Northern Territory so that traditional Aboriginal owners can also gain from it. The honourable member for Melbourne, I and others, went out to the other side of Hermannsburg. We saw communities out in the desert which were surviving because they now had access, at last, to some royalties from the gas pipeline that passed through their land. Why should other communities be denied access to royalties just because elements of land councils simply refuse to allow negotiations to proceed in many cases? In hundreds of cases applications have gone forward but have not been successful for one reason or another. It is not always because of Aboriginals; sometimes it is because the cases were not properly put forward by the miners. The essential fact remains that, since this legislation has been on the books, only one agreement has been reached, and now the Government proposes in these amendments to lessen further the chance of agreement. There has been only one agreement over all those years since 1976.

Mr Hand —That is not true, and you know it.

Mr CONNOLLY —That is the truth; the record stands.