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Wednesday, 29 October 1997
Page: 10024


Mr KATTER(10.36 a.m.) —I refer to the statement made by the member for Brisbane (Mr Bevis) that people of Aboriginal descent are going to be dispossessed of rights that the High Court has said they have always had, and that they are not going to be given any compensation.

In Queensland, there are 1,539 pastoral leases, nine of which are owned by foreign interests and only 20 of which—this is from advice provided to us by the Queensland government—are owned by corporations. So those 1,539 leases are effectively owned by owner-operators.


Mr Bevis —How many are owned by members of the National Party?


Mr KATTER —The gentleman interjecting has a parcel of income worth about $120,000 a year. That is his income. The income for these people for the last three years has been minus $2,700. With some other people, I recently visited eight stations and we found only two wives and some kids at home. The husbands were 300 kilometres away working on jobs far away from their homes. Those people were left there all by themselves. What compensation is going to be paid to the people who have gone out and bought properties in good faith? In many cases they have built up these stations, investing close to $1 million in today's money over three or four generations.

Their ownership of that station has been damaged, and damaged in the most serious manner, by the decision that has already been taken. If the High Court says that was the law, then that was the law. But the governments of Australia never said that. The governments of Australia said, `You own this land.' I must make that point to this House. Across half of the surface area of Queensland, 1,500 pastoral lessees all had the right to transfer that land over to freehold title.

I was one of those pastoral lessees. I am not now, but I was. I looked seriously on four occasions at freeholding our property. On all four occasions I could not see a single reason to freehold and pay the government. It was only a measly $2,000, which when you are turning over a lot of money on a station property is an acceptable figure, but I could see no reason to part with what is still a substantial sum of money—$2,000 a year—because I could see no difference between a pastoral lease and a freehold title.

The 1870 Supreme Court decision in Queensland clearly stated that we owned that property. Clearly, that decision was that our rights were in rem and not in personam, to use the technical jargon of the legal profession. Look at the marketplace in Queensland. You have to ask yourself: why did nobody in Queensland freehold their land? Why is half the surface area of Queensland still pastoral leases? When anyone, at any time at all and for a negligible figure—we were attacked continuously by the ALP in the state house for having a negligible figure upon it, so it is a matter of public record that it was a negligible figure—could convert their pastoral lease to a freehold title, why didn't they do that? The only conceivable answer was that there was no reason to do it because you already had complete ownership of that land.


Mr Bevis —But you didn't!


Mr KATTER —Mr Deputy Speaker, this genius down here is an expert in this field: the marketplace and people's pockets. The marketplace paid exactly the same price for an acre of freehold land as they paid for an acre of pastoral lease. Whether it was the marketplace and the money decision or whether it was the legal decision through the Supreme Court of Queensland—and it may be that we are a bunch of mugs on the land, but I do not think that all 1,530 of us were mugs—none of us converted our pastoral leases to freehold title.

The laws of trespass—we keep talking about exclusive title in this place—have been most specific in Queensland. If you owned a pastoral lease, the laws of trespass operated and you could exclude anyone and everyone that you so chose from your land. Where is the compensation for these people? (Time expired)