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Tuesday, 8 May 1984
Page: 1748

Senator KILGARIFF —I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I refer the Minister to a report of 3 May in which it was stated that the Federal Government is to establish a consultative body to deal with the problems of mining development on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory. Is the report correct? If so, what will be the responsibilities of this consultative body? Will it deal only with the problems of mining development and protection of Aboriginal interests, or will it deal also with other problem areas, such as, for example, the difficulties being experienced by the pastoral industry with Aboriginal interests now claiming stock route reserves? How many people will be appointed to this body, and what authorities or organisations will they represent? When will the Government respond to the report titled 'Seven Years On', which was prepared by the previous Northern Territory Land Commissioner, Mr Justice Toohey?

Senator RYAN —I have no knowledge of any working party proposed to investigate the question of Aboriginal land rights in the Northern Territory. I shall refer that part of the question to the appropriate Ministers for reply. Nor do I have any knowledge about a response to Mr Justice Toohey's report. I simply reiterate what I have said here before: This Government is firmly committed to land rights for Aboriginal people, not only in the Northern Territory but throughout Australia. We hope that those land rights in other parts of Australia will be achieved in co-operation with State governments, as they are in Western Australia, New South Wales and South Australia. When matters of this sort are considered, the Government takes into account the views of all interested parties. In the Northern Territory, of course, that involves the mining industry and the pastoralists, but primarily the Aboriginal owners.

Senator KILGARIFF —I ask a supplementary question, Mr President. I remind the Minister that this was a statement made by the Prime Minister last week when, as I understand it, he was addressing the Australian Mining Industry Council, and by Senator Walsh who was indicating his concern regarding the problems of the mining industry on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory.

The PRESIDENT —Whether the Minister regards that as a supplementary question or a statement is up to the Minister.