Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 8 October 1984
Page: 1377

Senator MESSNER(4.06) —The matter of urgency that my Leader, the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Chaney, has brought before us today is one of very great urgency in the community. It states:

The need for the Commonwealth Government to clarify its intention with respect to overriding uniform land rights legislation by stating, without equivocation, whether it will legislate in accordance with its five principles including giving Aboriginals the right to veto mining on their land or whether it will accept State approaches which deny the veto.

It may help the course of the debate if I were to restate the five principles which the Australian Labor Party put down as part of its policy regarding the implementation of land rights. They are:

(i) Aboriginal land to be held under inalienable freehold title;

(ii) protection of Aboriginal sites;

(iii) Aboriginal control in relation to mining on Aboriginal land;

(iv) access to mining royalty equivalents; and

(v) compensation for lost land to be negotiated.

It is the third principle that has caused so much comment in the last few days. In fact, the Premier of Western Australia has said that Western Australia will not be legislating for land rights for Aborigines providing a right to veto mining.

Senator Coleman —Now say why; it was because of the gerrymander in the Legislative Council and you know it.

Senator MESSNER —I will come to that. I am sure I can satisfy Senator Coleman with a number of matters. The point that has been brought up by the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs (Senator Ryan) in the course of her remarks is that somehow or other this Labor Government now in power sees some difference between the position that it took on, for instance, the dispute over Noonkanbah. Indeed, we can remember quite clearly those days and those debates when Senator Ryan, then in opposition, claimed in the Senate that the solution to the problem in Noonkanbah was for the Commonwealth to legislate. That is what we had.

Senator Ryan —That is when there was a Liberal State Government which had no intention of doing anything at all.

Senator MESSNER —I am merely drawing the honourable senator's attention to the fact that at that stage she saw every need to implement land rights by overriding State rights. We heard no talk by the then Opposition, the present Government, about consultations with the States about what kind of legislation we should have. We heard assertions of undaunted power being exercised by the Federal Government against the interests of the community generally and particularly against those of the Aboriginal community. For those fundamental reasons we have to look very much askance at some of the remarks of Senator Ryan today in relation to her policy and to her complaints about what the Opposition is doing in discussing this matter today. She says that the veto power would not be brought in without proper consultation. That sounds very strange when she seeks to make the point when discussing the third of the five principles that that principle means that Aboriginal control would have absolutely no sanction to it. When one looks at that and realises that the veto is the point which gives the Aboriginal control meaning then indeed it seems to me that Senator Ryan is right off with either a misunderstanding of her own position or, very much more likely, is trying to obfuscate the whole issue.

Let us examine whether there has been a failure of government to communicate its point of view on this matter over the last 18 months or so. Of course, soon after the election of the Hawke Labor Government on 5 March 1983 the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Holding, outlined proposals at that time for uniform land rights. He indicated that that legislation would be in accordance with those principles we have just been talking about. In particular the question of veto was never defined in the vague and obfuscatory terms with which Senator Ryan is now seeking to cover her tracks. The legislation was to be brought down in the early part of 1984. Of course, we never saw that. There was an announcement that that legislation would be put back to August 1984. We never saw that either. Now, of course, it has been put off altogether, obviously until there is an election, when this Government, if re-elected, can reconsider that matter and, no doubt, have some more discussion when perhaps we will get some clearer view of what will happen.

Of course, the whole point is that the Minister, Mr Holding, has become marooned on an island of his own rhetoric and obviously left alone not only by the State leaders of the Australian Labor Party-in particular I mention again Mr Burke-but also by the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke). It is only a matter of a few days ago when the Prime Minister, asked about this question indicated apparently there would be no legislation on uniform land rights whereas his Minister had said to the National Aboriginal Conference that very day that the Commonwealth would be taking no action to prejudice decisions by the State governments on the sensitive Aboriginal land rights issue.

It seems to us to be a mighty confusing thing, as it does to Mr Bob Riley of the National Aboriginal Conference, that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the Prime Minister are in direct conflict on this issue. I guess it is the same story we have seen in the past when every time a Minister put a foot out of line , by virtue of saying his mind and apparently articulating his policies, and this is deemed to be unpopular, the Prime Minister steps in and stabs him in the back. It is a classic example of the Grimes assets test matter all over again when we saw Senator Grimes go down in a screaming heap as a result of the Prime Minister's intervention. We are now seeing Mr Holding doing the same.

We have seen no justification whatsoever by Mr Holding for the introduction of uniform land rights yet we have heard him talking about this in such obfuscatory and vague terms. He has never identified how uniform land rights would remedy the diverse problems of Aborigines right across the community and across Australia. We know of the differences-

Senator Coleman —That is why there will be consultation.

Senator MESSNER —It is a pity the Government did not realise that before it misled people into thinking it was going to introduce legislation of this kind. The fact is that there are major differences between the Aborigines of outback Western Australia and those living in downtown Sydney. These are the kinds of differences which State governments have clearly in their minds. They should be left to make up their own minds about them and in conjunction with the Federal Government, should lead towards a proper system of land rights to suit all people in the community. Mr Holding has never told us what is wrong with State legislation. He has never identified which particular States need overriding and interventionist legislation from Canberra. Of course, he has never outlined in any practical terms at all how he intends to implement Aboriginal uniform land rights. Fundamentally he has never addressed the consequences of Commonwealth- State conflict and the effect that conflict will have on Aboriginal people in particular. Of course, it is that very important point which brought Senator Chaney to move the matter of urgency today.

We know that various States have land rights legislation and that some which do not have it are in the course of preparing that legislation. We want to know from the Federal Government what it is that it sees wrong with the legislation put forward by various States. We see, for instance, the situation in South Australia in regard to the Maralinga land. In regard to a veto by Aboriginal people over that land there is provision for arbitration when circumstances arise when Aborigines refuse to mine on their land. That is something designed to suit the particular conditions in South Australia. In New South Wales there is no mention in its legislation-again it is a Labor State-of a veto on mining. There are some other minor exemptions. In Victoria-another State of Labor Government-we understand that government is preparing legislation which will not incur the veto principle. Is it any wonder indeed that Mr Burke, the Premier of Western Australia, has seen fit to say what he did the other day about the position in regard to the Federal Government and that he actually wants to legislate without the veto provision, a situation totally antipathetic to item ( iii) of the five principles laid down by the Federal Government.

Of course, this Government is in a great state of confusion over this matter. This really emerges strongly from the remarks of Senator Ryan. Clearly, she has been trying to confuse the issue today by speaking about the land rights policies of the Opposition. So that there is no doubt about that I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the Aboriginal affairs policy of the Opposition which, of course, was released to the public on 30 August this year and which consequently has been the subject of much detailed debate.

Leave granted.

The policy read as follows-


Newsletter from James Porter, M.P.Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs

Commonwealth Parliament Offices100 King William StreetAdelaide, South Australia 5000

Telephone (08) 213-2212


On 30th August 1984 I released the Opposition's Policy on Aboriginal Affairs. The comprehensive documents covers all areas of Aboriginal Affairs and is a realistic response to the needs and aspirations of Aboriginal Australians.

The Policy was developed after many months of discussions with Aboriginal community organisations, government agencies (both federal and state) and interest groups.

The full text of the Policy is reproduced in this Report to enable the widest distribution and consideration of the Policy amongst Aboriginal organisations.


Aboriginal Affairs Policy

Page Fundamental Principles 3 Culture 4 Education 5 Health 6 Employment 8 Housing 9 Legal Aids 10 Sacred Sites 11 Land Rights 11 Mining 14 National Aboriginal Conference 16 Aboriginal Development Commission 17



The Coalition's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy is based on the following:

(i) the occupation of this continent by Aborigines and Islanders prior to European settlement;

(ii) the subsequent forced dispersal and dispossession of many Aborigines from their traditional lands;

(iii) the resultant breakdown of Aboriginal social, cultural, legal and spiritual traditions as well as their physical and mental well-being, and the subsequent loss of Aboriginal dignity and independence;

(iv) continuation of their suffering as a result of the breakdown in their traditional lifestyle;

(v) recognition of the affinity most Aboriginal people have with their land. Aboriginal culture is derived from a unique relationship between the people and their land. Virtually all social, political, economic and spiritual relationships within Aboriginal societies have traditionally been based on land;

(vi) acknowledgement that the forced assimilation policies of the past are inappropriate and inconsistent with Liberal principles which protect and foster the rights of the individual;

(vii) that control over and responsibility by Aborigines for their own affairs is fundamental to the restoration of Aboriginal dignity, independence, self- esteem, social and economic well-being;

(viii) the need to protect and foster the cultural and traditional heritage of the Aboriginal people, as an important part of the Australian cultural heritage;

(ix) recognition of the limited extent to which the Aboriginal community has benefitted from the economic development and prosperity of Australia;

(x) Aborigines should be free to choose to adopt a lifestyle consistent with their traditional culture or a lifestyle similar to that of non-Aboriginal Australians;

(xi) Aboriginal society has been and will continue to be subject to change.

N.B.-Aborigines should be read to include Torres Strait Islanders, but we recognise that Islanders and Aboriginals have distinct cultures and aspirations.


1. The social and economic status of the majority of Aboriginal people today, and their historical experience since settlement, requires positive action to be taken to restore Aboriginal dignity and self-reliance.

2. Aborigines should have a leading role in making decisions which affect their own lives, and they should accept responsibility for those decisions.

3. An increase in Aboriginal involvement and responsibility at higher levels of decision making in Aboriginal affairs will require:

(a) increased educational opportunities at all levels;

(b) increased employment opportunities;

(c) a devolution of responsibility from existing bureaucratic government structures to Aboriginal individuals and communities;

(d) increased Aboriginal control in the area of financial management, and a transfer of functions from government departments to Aboriginal organisations where appropriate;

(e) increased communications, consultation and co-operation between Aboriginal representatives and the government. The advice and views of Aboriginal representatives will be of paramount importance in the formulation and implementation of government policies and programs.

4. As an integral part of our community, Aboriginal people are entitled to equal access to all government services. They are entitled to additional services to meet their special needs and to compensate them for the particular disadvantages arising from the breakdown in their traditional culture and society.

5. (i) The Aboriginal community is composed of people living under different circumstances, namely:

(a) those who live on their traditional lands and who retain some or all of their traditional association with the land;

(b) those who live as fringe dwellers on the edge of towns;

(c) those who live on reserves which are not their traditional lands;

(d) those who live in towns and cities and have adopted a lifestyle similar to that of non-Aboriginal Australians;

(ii) The granting of land to Aboriginal communities will need to be tailored to their individual requirements:

(a) Aborigines choosing to live on their traditional lands, and who retain some or all of their traditional association with the land should, where practicable, be granted secure title to such land to facilitate a continuation of their lifestyle and culture;

(b) Fringe dwelling Aboriginal communities should be provided with security of tenure for appropriate land;

(c) Aborigines living on reserves which are not their traditional lands should be given secure title to that land;

(d) Generally Aborigines and in particular those living in towns and cities are entitled to special programs or assistance to meet their particular disadvantages, resulting from the breakdown of their traditional culture.

6. All government policies and programmes, whether directed at the Australian community as a whole, or the Aboriginal people in particular, should be designed to promote racial harmony and eliminate discrimination and tension.


We are committed to preserving and fostering Aboriginal culture. We aim to preserve the integrity of Aboriginal culture and history and to develop an appreciation of our Aboriginal heritage among all Australians.

We support the promotion of Aboriginal culture and heritage to develop an understanding and sensitivity within all Australians of the Aboriginal way of life.

An understanding of Aboriginal culture is basic to the development of appropriate health, housing, education and other policies for Aborigines.

We will develop initiatives to assist the Aboriginal people to preserve and promote their culture and heritage.


The Commonwealth Government has a significant responsibility for funding Aboriginal education.

To date our education system has failed most Aboriginal people in spite of extensive programmes, considerable goodwill and commitment by Governments. For example, too many young Aborigines are functionally illiterate, alienated and unskilled.

Our policies are directed towards overcoming these problems.

Aborigines should receive an education which is in harmony with their cultural values and chosen lifestyle and which enables them to acquire the necessary education skills. We recognise the value of Aboriginal community schools.

Special programmes are required to ensure that Aboriginal students are given opportunities to successfully participate in existing educational structures. This would include a whole range of courses including technical trade programmes . Particular assistance is required for Aboriginal children who are unfamiliar with the English language and with non-Aboriginal customs.

In co-operation with the States the National Aboriginal Education Committee will be given greater responsibility in the planning and development of Aboriginal education programmes. In association with the N.A.E.C. additional resources will be provided for-

(1) the development of appropriate education curricula, including bilingual programmes to assist Aboriginal students;

(2) the development of appropriate study courses for trainee teachers and Aboriginal teacher aides;

(3) the development of appropriate material for an Aboriginal studies curricula to be available to all schools; and

(4) special programmes to assist Aborigines to overcome their educational disadvantages and to undertake higher education.

Many Aboriginal students need special assistance to enable them to undertake higher studies within our tertiary institutions. In particular, we acknowledge the achievements of the enclave programmes and we will look at how they can be usefully extended. The advancement of the Aboriginal people, and their ability to plan, implement and control their own affairs has been hampered by the lack of professionally trained Aboriginal people, particularly in areas such as the health, law, teaching and administration fields.

Where possible we will move towards triennial funding of Aboriginal education programmes to facilitate better planning and continuity.

Priority will be given to ensuring that teaching material is prepared and teacher training courses include programmes on Aboriginal culture, history and language.

We place a high priority on the training of Aboriginal teachers, and will work towards achieving the target set by the N.A.E.C. for Federal and State Governments to train and employ 1,000 Aboriginal teachers by 1990.

We will increase the number of Aboriginal resource staff, including Aboriginal teacher aides, to provide a link between the schools, students and the community .

We will maintain the mature age teacher training scheme which originated in Coalition policy.

The communication satellite will extend educational as well as entertainment opportunities to remote areas. In conjunction with the State education authorities we will seek ways of ensuring Aboriginal communities benefit from these educational opportunities.

In view of the changed circumstances since the introduction of Absec and Abstudy grants, we will review the basis upon which they are paid to ensure they benefit those in most need.


We are committed to raising the standard of Aboriginal health to that of the general community. We will adopt health policies and programmes which are both cost-effective and have the greatest positive impact on Aboriginal health.

The Coalition recognises that despite the expenditure of large amounts of money on Aboriginal health over recent years, the general health of the Aboriginal community continues to lag behind that of the Australian community as a whole.

However, there have been significant advances in part because of the increased Aboriginal involvement in the control, management, design, delivery and evaluation of health care programmes affecting Aboriginal people. We will continue this policy thrust towards Aboriginal self-management and self determination in the health field.

Fundamental to our health policy is the improvement of the environmental conditions under which Aborigines live, both physical and social. To maximise effectiveness, health programmes must be sensitive to Aboriginal culture. The Public Health Improvement Programme is providing essential assistance in upgrading environmental conditions-including the provision of clean water and sewerage treatment-and we reaffirm our commitment to the programme, which we consider a high priority. Community understanding of the necessity and operation of the programme and the maintenance of facilities provided is essential. We intend to give a high priority to training Aboriginal health workers to assist in this task. Where possible, we will also ensure the involvement of Aboriginal people in planning, co-ordinating and carrying out works under this programme.

Particular emphasis will be placed on the education and training of Aboriginal health workers and health professionals such as doctors, dentists, and social workers, to take into account cultural difficulties.

Support will be given for the curricula of University medical schools, nurse training and other appropriate tertiary institutions to include a component dealing with Aboriginal health, and the cultural beliefs and practices of Aborigines as they relate to health.

We recognise the need for maximum Aboriginal involvement in the delivery of all Aboriginal health services. We believe it is appropriate and necessary for Aborigines to have greater administrative responsibility and involvement in the delivery of health care services at the State level.

We acknowledge the valuable role played by the independent Aboriginal Medical Services and we will continue to fund such services.

We recognise the desire by some Aborigines to enable integration of tribal and western medicine for Aboriginal communities which practice traditional medicine. We will examine this concept and conditions under which 'ngankere' (tribal medicine men) should be involved in community health programmes.

Aborigines should be given access to all medical services provided to the general community by State authorities who have the primary responsibility for health and play a major role in the development of health programmes for Aborigines.

In addition, the Commonwealth will assist the States in meeting the special needs of Aborigines by:

conducting health education programmes directed at the prevention of ill health amongst Aborigines;

training and employing Aboriginal health workers;

providing medical supplies and equipment; and

providing assistance in the development of specialised programmes, such as nutrition.

We acknowledge that the development of policies and programmes of Aboriginal health has been impeded in the past because of the lack of statistics on Aboriginal health. We will give priority to working with the States to improve their procedures of identifying Aboriginal people when planning and delivering health care programmes. We will seek to obtain better statistics in this area. After consultation with Aboriginal representatives a health profile will be published annually to enable health trends to be identified and to assist with the planning and implementation of health programmes.

We will attempt to overcome the destructive social and physical consequences of heavy consumption of alcohol by:

implementing policies aimed at improving the socio-economic, cultural and spiritual conditions of the Aboriginal people;

providing assisting for the implementation of alcohol prevention and rehabilitation programmes;

supporting local Aboriginal communities in the implementation of their own controls over alcohol use;

working with Aboriginal leaders to plan and implement new programmes aimed at overcoming the the alcohol problem.


Unemployment is one of the most serious problems facing Aboriginal people.

We will expand the role of the National Aboriginal Employment Development Committee, and improve its co-ordination with the Commonwealth Employment Service, and relevant agencies and organisations in the States.

Programmes designed to assist Aboriginal students to remain at school and continue with further studies will be continued. Special effort will be made in conjunction with the States, to give Aborigines greater access to apprenticeship and other trade programmes.

The Coalition Government initiated the Community Development Employment Programme and we will continue our commitment to this programme.

Every effort will be made to ensure Aborigines receive their fair share of assistance under Federally funded employment schemes.

We support programmes to increase the opportunities for Aboriginal employment in the Public Service and other Government employment.

We will ensure there are effective programmes to promote job opportunities in those remote locations where Aborigines traditionally wish to live and work.

Wherever possible, Aborigines will be employed in the planning, implementation, maintenance and effectiveness review of public works programmes such as under the Public Health Improvement Programme.

We will encourage the development of employment opportunities in areas where Aborigines are involved in the preservation and promotion of their own culture and heritage. We will encourage the growth of Aboriginal employment in art on a commercial as well as cultural basis.


The provision of adequate and appropriate housing is an essential part of an integrated approach to Aboriginal health, education and living conditions.

Housing policies will be designed to enable maximum Aboriginal involvement at the Federal level and where possible at the community level. Emphasis will be gven to ensuring Aboriginal involvement in the planning and implementation of housing programmes, and in the design, construction, servicing and maintenance of such housing within the community.

We will review the establishment of an Aboriginal Housing Authority to ensure there is an efficient and effective delivery of resources to those areas of greatest need.

Aboriginal Hostels have made a significant contribution to the accommodation needs of the Aboriginal people and we will ensure that this service continues.

We will develop a strategy based on an Australia-wide assessment of Aboriginal housing needs at the community level to raise the standard of Aboriginal housing to an acceptable level. This review will provide for extensive Aboriginal involvement. In particular, the housing needs of Aborigines living on reserves, outstations, pastoral properties, town camps, in temporary accommodation and those who are homeless require special attention.

We will review the basis upon which funds are allocated under the Commonwealth/ State Housing Agreement. Consideration will be given to the allocation of funds on the basis of need, and increasing the level of direct funding to Aboriginal housing organisations.


Aborigines constitute about 1% of the total population of Australia but about 30 % of the prison population.

Particular assistance is required in the provision of legal aid services to Aborigines. We are committed to the development of a more meaningful and effective administration of the legal system for them.

We will support:-

(1) the provision of legal aid to ensure fair treatment of Aboriginal people in the administration of the law;

(2) the development and implementation of programmes designed to improve Aboriginal/Police relations;

(3) the establishment of research programmes into Aboriginal criminology, legal aid, crime prevention programmes and the collection of statistical information;

(4) programmes for the education and training of Aborigines as lawyers;

(5) the involvement of Aboriginal people in the development, application and enhancement of the law. This includes the appointment of Aboriginal JPs, magistrates, probation officers, police and social workers;

(6) continued assistance for independent Aboriginal legal aid services.


The protection of Aboriginal sites of particular sacred significance is important for the preservation of Aboriginal culture.

Measures to identify, record and protect significant sites vary between the States.

In the further development of Australia there are advantages in identifying in advance areas where special measures are required to protect sites of particular sacred significance.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage (Interim Protection) Act does not meet its goal, and gives the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs unacceptably wide powers over all land. We will repeal this legislation.

We will initiate consultation between Aborigines and Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments with the aim of developing a better approach enabling the prior identification and protection of significant sites thereby assisting all land users.

We will encourage the implementation of these measures in legislative form by the Northern Territory and the States and we will enact Federal legislation for the A.C.T.


The coalition acknowledges the cultural and spiritual affinity many Aborigines have with the land.

Like all Australians, Aborigines should have the freedom to choose the type of lifestyle they wish to adopt.

The Coalition believes there is a need for positive policies to provide opportunities for Aboriginal people who have a close and continuing association with their Aboriginal lands, to live according to their traditional culture and lifestyle. This will be enhanced if they can be given secure title to appropriate land, provided that land has not been alienated.

Federal Legislation

We oppose the imposition on the States of Federal uniform land rights legislation when in Government and we maintain our opposition to such legislation.

State Governments

The States have a responsibility to meet their obligations to the Aboriginal people. The States are independently adopting policies which seek to take account of the particular social, economic and cultural needs of their Aboriginal communities in respect of access and the tenure of land.

We recognise that a land rights package which is introduced in one State, for one Aboriginal community, may not necessarily be appropriate for other States or other Aboriginal communities within the same State. The States are clearly in the best position to implement meaningful legislation in this area.

We believe any Federal Government action in relation to land should only be taken where necessary, and then only after detailed consultation with the State.

In relation to the application of Commonwealth Government policies and the development of legislation by the States, we will encourage them to:

1. enable the Aboriginal community to participate in detailed consultation in the formulation of land rights legislation;

2. enable Aborigines choosing to continue to live on their traditional land, and who retain some or all of their traditional association with the land, to, where consistent with the rest of this policy, be granted secure title to such land to facilitate a continuation of their lifestyle and culture;

3. grant security of tenure, in the abovementioned circumstances, whereby title to the land is held unencumbered for, and on behalf of, that community;

4. ensure that the terms and conditions of entry and compensation for exploration, mining and any other use of the land pays due regard to the social and cultural needs of the traditional Aboriginal owners;

5. provide for the protection and preservation of sites of particular sacred significance;

6. grant a title to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities who are living on reserves which ensures:

(a) that the integrity of the reserve boundaries is maintained;

(b) secure tenure for occupants and preservation of their rights to use the land;

(c) responsibility for the management of the reserves is vested in local communities;

(d) full consultation with the community in relation to the provision of services;

7. provide secure tenure to protect communities who are ordinarily resident on land within a pastoral lease by way of excision of the Aboriginal settlement;

8. provide fringe dwelling Aboriginal communities with secure tenure for appropriate land;

9. provide special programmes or assistance for Aborigines generally, and in particular those living in towns and cities, to meet their particular disadvantages resulting from the breakdown in their traditional culture. The programme will seek to compensate for that breakdown. These Aborigines have special needs which will be met by special programmes as outlined in other areas of this policy.

Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act, 1976

The Coalition was responsible for introducing the Aboriginal Land Rights ( Northern Territory) Act, 1976 and continues to support this legislation. However , after seven years amendments are required to overcome identified problems arising from the operation of the Act.

In particular, we will:

1. ensure the public has access to main roads for the purpose of traversing the land;

2. require all land claims to be lodged by 31 December, 1986;

3. provide that pastoral leases or other interests in land purchased by or on behalf of Aborigines is provided on the same basis as other land holders and cannot be converted to inalienable freehold;

4. ensure fringe dwelling communities are provided with secure title to appropriate land;

5. review the operation of the Act in relation to public purpose lands in consultation with Northern Territory Aborigines and the Northern Territory Government;

6. we will support the granting of secure tenure to protect communities who have been ordinarily resident on land within a pastoral lease by way of an excision of the Aboriginal settlement and this should be done under Northern Territory legislation as recommended by Mr Justice Toohey.

Our land rights policy does not include:

1. overturning existing titles and resuming farming land or private property;

2. isolating vast areas from exploration and development;

3. the Commonwealth Government assuming State responsibilities in relation to Aboriginal Land.


The Commonwealth Government is responsible for the Aboriginal Land Rights ( Northern Territory) Act.

State Governments have the primary responsibility for mining within their own State.

The Coalition's policies regarding mining on Aboriginal land will be based on the following principles:

mineral rights should remain vested in the Crown;

the interests of Aboriginal people who live according to their traditional culture and lifestyle on their own land should be protected;

maintenance of the public interest in the development of Australian's resources ;

control over mining is ultimately the responsibility of government.

In the course of implementing these principles we will maintain close consultation with the Aboriginal people and other interested parties.

Northern Territory

The experience in the Northern Territory has indicated that amendments are required to the Act to resolve difficulties which have arisen in the practical operation of the Act, particularly in relation to mining.

The delays in granting access for exploration and mining, complex administrative impediments and the payment of appropriate compensation are amongst the problems which need to be addressed.

We will amend the Act to overcome these difficulties and to meet our stated principles.

Exploration and mining on Aboriginal land will be in accordance with the following terms and conditions:

Protection of Sites of Special Significance

Consultation between mining companies and Aboriginal people will be required prior to exploration to enable sites of special significance (not the generality of Aboriginal land but sites of fundamental importance in Aboriginal custom and tradition) to be identified early in the initial planning stages.

Land Councils will be responsible for arranging negotiations between applicants and the traditional owners.

Binding agreements will be required in relation to the identification of sacred sites prior to exploration commencing. Protection of those sites will be required during exploration and any subsequent development stages.

In event of failure to reach agreement within a certain time, access to arbitration will be available.

Community Impact

Mining settlements have a considerable social impact on a community.

We support negotiations between Aborigines and mining companies in order that the adverse social consequences of mining on Aboriginal communities are minimised. In particular matters such as conditions of access (eg. fire arms, alcohol), site protection, employment of Aborigines on mining projects and appropriate compensation for disturbance to their land should be the subject of negotiation.


Exploration: Compensation in relation to exploration on Aboriginal land should be payable in the same way as for landholders generally.

Mining: Mining companies should continue to be responsible for the payment of compensation at the mining stage, for disturbance to the land, the traditional owners and their way of life.

Royalty Payments

The Federal Government will continue to receive royalties from mining on Aboriginal land and those funds will be used to assist the Aboriginal people. They will be transferred as royalty equivalents:

1. to the traditional Aboriginal owners;

2. the Land Councils, to assist in meeting their administrative and operational costs; and

3. to Northern Territory Aborigines generally for their use and benefit.

We will review the operation of the Aboriginal Benefits Trust Account to ensure that allocations to the Account are distributed equitably.

Arbitration Procedures

We would seek to have the abovementioned matters settled by negotiation, however , in exercising the Federal Government's responsibility in promoting the development of the Territory's resources, and in order to ensure that the legislation is effective, there will be arbitration provisions to resolve disputes between Aboriginal communities and miners.

Arbitration will be available at the request of either party to resolve disputes regarding the granting of access, the protection of significant sacred sites and the payment of compensation.

We will provide for automatic arbitration if agreement is not reached within a certain time.


The N.A.C. has a responsibility to represent the Aboriginal people and to advise the government on policies and programmes regarding Aboriginal Affairs.

We will examine the recommendations arising from the review conducted by Dr. H. C. Coombs with a view to assisting the advisory and administrative functions of the Conference.

In the restructuring of the N.A.C. special attention will be given to both the improvement of the participation in and the representative nature of the N.A.C. including where appropriate the role of the traditional elder. We will also consider increasing the regional role of the N.A.C.

The N.A.C. will be given financial resources and other assistance to enable it to function as an effective Aboriginal representative body to advise government.

Consultations with the Aboriginal people on proposed government policies and programmes will take account of the N.A.C.'s role.


The ADC was established by a Coalition Government to enable Aboriginal people to have greater responsibility for their economic and social development.

The delivery of services in furtherance of the economic and social goals must be both efficient and accountable.

We will ensure the ADC effectively and efficiently achieves these goals.

''achievable goals'' . . . ''practical approach''

This Policy is about achievable goals. I am not prepared to make promises which I do not believe that I can deliver.

For too long expectations of the Aboriginal people have been raised only subsequently to be let down.

In the area of land rights the Policy makes clear that we do not intend to take away from the States their responsibilities in relation to land for Aborigines. The Policy is consistent with that which we adopted in Government. We believe the States are in the best position to identify and meet the land needs of their Aboriginal communities. Given that the mainland States have legislated or are debating proposals they ought to be allowed to continue on that course, without interference from the Federal Government.

The Coalition Government introduced the N.T. Land Rights legislation and the S. A. Liberal Government the Pitjantjatjara Land Rights legislation without a heated and divisive debate which this Government has generated with its Uniform Land Rights proposals.

I therefore welcome the W.A. Aboriginal A.L.P. MP for Kimberley, Mr Ernie Bridge's comments when he said:

''analysis of the Federal Opposition's Policy on Aboriginal Land rights announced yesterday revealed a commendable grasp of the principles and details of the issue . . .

''the Policy also had paid attention to the needs of the Aboriginal people resident in towns and cities.

''the Opposition's policies on sacred sites showed a sincere appreciation of their significance.

The policies relating to mining would allow sensible debate and negotiation to resolve the important aspect of the land rights issue.''

We have highlighted the failure of the current programs to meet the real needs of the Aboriginal people particularly in relation to Housing, Health, Employment and Education. In these areas we have indicated new initiatives which will be taken to ensure these needs are addressed.

The Sydney Morning Herald Editorial said the policy ''stresses co-operation and consultation between Aborigines and Government. And in such areas as health care it recognises the importance of self-management and self-determination.''

The Opposition Policy is a practical approach aimed at addressing the problems confronting Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.

Senator MESSNER —I mention as well one or two other matters in that context. Senator Ryan is so interested, apparently, in this area that she has failed to see the many articles appearing in the daily Press. I refer to an article last Friday by my leader, Senator Chaney, in regard to Aboriginal land rights. Of course, this follows other debates in regard to sacred sites legislation in which we have been involved over the last several months. The Minister must really have had her head in the sand. Let us not listen to the Opposition or the Liberal Party or the National Party on this matter. Let us take the Sydney Morning Herald of 2 October as a weather vane on the confusion in the Government . It was stated in the editorial:

For Mr Holding, the land rights issue has blown out of hand . . . The difficulty in drawing up a uniform law to take into account this diversity within the States is obvious. The muddling over the legislation has not helped matters and Mr Hawke is now facing the probability that its time has passed.

I repeat 'its time has passed'. This is the problem that the Minister faces. He knows that the time has passed because the States are getting on with the job of introducing legislation which suits their particular needs, which suits the particular needs of the Aborigines in those various States and which suits the particular needs and wishes of the wider community in each of those States. This is the kind of policy which the Opposition would seek to implement in government and which it will implement after the forthcoming election.

Obviously this Government is unable to extract itself from those five non- negotiable principles which it stated earlier. Obviously it is without ground in trying to state a position which is acceptable to the States. One hears obfuscatory words about consultation and finding proper means, and so on, which have little to do with the actual circumstances. In view of the statements by the Premier in Western Australia, one can see that the Government is now trying to backtrack from those five principles. I suppose the question is: Is the Government waiting until after the election, if it is re-elected, to intervene and impose uniform land rights across Australia? That is the vital question to which people must address themselves at this time. Obviously the Government has in mind doing something after the election, if it is re-elected. That is the reason for our bringing this motion forward today-to obtain an unequivocal answer from the Government as to its real intentions in this matter.