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Friday, 10 May 1985
Page: 1756


Senator CHANEY —My question is addressed to the Acting Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I remind the Minister that on 14 October 1982 she said in this place:

One of the first acts of that Federal Labor government--

that is the one which she was predicting would be elected and which was elected-

will be to pass my private member's Bill, which will be Labor legislation, to grant freehold title, not any other form of lease, over to the Aboriginal and Islander reserves in Queensland . . .

I ask the Minister, having noted her Government's failure to keep that promise, whether she holds to her 1981 position expressed in this chamber that the Federal Government can secure land for Aboriginal people, that this is the first and foremost obligation it has, and that the Federal Government has the moral responsibility to do so. If the Minister holds to that position, is it the policy of the Hawke Government to obtain freehold title to land for Aboriginals in Queensland and other States?


Senator RYAN —I think it is a matter of fact that since Labor's first days in office we have been addressing the question of land rights, and that my colleague Mr Holding, very early in the life of the first Hawke Government-of course a second one has been elected since then-has developed, in consultation with Aboriginal people, a national approach to land rights legislation. It is the view of this Government that Aboriginal people should be entitled to land, and it is the case that this Government, and particularly Minister Holding, has assiduously pursued that objective since our first days in office, and I believe he will ultimately be successful.


Senator CHANEY —I ask a supplementary question. I point out to the Minister that she did not say that the Government would negotiate. She said that the first act would be to pass the legislation. She specifically did not answer the question I raised about whether it was the policy of the Hawke Government to secure freehold title to reserve lands in Queensland and other States. I ask her specifically to answer that simple and direct question. If it is not the policy of the Hawke Government, does she not agree that in the speech I have quoted and elsewhere she raised expectations among Aboriginals to unrealistic and unachievable levels? Does she accept that as shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs she played a major role in misleading the Aboriginal people and now, as Acting Minister, is playing a major role in the betrayal of those promises?


Senator RYAN —I will leave aside the melodramatic language in which Senator Chaney chose to cast his question. Our Government has a commitment to land rights for Aboriginal people.


Senator Chaney —Does it mean freehold title?


Senator RYAN —To freehold title for Aboriginal people.


Senator Gareth Evans —Inalienable freehold title.


Senator RYAN —Inalienable freehold title. I thank Senator Gareth Evans. Whether that is to be secured by State legislation or Federal legislation is still a matter for discussion and consultation among interested parties. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in our Government has pursued this matter in consultation with Aboriginal organisations and State governments since the early stages of this Government. I believe the outcome will be successful. Whether it takes the form of Federal legislation or co-ordinated State legislation is still a matter to be resolved.


Senator Chaney —But it will be freehold title, will it?


The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Chaney has already asked a supplementary question.


Senator RYAN —Yes, Mr President, and I think he has had the answer.