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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 2941

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE(10.23) —I will ask a number of short questions which touch in part on the matters raised by Senator Kilgariff. I ask first: Has the present Administrator, or past Administrators, of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands been either instructed or advised by the Department not to have any formal or informal communications with the Clunies-Ross family? I extend that question by asking: In the mind of the Department, is the Clunies-Ross family to be considered persona non grata? I ask further: Is there any intention in any way to seek to remove the Clunies-Ross family completely from Home Island, either overtly or covertly? As Clunies-Ross still has about ten acres of land on Home Island, if he commences a tourist industry on the island-it seems to me an absolutely idyllic location for a tourist venture-will he be commercially hindered, or in any way affected so as to be caused hardship in his endeavours to set up a tourist resort? Of course, the establishment of a tourist resort would require the landing of aircraft at the Government's airport. The final part of the question is: In the event that Clunies-Ross chose to develop some type of tourist structure on that part of the islands that belongs to him still, would the Department seek directly, indirectly, covertly, or overtly to make it so difficult as to make it not profitable, or would it discourage anybody else from in any way having any commercial transactions with him?

I now want to ask some questions that relate to the islands directly. One cannot help observing when one visits Cocos that there was a very prosperous and flourishing coconut industry there. The plantation is now quite overgrown. It is infected by beetles and has deteriorated very significantly; yet the Philippines and a number of other countries still commercially grow and harvest coconuts. Inasmuch as, to my knowledge, almost without exception, there is no revenue generated on the islands other than in the form of welfare payments of one type or another, or as a result of government expenditure, particularly by the Department of Housing and Construction, it seems to me that there ought to be a prospect of at least having that industry generating some revenue. As I said earlier, it seems an ideal spot for tourism. Has the Department examined the prospects in the same way as they have been clearly examined on Christmas Island by private individuals in res- pect of a casino and holiday resort? Has that matter been looked at on Cocos?

One is also very much struck by the fact that all the whites live on West Island and all the coloureds, the Cocos Malays, live on Home Island. There is a very clear dichotomy between where one race lives and where another race lives. Is there any intention to break down the physical barrier which has been artificially built by whites because they consciously and wilfully built all the homes and infrastructure for those homes on West Island? Is there any intention to move any of them on to Home Island so there is a better interaction between--

Senator Zakharov —Or vice versa.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Or vice versa. Is it the intention to build homes and accommodation on West Island for the Cocos Malays?

There is one other matter that has been brought to my attention. When we visited the island we noticed a bulldozer which appeared, on the surface, to be of some commercial value pushed over the edge of a cliff. The area was becoming a rubbish tip. Clunies-Ross offered to purchase it according to what he told us, and he was denied the opportunity to so do. Is that normal commercial practice between Clunies-Ross and the Department?