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Tuesday, 28 April 1987
Page: 1859

Senator WALTERS —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Is the Minister aware that Mr Michael Mansell of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Legal Service has given the Government and Australia an ultimatum that, if certain things are not done, such as doubling spending on Aboriginal affairs in the next Budget and cancellation of the Bicentennial celebrations, he will return to Libya to negotiate funding from the terrorist supported Government of Colonel Gaddafi? Can the Minister give an assurance that Mr Mansell's recent visit to Libya was in no way financed directly or indirectly by the Australian taxpayers' funds made available to the legal service? Is the Government aware of who paid for the trip? Will the Minister give a guarantee that, should Mr Mansell carry out his threat to obtain money from the notorious Gaddafi regime, Mr Mansell or any organisation employing him will not be supported by taxpayers' funds?

Senator RYAN —The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Holding, has provided me with the following information on Mr Mansell's activities and claims: It is now a matter of record that Mr Mansell, a legal adviser to the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, addressed a conference in Libya sponsored by the World Centre Against Racism, Zionism and Imperialism. Mr Holding has informed the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre that, if it receives funds from Libyan sources, he will stop Commonwealth funding to the Centre. Similarly, his Department will withdraw funding from any Aboriginal organisation that receives or solicits funds from those sources. The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre has assured Mr Holding that it has no intention of soliciting funds from Libyan sources. Mr Holding has made it clear that Mr Mansell has a right as a private individual to talk to whomever he wants. However, it is unacceptable for him to purport to be representative of the Government, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs or indeed, broadly speaking, the Aboriginal people of Australia in his associations with Colonel Gaddafi or any groups connected with Colonel Gaddafi. It is clear that Mr Mansell did not consult with either Tasmanian or mainland Aboriginal organisations prior to leaving for Libya. His comments are totally unrepresentative of the feelings of Aboriginal people. Aboriginal groups across Australia have condemned Mr Mansell's attempt to gain Libyan support.

Senator WALTERS —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. The Minister has not answered the part of my question which asks the Minister to give an assurance that Mr Mansell's recent visit to Libya was in no way financed, directly or indirectly, by Australian taxpayers' funds made available to the Legal Service. Is the Government aware of who financed the trip?

Senator RYAN —Insofar as my answer did not cover that aspect of Senator Walters's question I will refer it to Mr Holding.