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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 3846

Mr EVERINGHAM(12.10) —I take it as some sort of perverted tribute that the justification by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Holding) for his opposition to these amendments and the intervention of the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Hand) have largely taken the form of a personal and vitriolic attack upon me and my activities. I absolutely rebut and deny their allegations that I do not spend plenty of time in my electorate. It seems to me that, however little time they say that I spend in my electorate, my time there apparently is so well spent that I have become a thorn in their side.

Turning to the wishes and desires of Aboriginals, let me say that, whatever the Government says about consultation with Aboriginal people, the fact is that the consultations of the Government's Caucus committee and of the Minister have largely taken the form of consultation with the land councils. To say that consultation with Aboriginals means consultation with land councils is quite incorrect. In the last few weeks I have been talking to Aboriginals in Arnhem Land, on Groote Eylandt and west of Darwin, and let me tell the Committee that there is a large degree of dissatisfaction amongst Aboriginal people with the land councils. To say that amendments which would facilitate mining on Aboriginal land is inimical to the wishes of Aboriginals is quite untrue, because this Government has itself intervened to prevent mining at Koongarra and Jabiluka which Aboriginals wish to see happen. Obviously the Minister takes great liberties, but for him to say that I have not read the Toohey report entitled `Seven Years On' is laughable. The thing about the Toohey report is that its terms of reference were set by the Minister and provided a bridle-or perhaps a halter-on Mr Justice Toohey. Certainly he was not able to report at large. Whilst I have every respect for the gentleman in his legal capacity, I feel that he was in effect being asked to report on his own administration of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act as Aboriginal Land Commissioner. That is probably the worst sort of perspective from which a report could have been drawn. The report should have been carried out by someone who had not had such close connections with the workings of the Act as Commissioner over a period of years.

I simply wish to say that I regard the claims by the Government of consultation with Aboriginal people as false. It has consulted land councils; it has not been into the Aboriginal communities. I have received representations expressing grave dissatisfaction with the operations of the land councils, and those representations have come not just to me. For years throughout the Northern Territory there have been activities to try to create additional land councils. The Minister is fully aware of that. The areas of Groote Eylandt and East Arnhem have been very strong in wanting to have their own land councils. To say that talking to the Central Land Council and the Northern Land Council to get their views is consultation simply will not wash with me or with people in the Northern Territory. In any event, even if it were, is this legislation not to be for the benefit of the whole community of the Northern Territory? Is it not an attempt to assist the Northern Territory to obtain a degree of economic self-sufficiency? We are berated by the Minister for Finance (Senator Walsh) in another place as being a mendicant area dependent on the largesse of the Australian taxpayer, and here in this chamber this Government is perpetuating that situation.