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Thursday, 10 May 1984
Page: 1922


Senator KILGARIFF(1.17) —In the early morning-at daybreak- on Friday, 23 March, Cyclone Kathy came in on the Gulf of Carpentaria and hit Borroloola. There was quite a lot of comment in the Senate for a few days after that, as there was quite a lot of concern about what was happening there and whether the people were being properly looked after. There was, I think, a quite general awareness. It is interesting to note, looking back now, that the intensity of Cyclone Kathy was something like 250 kilometres per hour. This, I think, was at least equal to that of Cyclone Tracy-perhaps it was even a little stronger-when Cyclone Tracy destroyed a large portion of Darwin on Christmas Eve in 1974. Honourable senators might remember that at that time, after Cyclone Kathy hit Borroloola, I commended the action of the two police officers there- Van Heythuysen and Wanke-who, before daybreak, gathered the 250 people of the town of Borroloola, took them to the police station and tended them very well. I said at that time they should be recommended for some official recognition and I still believe that.

Just briefly, as people have been interested in Borroloola, I make one or two remarks about the assistance that is being given to Borroloola by the Northern Territory Government in conjunction with the Federal Government. The Minister for Community Development, Mr Daryl Manzie, on 30 April this year indicated what relief payments for Borroloola residents would be despatched. The Northern Territory Department of Community Development has worked with the local community in anticipation of an influx of money into the town. The majority of people will receive 100 per cent compensation for assessed losses. Some will find the relief payment will not adequately cover the after insurance losses, hence the description 'relief payment' and not 'compensation'. The scheme is modelled on the Queensland arrangements, with the addition of a 25 per cent estimated cost differential for Borroloola-that is a loading on top of what it would have cost in Queensland.

No significant difficulties are envisaged with rebuilding in the new town site. It is planned that general public housing will be available before the next wet season. The wet season commences anything from December onwards. I am talking about 1984, of course. New school arrangements are planned for the start of the school year in 1985-the kindergarten took quite a lot of damage.

An interdepartmental task force involving the Commonwealth Government and the Northern Territory Government is in the final stages of preparing a report with recommendations for the Chief Minister. No doubt this will go to both governments. I am told that, while some $150,000 would be required to restore Aboriginal accommodation to pre-cyclone standard, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Aboriginal Development Commission are talking in terms of $1.5m to $2m for new housing at Borroloola. As has been voiced before, one must question whether the site of the Aboriginal village should be moved to the high ground on the other side of the Macarthur River. Honourable senators would realise that Borroloola is on the Macarthur River and is some 60 Kilometres inland. But the village of Borroloola is very low lying and it is often flooded. So this matter has to be looked at very carefully.

The Rumbaria Malandara Housing Association has applied for a lease for Aboriginal housing. The Aboriginal Development Cororation undertook to arrange the signing of the lease application last January but has not yet forwarded the application. I think it would be good if the Aboriginal Development Corporation were to have this lease fulfilled so that decisions could be made and construction of the new village commenced. In the meantime, the Northern Territory Government building authority will grant permits for rebuilding on that portion of the site which is not flood prone. So while this very remote town of Borroloola has suffered much through Cyclone Kathy, it does appear that all the authorities of both governments are very aware of that fact and plans are in being now for rebuilding and for settling the people in good housing again.

Last night in the adjournment debate I spoke very briefly on a matter. Today I wish to refer to it again. It relates to the banning once again of television film unit at Ayers Rock. Last night, I compained about the situation. Today I would like to fill in with a few more details. The title to Yuluru National Park has not yet been handed over. The Federal Government still has control of the park through the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Despite continued assurances which have been given, month after month, by the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) and other Ministers that there will be no restriction on public access to the park, time and time again we have seen professional film crews refused permission to film at Yuluru-that is, Ayers Rock. These include film teams with Paul Hogan, Val Doonican and a number of Italian producers, as well as the latest casualty-Simon Townsend's Wonderworld. As I indicated last night, considerable damage is being done to the tourist industry, not only within the region but to the Australian tourist industry.

Last night I called on the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Clyde Holding, to urgently review the guidelines for the Rock and to bring some commonsense and stability to the situation. I have here and I have shown it to the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs, Senator Sue Ryan, a telex from the Chief Minister for the Northern Territory to Mr Clyde Holding, indicating the extreme concern that the Northern Territory and the industry feel about the banning of people from the Rock. This is going far to far. I once again say that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has a responsibility to see that this matter is corrected and that it does not happen again. On the one hand the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, in promoting Kakadu because there will be no uranium development by the Federal Government, says that tourism will be the answer to the Aboriginal people and that funds will be made available. On the other hand, he is allowing this to happen-he who is responsible for the lease of Ayres Rock, responsible for handing over Ayers Rock to other people. I say 'other people' because in handing it over to Aboriginal people, in reality, to quite a degree, it is a matter of handing it over to the white advisers. Unfortunately, it is the white advisers who make many of the decisions in the name of the Aboriginal people. I know-I have been told by the Aboriginal people on many occasions-that it is their wish to work in with the industry and to welcome visitors to Ayers Rock. But they are being misled. I say again that the decision is being made by these advisers.

I will quote briefly from the telex from the Chief Minister and then seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard. In this particular case a six-person television crew is collecting footage and stories in the Northern Territory for the Simon Townsend Wonderworld show for the Channel 10 network. I understand the Chief Minister said in his telex:

Now despite having gone through the proper channels, an Australian children's TV programme has been barred from the Rock at the last moment to the detriment of their young audience and to the detriment of the Territory tourist industry and the jobs that go with it.

Now I find it extremely strange that a children's program should be barred. The Chief Minister said:

As I understand permission was applied for to film Ayers Rock about six weeks ago through the director of the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service in Canberra. This unfortunately is the procedure--

unfortunately, because the procedure has broken down time and time again--

for people wanting to film in the major national parks in the Northern Territory . Despite repeated follow-ups to the application the TV producers received no word back until yesterday, Tuesday May 8--

When they were in the middle of filming stories in the top end-for the children- they were told they could not film in Ularu National Park.

He went on to say:

'I understand a telex from the TV producer of the Pitjantjatjara Council asking for immediate reopening of negotiations was replied to in terms indicating that there was nothing personal in the ban, and no applications for filming in the park would be entertained until after the 22nd May, which is about a week after the Simon Townsend Wonderworld crew are scheduled to leave the Northern Territory. Apparently there is a meeting at Ayers Rock--

as I indicated last night--

on May 22nd to consider guidelines for future applications.

Now, fair is fair. When are we going to have some stability and common sense? Here the tourists industry is being damaged and at stake is a considerable amount of benefit for the Aboriginal people at Ayers Rock, who have indicated they wish to participate in the tourist industry. Yet it is being absolutely fragmented-I would go even so far as to say destroyed-by this ridiculous saga that has gone on, month after month. Professional crews, who quite obviously know what they are doing, who are ethical in what they do, who know that in the films that they take they have to be aware of Aboriginal culture and such, are refused permission to film time and time again, even though a lot of these filming teams have come from overseas specifically to film Ayers Rock. It is a most unfortunate situation. I now seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard the telex from the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory to Mr Clyde Holding, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Acting Deputy President.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-

Dear Minister, Once again the Territory tourist industry is in danger of losing untold valuable publicity and promotion because of the ban on a TV crew from Ayers Rock and the Uluru National Park.

The 6 person TV crew is collecting footage and stories in the Northern Territory for the Simon Townsend Wonderworld show for the 0 10 network.

As I understand it, permission was applied for to film at Ayers Rock about six weeks ago through the Directors of the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service in Canberra. This unfortunately is the procedure for people wanting to film in the major national parks in the Northern Territory. Despite repeated follow-ups in the application, the TV producers received no word back until yesterday, Tuesday May 8, when they were in the middle of filming stories in the top end. They were told they could not film in Uluru National Park.

I understand a telex from the TV producer to the Pitjantjatjara Council asking for immediate reopening of negotiations was replied to in terms indicating that there was nothing personal in the ban, as no applications for filming in the park would be entertained until after May 22, which is about a week after the Simon Townsend Wonderworld crew are scheduled to leave the Northern Territory. Apparently there is a meeting at Ayres Rock on May 22 to consider guidelines for future applications.

In the past six months the victims of this intransigent attitude to Aboriginal groups and their white advisers at Ayers Rock include Paul Hogan, who is spearheading your current tourism drive, an Italian film crew, Val Doonigan and the British Broadcasting Corporation, and now Simon Townsend's Wonderworld, a highly rated children's programme. In the interests of stimulating tourism in the Territory and Australia generally, the Northern Territory taxpayers shelled out thousands of dollars in airfare and charter fees to make sure the Val Doonigan BBC production at Ayers Rock went ahead, and the N.T. Tourist Commission spent $16,000 retrieving our own television ads and dubbing them on to film so the Italian TV crew could screen Australia's best-known tourist attraction through northern Europe.

Now, despite having gone through the proper channels, an Australian children's TV programme has been barred from the rock at the last moment to the detriment of their young audience and to the detriment of the Territory tourist industry and the jobs that go with it.

Quite frankly, I am fed up to the back teeth with dealing with people who say one thing and do another. Your Government has talked up a storm on tourism over recent months, yet when it comes down to action on the ground, such as physically promoting tourist attractions like Ayers Rock, the Territory Government can get nothing done without being engaged in a public fight and paying out thousands of dollars in cash. The Leader of your Government talks about spending $70m on tourist development in Kakadu National Park during an election campaign, but efforts by the N.T. Government to put together a seminar on tourism in the Park involving the relevant parties, including the traditional owners, are torpedoed by a Federal Government Minister who tells us the Aboriginals aren't ready for such talks yet.

The Australian Government has control of Uluru National Park and Ayers Rock through the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, and Federal Government Ministers up to and including the Prime Minister constantly tell Australians that there is no restriction on public access to the park because of Canberra's bilateral decision to give title to Uluru to an Aboriginal ownership group. Title has not yet been handed over, yet access is severely restricted or impossible already, as Paul Hogan, Val Doonican, Simon Townsend and several Italian TV producers can testify. The mind boggles at what will happen to Ayers Rock and Uluru National Park, not to mention the Territory taxpayers' $150m investment in Yulara outside the Park borders, when full title is granted.

I don't want to use a children's television programme as a political football in the overall question of access to a Commonwealth National Park which happens to lie within the borders of the Northern Territory. I also don't want Territory taxpayers to miss out on a couple of million dollars worth of promotion for their major tourist attraction, which translates to protection of their investment in the Yulara village and jobs for their children.

My simple request is that you speak with your Ministerial colleagues as a matter of urgency to sort out a practical way in which an Australian children's TV programme can film Australia's best-known tourist attraction in an Australian National Park without a major confrontation between Australia people, the Australian Government and Australia's Northern Territory.

Yours Sincerely, Paul Everingham


Senator KILGARIFF —Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. In closing I once again make the appeal that I made last night. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has a direct responsibility in the matter. He and his Government handed over the reserve of Ayers Rock, although the lease deeds have not yet been handed over. It is his responsibility. I look to him to respond to the letter from the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory and to use his good officers- if he has any, and I am beginning to doubt it from the way he is performing-to take some action to ensure that this does not occur again.