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Thursday, 10 May 1984
Page: 1994

Senator KILGARIFF(6.52) —I listened with considerable interest to Senator Messner and Senator Gareth Evans in regard to the matter that Senator Messner brought up, that is, the sale or raffling at an Australian Labor Party meeting of signs from Pine Gap. Senator Gareth Evans said that the allegations were bizarre, but the thing that really astonished me in the brief debate that has taken place is that he and others have told the Senate-they have squared off-that they did not know what was going on while this meeting was taking place. The incredible thing is that Federal property has been stolen from Pine Gap near Alice Springs and apparently taken back to Victoria by the women and others who demonstrated there. It appears from what Joan Coxsedge, who is a member of the Victorian Parliament has said that this stolen property, bought with taxpayers' funds-taxpayers' property-was taken to Victoria and used for raising funds for this organisation that demonstrated at Pine Gap.

Senator Walsh —Didn't you ever pinch an apple over the fence?

Senator KILGARIFF —That is an interesting interjection from Senator Walsh. I suppose that an apple is worth 10c. Would the honourable senator like to look at the cost of these signs that were stolen from the roadway at Pine Gap and say whether that is allowable? In Victoria obviously that is a thing that can be done by the left wing. But if this sign had been taken by a resident of Alice Springs I am damn sure that that resident of Alice Springs would have been hauled before the courts for stealing and selling government property. I think the whole thing is absolutely incredible that here in the Senate, which is supposed to be the Federal law-making body of Australia, people associated with making the law can treat it as a joke that government property has been taken to Victoria and Miss Joan Coxsedge, a member of parliament, and others can be allowed to get off.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Colston) —Order! Senator Kilgariff, you are referring to a member of another Parliament and you are making personal reflections on that member of parliament. Under standing order 418 that is not permitted, and I ask you to withdraw your remarks about the member of parliament in Victoria and continue your remarks without transgressing standing order 418.

Senator KILGARIFF —Mr Acting Deputy President, I will withdraw those remarks, having in mind too that Senator Messner and I have referred to the transcript of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation program Nationwide in which this person' s name and the signs are mentioned. But, as I said, I withdraw the name. The only thing I want to say--

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Kilgariff, that is not quite the point. I did not ask you to withdraw the name. I asked you to withdraw your personal reflections against that member of parliament.

Senator KILGARIFF —I will withdraw the reflections on this person. I do that without any qualification, if that is the wish of the Chair. All I wish to say in my brief discussion of this point is that I also have been referring to the transcripts of the ABC program Nationwide on 28 November 1983. To clear up this matter as far as I am concerned, I ask: Why have the Australian Federal Police not taken action? The Federal Police must obviously realise-

Senator Coleman —Ask the Federal Police.

Senator KILGARIFF —It is a Federal Police matter, senator.

Senator Coleman —Ask them.

Senator KILGARIFF —We have. Senator Messner has asked them. We are asking the Government now to ask the Federal Police why they have not taken action. This is a matter of principle and I hope that principles, even in relation to matters such as this, will receive some attention from government authorities.

I turn to the matter about which I actually want to speak. I noted that yesterday in the House of Representatives the Government introduced the Cocos ( Keeling) Islands Self-Determination (Consequential Amendments) Bill by which various Federal Acts are to be amended, including the Northern Territory (Self- Government) Act, and which will allow the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and later, I guess Christmas Island to be incorporated into the Northern Territory for electoral and referenda purposes. As the Territory is to be involved in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island, I noted in the West Australian of Wednesday, 9 May a report that the Government has given an ultimatum on the closure of the phosphate operation on Christmas Island. The article says:

The Federal Government sent a blunt warning to Christmas Island yesterday, that unless enough workers were willing to quit the island, the entire operation would have to fold.

A further media report is headed: 'Mining chief quits and blames Government'. The Cocos and Christmas Islands are much in the news, and I asked questions the other night in the adjournment debate-I was unable to ask them in Question Time- about the government attitude in relation to the Northern Territory, possible self-government, and all of those matters associated with the possibility of Cocos and Christmas Islands coming under the Northern Territory government. I would like the Government to answer those questions when it is convenient. I hope that will be some time in the near future.

Because this matter seems to be of interest not only to the people of Christmas and Cocos Islands but also to the people of Australia and the Northern Territory in particular, I ask the Minister for Veterans' Affairs (Senator Gietzelt), as Minister representing the Minister for Territorties and Local Government (Mr Uren), a further set of questions.

I refer the Minister to the Government's stated intention to close the Phosphate Mining Company of Christmas Island Ltd if sufficient numbers of workers do not resign from the company. I ask: What actions have been taken so far by the Government and the Phosphate Mining Company with regard to the closure of the company? What actions does the Government intend to take if a sufficient number of employees have not voluntarily resigned by the deadline date, 1 October? Is it the Government's intention to provide jobs on the Australian mainland for any worker prepared to move from Christmas Island to the mainland? In the event that the Company is forced by the Government to close, will the Government help to relocate the islanders and provide them with employment? What is the future for the economy of Christmas Island, firstly, if the mine remains in operation; and secondly, if the mine is closed? Does the Government envisage any role for the Northern Territory in this matter?