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Wednesday, 30 May 1984
Page: 2147


Senator KILGARIFF(3.10) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

As a person in the Senate who represents the Northern Territory, I wish to speak briefly to the Christmas Island annual report 1981-82. The Northern Territory will have a closer association with Christmas Island because the Federal Government has indicated that Christmas Island, like Cocos (Keeling) Islands, is to be associated with the Northern Territory in Federal election matters. Legislation for the purpose for Cocos (Keeling) Islands is now before the Houses of Parliament. in the last few weeks it has become clear that there was no consultation with the people of Cocos (Keeling) Islands as to whether they wishes to be associated with the Northern Territory in relation to Federal elections. One would presume that this situation will occur with the Christmas Island people and they will become part of the Northern Territory in Federal elections without being consulted on the matter. Nevertheless, it is a good thing that the Christmas Island people will have the ability to vote in Federal elections after Christmas Island is integrated into Australia.

I believe the report is very timely given the various matters relating to Christmas Island which are coming before the Houses of Parliament. The report is most interesting. I notice that reference is made to the Christmas Island resettlement scheme. Some publicity has been given to this matter recently, particularly in the Western Australian newspapers. In regard to Christmas Island the West Australian under the heading 'Govt ultimatum on closure', reported:

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.

That report appeared in the West Australian on 9 May. On Thursday, 10 May a further headline entitled 'Mining chief quits and blames Govt' appeared in the newspaper. That headline related to the industrial trouble on Christmas Island. One does wonder what is going on when one considers that so shortly after the Federal Government inflicted its view to quite a degree on Christmas Island, the Federal Government is speaking very bluntly to these people and giving them an ultimatum. I believe this matter should be aired further in the Senate.

I wish to ask a serious of questions of the Minister for Veterans' Affairs ( Senator Gietzelt), who represents the Minister for Territories and Local Government (Mr Uren) in this place. I refer the Minister to the Government's stated intention to close the Phosphate Mining Co. of Christmas Island Ltd if a sufficient number of workers do not resign from the company. I ask: Firstly, what actions have been taken so far by the Government and the Phosphate Mining Co. with regard to the closure of the company? Secondly, what action does the Government intend to take if a sufficient number of employees have not voluntarily resigned by the deadline date, 1 October? Thirdly, is it the Government's intention to provide jobs on the Australian mainland for any workers prepared to move from Christmas Island to the mainland? Fourthly, 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? Fifthly, what is the future for the economy of Christmas Island if the mine remains in operation and if the mine is closed? Sixthly, does the Government envisage any role for the Northern Territory in this matter?

As I say, reading this most comprehensive report gives me great pleasure. It indicates that the community of Christmas Island is made up of various ethnic groups. All in all it appears that the administration of the island and its way of life is something that should be encouraged and respected.

Question resolved in the affirmative.