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Thursday, 31 May 1984
Page: 2293

Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK(9.36) —During the Estimates Committee C meeting I asked some questions about endeavours by the South Australian Government to take over areas in the Maralinga-Emu region. I should have asked about the Western Australian Government and the Monte Bello Islands, which I will now do, and also about the South Australian intention to declare certain areas as sacred sites or to grant tribal rights. Let me say before I ask the specific questions that in my time as Minister I believed that it was too early in terms of our knowledge of the whole of these areas for us simply to unleash them for ordinary occupation, whether it be for Aborigines or others. It seemed to me that time alone would let us get a better assessment. Indeed, since the 1950s our understanding of the problem and our ability to measure the problem have increased greatly. If in fact any new information has emerged in recent weeks, it will support what I am now saying.

It seems to me that we would do well to suggest that we wait a while in regard to these areas and not hurry to give them back to open them up. For example, I know that in the Monte Bello area there is some considerable interest in terms of oil. Its nearness to Barrow Island and to the Gorgon fields might well suggest that it may be prospective in itself. It does seem sensible to bide our time for the time being because as every era has gone by we have found that we need better measurements and better and more scientific approaches to these things. So I ask the Minister whether the Government has given any immediate consideration to this. Is it moving towards releasing the land? I remind him that in the Estimates Committee discussions Mr Daniels gave some answers to these queries. He said:

We are waiting to talk with the South Australian Government about the detail of the Maralinga land rights legislation, but the general area would include most of the Maralinga and all of the Emu test site areas.

I asked:

Would it include, for example, the landing strip and the cemetery at the landing strip at Maralinga?

He answered:

I am not sure of the details on that.

I then asked him:

Or the fenced areas at Emu?

Mr Daniels replied:

It would certainly include Emu.

I am not up to date on this matter; I simply ask the Minister to state where the Government stands on it at the moment and whether he would agree that there is reason for considerable caution.