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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2616

Senator COOK —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Has the Minister seen the pamphlet published by the Scarborough branch of the Liberal Party in Western Australia, inviting the public to 'come and hear the frightening facts about land rights'? Is it true that in part the pamphlet states that Australia's future as a free nation is seriously threatened by two movements? I ask whether it goes on to state:

One is to use the Aboriginal land-rights issue to eventually establish a separate Aboriginal nation under communist domination and the second is to fragment a homogenous and stable Australia by a breaking down of traditional immigration policy and by the deliberate fostering of multiculturalism.

Does the Minister agree that these views are not only a grotesque distortion of reality but also calculated to inflame racial prejudice in this country? Can the Government say what the facts are?

Senator RYAN —The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs advises me that he has seen the pamphlet referred to in Senator Cook's question and is disgusted by the attempt by the Western Australian Liberal Party to build up hysteria over the Government 's policy on Aboriginal land rights. The pamphlet selects one aspect of the Government's policy, that 'Aboriginal land is to be held under inalienable freehold title', misrepresents that principle into an horrendous picture of an Aboriginal state within a state and then applies that extravagance as a sweeping threat to practically all of Western Australia. The distortion shows just how low the Liberal Party in Western Australia is prepared to go. Let me put the record straight. The Western Australian Government has appointed Mr Paul Seaman, QC, to conduct an inquiry into land rights. He was not instructed to base his report on the existing Northern Territory land rights legislation. Indeed, in his discussion paper he indicated that it was his preliminary view that much of that legislation would not be applicable in Western Australia. The discussion paper issued by Mr Seaman in January was just that, a discussion paper outlining issues and possible options. Mr Seaman indicated very clearly that he had no commitment to any of the options and was not making recommendations. He is due to report to the Government later this year and the Government will respond accordingly. It is completely scurrilous to suggest, as the pamphlet does, that the matter has been finalised.

The only point on which the Western Australian Government has stated its position is that all land reserved for the use and benefit of Aboriginals will be vested in Aboriginal local communities. Such reserve land, 19 million hectares, has never been inhabited by any persons other than those of the local Aboriginal communities. This land has always been Aboriginal land. To give title to such land costs nothing; it simply matches legal reality with historical fact . In the legal sense, inalienable freehold title simply means that the land cannot be sold. The additional benefits accruing to Aboriginal landholders in the Northern Territory arises from the legislation, not the title to the land. This is a further example of a miscarriage of information by the Liberal Party. The granting of land rights is aimed at a restitution of Aboriginal dignity. The basis for claims in the Northern Territory is traditional association. Until the Western Australian Government responds to its own land inquiry it is completely misleading for the Liberal Party to suggest that the property rights of existing landholders in Western Australia will be affected.