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Wednesday, 16 March 1977


Mr PEACOCK -The honourable member for Lalor will be aware that judgment, as I think he implied in his question, on the Banaban litigation was handed down some weeks ago in London. As I recall, the Banabans were unsuccessful in the royalty case against the British Crown but were rewarded unspecified damages in the replanting case against the British Phosphate Commission. The judge directed that counsel for the Banabans and the BPC were to negotiate a settlement that would not be nominal or minimal, in the terms of the judge, and that on the other hand would not be 'very large'. Counsel for the 2 parties, I understand, are still negotiating. It is not known when agreement, if any, will be reached. I would need to add, in answer to a question such as this, that the judge criticised the British Government for the manner in which it negotiated royalty payments with the Banabans. The British Government has now stated that its main concern is to reach a settlement that is fanto all concerned, including the Banabans and the Gilbertese. A British Government special emissary, Mr Richard Posnett has been visiting the South Pacific to explore means of achieving such a settlement and to put forward recommendations. I met Mr Posnett the week before last. He told me that his main task at this stage is to gather information on which he could base recommendations to the British Government. He made no specific proposals nor did he seek any commitment from the Australian Government. We did have a useful exchange during which I said that while Australia was not a direct party to the court actions the Government was anxious that a solution equitable to all parties be achieved. A factor inherent in such a solution would be that of assisting in ensuring the economic future of the Banabans who now reside on Rambi Island in Fiji. At the same time Australian officials are giving attention, and urgent attention as I have requested it, to any British proposals made to us. There were some proposals made earlier before Posnett 's visit to both Australia and New Zealand. I think this was on 14 February. These proposals concern the size and nature of a joint financial contribution by the 3 governments which would ensure the Banabans' economic future.

In summary I have had discussions with Mr Posnett. I believe that these discussions will assist in achieving a satisfactory solution that will be fair to both the Banabans and Gilbertese and it will ensure that the Banaban community can develop without being a burden on the Fijian community.







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