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Royal Commission on Laverton



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ROYAL COMMISSION ON LAVBRTON

(Statement by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator J.L. CAvanagh).

The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Cavanagh said.today he was /A< ■ ' , v

pleased with/ifttitude of the West Australian Premier in proposing a State Royal ·

Commission with the Australian Government to investigate the question of Aboriginal

and police relations. · '

, He said the attitude of the Premier throughout such negotiations had been

to take action against any person or authority who might have been in error and

to set a pattern for better future relationships, ■

The Minister confirmed that agreement in general had been reached with

Sir Charles Court for the Royal Commission. ■

The Commission inquiry would include the incident on January .5 at Skull

Creek which resulted in the arrest and overnight detention of 28 Aboriginals

and the agreement next day between the prosecutor and Aboriginal Legal Aid Service

for the charges to be withdrawn.

The Commission also would investigate the behaviour of Aboriginals and

the resultant action by police at Laverton some weeks before the Skull Creek

incident. . '

At a conference with the W.A. Premier on February 26 when he*was. advised .

that Assistant Police Commissioner Parker would conduct an inquiry into police

action, Senator Cavanagh expressed a lack of confidence in a police inquiry

into police action and later indicated this lack of confidence by proposing that

as Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs he would establish a Royal Commission.

On the question of payment of the cost of representation of the Police

Association, Senator Cavanagh said he had replied on March 24 to such a suggestion

from Sir Charles Court as follows:

"I understand.the problem which the police see in relation to meeting . the costs of their involvement in the Royal Commission's work.

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■ «Their Mr'Fraser spoke to me about this problem when he called on rae

in Perth on February 26. I said on that occasion that I assumed that the

Police Association had funds (Mr Fraser confirmed this) and that I would

have thought it would wish toaapply those funds to clear the police name„

Mr Fraser said, the Association would wish to use the funds in other ways

and did not. see that it should be called upon to apply them to the proceedings

of a Royal Commission,

. "I read the statement of Mr Fraser published in the Perth Daily News

of March 18,, together with the full page advertisement of the Police

Association as an indication that the police do not desire to participate

in any subsequent inquiry.

“The findings of Assistant Police Commissioner Parker would suggest

that Junior Counsel , if any, would be sufficient to exonerate police from

any charge of wrongful conduct.

“I realise if a finding by the Commission contrary to Assistant

Commissi oner'Parker's findings does eventuate, it may cast some doubt upon

the whole police system of your state, including method of inquiry and

discipline. If therefore, State instrumentalities may be under challenge

I would think the State Government would provide competent counsel.

' "Any application by the Police Association for Australian Government·

funding will be considered by me although, at this stage, I am not sympathetic

to their claim". ■ . ■

Senator Cavanagh said the full terms of reference had yet to be decided

but they would be wide enough to cover all incidents leading up to the Skull Creek

incident and subsequent incidents, also to suggest any action justified as a

result of any incident and recommendations for future action to prevent any

repetition of any undesirable incident or incidents and better relationship

between Aboriginals, law enforcing officers and white communities.

The Australian Government nominee on the West Australian rioyal Commission

subsequently would head an Australian Royal Commission to investigate Aboriginal and

police relations in Central Australia,· This nominee had not yet been selected.

CANBERRA, A.C.T.

27 MARCH., 1975®