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Federal Cabinet to meet to discuss submission for East Arnhem Land breakaway land council; Mr Snowdon nearly enters a brawl over the issue

PETER THOMPSON: Federal Cabinet meets in Canberra today to consider a submission given to the Prime Minister in Darwin at the weekend, calling for a breakaway land council for Aborigines in the Northern Territory's East Arnhem Land. As Mr Hawke held a meeting with 10 members of an Aboriginal delegation from Arnhem Land and Groote Eylandt in a Darwin office, outside, a Territory politician nearly came to blows. The Labor Federal Member for the Northern Territory, Warren Snowdon, threatened to hit one of the delegation's advisors. Larry Anderson was the only reporter to witness the row.

LARRY ANDERSON: The conflict with Mr Snowdon came to a head on the 7th floor of the Hooker building in Darwin, an office with panoramic views of Darwin's harbour - the base for the Territory's most popular politician, Senator Bob Collins. The 10-men Aboriginal delegation told the Prime Minister they would not vote for the Labor Party if Mr Snowdon contested the next election. Mr Hawke was told they had lost their trust in the Territory's Federal Member and threatened they would move a block vote of over 1,500 away from the Labor Party at the next election, if Mr Snowdon didn't resign. Mr Snowdon holds one of the Labor Party's most marginal seats.

As I waited for the outcome of the meeting, I heard Mr Hawke say in the next office, that his government wouldn't be blackmailed into not endorsing Mr Snowdon. Mr Hawke also pointed out to the delegation that if they thought they would get a better deal from the Federal Opposition, then they were all mad. It was during this heated discussion in the adjoining office, that Mr Snowdon was introduced to Peter Clark, an employee of the Ngukurr Council in south-east Arnhem Land. Then Mr Snowdon erupted, challenging Mr Clark to a brawl. Even after the rotund Senator Collins stepped in to break it up, Mr Snowdon wanted Mr Clark to step into the back room. The challenge took Mr Clark by surprise.

PETER CLARK: I've been a Labor Party supporter all my adult life.

LARRY ANDERSON: So, what did you feel then, when Snowdon said do you want to come in the back room and have a brawl?

PETER CLARK: I just told him, `Look, you don't tell me what to do mate'; and at that stage Bob Collins intervened and said, `Look, Warren cool it. This guy's been a Labor Party supporter for as long as I've known him and he handed out how-to-vote cards for you at Nooka'.

LARRY ANDERSON: So, why did it nearly come to blows in there?

PETER CLARK: I don't know. I mean, Warren was obviously fairly worked up about a number of issues, I suppose.

LARRY ANDERSON: Shortly afterwards, the Prime Minister emerged from his meeting, appearing unperturbed, and gave me a wink on his way out. He was closely followed by the members of the delegation who immediately became embroiled in another argument with Mr Snowdon, who then commended me to leave the office. Later, the leader of the delegation, David Daniels, repeated the threats they'd made to the Prime Minister.

DAVID DANIELS: If this fella can't represent us and talk for our views, our wishes, he should not be in and we will not vote for him at the next election.

LARRY ANDERSON: So does that effectively mean you won't vote for the Labor Party if Snowdon remains the sitting member?

DAVID DANIELS: We won't vote for him, we said.

LARRY ANDERSON: Next to emerge was Senator Collins. So Bob, how do you feel about that altercation in your office this morning?

BOB COLLINS: Oh, I think that probably feelings were running high on both sides of the arguments. In fact, shortly after you left, it was amicably resolved.

PETER THOMPSON: The Northern Territory Senator, Bob Collins, and Larry Anderson reporting from Darwin.