Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
At a special Caucus meeting the Prime Minister gave assurances Mabo legislation would be introduced into the Parliament in October; Aboriginal leaders vow to challenge proposed legislation overseas and threaten to boycott the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games

PETER THOMPSON: Besides the Budget, the other big drama being played out in Canberra is over Mabo. Paul Keating has convinced his restive Caucus that it should proceed with its draft Mabo legislation quickly, but Aborigines say they'll defeat it. During a three-hour special Caucus meeting on Mabo, Paul Keating told backbenchers that the deadline is vital if the Government is to get its legislation passed before Christmas. Any delay could mean that the States bring in their own laws first. Aboriginal leaders, gathered in Canberra, have responded by announcing a campaign against the legislation, including a call to boycott the Sydney Olympic Games. Fran Kelly reports.

FRAN KELLY: The Federal Government's got an image problem with its Mabo legislation. Every day Aboriginal Australians get more and more strident in their opposition to the Federal response, and every day more and more Australians are agreeing with them. Yesterday the Uniting Church added its voice to those critical of the draft Bill, saying the Commonwealth proposal would continue the pattern of marginalisation and alienation of Aboriginal people. The Uniting Church's criticism came as the 700 Aboriginal people meeting in Canberra to discuss the proposed legislation vowed to challenge the Bill in international courts.

The Eva Valley meeting signalled that it was done talking to the Government and would now embark on an international campaign that included a deputation to the Queen, urging her not to approve the legislation, and a tour of black African countries to secure their support for a boycott of the Sydney Olympics.

Paul Keating began this process promising justice for Aboriginal Australians. In his Redfern speech last year he hailed the High Court's Mabo ruling as the cornerstone of reconciliation in this country. Yesterday's response shows Aboriginal people are finally disillusioned with the Prime Minister, believing he sold them out to secure the support of the States and Territory for his draft Bill. His Caucus is also concerned about the Bill, but the Prime Minister has acted swiftly on that front to avoid another embarrassing outburst from his backbench, like the one that followed the announcing of the Budget.

The Prime Minister and the Cabinet Mabo sub-committee met with the Caucus for three hours last night, answering their questions on Mabo and reassuring them that more consultation will occur before the legislation is set. But while he was promising more consultation, Paul Keating was also sticking to his timetable that would see the legislation introduced into Parliament in October. Once there, he faces the challenge of a hostile Senate, with the Greens and the Democrats already signalling they share some of the concerns voiced by indigenous people about the draft Bill. The Opposition has also criticised the draft, though for very different reasons, and they're yet to indicate whether they'll vote against it or not.

But the signs aren't good for the Government. Green Senator, Christabel Chamarette, announced yesterday that she'll move a motion inviting Aboriginal leaders to address the Senate about their concerns when the Bill finally arrives in that Chamber.

PETER THOMPSON: The call by some Aborigines for a boycott of the Sydney Olympic Games has been rejected by one of Australia's top black athletes. Kyle Van Der Kuyp represented Australia at the World Athletics Championships in Stuttgart in August and, along with fellow Aboriginal athlete Kathy Freeman(?), carried the Australian flag. Mr Van Der Kuyp says the Government should be paying greater attention to resolving Mabo, but says the Olympics should not be used as a political tool. Michael O'Regan asked Kyle Van Der Kuyp for his view on the call to boycott the Games.

KYLE VAN DER KUYP: Well, I don't think personally I should boycott the Olympics if I am able to compete. Like, I've been training for years to get there, and to boycott it through, because of the Mabo case, I support the Mabo case but I don't think we should boycott it.

MICHAEL O'REGAN: Do you think that Aboriginal people should use the Olympic Games as a bargaining chip in order to put more pressure on the Federal Government to meet their claims?

KYLE VAN DER KUYP: No, I don't think they should use the Olympics as a political tool. I believe that pressure should be put on the Government towards the case but don't use the Olympics as it. It's not really in the Olympic ideals or the Olympic movement.

MICHAEL O'REGAN: Do you think any other of the Aboriginal Olympians or the Aboriginal athletes that you know would support using the Olympics in that way?

KYLE VAN DER KUYP: I don't think ... both me and Kathy Freeman don't get into a lot of politics, we don't get involved in a lot of politics, so I'd say we'd both feel the same way. You do get asked a lot of political questions and how we feel about things, but I don't have the time to develop thoughts on those sort of things and I put all my efforts into training.

MICHAEL O'REGAN: Well, just on that though, do you think there's a risk that it might damage support for the Aboriginal community if there was an attempt to boycott the Sydney Olympic Games?

KYLE VAN DER KUYP: Oh, definitely. I'm trying to encourage as many Aboriginal youngsters as I can to do track and field. If there's something like this that's looming around saying that they should boycott it or they should forget about it, it's not going to encourage any youngsters to start training for 2000.

MICHAEL O'REGAN: Just from your point of view, what do you think the Government should be doing in order to further the interests of Aboriginal people?

KYLE VAN DER KUYP: I don't think they're looking at Mabo enough, and they should be just trying to make it separate and look at it a lot closer and guarantee the Aboriginal community that they are going to do that so that they don't have to go and

threaten things like boycotts of Olympics.

PETER THOMPSON: Aboriginal athlete, Kyle Van Der Kuyp.