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Friday, 15 June 1984
Page: 3163

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE(5.15) —The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Heritage (Interim Protection) Bill 1984 is a small piece of legislation of 14 pages containing only 32 clauses. As a matter of fact it is unambiguous in intention and simple in application. Its intention is to create uniform de facto land rights and the effect of its application will be, in a practical sense, to place in the hands of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs almost unfettered power to implement unilaterally the setting aside of land exclusively for the use and benefit of Aboriginal Australians. The legislation overrides any and all State legislation and it is inhibited in its effect only by any obligation of Australia under international law, including obligations under any agreements between Australia and other countries; in other words, external treaties of the type which made the Tasmanian dams case and the sex discrimination legislation possible. Such treaties are likely to strengthen, not weaken, this legislation. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Holding) tells us in his second reading speech:

This Bill is the first part of a legislative scheme which this Government intends to enact to ensure the preservation and protection of the cultural heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

He goes on:

That scheme will give the Commonwealth Government a legislative framework in which to exercise the constitutional power and responsibility clearly given to the Commonwealth by the overwhelming majority of Australians in the 1967 referendum. This Government has shown itself willing to take on that responsibility and to act seriously in exercising it. The Bill before the House is further evidence of the Government's acceptance of that responsibility.

The Bill provides for de facto land rights to the extent that it is holding position, if I might use the pun, until after the next Federal election in the event that Australia is unfortunate enough to be visited for a second occasion by a Labor government. To again quote Mr Holding:

Model land rights legislation is being prepared in consultation with Aboriginals throughout Australia. In the same way, the Bill before the House today has been prepared in response to requests from Aboriginal people and following consultation with them.

This is the first step by the Federal Government to take unto itself all questions of land rights in Australia. This should come as no surprise because Mr Holding has asserted that position before. It is totally compatible with the State Labor Party policy in Western Australia. The wording of the two policies is almost identical. I repeat the words used by the Minister in his second reading speech:

That scheme will give the Commonwealth Government a legislative framework in which to exercise the constitutional power and responsibility clearly given to the Commonwealth by the overwhelming majority of Australians in the 1967 referendum.

I remind the Senate of what the Yes case said in 1967:

It will make it possible for the Commonwealth Parliament to make special laws for the people of the Aboriginal race, wherever they may live, if the Parliament considers it necessary.

That is unexceptionable. It goes on:

This would not mean that the States would automatically lose their existing powers. What is intended is that the National Parliament would make laws, if it thought fit, relating to Aboriginals-as it can about many other matters on which the States also have power to legislate. The Commonwealth object will be to co- operate with the States to ensure that together we act in the best interests of the Aboriginal people of Australia.

Yet Mr Holding is now saying-and I quote him again:

It is the case that the Commonwealth Government takes the firm view that it has a primary constitutional responsibility in the field of Aboriginal affairs. Despite some progress in individual States, none is in a position which satisfies completely our policy objectives.

I ask: Where is the compatibility between what the referendum proposal of 1967 said and what is now being asserted by Mr Holding? There is absolutely none. Of course, Mr Holding is using the recent High Court of Australia decisions, which are quite unrelated to the spirit and the intention of the referendum, to impose his own rather diabolical will upon the great majority of Australian people against their will. I put it to the Senate that if the same referendum question as was put in 1967 were again committed to the Australian electorate it would without question be ignominiously defeated. Yet Mr Holding dares tell us that he is using the 1967 referendum as his imprimatur. What deceit, what contempt, what disregard for the truth of the matter and what a distortion of the real facts!

The Bill will have the effect of providing for the laws, customs, religions and traditions of Aboriginals to override, suspend and subjugate the intrinsic rights under civil and common law of all other Australians. Sadly, and so very tragically, this legislation is the first major step by this Federal Labor Government of dividing our community, of creating bitterness, anger and frustration, not only on the part of white Australians but also on the part of Aboriginal Australians. Ironically, I do not believe that this legislation has the support of the great majority of Aboriginal Australians any more than the National Aboriginal Conference has their support. If anybody questions that proposition I suggest he read the voluminous evidence given to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs when it inquired into a makarrata. Most of the Aboriginal communities which members of the Committee visited seemed more intent on criticising and condemning the NAC than they did discussing the proposed makarrata because the NAC was quite divorced and removed from their wishes, aspirations, desires and ambitions.

Mr Holding tells us with a certain sense of contempt and impertinence that State governments and the mining and pastoral industries have been given an opportunity to comment on the Bill and then proceeds to acknowledge that there have been criticisms of the time period in which comments were sought. In answering a question in the House of Representatives on 7 May Mr Holding rejected industry calls for more consultation. In fact, he showed impatience with industry over the issue. He said:

I find it extraordinary that the highly paid executives of mining companies, who are trained to make large and important decisions, find that they need a great deal more time to make a decision about interim emergency legislation containing a sunset clause than do the Aboriginal people of Australia.

He conveniently ignores the fact that this legislation is probably the most crucial ever to face the mining industry. The industry was not consulted, of course, prior to instructions being given for the Bill to be drafted. I quote the Minister's own words:

. . . the Bill before the House today has been prepared in response to requests from Aboriginal people and following consultation with them.

He said that they were instrumental in its preparation. He was talking there about the NAC and a small group of Aboriginal lawyers; not the wider Aboriginal community of Australia who I believe will have no truck with this legislation. The truth of the matter is that consultation was conducted in a state of fait accompli as far as industry is concerned. As the Minister so proudly boasts in his second reading speech, in an exclusive sense:

. . . the Bill . . . has been prepared in response to requests from Aboriginal people and following consultation with them.

Honourable senators will note that the statement is exclusive and absolute. The Bill was prepared without consultation with industry or commerce or 98 per cent of the Australian population. It was prepared without consideration of their views, their concerns and their contemplations. I think that is a disgusting disregard of the vast majority of people not the least being those who will be directly financially and socially disadvantaged by this draconian and sectarian legislation. At least one has on this occasion to give the Minister some credit for his honesty. Further he told us in his second reading speech:

It is an interim measure which will be replaced by more comprehensive legislation dealing with Aboriginal land rights and heritage protection.

He enforced that threat by saying:

As evidence of the Government's intention to legislate more comprehensively, the Bill before the House is expressed to have effect for no more than two years from the date of its commencement.

The only thing he did not say was that this Bill, even in its fullest and most fearful reality, is a watered down version of that which was first submitted to Cabinet. Of course his more pragmatic and perhaps less politically myopic colleagues in Caucus rolled him because of the votes it would have cost the Government at the next election. The decision was taken to leave out other even more unpopular provisions proposed by the Minister and the NAC and to incorporate them in legislation after the next election in the event that a Labor Government is returned to office.

The Bill is described as having two main purposes: 'To preserve and protect areas in Australia and Australian waters which are of particular significance to Aboriginals or Islanders in accordance with their traditions; and to preserve and protect objects, including Aboriginal and Islander human remains, which are of particular significance to Aboriginals or Islanders in accordance with their traditions'. If the legislation had, with sensible, proper and practical definitions, been drafted in a more suitable way, one could describe it as having fine ideals. Of course Western Australia has its own heritage legislation which existed during the period of the Liberal Government and in fact was amended and improved.

To begin to understand the extent and reach of this legislation it is useful to look first at the definitions. By definition, the area to be included in this legislation applies to all land within Australia and its external territories, the territorial sea of Australia and the territorial sea of our external territories and of course the sea and the continental shelf of Australia. There are no exclusions. All land and sea is included, whatever its tenure, irrespective of what title is held and by whom, and naturally includes pastoral, farming, mining, rural, urban and metropolitan land. What is the definition of ' significant area'? It means an area of land in Australia or in or beneath Australian waters, an area of water in Australia or an area of Australian waters being an area of particular significance to Aboriginals in accordance with Aboriginal tradition. Having learnt that 'significant Aboriginal area' includes all land and water without exclusion over which Australia has jurisdiction, we look to see what 'Aboriginal tradition' means. We are told by the Bill that it means:

. . . the body of traditions, observances, customs and beliefs of Aboriginals generally or of a particular community or group of Aboriginals, and includes any such traditions, observances, customs or beliefs relating to particular persons, areas, objects or relationships.

That definition is so wide that it encompasses anything that an Aboriginal has ever done, for whatever reason and at whatever time. It is absolutely absurd. Like all cultures, the Aboriginal culture, in every sense of the word, is dynamic, evolutionary and far from understood. Many of the preconceived notions of even the more basic fabric of their structure have now been found to be incorrect and the fixed views of earlier anthropologists are more and more questioned. Dr Gumbar, a highly proclaimed anthropologist who was recently awarded his doctorate in anthropology from the Sorbonne University in Paris for his thesis 'Neither Justice nor Reason', has called into question the validity of research carried out by Professor Radcliffe-Brown, long revered as the founding father of British anthropology whose theory was that before white invasion Aboriginal society was composed of small groups, or hordes, whose membership was determined by patrilineal descent. Professor Radcliffe-Brown's treatises on the subject earned him fame and became the basis for further anthropological studies, and, eventually in Australia, the basis for land claims . In other words, the very premise of land rights claims of the Northern Territory enshrined in the Northern Territory land rights legislation has been found, based on his proposition, to be wrong. As Dr Gumbar says:

Anthropologists are really quite a cloistered bunch. They are sometimes not amenable to new ideas.

The reason I raise these matters of conflict is to demonstrate the absurdity of providing 'Aboriginal tradition' with such a wide definition as to allow every real and perceived notion of the ordinary functioning of the pre-1788 Aboriginal life- style to be embraced when some of these rather quaint notions are the conceived notions of poor, incompetent anthropological assumptions. I quote Lesley Maynard, area anthropologist for the northern region of the National Parks and Wildlife Service in New South Wales. She gives an example from the Pilbara region of Western Australia:

I have been doing some work on prehistoric rock engravings at waterholes. There are also artefacts scattered and these cover the general range of domestic occupation and even more interesting there are smooth abraded patches on the same outcrops as the engravings and these have been used for grinding seeds. As if people were carrying out very, very domestic behaviour. It's undoubtedly women who were grinding the seeds and here you have these engravings around the periphery-this is a little contradictory to a general tendency to regard rock art as religious, set aside, sacred. If there is rock art there is goodness, it must be a sacred site, a special place, a set aside place.

She concludes:

And I think that would indicate something about the role of rock art in the prehistoric culture that made it.

Pat Vinycombe of the University of Western Australia stated:

Its important to stress that not all Aboriginal art, now or long ago, is necessarily sacred. As Lesley Maynard has found sometimes pictures have been found right next to living sites and seem to be part of everyday life, not hidden away in secret or sacred places.

He goes on to say:

The accent on the religious aspects of Aboriginal art was part of the earlier notion that Aborigines-

the word is used in the correct sense, the noun, for a change-

were a relic people, their lives ruled by, in the words used in those days, sorcery and superstition. In this sense by playing up the mystical aspects of all art, Aboriginal cultures were distanced from European rationalism.

I labour this question of the distinction drawn by the various anthropologists and archeologists of the notions of what is mystic, sacred, religious or simply a drawing, doodling or evidence of a past presence to show not only how embracing the definition is, but also the wide interpretation by many would-be experts as to what represents Aboriginal tradition within the meaning of this Bill. One could go on for hours giving examples and exploding myths of what in the past or perhaps even in contemporary terms has been suddenly found to be sacred for the sake of convenience. There are countless documented cases where those myths have been exploded.

Senator Peter Baume —You would acknowledge that there are some sacred sites, wouldn't you?

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE — Absolutely; without question. I acknowledge that there is a vast number of genuine sacred sites without question. This Bill's definition, with enough diligence, has the capacity to cause the setting aside of literally millions of sites and enormous parts of Australia from all but Aboriginal Australians. It has been said before in this debate that the Museum of Western Australia can identify over 750,000 sites. I think that is one for every three hectares in Western Australia. This land will be denied to many white people. They will be denied access not only to their own land for commercial or economic purposes but also to many parts of Australia for pleasure and leisure purposes. The definition clearly is purposely all-embracing so as to include not only areas which have no physical evidence of significance but also all areas which have any signs of a previous Aboriginal presence.

Given the Minister's committed views on these matters and those of his advisers , the National Aboriginal Conference and so many anthropologists that he is likely to surround himself with in terms of consultation, I have no doubt that vast areas of Australia will be annexed from most Australians. It ought to be remembered that the areas which may be proclaimed by the Minister have no limits ; they can be of any size. I well remember the Noonkanbah case that was referred to by Senator Cook, except I have a different memory of it. Unfortunately, time prevents me from going through the differences. I remember how the Amax Mining Company-we agree on that, Senator Cook-sought through consultation with the real traditional land occupiers to drill an exploratory oil well under a mining tenement upon a pastoral lease which had been held in white hands for over 100 years but had recently been purchased with taxpayers' money for an Aboriginal group under the Western Australian Land Act for the purpose of pastoral pursuits . That station originally had contained upon it one particular significant sacred site identified as 'P' Hill and recorded as such since 1976, if my memory sequence serves me correctly.

Without going through the whole sequence of events, in a matter of months that small site radiated out as an area of influence to sit perfectly and compatibly on the boundaries of that station. An area of 400,000 hectares of land suddenly took on a whole new dimension, a whole new relevance, for the Aboriginal community. Originally when Amax wanted to drill some miles from 'P' Hill that was acceptable. Every time it moved its drill another sacred site was found. Of course, what happened was that the original traditional owners were removed and Dicky Skinner and the de facto owners came along, distorted the whole debate and debased the whole matter.

Under Mr Holding's definition, that station could become a declared area-not because the real traditional owners sought such a declaration, but because of an application by an Aboriginal who has no inherent relationship with the land. Clearly, that is the situation that could occur right now, at the Argyle diamond mine, where an arrangement and a contract has been entered into between the traditional landowners and Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd. In that area there is a sacred site called the Barramundi Sacred Site-right on top of the main pipe . An agreement has been entered into between those two parties. But if the Kimberley Land Council, which never wanted that operation, which never approved the agreement and which refused to give legal advice to the Aboriginal community group, now made application, we would find that that whole operation could be closed down and the land could be set aside by way of declaration, notwithstanding the fact that the traditional landowners had entered into, knowingly and willingly, a legal agreement with the mining company.

Clearly, the areas of declaration will not be small but will, under the definition, by any standard, embrace enormous tracts of land. The applications need not be made in writing but may be made orally-by a phone call. They need not be made by Aboriginals or Aboriginal groups who have any inherent or intrinsic relationship with the land the subject of the application. They may be made by any Aboriginal, any Aboriginal group, or by anyone else on their behalf. The application could come from someone with absolutely no relationship whatsoever with the land in question.

Senator Kilgariff —Or the people who live off them.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Or the people who live on the land.

Senator Kilgariff —Live off them.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —That is right. When considering an application for an area to be set aside as a declared area, the Minister is not required to notify the owner of the land of the application. In fact, the Minister is not even compelled, after setting aside the declared land, to notify persons likely to be affected by the declaration. The Government is not compelled, upon setting aside land, to compensate any landowner or any other person or any company who has previously had title over the land.

The basis upon which a Minister will make a declaration in respect of land will be if an area or object is or is likely to be injured or desecrated and, in the case of an area, if it is to be used or treated in a manner inconsistent with Aboriginal tradition; secondly, if by reason of anything done in, on or near the area, the use or significance of the area in accordance with Aboriginal tradition is adversely affected; or, thirdly, if passage through or over, or entry upon, the area by any person occurs in a manner inconsistent with Aboriginal tradition. Recalling the definition of 'Aboriginal tradition', as we must, in the case of an object, the basis is if it is used or treated in a manner inconsistent with Aboriginal tradition. It ought to be remembered that for the purposes of this Act an area or object shall be taken to be under threat of injury or desecration if it is, or is likely to be, influenced or desecreated .

When one recalls the definition of 'Aboriginal tradition', it is obvious that any such declared land will be, to all intents and purposes, out of bounds, even of entry, to all white Australians. With the exception of one House of the Parliament disallowing a declaration-a highly unlikely proposition-there is no right of appeal from the Minister's decision. An emergency declaration may be granted by authorised officers who have been so designated by the Minister in writing. They are not required to have any qualifications at all, other than that the Minister shall cause to be issued to each authorised officer an identity card in the prescribed form containing a photograph of the officer, who is required to produce his identity card for inspection where possible. It almost sounds like Matt Dillon and a posse going out on a vigilante exercise somewhere-just give them a badge and they are off, and they have the authority.

The legislation makes no automatic provision for the people directly affected by the declaration to object, to argue their case, or to receive compensation. In many cases, just the entry on to declared land will constitute an offence. The penalties for such a breach are as follows:

(a) If the person is a natural person-by a fine not exceeding $10,000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 5 years . . .

(b) if the person is a body corporate-by a fine not exceeding $50,000.

In the case of significant Aboriginal objects, the penalty is a fine not exceeding $5,000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years, or both; or if the person is a body corporate, a fine not exceeding $25,000. It is not without significance that in Western Australia the desecration of a church carries a maximum penalty of $500 or six months imprisonment.

Senator Macklin —It does not here.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Well, with respect, I am worried about Western Australia. I represent Western Australia.

Senator Macklin —That was a Liberal law.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —In Western Australia we have been afflicted with the disease of a socialist government for the last 18 months, and nothing has changed. The penalty for the desecration of a grave is $40 or three months imprisonment. Draftsmen and governments in setting down penalties of course look to comparable penalties for similar offences elsewhere. We can assume only that the Labor Government has taken the view that desecration of Aboriginal symbols of religious significance or Aboriginal graves is much more serious than a similar offence to a non-Aboriginal religious symbol or grave.

Finally I refer to clause 25 which rests responsibility for acts of servants and agents on a body corporate. Clause 25 (1) is a reflection of the general law provisions between master and servant. However, I would have thought it totally inappropriate for legislation of this nature. For instance, if an agent or employer operating for a mining company in an isolated part of Australia acts in defiance of specific instructions to the contrary that unlawful act is irrevocably and unassailably imputed to the body corporate. Clause 25 (2) is perhaps even more draconian. It reads:

Any conduct engaged in on behalf of a body corporate by a member of the governing body, director, servant or agent of the body corporate, or by any other person at the direction or with the consent or agreement (whether expressed or implied) of one of the first-mentioned persons, shall be deemed, for the purposes of this Act, to have been engaged in also by the body corporate .

The effect of that provision is that if in a remote part of Australia an employee of a mining company, acting in defiance of specific instructions to the contrary, incites an independent contractor-quite unconnected with the company other than on a contractual basis-to a wrongful act the corporation is defined to have committed an offence. In fact, as I understand it, the offence need only be undertaken in the presence of an employee by someone quite unrelated to the corporation. The corporation is then also deemed to have committed an offence.

Many of us on this side of the Parliament who have worked closely with Aboriginals and lived with them in many ways, understand their needs, their wishes, their aspirations and their desires. In my view, this legislation is in no way a reflection of the needs or wishes of the wider community. I do not believe the legislation has the imprimatur or the support of the great majority of Aboriginals within the community. I apologise to Senator Grimes for not showing him the document which I wish to have incorporated, which is a short summary of events at Noonkanbah and which is in contradiction of the statement by Senator Cook. I seek leave to have the document incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-


A Report to Parliament by the Premier of Western AustraliaHon. Sir Charles Court K.C.M.G, O.B.E., M.L.A.


The time has come to report to Parliament, as promised, on the drilling of an exploratory petroleum well at Noonkanbah.

In making this report, I propose to show why and how the Government became involved.

I also propose to discuss a number of key aspects of that involvement.

The Government became involved for five main reasons:

Firstly, because the lawful right to explore on Noonkanbah was unlawfully obstructed.

Secondly, because the search for petroleum was and is of national importance, and the national interest demands that it must not be unreasonably obstructed.

Thirdly, because obstruction at Noonkanbah was clearly intended to become a precedent for further obstruction over vast areas of the State that would have gravely disrupted essential exploration, as well as denying many people their lawful rights.

Fourthly, because the obstruction was carried out with the clear intention of challenging, and even replacing, the lawful authority of elected government.

Finally, because the community of Western Australia clearly wanted lawful order maintained on an even-handed basis, without privilege for any-on grounds of race , or for any other reason.

At all times during this episode, the rights of all citizens were given equal respect and protection by the Government-including those of the Aboriginal community at Noonkanbah.

At no time were the lawful rights of anyone violated by the Government or by explorers.

But, over and over again, the right of the Aboriginal community at Noonkanbah to live in peace was violated by activists-

Firstly, by inciting the Aborigines to physically obstruct explorers, contrary to law, and contrary to their own best interests.

Secondly, by bringing onto Noonkanbah pastoral station large numbers of Aborigines from elsewhere to reinforce obstruction.

Thirdly, by marshalling members of the community and others to stage demonstrations which were organised to create an impression for visiting media.

When the activism failed to prevent the drilling from getting under way, and failed to stop it from proceeding, the activism slowly subsided.

And since the activism has subsided, there has been no disturbance caused on account of the drilling because the activists have given up causing a disturbance.

The drilling, of itself, causes no disturbance to the life of the community at all.

Honourable Members need to hold in their minds the true position concerning the physical relationship of the drill to the community.

The drill location is as separated from the Noonkanbah community as Parliament House is from Inglewood.

Even if it were as close as Hay Street, it would create very little disturbance .

There is the sound of drive motors, and the sound of occasional vehicles arriving and departing.

These sounds do not prevent drillers, right on the drill site, from getting their daily rest, and-at close quarters-represent little more than the sound of heavy traffic experienced by residents living on busy suburban streets in Perth.

But, when those sounds are as far away as Inglewood, and when there are no other sounds in between, one must concede that the element of disturbance is so small as to be negligible.

To this, one must add the established fact that explorers were under the control of strict requirements as to their behaviour.

They were not permitted to have contact with the aboriginal community, except through any representative chosen by that community.

Despite this arbitrary ban on normal contact, they were also required to bring no liquor on site, and no firearms.

Again, the potential for disturbance was as minimal as the actual disturbance.

I therefore come back to the activists who were the real cause of the disturbance on Noonkanbah.

They realised they had no legitimate grounds for challenging lawful authority or for obstructing the rights of others-so they invented reasons for doing what they did.

They made the false claim that the drilling violated sacred sites.

They made this claim repeatedly for the sole purpose of justifying their unwarranted and unlawful actions.

I therefore draw the attention of Honourable Members to three more important basic facts:

Firstly, sacred sites have not been violated.

Secondly, the nearest recognised sacred site is 1.25 kilometres from the drill location.

Thirdly, the Government and the explorers have consistently recognised and respected the genuine sacred sites on Noonkanbah.

Despite these indisputable facts, the mythology of sacred sites violation was propagated in a virulent fashion.

The way it was done brought strongly to mind the dictum of Adolf Hitler that '' the bigger the lie, the more easily it is believed''.

Without question, the lie of sacred site violations was not only a big lie.

It was also the base of a big propaganda campaign to spread the lie around Australia and around the world.

That lie has certainly damaged the well-deserved good name of this State and of Australia.

And because of that lie, and because of the damage it caused, we experienced a great deal of pressure from time to time to give ground to the activists so that the damage done by that lie could be abated.

However, the State Government looked beyond the lie and its substantial damage to the even greater damage that would be done to Western Australia and Australia if pressure group power was seen to have destroyed the protection of individual rights on an even-handed basis by lawful order under elected government.

For these reasons, neither the lie, nor the obstruction which it sought to justify, nor the enormous public pressure brought to bear in support of it-were allowed to intimidate the Government or influence the Government against doing its duty.

Let us now consider both the attitude and the actions of the Government in doing its duty.


In doing its duty, the Government recognised the importance of trying to achieve respect for equal rights and for lawful order by persuasion, rather than by force.

The need for a tolerant approach-even though the issues were grave-was influenced by the long-established precedent of giving special consideration to relations with Aboriginal communities.

The need for such consideration did not exist in respect of certain union executives who became involved through the organisation of obstruction on roads and elsewhere, and through threats of black bans against individuals and firms.

This undesirable behaviour could not be justified on any grounds, nor could there be any excuse raised in defence of those involved.

The Government's special efforts at persuasion were therefore directed towards those who deserved it, namely the Aboriginal community at Noonkanbah.

At first, the Government stood back from the issue in the belief that, when the first obstruction of explorers occurred, the matter would be resolved by persuasion directly between the parties concerned.

The Government's expectation of a peaceful settlement through such a process was based on past experience of the natural good sense of the vast majority of Aborigines.

But, over a period, it became clear that this natural good sense was not going to prevail at Noonkanbah, and that other influences imposed on the community would take over their will in this matter.

As a consequence, the explorers were both obstructed and intimidated on location.

Both the explorers and the Government were told that White law would not be recognised and that Black law would take its place.

A similar attitude was taken by union executives seeking to reinforce the stand taken on the station through threats of union black bans. They declared, in effect, that ''union law'' was superior to the laws of our society, and must be obeyed first.

As time went by, it became clearer and clearer that the use of union power was closely linked with events at Noonkanbah, and that some union leaders were directly involved in planning the strategies of action on the station.

I remind Honourable Members that, in support of its policy of negotiation, the Government twice authorised a deferment of drilling on Noonkanbah by the explorers, even though they had an obligation to carry out the drilling under the terms of their exploration permit.

The first time was at the end of June last year, after representatives of the explorers had been stopped by a road block at the station gate.

The second time was in early April this year, when water drilling and other drilling contractors preparing for the main drill were terrorised by the presence of an estimated 150 Aborigines, causing them to leave the station, and there were indications that similar obstruction would continue.

It was after the second deferment of drilling, on grounds of obstruction, that the Government found it absolutely necessary to declare a firm stand.

Three simple declarations were made.

The first was that the Government would ensure that drilling proceeded- according to national interest, according to right, and according to law.

The second was that the Aboriginal community at Noonkanbah must respect the rights of explorers under the terms of their pastoral station lease, and must refrain from obstruction contrary to law.

The third was that union threats would not prevail.

Under the terms of this declaration, the explorers were obliged to return to Noonkanbah station later this year, and complete the required drilling before the onset of the wet season in the Kimberley.

Despite the firmness of the declaration, the Government still persisted with its hope that it would be possible to win the co-operation of the Aboriginal community at Noonkanbah by persuasion.

I remind Honourable Members that, before the contractors were terrorised and obstructed in early April, three Ministers of the State Government had flown to Noonkanbah for talks aimed at settlement.

The fact that such blatant obstruction occurred after such talks indicates that the Government was not lacking in patience when it continued to try to get results by persuasion.

Persuasions which followed the obstruction included a specially prepared tape recorded message which was also committed to writing and sent to the people of Noonkanbah by the Minister for Cultural Affairs, Mr Grayden, whose lifelong interest in the welfare of Aborigines is known on both sides of this House and throughout Western Australia.

The persuasion also included a special visit to the Noonkanbah community by me.

I spent five hours in talks at the station, conveying an offer of unusual protection for the sacred sites.

I said the sites could be converted into properties and placed under direct Aboriginal control.

Not only did the Aboriginal community at Noonkanbah refuse to accept these persuasions of this offer-they later told me in writing I was wrong to assume that they recognised State Government control of the pastoral station.

This declaration by the Noonkabah community, made in June, was reinforced in August when a white activist, Mr Don McLeod, read a proclamation at Noonkanbah, allegedly in the name of the Aboriginal people, asserting that they had resumed the property from the Commonwealth of Australia.

Five days earlier a convoy carrying the Noonkanbah petroleum drilling rig had arrived at the station.

It had reached its destination from a previous drill site south of Geraldton despite union-organised attempts to prevent the movement-by physical obstruction the roads, by threats of lifetime black bans against individual drivers and private firms, and by threats of industrial reprisals by which some firms were warned they would suffer heavy financial damage.

These threats hung over the erection of the drill.

Union members of the drill crew were withdrawn after being subjected to heavy persuasion in the form of threats that they would be banned for life, and in the form of offers that they would be paid about $1 100 a fortnight each for up to six months if they refused to work the drill.

The drilling company and the explorers were also placed under heavy pressure by elements of the union movement, including the Western Australian Trades and Labor Council, the A.C.T.U., the Transport Workers' Union and the Australian Workers' Union.

The weight of these pressures increased as the erection of the drill moved to completion.

The obvious aim was to defer the start of drilling long enough to make it impossible to carry out a programme before the onset of the wet season, as required under the terms of the exploration permit.

The Government recognised that it must now repeat a step it had taken earlier when union pressure was used in an attempt to stop the transport of the rig to Noonkanbah.

When that happened, the Government stepped in, and took the brunt of this pressure by organising the transport.

As the deadline for starting the drill programme approached, the Government stepped in again to take the brunt.

It took control of the drilling rig and began the drilling. The drill went into the ground at noon on Friday, August 29.

The programme of drilling was successsfully completed last Sunday, November 23.

It is still a matter of great regret to the Government that the implementation of this programme was unlawfully obstructed, and that persuasion could not remove that obstruction.

We have used authority sparingly, but we have used it without hesitation in the face of one of the worst examples of confrontation with lawful order this community has ever known.

For the information of Honourable Members I will now turn to some important specific aspects of this unfortunate episode.


The drilling, just completed on Noonkanbah, was the culmination of four years patient effort.

It began when exploration permit 97 was granted to Whitestone Petroleum Australia Ltd. on September 17, 1976.

This was just one week before the right to occupy the Noonkanbah pastoral lease was transferred from private interests to the Aboriginal Lands Trust, which holds it on behalf of the Noonkanbah community.

Before Whitestone started work, its manager met with about 20 community elders led by a recognised traditional occupant of the land, Mr Friday Muller.

After the location of the survey lines was explained, the community asked that one of the lines be moved to avoid an area considered ''important ground'' by some of the elders.

This line was moved, as requested, and the Aborigines made no complaints at the way the survey was conducted.

In December, 1976, after a joint venture had been formed to continue the exploration, Amax became the operators on behalf of the group and worked harmoniously with the Aborigines for nearly two years.

The consistent practice was for exploration programmes to be discussed on the spot with the Noonkanbah community so that their approval could be obtained for the making of seismic lines.

The aim was to ensure that there was no unintentional offence given to the members of the community in respect of any sites which were important to them.

After the surveys were done, any disturbance was made good and community was always approached to see whether it was satisfied with the way this work was done.

As part of the procedure, a record of community approval was obtained in the form of a statement signed by a community representative.

The same procedure was followed when a survey was completed. A signed statement confirmed that any disturbance had been made good to the satisfaction of the community.

In each case, a copy of the signed statement was given to the community by Amax , as operators for the exploring consortium.

In order that Honourable Members can gain a proper understanding of the situation, I propose to give a synopsis of what happened in respect of the seismic survey which led up to the decision to drill an exploratory well at Noonkanbah.

The survey was authorised by the Government in February 1978.

The explorers sent advice of the authorisation to the Aboriginal Lands Trust, owner of the station, and then, on April 17, visited the station to discuss the survey programme and received a signed approval.

On July 22, after the survey had been completed and any disturbance made good, another signed statement of satisfaction was received.

At that time, plans for future drilling were also discussed, although at that stage analysis of seismic information had not proceeded to the point where a specific drill site could be selected.

However, with the aim of avoiding any conflict between a drill location and any site of significance to the Aboriginal people, the community were asked to point out any places of significance.

The community co-operated and, with their help, the names and locations of several places were plotted on a map.

Copies of the map were later sent to the Under Secretary for Mines, the Aboriginal Legal Service, the Acting Registrar of Aboriginal Sites, and-by request-to an anthropologist in Derby, Mr Kim Akerman.

On October 17, representatives of the explorers and the contract drillers went back to Noonkanbah with the map to discuss possible drilling locations.

A number of suggested drilling locations were on the map.

Community representatives said at that time that the proposed drill sites were not on any sacred place.

But they did ask that one proposed location-being near to what they referred to as ''Bundarra Goodun'' site-should be moved to another place.

This was done, and the new site became known as drill location No. 1 because it was firmly agreed on.

Early in 1979, firm preparations for the drilling got under way.

Early in March, the community was given three months notice of the intention to start drilling, and were asked for the use of their access road and airstrip.

They were told that the road and the airstrip would be upgraded and left in improved condition, and that a water well required for the operation would be left for station use.

Early in April, representatives of the explorers and the drillers visited the station to make inspections of the airstrip and drill site.

To their surprise, they were called to a meeting of the community councillors and told that the community was not happy with the drilling, but, as it was legal, would accept it on certain conditions.

These conditions included the cleaning up of the existing airstrip, the building of a second airstrip, and the provision of more than one water well.

They also included the reasonable requirements that all gates be shut, no alcohol or firearms be allowed, and no persons were to visit the homestead except the one in charge of the drilling.

As Honourable Members will know these latter requirements are imposed on explorers as a condition of their permit. In fact, the permit conditions are a little more strict.

The community's councillors presented these conditions to the representatives of the explorers and drillers in the form of a draft letter which they said would be officially conveyed to them through the Aboriginal Legal Service in Derby.

However, when an Aboriginal Legal Service telex came seven days later, it was in the form of a point blank refusal to agree to drilling on the station, and claimed that the proposed No. 1 drill location was a sacred area.

I shall return shortly to the role of the Aboriginal Legal Service as well as to other elements in what became a major confrontation.

But, for the moment, I will simply complete the basic record leading up to the drilling by saying that, on March 18, this year, representatives of the explorers and the Mines Department reached agreement with representatives of the community to shift the site of the drilling location No. 1 to another site, which became known as location No. 2.

It was on this location that the drill went down on August 29.

However, this simple outline of events leading to a drilling is not the real story of the Noonkanbah episode.

The real story is how a strategy emerged to stage-manage a confrontation.


The first sign of an emerging confrontation came in June, 1978 when the Aboriginal Legal Service entered the picture.

Up to that time, matters between the explorers and the Noonkanbah community had been worked out directly between them.

Up to that time, also, the recognised key figure in all matters concerning important or sacred locations had been the traditional custodian of ''P'' Hill, Mr Friday Muller, the head man of the Gudji group within the community.

He is the only head man recorded as being descended on both sides from groups that lived in the area before the progressive invasion by Walmadjeri people made them the dominant group in more recent times.

He consistently confirmed that sacred sites were not threatened by the exploration programme.

Under his influence, the relationship between Aborigines and the explorers was as sensible and reasonable on Noonkanbah as it had continued to be elsewhere.

For example, the first seismic survey in 1976 covered 378 kilometres, of which 255 were on Noonkanbah, and 123 elsewhere.

In the second survey, covering 313 kilometres, only 83 were on Noonkanbah and 230 elsewhere.

When, in the second survey, an Aboriginal adviser said it appeared that one seismic line had crossed a car dump area used by visitors to the Noonkanbah station, the matter was discussed with Mr Friday Muller.

He told the contractors his main concern was about the effect on grazing areas.

When a review of the location of the survey line showed that the main grazing areas would not be affected, he agreed to the work.

However, with the entry of the Aboriginal Legal Service, the pattern changed in two ways.

Claims related to sacred areas were progressively escalated until the whole station was declared out of bounds.

And the authority and influence of Mr Friday Muller was progressively destroyed and replaced by hard-line activists, including white advisers, and an emerging Aboriginal leader, Mr Dicky Skinner.

This chain reaction began with a letter from the Aboriginal Legal Service to the explorers in June, 1978, expanding the concept of sacred sites to sacred areas-and claiming that there had been violation of some areas.

Another facet of the letter was the request that the explorers should develop a close liaison between themselves and the community to avoid sacred area violations, as if such a relationship had not already existed.

The letter was written by a solicitor for the service, Mr Philip Vincent, and he referred the explorers to an anthropologist at Derby, Mr Kim Akerman, as one who could advise them on sacred areas entitled to protection under the Aboriginal Heritage Act.

In this way, the ground was clearly being laid for final authority on what was sacred and what was not sacred to be shifted from the traditional custodian, Mr Friday Muller, to outsiders.

In their reply, the explorers explained the care they had taken not to cause any problems, and pointed out they would willingly avoid sacred places if they were told about them.

They followed up the request to consult with Mr Akerman and, because he was not immediately available, he suggested they consult the Community Welfare Department at Fitzroy Crossing.

This they did, and meetings were arranged there with representatives of two groups affected by seismic surveys-the Noonkanbah community and the Millajiddee community.

Neither expressed any complaint about the surveys, and both said they were satisfied-and this was in conflict with the claims in Mr Vincent's letter.

In fact, when Noonkanbah representatives were asked at the meeting about any places special to them, the places they nominated were those already made known to the explorers.

This position was confirmed on July 22, when Mr Friday Muller signed a statement certifying that disturbance caused by the survey had been made good to the community's satisfaction.

The explorers then talked about plans for drilling arising from the seismic survey, and Mr Dickey Skinner and others helped them locate important Aboriginal sites so they could map future drillings without disturbance.

Soon afterwards, a map was prepared, and copies were sent to Mr Akerman, and to the Under Secretary for Mines, the Aboriginal Legal Service and the Acting Registrar of Aboriginal Sites.

As a matter of interest, in a Warden's Court hearing three months later concerning a completely separate issue at Noonkanbah, the report of an anthropologist, Mr Kingsley Palmer, identified sacred sites, and these were the same as those plotted by Amax on behalf of the explorers.

The map accepted as authentic at the Warden's Court hearing confirmed that the drilling location later chosen on Noonkanbah was remote from any sacred site.

However, the build-up to confrontation was under way.

Four days after Mr Friday Muller certified that the seismic survey had been completed to the satisfaction of the community, a damaging report appeared in the Press, saying the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Viner, had been told that fences had been cut, allowing cattle to escape, during the exploration for gas and oil on Noonkanbah.

Then, questions were asked in the Legislative Assembly on August 9 and on August 22 1978, echoing the Aboriginal Legal Service letter.

And the Legal Service echoed itself again in October, in a statement published in ''The Australian'' alleging that Amax had violated burial and ceremonial grounds in an area which they said was now the focus of attention in what they described as ''the massive West Kimberley search''.

Then came a critical shift in the posture of the Aboriginal community at Noonkanbah.

Although, in October, 1978, they helped Amax fix drill location No. 1 as being clear of any sacred sites-they were telling Amax on April 5 1979, they would accept the drilling only because it was legal.

This was a significant change of attitude but it still recognised their lawful responsibility to permit exploration.

This respect for law and the rights of others disappeared a week later when the Aboriginal Legal Service telexed what became the official position.

This marked the shift to total confrontation.

The letter, written by Mr Vincent, said ''the community totally and unequivocally opposes exploration and mining in all forms and by all persons or companies upon its station property''.

The letter then injected the message of land rights campaigners, saying-that the station was the traditional country of the Aboriginal occupants, that exploration was an unacceptable intrusion upon their traditional lands by Europeans, and that the land had deep religious and cultural significance to the community.

In other words, the whole station was out of bounds.

Destruction of topographical features or meddling with undersoil was said by Mr Vincent to constitute sacrilege.

Mr Vincent then made two more important statements.

He said the area on which Amax wish to drill was a sacred area called ''Minal'' -a replenishment area for goannas, frogs and fish.

As Minal is 15 kilometres away from the drill location, this was clearly a forerunner of the ''area of influence'' claim which emerged later.

Mr Vincent also made a very significant statement about Mr Friday Muller.

He said Mr Muller was not empowered to speak for the community in regard to the implications of the Amax programme.

Mr Muller was clearly on his way out.

From this point, the confrontation escalated into what became, in effect, a land rights war.

A month after the Aboriginal Legal Service letter, Mr Dicky Skinner was in Perth petitioning Parliament against all mining or exploration on the station.

Mr Skinner was no longer the same person who, ten months beforehand, had helped Amax plot significant and sacred locations which were accepted as authentic by a Warden's Court and clearly showed the proposed drilling would not affect any of them.

In a television interview, Mr Skinner made the first of a series of threats that company representatives entering the station would be punished under tribal law.

A few days later, at Noonkanbah, he warned an Amax representative that, if he ever came back to the station he would suffer the consequences.

He declared that tribal law now prevailed on Noonkanbah, and the Amax representative would be detained and punished if he came back.

Not unreasonably, Amax complained to the police, to the Community Welfare Department, and to the Aboriginal Legal Service.

The Legal Service replied the same day, May 23, 1979, ignoring the serious complaint and threatening Amax with legal action if they attempted to drill on the station.

The Legal Service letter also made the false claim that Amax, in its letter, had said it was proposing to drill ''next week''.

In fact, Amax had not at that time received permission to drill because investigations were under way, through the museum, concerning sacred sites claims.

Furthermore, a Museum representative had been on the station for this purpose two days before, when the Amax representative had been threatened.

It is of interest that the Legal Service, on the same day that it sent its letter, also telexed the Amax Petroleum Exploration Headquarters in Houston, warning that the Noonkanbah community would oppose their drilling programme-and claiming that 40 000 years of culture were at risk.

The following day, Mr Dicky Skinner told the Press the community were working on ways in tribal law to stop Amax drilling.

A separate statement by an unnamed spokesman in Fitzroy Crossing said the community were prepared to lock their gates against Amax.

Hoping to defuse the situation, the Government sent representatives to go with Amax representatives to Noonkanbah for talks.

But when they arrived on May 30, 1979, Amax were barred by the community from attending the talks on behalf of the explorers.

At these talks, the Aboriginal Legal Service focused on a new enemy-the Mines Department.

It claimed the Mines Department representatives at the talks was applying unreasonable pressure because he was trying to find out whether alternative drill sites were acceptable.

The Legal Service complained about the Mines Department in a statement to the Press and claimed that any alternative site would require time for a new survey and a new report-indicating determination to keep the matter out of the hands of responsible Aborigines and under the control of outsiders.

It was at this stage that the union movement made a decisive entry into the confrontation, via the Western Australian Trades and Labor Council.

Mr Dicky Skinner came to Perth again early in June, 1979, put a case to the T.L .C., and won their support.

The T.L.C. asked Amax to observe A.C.T.U. policy declaring extensive support for what it described as ''communal and inalienable land rights for Aboriginal communities'', including all minerals and resources, extending even up to 10 kilometres out to sea.

Meanwhile, the Museum had made its report, reflecting the newly-emerged area-of -influence philosophy.

The vagueness of this philosophy can be gauged from three indicators.

The first indication was that the Noonkanbah community, in the conditions they laid down in April, said Amax's offer of one water well was not enough and asked for more to be drilled in what was later claimed to be an ''area of influence'' too sacred to be touched.

The second is that the Aborigines had no objection to plans for a new housing settlement at Noonkanbah within this alleged ''area of influence''-even though it will (to quote the Aboriginal Legal Service) destroy topographical features and meddle with the undersoil because of the required earthworks, foundations and septic systems.

The third indicator came soon after the Museum lodged its report when the Aboriginal Legal Service took out an injunction to ban drilling within three kilometres of ''P'' Hill because of the alleged ''area of influence''.

When it was pointed out that ''P'' Hill was more than three kilometres away from the drill site, the alleged area of influence was extended to five kilometres.

Understandably, the Government-while firmly respecting the established sacred sites-rejected the ''area of influence'' argument against drilling.

The Government's decision to permit drilling was published on the morning of June 15, 1979.

By the afternoon, the Press were reporting that Aboriginals from all over the Kimberley were asked to gather at Noonkanbah, and an unnamed Kimberley Land Council spokesman was saying: ''We've chained and padlocked all the gates, but going on past performance we expect Amax to break through''.

Considering Amax's real performance, this was typical of the exaggerated and unfair statements so frequently made.

However, when representatives of Amax and the Mines Department came to the station that day to inspect the drill site, they were stopped at a locked gate by 35 Aborigines and their Press Officer, Mr Stephen Hawke.

By now, time was beginning to run out for Amax to get its drilling done before the 1979 wet season.

Possibly sensing this, the Aboriginal Legal Service applied on June 18 for a temporary injunction restraining Amax from drilling.

Although this was refused by the Supreme Court on June 27, the Legal Service had already lodged, the day before, an application for a permanent injunction, for which a hearing date of July 11 was fixed.

Realising that it was now going to be beaten by the calendar, Amax asked the Government for relief from the obligation to drill on Noonkanbah in 1979, and was given permission to defer the drilling until the 1980 dry season.

Amax then transferred the drilling activity to Ellendale, about 70 kilometres to the north, where Aborigines did not obstruct the drilling.


With 1979 out of the way, new confrontations were organised for 1980.

There were two phases.

In the first phase, intimidation by Aborigines and unions drove contractors from the drill site, and drilling was again delayed.

In the second phase, intimidation-mainly by unions-was overcome, and drilling proceeded.

Phase one followed the now well-established confrontation pattern.

Its organisers took advantage of the open intentions of the Government and the explorers.

The Minister for Mines, Mr Mensaros, had made it clear-when he granted deferment of the drilling in 1979-that it must proceed under the terms of the exploration permit in the 1980 dry season.

It was on this basis that Amax made plans to begin site preparation on March 12 this year, on behalf of the exploring consortium.

As far back as December 4, it advised the Aboriginal Legal Service of the intention to drill-offering to consider alternate sites, and also offering to bring the head of Amax Petroleum to discuss terms with the Noonkanbah community.

The Legal Service did not reply.

Yet, on March 10, when the Press reported about 300 Aborigines would camp at the gates of Noonkanbah station to block the entry of Amax, a Legal Service spokesman was reported as saying:

''People at Noonkanbah are agreeable to talks. That is what they have been trying to arrange all along''.

There was similar distortions in a letter from the principal officer of the Legal Service, Mr Philip Vincent, to the Government on March 12, when he claimed Amax intended to drill on the sacred site of ''P'' Hill-saying that was why Aborigines were gathered at the gate to prevent the explorers from entering.

On the same day, Mr Dicky Skinner was quoted as saying it would greatly upset the elderly people of Noonkanbah if ''P'' Hill was touched.

Yet, both Mr Vincent and Mr Skinner knew that ''P'' Hill was 3.5 kilometres from the drill location.

Both these statements indicated a willingness to stop at nothing to invent reasons for unreasonable actions.

In fact, Mr Vincent's letter described the Aborigines as shareholders in the land-and Mr Skinner said Noonkanbah was important to the far-flung Aboriginal communities living under tribal lore, implying a vast extension of the ''sphere of influence'' mythology.

In a bid to reach the Aborigines direct, the Government sent three Ministers for talks at Noonkanbah.

They were the Minister for Mines, Mr Jones, the Minister for Cultural Affairs, Mr Grayden, and the Minister for Community Welfare, Mr Hassell.

They were given assistance by the Chairman of the Aboriginal Lands Trust, Mr Ken Colbung, who cut short a Canberra visit to fly to Noonkanbah on March 13.

The Ministers went up the following day and a long meeting was held at the station.

The visit was intended as a very strong gesture of conciliation, in a bid to resolve the confrontation.

But despite the immense effort, the attempt at reconciliation proved fruitless.

Mr Skinner, acting as interpreter, said the Noonkanbah community were not prepared to allow Amax or any other mining company on any part of the 400 000- hectare station.

Once again, it was clear that the real objective behind all the talk about sacred sites was the seizure of control and ownership over all the land on Noonkanbah.

Mr Ken Colbung revealed at this time that a white Pilbara activist on Aboriginal affairs, Mr Don McLeod, had urged Aborigines on Noonkanbah to form a resistance army, and take formal possession of the station by raising a flag and firing a volley of shots into the air.

Five months later, just before the arrival of the drilling rig, Mr McLeod was the key figure in such a ceremony.

Other evidence of the desire to seize the land came in suggestions that the Noonkanbah community should receive mining royalties.

These suggestions strongly contradicted the claims that sacred sites were the real issue.

They were made at the meeting between the three Ministers and the community.

They were also made by an intermediary who telephoned the Minister for Cultural Affairs, Mr Grayden, during a visit to Perth of two community representatives, Mr Ivan McPhee and Mr Nipper Tabagee.

Mr Grayden was later obliged to reveal that the intermediary was Professor R. M . Berndt, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Western Australia.

He said Professor Berndt had told him that, if the State Government would be prepared to delay drilling for several days, permission would be granted to drill at an alternative site-and suggested that royalties could be involved.

Professor Berndt told Mr Grayden the matter could be followed up through an officer of the Museum, who was present at a meeting with the community representatives.

When Mr Grayden telephoned the officer, he confirmed that the deal involved royalties.

Against this background, it can be understood why, after the visit of the Ministers to Noonkanbah, I saw the need to make a public statement, with strong emphasis on three basic principles.

The first was that drilling would go ahead, as it should, in the national interest.

The second was that the Noonkanbah community were not entitled to exclude explorers or miners from what was a normal pastoral lease, on which exploring and mining could take place under lawful authority and with respect for sacred sites and the community.

The third was that, if the Noonkanbah attitude persisted, no Government could in future take the risk of giving further pastoral leases in the names of Aborigines. Nor could it give reserves.

In keeping with these principles, the request for royalties, to which there is no legal right, was rejected. No such right is available to any other pastoral leaseholder, black or white.

Responding to this declared position, the Aboriginal Legal Service said the Aborigines would take a stand, adding: ''If that involves confrontation, so be it''.

It was in this atmosphere that Amax representatives went back to Noonkanbah on March 18 to come to final agreement about the drill site and prepare for drilling on behalf of the explorers.

In view of past experience, the police quite properly decided to give them protection on request.

A television crew was present, and under the guidance of the Press Officer for the community, Mr Stephen Hawke, film was taken of Aboriginal people signing letters to such persons as Mr Gough Whitlam, Mr Don Dunstan and others before getting down to discussion.

Eventually, after three hours of meetings, the Aborigines asked for an alternative site which became known as location No. 2-the one on which the drilling was finally done. The Aborigines then shook hands with the Amax representative.

It is important that Honourable Members should know that, although it was not publicised at the time, it was reliably reported to the Government after this decision that there was a general feeling of relief in the community that the matter was resolved.

In fact, there was some evidence of this when contractors arrived to begin earthworks next day.

They offered work to the Aborigines but Mr Dicky Skinner said it was not necessary to offer employment.

He added that contractors could go anywhere they needed for gravel-a point that Honourable Members should keep in mind.

They should also be aware that, while the meeting to select a site was actually in progress, someone was telling the Trades and Labor Council and the A.C.T.U. about the possibility that agreement would be reached.

Both took an anti-agreement attitude the same day.

The T.L.C. said it would back the Aborigines in confrontation.

A.C.T.U. President Bob Hawke-father of Noonkanbah's Press Officer, Mr Stephen Hawke-said his organisation would take industrial action against Amax if the company continued drilling on the station.

Notwithstanding the fact that a firm agreement on a drill site was actually being reached while he spoke, Mr Hawke was demanding in Canberra that Amax should stop until a ''satisfactory agreement'' had been reached with the Aborigines.

The following day, the Trades and Labor Council issued its own version of the talks at Noonkanbah, and this tallied with one given by Mr Stephen Hawke.

In effect, the T.L.C. and Stephen Hawke said the Aborigines were driven to accept a hard bargain which was the lesser of two evils.

T.L.C. Secretary Peter Cook declared that his council would try to prevent Amax drilling on Noonkanbah.

So much for conciliation.

The T.L.C. called a meeting of unions with members involved in the drilling work and persuaded them to declare a ban on the movement of equipment needed by Amax for the project.

It is also worth noting that, on the day Amax and the Aborigines reached agreement on drill site No. 2, the Aboriginal Legal Service released to the Press a museum report containing a map showing the alleged ''area of influence'' which was supposed to be violated by the drill site.

Publication of this report was strictly prohibited by the Museum on grounds that it contained material of ritual significance to the Aboriginal people-and was therefore strictly confidential.

Clearly, the co-ordination of confrontation took precedence in the mind of the Aboriginal Legal Service.

Despite the agreement with the Aborigines on a new drill site, the Legal Service sought yet another injunction against Amax.

With perfect timing, the Transport Workers' Union simultaneously black-banned the movement of the exploratory drilling rig that would be needed at Noonkanbah, and was then at Beagle Bay.

The T.W.U. said that any company attempting to move a drilling rig onto Noonkanbah could face Australia-wide union bans.

This was typical of many threats issued by unions, T.L.C. and A.C.T.U. spokesmen up to the time of the drilling in August.

It was in this atmosphere that, on March 24, the State Government directed the Museum to approve drill site No. 2 chosen by the Noonkanbah community.

The Government rejected the Museum's request for more time to study the matter.

It seemed far more correct that the decision of the community should prevail above the decision of the Museum.

In a statement explaining the Government's position, I said:

''We believe that enough time has been spent on the matter.

''It has been the subject of discussion for a long time.

''We believe that there is no valid reason why approval should be withheld.''

Two days later, the Opposition in this House declared that it would move to have the will of the Museum prevail over the will of Government in the future.

On the same day, the head of the Museum indicated his belief that there could be several hundred thousand sacred Aboriginal sites.

Also on the same day, the Australian Workers' Union warned that, if drilling started at Noonkanbah, drilling would stop on five off-shore and four on-shore rigs in Western Australia.

Also on the same day, Mr Justice Wallace rejected the Aboriginal Legal Service request for an injunction against Amax.

In the course of the hearing, the Judge rebuked Mr Philip Vincent for not telling the Court that the move to location No. 2 had been at the community's request.

With the injunction lifted, Amax prepared to move in-and the Aborigines at Noonkanbah geared up to stop them.

On March 29, ''The West Australian'' said a camp had been set up at the drilling location, a group were on watch at the gate, and land rights flags were flying at both places.

The previous day, water drillers, after harrassment from 25 Aborigines, withdrew from the station-but came back next morning with police protection.

While water drilling preparations went on, talks took place all morning between an Amax representative and the Aborigines, led by Mr Dicky Skinner, who warned the Amax man and his family of retribution under Aboriginal spirit law.

It was at this critical stage, on March 31, that I held a meeting with the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Chaney, the State Chairman of the National Aboriginal Conference, the Reverend Cedric Jacobs, and the Chairman of the Kimberley Land Council, Mr Jimmy Bieundurry.

I made it clear that the Government wanted the present limited drilling programme to proceed smoothly, but I willingly accepted an invitation from Mr Bieundurry to visit Noonkanbah-and said I would do so during the drilling programme.

Although this meeting was friendly, the confrontation at Noonkanbah intensified .

By the following evening, April 1, nearly 100 Aborigines had gathered, and vehicles had been used to create a road block cutting off the drilling location. A corroboree was then held until 3.30 the next morning.

After daylight, the number of Aborigines increased to an estimated 150, accompanied by the Federal Labor Member for Fremantle, Mr John Dawkins, the Federal Labor spokesman on Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Stewart West, and the Federal Labor candidate for Kalgoorlie (now the member) Mr Graham Campbell.

As ''The West Australian'' correctly reported, the Amax representative and the contractors were held in a virtual state of seige.

Claims were made that, in getting gravel, contractors had violated sacred areas -even though Mr Dicky Skinner had said earlier that gravel could be taken from anywhere in the vicinity.

They were firmly told by a community spokesman, Mr Ivan McPhee, to leave the site by 2 p.m., otherwise the Aborigines would pull everything down.

The contractor told them that pulling out would mean a loss to him of between $ 30 000 and $50 000.

He told reporters: ''I don't want to see my gear smashed. There is a big show of people here and they are pretty stirred up. If we leave our gear here and it was destroyed, who would pay? If the police have to take strong action, what happens then? If we retaliate there would be open warfare.''

The Amax representative decided not to call on the police, but to withdraw, out of consideration for the contractors, who were of the opinion that a dangerous situation had developed.

On behalf of the Government and the public I felt it necessary to issue a statement condemning what had happened.

I said the Aborigines had dishonoured their word and taxpayers would be bitter that such irresponsible behaviour was made so easy by public funds given to Aborigines.

I said the Government was deeply concerned that Aborigines had allowed themselves to become so closely associated with the strategies of industrial anarchy sponsored by the Trades and Labor Council.

I also said the true objective was obviously land rights and royalties.

The Government authorised Amax to defer drilling on behalf of its consortium till later in the year-and so ended phase one.


Phase two began on April 6 with the Government's announcement of an extension of time for Amax and a declaration that, next time round, drilling would take place.

When I issued the statement, I expressed sympathy for company employees and contract teams, saying they had been ''subject to an unconscionable ordeal of frustration, on-the-spot intimidation by Aborigines, and direct standover from union representatives''.

I pointed out that any white group who gathered and behaved in the way Aborigines did in large numbers around the drill crew camps would be rightly regarded as deliberately intimidating, and deserving of condemnation by the community as a whole.

I said then-and I say now-that Members of Parliament associating with such tactics-as Federal Labor Members did at Noonkanbah-must be regarded as ''having desecrated their public trust''.

In this statement, I said the Government would take steps to make it clear to the Aborigines that they were damaging their good name, casting a shadow over the future of all their people, breaking laws binding on all Australians, breaching their written agreement covering the pastoral lease, falsely claiming land and mineral rights, and bringing into grave discredit the whole question of sacred sites.

I said the Government would also undertake a major appraisal of activist behaviour.

I pointed out that the union movement had been engaged Australia-wide in a campaign of threats related to Noonkanbah-using intimidation to challenge community law with union power.

I said that under no circumstances could elect Government allow an unelected dictatorship to prevail over the people in this way.

It is now a matter of record that the declaration made by the Government was both honoured and sustained, despite massive industrial, political and other pressure throughout Australia and overseas.

In this final phase, the Government and the organisers of the confrontation moved about their separate business.

The early priority for the Government was to take its promised initiative to communicate and negotiate with the Noonkanbah community.

Late in April, the first important initiative was taken. The Minister for Cultural Affairs Mr Grayden, sent a special message to the community, and committed it to tape so that it could be heard by those who could not read.

The taped message was an unusual initiative and was well received by the Noonkanbah community, but not by activists who were incensed by its simple clarity.

The message made clear what has been made even clearer since the drilling started and the activism stopped.

In essence, it said that the drilling would cause no disturbance if the Aborigines stopped allowing themselves to be disturbed.

It strongly urged the community to live by the law which applies equally to all , because it would do them no harm, and because it would protect their legitimate rights, their sacred sites, and their right to occupy the station for as long as they needed to stay there.

It told them of my desire to visit them for direct and private talks, and urged them not to repeat the unlawful action by which they had frightened away the explorers and contractors.

About ten days later, a taped message from the community to Mr Grayden said they would agree to meet me.

However, parts of the message were not particularly friendly.

Mr Dicky Skinner said: ''If you don't go along with the law-without law-well, that means we can't help you''.

Mr Skinner also warned Mr Grayden he was in personal danger from Aboriginal law if drilling went ahead. ''You probably get into trouble from between your own teeth'', the recording said.

Notwithstanding the tone of the message, I replied warmly and, on May 30, flew north for the talks.

I was at Noonkanbah for seven hours in all, including an inspection of the proposed No. 2 drilling site and five hours of talks with the Noonkanbah people.

The following extract from my statement after the meeting is worthy of very careful consideration in the light of all that has happened since. I said:

''We canvassed all points of view painstakingly and at length.

''I offered increased protection of the identified and genuine sacred sites through conclusion of special leases under the Land Act for Aboriginal purposes specifically covering 'P' Hill and the five identified sacred sites closer to the proposed drill site.

'' 'P' Hill is 3.5 kilometres from the drill site. The nearest of the five other sacred sites is 1.25 kilometres.''

I pointed out that these special leases would give the community greater direct control over the sites than was possible under the Aboriginal Heritage Act. In addition there would be-

Complete fencing of the drill and campsite.

No alcohol or firearms permitted.

No contact with the local community except through a pre-arranged liaison officer.

One exploration hole to be drilled this dry season and negotiation to take place after it was evaluated and before any further holes were drilled.

The drill and campsite to be made good after its use was completed.

Any improvement to water supply, roads and other things on the station by Amax to revert to the community when the programme was finished.

My statement then went on to say:

''The community insists that protection of the identified sacred sites is not sufficient.

''They want the whole of the area protected as 'areas of influence' flowing from the sacred sites.

''This, in practical effect, would mean no drilling on Noonkanbah's 400,000 hectares.

''I made it clear that no responsible Government could accept such a proposal and that I hoped that wiser counsel would prevail.''

Although I was disappointed, I said I would go on trying to win the community's co-operation.

On my return, I sent a long official letter to the community, setting out in detail all that had been laid before them in the discussion.

It also emphasised again that I was willing to re-open negotiations if the community decided to reconsider its decision to ban drilling.

In my letter, I said:

''I am sure your community will understand that the Government must allow the drilling to proceed.

''I would be failing in my duty if I did not remind you of the damage your stand on this matter could do to the Aboriginal cause.

''There are many people in the community, including myself, who want to help you but you make it very difficult if you adopt an uncompromising attitude by demanding what you claim are your rights but refuse to acknowledge that other people might have some rights and needs also.''

While keeping the door open for negotiation, the Government realised that confrontation was more likely to itensify than diminish.

Already, in mid-April, there had been a rally at Noonkanbah of 200 Aboriginal law men from 26 communities in the Kimberleys, Pilbara, and the Northern Territory.

Then, on June 10, the Minister for Mines, Mr Jones, received information that a party of contract surveyors had been surrounded and virtually held prisoner for some time by 25 or 30 Aborigines on Noonkanbah station. They were told no more Europeans were to enter the station.

Two days later, the Press reported a letter being sent to the Prime Minister and to me by eight tribal leaders declaring that, if drilling took place, it would place the people at Noonkanbah and the people of the rig in great jeopardy .

They added: ''We do not know if we can protect the lives of our people or the men on the rig''.

Their letter went on to say that Amax did not consult local Aborigines before it first entered the property-an extraordinary statement in view of the real history of careful and patient consultation by the company with the Aborigines- and clearly indicating that the message had been manipulated.

I responded by pointing out that the Noonkanbah community could not be in any physical danger from drilling or from police, if any were required.

I said: ''Not only will crews and police have no interest in violence, they will also be securely fenced in to ensure that they have no unnecessary contact with the local community. If there is any danger of physical violence it can only come from the Aboriginal community at Noonkanbah''.

It was at this time that I felt the need to make it clear that the Government was making a detailed assessment of the responsibilities it would have to face to ensure that drilling could proceed at Noonkanbah.

I pointed out that this assessment was needed because of the possibility of physical disruption or even violence by the Aborigines, and threats by the A.C.T .U. and the Trades and Labor Council to impose black bans and subsequent punitive actions on people involved in the transport or operation of the drilling rig.

The Government knew by this time that it would have to be prepared to take the brunt of assaults against lawful order, and against people going about their lawful business and subjected to the tyranny of threats and obstruction.

Despite legal counter moves by the Aboriginal Legal Service, the Government proceeded to resume the road into Noonkanbah and a four hectare site for the drilling so that they would be under public control and protection.

When union bans made it impossible for private contractors to provide a water drilling rig to go to Noonkanbah to prepare the way for exploratory petroleum drilling-the Government provided a Mines Department rig on a contract basis. It left Perth on July 16, arrived at Noonkanbah on July 24, and the crew did their work efficiently and well before moving on to another job in the Kimberley.

They were paid $59 568.88 for their work-by Amax.

However, the water rig's departure from Perth evidently triggered a new wave of confrontation tactics.

An eight-point proposal in the name of the Noonkanbah community asked for all mineral leases to be cancelled while it carried out a programme of mapping of sacred areas in two stages-the first lasting six months and the second eighteen months.

The Government sent a letter explaining in detail why this delaying tactic could not be accepted.

The next move was a letter from the community to the Managing Director of C.S.R ., Mr Gordon Jackson, saying that, as his company owned the big petroleum drilling rig, through Richter Drilling, he should prevent it from being used on Noonkanbah.

Meanwhile, the Government had been advised that the firm selected to transport the big rig from Woodada, south of Geraldton, to Noonkanbah station, had become unable to do so-because their employees, being members of the Transport Workers' Union, were not prepared to break bans imposed by the T.L.C. and the A.C.T.U.

In support of the drilling programme, the Government took over the organisation of transport for the rig, advertising for drivers, and providing co-ordination.

Recognising that the T.L.C./A.C.T.U. ban could be carried to the point of obstruction on the roads, the Government advised the police who, in due course, provided men to ensure that the drivers and their equipment were not molested. To make union disruption more difficult, transport for the rig was organised on a convoy basis-recognising that A.C.T.U./T.L.C. obstruction could well be organised on a paramilitary guerrilla basis over more than 2 000 kilometres of roadway between Woodada and the drill site.

The Government's anticipations were borne out as soon as the convoy left Perth for Woodada.

The Transport Workers' Union immediately threatened to stop the movement of the rig.

As the rig left Woodada amid a welter of media coverage, the Secretary of the T .L.C., Mr Peter Cook, said the full weight of the trade union movement in Australia would be used if bans on the transfer of the oil drilling platform to Noonkanbah were broken.

The President of the A.C.T.U., Mr Hawke, said Mr Cook and the T.L.C. had the A. C.T.U.'s unanimous support and endorsement.

Not unnaturally, all outsiders including media were kept away from where the rig was being loaded onto trucks in order to protect the identity of individuals from threatened union vengeance for defying unions bans.

Disregarding this important aspect, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Davies, chose to describe the operation as a cloak and dagger affair.

Mr Peter Cook was more direct when he accused the Government of using the police as a military force to support scab labour in an attempt to move the rig.

With respect, the Government and the public did not regard these men as scabs- but simply as citizens with the courage to decide not to obey political instructions from Mr Cook, or to pander to his desire for his authority to be recognised as being above the law.

Nevertheless, to make his point, Mr Cook flew to Port Hedland in his role as paramilitary commander, to make sure that his guerrilla forces were in readiness for the convoy.

In this role, he was careful to sustain his campaign to instil fear into anyone who might not obey an order from the T.L.C.

''If people break union rules,'' he said, ''we will take action against them''.

He also said that if the convoy got through, ''it will mean retaliation by us'' .

He claimed he was doing all this in support of the Aborigines.

Not unreasonably, the Deputy Premier and Minister for Labour, Mr O'Connor, said the T.L.C. and the A.C.T.U. had apparently decided they were a law unto themselves, above the authority of democratically elected Government-willing to use force to compel others to go along with their lawlessness.

He added: ''Mr Cook's assertions that he is acting in the interests of the Aboriginal community is a phoney excuse to ride roughshod over the law''.

Mr O'Connor said threatened individuals would be given protection.

Predictably, the Chairman of the National Aboriginal Conference, Mr Jim Hagan, expressed the belief that this was a good time-with the rig on its way-for the explorers and the drillers to pull out so that everyone could get back to some negotiations-notwithstanding the fact that negotiations have been virtually in progress for over two years.

Meanwhile, Mr Cook was not rallying too many soldiers for his army. Attempts to blockade the convoy at Karratha and Port Hedland by obstructing the roadway were carried out mainly by union officials paid to do the job-while a large number of ordinary citizens came out to cheer the truck drivers on their way.

Apparently to stiffen morale, Mr Hawke made a public statement that drilling was unlikely to go ahead.

I felt it necessary to assure the public that drilling would proceed according to plan.

While the convoy moved north-Mr Don McLeod had his flag-raising ceremony at the drill site, with the help of Mr Dicky Skinner and others; a large group invaded the Amax office in Perth and stayed there waiting to be arrested in order to create an incident; and Mr Cook's guerrillas continued their obstruction at Broome.

Of more significance was the action of the Australian Workers' Union in forcing 15 of its members, recruited for the Noonkanbah drilling, to stand down under threat of lifetime bans if they did not.

There is ample evidence that the bans were issued on the instructions of the President of the A.C.T.U., Mr Hawke, who also warned that any bid to drill without union labour would bring international repercussions as well.

Apparently pleased with the enforced stand-down of his men, the A.W.U. Secretary, Mr Gil Barr, said that if I wanted any drilling done on Noonkanbah I would have to go up there myself and take the Cabinet with me.

On August 13, the first trucks in the convoy completed the 2 240 kilometre journey to Noonkanbah.

The Trades and Labor Council welcomed the achievement by declaring a total ban on all Amax operations, and asking the A.C.T.U. to make the ban Australia-wide.

The T.L.C. also placed a ban on companies, organisations and individuals who took part in the convoy-as previously promised by Mr Cook.

Mr Hawke confidently asserted that, although the rig had arrived, there would be no drilling this year.

This promise was repeated 10 days later by Mr Cook after several more enforced votes by the union drillers who had been made to stand down finally with the offer from Mr Hawke that they would be paid about $1 100 a fortnight for up to six months if they did not work.

This offer reflected the resistance of the men to the pressure they were under- a pressure publicly revealed by the Minister for Mines, Mr Jones.

He said that, on one crucial vote, out of 18 present-9 voted to go to work, 7 voted against, and 2 abstained, although they said they wanted to work.

This majority decision was not accepted by the union.

Interestingly, when the final enforced vote in favour of the ban was taken on August 22, there were 21 present-indicating that three freeloaders had joined in to collect the $1 100 a fortnight.

After the final vote was taken, the Minister for Mines, Mr Jones, indicated that the Government would be prepared to manage the needs of drilling in the same way as it had managed the needs of transport.

Incidentally, although it was never publicised, the offshore drilling crews whom the A.W.U. Secretary, Mr Barr, said would be pulled out on strike, held a special meeting in Perth where they refused point-blank to comply.

They threatened to form their own union if the A.W.U. did not stop involving them in political actions.

During the wrangle over the drifters, work had continued on the erection of the rig.

By August 28, it was ready for work.

At the same time, the first of several important shifts of opinion among Aboriginal leaders took place.

The Chairman of the Aboriginal Lands Trust, Mr Ken Colbung, issued a call for the A.C.T.U./T.I.C. and union ban at Noonkanbah to be lifted.

He said sacred sites were not at risk.

He sent a telex conveying his views to the A.C.T.U., the T.L.C. and the A.W.U. on August 27.

He said he had done so after Mr Hawke had refused to have a reasonable discussion with him in Melbourne. Mr Hawke, he said, gave him no reason to alter his opinion.

Mr Colbung also found no reason to change his opinion after discussions with Mr Peter Cook, or with Mr Stephen Hawke who telephoned him in Mr Cook's office from Fitzroy Crossing, or after receiving information from the Secretary of the Noonkanbah community, Mr Ivan McPhee.

Mr Colbung then informed the State Government of his statement, and faced the predictable onslaught from Mr Hawke, Mr Cook, and Mr Dicky Skinner.

Mr Colbung was not to know that, while he was deciding to make his statement and checking it out with those concerned, the Government was once again preparing to take the brunt of nation-wide union threats aimed at preventing the start of drilling.

On August 29, the Government took possession of the rig and, at noon that day, the drill bit into the ground while Mr Hawke and Mr Cook were singing a chorus of threats across the country.

D-Day-or Drill Day-was a Friday.

Two days later, on Sunday, the Minister for Mines, Mr Jones, and I visited the drill site to ensure that everything was proceeding as it should, and that the strict provisions for protection of Aboriginal interests were being observed.

The Noonkanbah community refused to receive a visit from us.

While this was going on, the Chairman of the National Aboriginal Conference, Mr Hagan, was telling the United Nations in Geneva that Australia's 400 000 Aborigines were a dying race-and he was doing this with the assistance of Mr Philip Vincent from the Aboriginal Legal Service.

And three days later, the Press reported that a meeting at Derby of all Aboriginal Land Councils followed the A.C.T.U./T.L.C. example by imposing a ban on negotiations with explorers and miners in the North-apparently imagining, like their union counterparts, that their word was law.

A party of them also raised the land rights flag at the Noonkanbah drill site.

And, the following day, Mr Cook and Mr Barr of the A.W.U. were there also, trying to find out the names of the men who were manning the drill so they could be dealt with at a later date.

A week later, Mr Hawke sang his swan song when he gave the A.C.T.U. endorsement of Mr Cook's T.L.C. plan of action against Amax, C.S.R., the Government, the drillers, and others.

Early in October, Mr Hawke's successor, Mr Dolan, called off the action against C.S.R.

And, on the Aboriginal side of the story, three more significant statements were made.

The Director of the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, Mr Gary Foley, said in a television interview that he was involved in establishing a propaganda network in Europe with a permanent office in London, and that it would be extended soon to the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

Mr Foley said the network's activities were based on the ''propaganda tactics of Southern African and Palestinian Liberation groups'' and would receive overseas funds.

In Perth, the Western Australian Chairman of the National Aboriginal Conference , the Rev. Cedric Jacobs, called for a re-examination of the role of white advisers to Aboriginal communities. He said he was concerned about the motivation behind their involvement. He expressed grave concern that politicians were indiscriminately using Aboriginal communities for political gain.

Also in Perth, a month later, the former Chairman of the Northern Land Council, Mr Galurrwuy Yunupingu, said the intervention of white activists at Noonkanbah had complicated the Aboriginal land rights issue to help force a confrontation. To this extent, he said, Noonkanbah did a disservice to the land rights cause generally. He added: ''Aborigines are being manipulated by the same people all over Australia''.

And now, with the completion this week of the Noonkanbah drilling, phase two of the 1980 confrontation has come to an end.

It now remains to explain to the House how the Government undertook the drilling.


When the Government took over the drill at Noonkanbah, it created a precedent.

Never before had it been necessary to take such a step.

Such a step could have been avoided on this occasion if the law had been respected, and certain union leaders had not wasted so much union time and money on what so often looked like personal power play.

However, what should have been was not to be.

And, finally, because of the threats of the A.C.T.U. and the T.L.C., the Government saw the need to step in once more and take the brunt.

It did this by taking over the interest in the drilling contract held by Amax on behalf of its consortium.

Having taken that interest, the Government then became the operator under the terms of the contract.

As the operator, it was entitled under the contract to exercise the right to take over the drill on the grounds that the contractor was unable to provide a full working crew because union members were being forced to withhold their labour.

On this basis, the Government, as operator, took over the drill.

In case this move proved to be necessary, the Government had already held discussions with private individuals who were willing to put a crew together.

When agreement was reached, these people formed a company called Omen Pty Ltd.

They were in existence, and ready, when the Government found it necessary to move in and take the brunt in order to get the drilling started.

Let me say at this stage that the men who formed this company and worked for it have been subjected to the usual A.C.T.U./T.L.C. character assassination-on the grounds that they are supposed to be scabs.

This malicious claim is totally untrue.

Whether we accept the scab concept or not, it originated in traditional union terms to refer to people who went to work for less money when union members were on strike, or even sacked for fighting for what they believed to be a just wage.

Wages were not the issue here.

The issue was the right to work.

And Mr Hawke and Mr Cook-despite their pretensions-have no legal, moral or industrial grounds for presuming to take that right away from anyone.

Under force, some men chose not to work on the drill.

Despite the force, some men chose to work.

I think they deserve the strongest commendation of all Members of this House.

They were men with courage that is rare in these days-when union leaders like Mr Hawke and Mr Cook use intimidation on such a grand scale to force workers to support actions that have no industrial base, are entirely political, and are subversive of lawful order and community interest.

In making these comments, I want them to apply not only to the drill crew but also to the drivers who took the convoy to Noonkanbah.

They all deserve our heartiest congratulations and our thanks for having the courage to support the role of Government in upholding the law.

I come now to the question of the cost of the drilling.

The drilling did not cost the Government anything.

Although the Government took a total risk when it took over the operator's position and the rig, it took that risk with the sole objective of getting drilling started.

Three weeks later, after negotiations with Amax, the Government was able to transfer back to them the operator's interest in the drilling contract.

When Omen's first monthly account for its work went to the operator-the operator was Amax.

To enable Omen to carry its day-to-day costs, the Government provided a guarantee for its bank account.

Again, this has been provided at no cost to the Government, because the funds employed were provided by Omen's private bank. The same applied to the transport costs of moving the rig. The bill went to Amax.

However, the Government did face other associated costs.

After taking over the road through to Noonkanbah, $66 332 was spent on upgrading it, of which Amax paid $11 000 towards heavy-duty cattle grids at station gateways.

Backup services were also provided to the convoy by the State Emergency Service .

This was seen as a valuable opportunity to engage in a practical exercise providing new experience of importance to the future in long-range logistical support which could be needed without warning in various parts of the State and for a variety of reasons.

I did, in fact, provide new insights into requirements for ensuring that the State Emergency Service can function effectively in a highly mobile situation.

State Emergency Service operations are not, of course, a charge against private individuals or organisations.

However, as a matter of interest to Parliament, the net expenditure, after allowing for durable stores kept for future use, was $173 000.

This will most probably lead to an overrun in the State Emergency Service 1980/ 81 Budget, but the extent of it will not be known until the end of the financial year.

If no other emergency occurs, existing provisions may reduce substantially the final amount required to cover any extra State Emergency Service expenditures over 1980/81 Budget provisions.

I return now to the Noonkanbah Well.

The correct name of the Noonkanbah drill hole is the Fitzroy River Number One Well.

It has been completed at a depth of 3 134 metres.

The rig is being returned to the Perth Basin for further drilling on the encouraging Woodada structure.

The Fitzroy Well revealed a show of hydrocarbons between 2 095 and 2 130 metres , but this was in sandstone, with very low porosity, and no apparent permeability.

Minor gas shows occurred intermittently in similar sandy beds below 2 130 metres, but again they proved to be tight.

Two such zones just above 2 800 metres were tested, and produced a weak flow of gas at a rate too small to measure.

Although no major discovery has been made, the well has shown the presence of hydrocarbons varying from liquid to dry gas over a section of more than 800 metres.

In our opinion, this provides further encouragement for the search for those areas in the Fitzroy Basin which could provide the necessary reservoir conditions to store such hydrocarbons.

The search for oil is essentially a search for information.

Through the painstaking collection of information-often at great cost-petroleum discoveries are made.

Most of the world's wells are dry wells.

But without the information they give us there would be no oil production at all.

The well drilled on Noonkanbah was an essential part of exploration for petroleum which must proceed with all the encouragement we can give it in Australia's interests.

In becoming involved in the way it has in the drilling of the well on Noonkanbah, the Government has shouldered its responsibilities to serve the community interests and will continue to do so.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —I thank the Senate. I conclude by saying that the fundamental intention of the legislation, if it were carefully drafted in such a way as to embrace nothing other than the preservation and protection of Aboriginal heritage and traditions in a refined sense, would have the support of many of us. The legislation is not intended for that purpose. It is intended to provide the Minister, Mr Holding, with some token of achievement prior to the next election and prior to the July conference of the Australian Labor Party. As I said, the legislation is a disguise for de facto land rights. It is not about setting aside land for sacred sites; it is the first foot in the door of uniform land rights which we have been promised and with which we have been threatened.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Coleman) —Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.