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Thursday, 4 October 1984
Page: 1212

Senator CHANEY —I remind the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs of the concern which has been expressed in the Senate by her colleague Senator Walsh about the difficulties being experienced in the Northern Territory in negotiating agreements between mining companies and traditional Aboriginal land owners. I also draw the Minister's attention to the announcement by Premier Burke of Western Australia that his Government will not agree to an Aboriginal veto on exploration and mining activity on Aboriginal land in the legislation which that Government proposes to put forward. I ask the Minister: Will the Hawke Government accept Mr Burke's decision or will it follow its Party platform in the five non-negotiable principles laid down by Mr Holding on behalf of the Government and introduce overriding national rights legislation which will give Aboriginal people the right to veto mining on Aboriginal land in Western Australia?

Senator RYAN —The Commonwealth Government has available to it the Seaman report and the Burke Government's response to that. We are having discussions about the implications of the report and the Burke Government's response for us as a Commonwealth Government with Commonwealth responsibilities in this area. I understand that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Holding, is consulting with various Aboriginal bodies to find out their responses to the Seaman report and the Burke Government's response. I understand that there will be discussions between the Premier of Western Australia and the Prime Minister quite soon when these matters can be progressed further.

The Commonwealth is very clearly aware of its own responsibilities. We are certainly anxious to see principles about land rights accepted uniformly as far as possible throughout Australia. The matter of our longer term response to the situation in Western Australia is still under consideration.

Senator CHANEY —Mr Deputy President, I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister seek from either the Prime Minister or the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs a clear statement on how the Commonwealth intends to exercise its responsibilities with respect to Aboriginal people in this regard? Will she obtain an undertaking that that position will be put clearly before the Australian people before the next Federal election?

Senator RYAN —The implication of my answer to Senator Chaney is that the Government is formulating its position. Of course, Aboriginal people will be most anxious to know what that position is going to be, as will other citizens of Western Australia. I will pass on Senator Chaney's request for a specific statement to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I am sure that he will respond in due course.