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Tuesday, 28 April 1987
Page: 1862

Senator KILGARIFF —My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs concerns the ultimatum given by Mr Michael Mansell about obtaining money from Libya. Is the Minister aware that this morning on radio the national co-ordinator of the Federation of Land Councils, Mr Pat Dodson, supported Mr Mansell's threat? What view does the Minister take of Mr Dodson's actions? As regards the specific complaints of Messrs Mansell and Dodson-that is, that more needs to be done to assist Aboriginal people-would the Minister agree that there is something seriously wrong with the way in which Commonwealth funding of some $600m a year for Aboriginal people is being spent when one considers the very poor standard of living of thousands of Aboriginal people who get to see very little of this money which is largely consumed by the multitude of Aboriginal organisations and the individual bureaucracies which they have developed?

Senator Zakharov —Was that a question or a speech?

Senator RYAN —As one of my colleagues said by way of interjection, Senator Kilgariff's question was more like a speech. He made many claims about the conduct of Aboriginal organisations and the way in which they use funds which I do not think it would be appropriate for me to answer by way of a question without notice. I will direct the particular claims and inferences that one could draw from Senator Kilgariff's question to Mr Holding for a thorough reply. I did not hear what Pat Dodson said, nor do I have any briefing material from Mr Holding to that effect. However, I think that Mr Holding has made it as clear as possible, and I have now reiterated it in the Senate on his behalf, that any Aboriginal organisation which takes any funds from Libya will lose its Federal funding. I do not think that Mr Holding could have put it any more clearly than he has. It is very much to his credit that he put that position immediately upon hearing the news of Mr Mansell's trip and what came out of that trip. Regardless of what Mr Dodson may have said, the policy is the same: Any Aboriginal organisation which takes funds from Libya will lose its Federal funding. It was also Mr Holding's view at the time that he prepared a brief for me that no Aboriginal organisation had indicated that it would take funds from Libya. That policy would apply no matter what comments were made by any Aboriginal spokesperson.

In conclusion, I simply say that Australia is a democracy. Although people express views with which the Government has no agreement whatsoever or to which the Government is hostile, we would not seek to prevent people from expressing those views. I hope that Senator Kilgariff would not do so either. No Aboriginal organisations in Australia are to receive funds from Libya. If they do so, they will lose their own Federal funding. I think that the general questions of management of funds for Aboriginal purposes by Aboriginal organisations should be dealt with in some detail by Mr Holding.