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Friday, 9 December 1983
Page: 3635

Question No. 457

Senator Macklin asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 2 November 1983:

(1) Is the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs aware of allegations made by the Aboriginal people of Swan Valley in Western Australia accusing the recently formed Aboriginal Land Inquiry in Western Australia of bias?

(2) Is the Minister also aware of literature distributed by Christian groups to Western Australian Aborigines warning them of the dangers of inalienable freehold title and urging them to write to either the Land Inquiry or the Western Australian Government?

(3) Will the Minister investigate the composition, terms of reference and jurisdiction of the Western Australian Aboriginal Land Inquiry and make these findings public?

(4) Will the Minister ensure that Aborigines are adequately represented on the Inquiry and that the findings reflect the true wishes of the Western Australian Aborigines.

(5) Will the Minister investigate the distribution of anti-land rights literature to the Western Australian Aborigines to ensure that this propaganda does not adversely affect the fair operation of the Land Inquiry.

Senator Ryan —The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following answers to the honourable senator's questions:

(1) Yes, the Minister is aware that the Swan Valley fringe dwellers have accused the Aboriginal Land Inquiry of bias.

(2) The Minister is also aware that certain groups have distributed literature to Aboriginals, warning of the dangers of inalienable freehold title.

(3) The Minister draws the honourable senator's attention to an advertisement in the Australian of 28 May, on page 11, which gives details of the terms of reference, composition and jurisdiction of the Inquiry.

(4) The Minister understands that the Liaison Committee established by the Committee of Inquiry is headed by Aboriginal State parliamentarian, Mr Ernie Bridge, and consists of both Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals.

(5) The Minister is concerned about reports of anti-land rights literature being distributed. While it is quite appropriate that interested parties with legitimate points of view should put their views to the Inquiry in the interests of a balanced presentation of issues, it is not acceptable that material which is irresponsible or racist in nature should be circulated. Although it is primarily the responsibility of the Western Australian Government to take action in regard to matters which bear on its Inquiry, parties offended by such material may have recourse to the Racial Discrimination Act. The Commonwealth will, however, be watching the situation to see whether there is a need for it to take particular action in the light of developments.