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Thursday, 3 May 1984
Page: 1552

The PRESIDENT —It being after 12 noon, in accordance with Sessional Orders, I now call on Questions without Notice.


Senator KILGARIFF —I refer the Minister for Resources and Energy to his statement at the Australian Mining Industry Council meeting in Canberra yesterday, Wednesday, 2 May, in which he is reported to have supported calls for greater access by mining companies to Aboriginal land. I ask the Minister, firstly, in the event of the review of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act being conducted by Mr Justice Toohey being unsuccessful in easing the exploration log jam in the Territory, what actions does the Government intend to undertake to overcome the problem? Secondly, in light of the fact that various exploration companies-namely, Peko Exploration, Mobil Energy Minerals, Union Oil Development Corporation, Mistral Mines NL and Marathon Petroleum Australia Ltd-have dropped out of mining exploration in the Territory, will the Government take urgent action to review the problems, either by executive action or by parliamentary inquiry? I refer the Minister also to statements made at that same meeting yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Chaney, that in providing a just and reasonable framework to enable mining to take place on Aboriginal land on terms which pay proper--

The PRESIDENT —Order! I ask the honourable senator to ask his question. Questions are becoming far too long.

Senator KILGARIFF —Senator Chaney was referring to the Holding-Aboriginal Affairs resolution. My final question is: How does the Minister see this aspect of the problem? Will he support Senator Chaney's amendments?

Senator WALSH —When addressing the AMIC seminar yesterday I expressed some concern at the very considerable delay in dealing with applications to prospect and mine on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory. I do not have a copy of the speech with me but I did go on to say that if the present inquiry established by Mr Holding, which is under Justice Toohey, cannot produce satisfactory results then in my view the Government will have to have another look at the problem. That remains my position. I do not think I could-or even that I should-forecast at this stage precisely what action the Government would take should that happen.