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Tuesday, 18 March 1980
Page: 718

Senator McINTOSH (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) -I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs whether the Western Australian State Government has given any indication as to whether it is prepared to follow the report by the Western Australian Museum concerning sacred areas on Noonkanbah station and to refuse permission to Amax Exploration (Australia) Incorporated to drill in an area recommended by the Museum to have protected area status under the Western Australian Aboriginal Heritage Act.

Senator CHANEY - I think honourable senators would be aware that the dispute has been going on at Noonkanbah for some time. Indeed last July, I think, there was litigation involving the matters raised by the honourable senator and a temporary injunction was granted, which was subsequently discharged, preventing Amax from going on to certain sites and drilling. There have been a couple of areas of concern in the matter. One is the question of the protection of sacred sites and the other is the protection of the community. Over the last week or so a number of statements have been made by the Premier in relation to both of those areas. In them he has indicated the State Government's commitment to protect identified sites and to protect the community. I have been urging the Aboriginals to make their position clear to the State Government so that those undertakings can be met and honoured.

As far as the precise point raised by the honourable senator is concerned, that is a matter which I have discussed with the Premier in the context of what is to happen if there is no agreement as to just what are the sites and so on, and who will be the identifying agent. The Premier's advice to me is that the Western Australian Government will respect the sacred sites which the Museum has identified. That is the most recent information and advice that I have from the Premier of Western Australia.

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