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Wednesday, 29 September 1971
Page: 1617

Mr CALDER (NORTHERN TERRITORY) - My question which is addressed to the Minister for the Interior is supplementary to the question asked yesterday by the honourable member for Capricornia concerning the alleged sale or negotiations for the sale of over 1 million acres of the Simpson Desert at 20c an acre. Can the Minister inform the House whether any land in the Northern Territory is under consideration for lease or whether this is just a furphy dreamed up by some irresponsible publicity hunter?

Mr HUNT - The whimsical note in the question asked of me yesterday gave rise to an appropriate answer from me, but the whim of the honourable member for Capricornia has now taken on a more serious and in fact a very curious turn. This morning, on an Australian Broadcasting Commission programme, the honourable member suggested that anybody who wished to buy an acre of land in the Simpson Desert might send 25c to me and he would get it. So that good Australians will not be misled by the fantasy created in the mind of the honourable member, I wish to make the position very clear to the honourable member for the Northern Territory. The Simpson Desert in the Northern Territory is vacant Crown land. The only means by which a pastoral lease of such land can be obtained from the Commonwealth is by the Commonwealth inviting applications for it. No such applications have been invited and it is not intended that they shall be.

As far as the Commonwealth and the Northern Territory are concerned, there is no substance in the newspaper reports concerning the alleged negotiations. I think the report which I saw was in a Brisbane newspaper. It indicated that sale negotiations had been made by an agent for land in western Queensland. The Queensland Government, of course, is the appropriate authority.

I can assure the House that the Simpson Desert in the Northern Territory is not for sale. I hope that message gets across to anyone who might have been misled because I would hate people to be putting a 6c stamp on a letter containing 25c for a piece of land that is not available. This morning we were in touch with the estate agent named in the original newspaper report and said to be negotiating the sale. We were told that the leases concerned are hundreds of miles north of the Simpson Desert in the honourable member's home State. I remind him - I am sure he would know this - that the part of the Simpson Desert which lies in Queensland is a national park and comes within the responsibility of the State Government.

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