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Wednesday, 14 March 1973
Page: 540

Mr HUNT (GWYDIR, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I direct a supplementary question to the Prime Minster. Will the Government only apply its Aboriginal land rights policies to the Aborigines living in the Northern Territory, since the commission that has been set up has been instructed to consider a land rights policy with respect to the Northern Territory? Is he aware that the commission has excluded Jervis Bay, the Australian Capital Territory generally and the States? Do we assume from his answer that the Government will apply the land rights policy not only to the Northern Territory but to all other Territories and the States, including the city of Sydney where Aborigines are living in deplorable circumstances?

Mr WHITLAM - Mr Justice Woodward's terms of reference have specific relation to the Northern Territory. His findings, however, will be the basis upon which the Commonwealth will act not only in the Northern Territory, not only in the Jervis Bay territory at places such as Wreck Bay, but also in the States where the Aborigines are still exercising traditional land rights. The honourable gentleman might remember that I spoke on this matter about 12 months ago in a debate on a ministerial statement which he made to the last Parliament. We are determined to see that there will be non-alienable nontransferable rights vested in the Aborigines in respect of the land which they have traditionally occupied.

Mr JusticeWoodward's terms of reference bear specific relation to the Northern Territory because there can be, under the present administrative arrangements, no let or hindrance. There is no dispute within the present Australian Government between different departments according to whether the Minister belongs to the Liberal Party or the Australian Country Party. Every Minister of the present Government and every department is bound to carry out the party's policy which was put to the people and for which the people gave the present Government a mandate. It is very likely that when it has to hand Mr Justice Woodward's report the Commonwealth will exercise its constitutional powers if need be by way of acquisition of these Aboriginal reserves and other relevant lands to which the Aborigines can reasonably claim title.

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