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Thursday, 18 October 1973
Page: 2323

Mr ANTHONY - My question again is directed to the Prime Minister. In view of the fact that the Minister for Minerals and Energy did not explain the situation and did not reveal the full circumstances of the threat that is being held over Queensland Mines Ltd - that it may have to be liquidated - the question that needs to be answered is this: In view of the fact that the licence of this company expires at the end of this year and it needs to get title to be able to develop this lease so that it can honour its contract, how is this possible when the Department of the Interior has informed the company that it will-

Mr Enderby - It is not the Department of the Interior now.

Mr Whitlam - That went out with you people.

Mr ANTHONY - It is all right for the Prime Minister to be smart, but it was the previous Department of the Interior which gave the advice that it could not make a decision on giving a lease until the Woodward report came forward and that it did not expect that report until the middle of next year. This is an impossible situation for the company. I ask the Prime Minister, as the Prime Minister or the senior man of the Government, to try to resolve this difference between departments.

Mr WHITLAM - The right honourable gentleman has now mentioned an aspect in this question which would entitle me to give an answer. The substantial matters in his earlier question concerned the Department of Minerals and Energy. Therefore I asked the Minister for Minerals and Energy to answer the question because he has the responsibility in those matters. He has my support in discharging them and my praise for the manner in which he has discharged them. But the right honourable gentleman now mentions one aspect which he did not put in his earlier question, and that is the aspect of the inquiry being made by Mr Justice E. A. Woodward. Mr Justice Woodward is pursuing his inquiries into this very difficult matter in as expeditious a way as is possible. I have complete confidence in the way he is dealing with this matter. I think this is one matter where there can be more haste, less speed. The Government is determined-

Mr Anthony - Will they be compensated?

Mr WHITLAM - I did not interrupt when you were asking your question. The Government is determined to ensure that the Aboriginal citizens of this country will achieve land rights. The Government acknowledges that the common law which was planted from England into the Australian colonies did not give proper rights to the Aboriginal inhabitants. They did not have land rights as individuals. Therefore the common law as implanted in Australia did not recognise them. Furthermore, they were not formed into companies or corporations. So that meant they had no land rights. The Australian Government is committed by a long-standing plank in its Party platform as well as by policy speeches I have made at successive elections to see that the Aboriginal people of Australia do get land rights. Mr Justice E. A. Woodward has been commissioned by us, as he has by preceding governments, to make inquiries on behalf of the Government.

Mr McMahon - You are evading the question again. You are making a speech.

Mr WHITLAM - I would have thought that all honourable and right honourable gentlemen would concede his competence in dealing with these matters. I believe that we should wait for his further report so that any legislation which the Government puts before the Parliament will be as invulnerable as it is possible to anticipate. The right honourable gentleman referred to the Department of the Interior. It is part of his nostalgia for the Country Party's Satrapies.

Mr McMahon - I rise to order. It must be obvious to the House and to everyone who is listening to this broadcast that the Prime Minister is not answering the question which was asked by the Leader of the Australian Country Party. He asked the Prime Minister whether he would take up the matter in order to carry out what is the clear intention of the Minister for Minerals and Energy, that is to have this matter of the leases disposed of immediately. All that the Prime Minister has to do is to refer it to the Minister for the Northern Territory and not go on with a long debate about the very worthy cause of the Australian Aborigine.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! There is no point of order involved because the Prime Minister has not as yet finished his answer to the question.

Mr WHITLAM - The present Australian Ministers will not overlook the rights of the Aborigines as successive Country Party Ministers for the Interior did overlook those rights.

Mr Hunt - That is wrong. That is absolute rot.

Mr WHITLAM - The shaft has struck home. The culprit identifies himself.

Mr Hunt - Absolute rot and you know it.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! There will be no further business conducted until the House comes to order. I call the Prime Minister.

Mr WHITLAM - Further mining leases will not be issued in disregard of Aboriginal rights where they are relevant. This Government will not act as its predecessors did in Gove and as its predecessors connived at being done at Weipa.

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