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Tuesday, 12 September 1972
Page: 683

Senator MURPHY - I do wish to ask a supplementary question because the Attorney-General related his answer to something I had suggested. I ask the Attorney-General again, now that he has read the judgment of the Full Court of the

Australian Capital Territory: Is it not correct that Aborigines and other persons outside Parliament House were arrested by the police and were removed from outside this building by the police under colour of the amendments to the Trespass on Commonwealth Lands Ordinance? That is what they were told by the police. The police told them that the amendments had been enacted that morning and had taken effect. Is not the clear legal position that what the police told them was wrong and that the police were not entitled to act under that amendment to the Ordinance which had taken no effect whatever? The Attorney-General is passing that by and saying: 'Nevertheless, there was some other reason.' Those people were told that a certain law had taken effect, but the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory has ruled that it never took effect. Will the Attorney-General state plainly to the Senate that that is the position and that it was for some other reason, not that which the Aborigines were told was the basis on which they were arrested, that they were being dealt with, that in fact it was a huge bungle-

The PRESIDENT - Order! The honourable senator must ask his question.

Senator MURPHY - Will the AttorneyGeneral admit plainly and frankly to the Senate that in this instance the Government has bungled the procedure and misled the Aborigines who were outside Parliament House?

The PRESIDENT - Before I call the Attorney-General to answer the question if he so chooses I inform honourable senators that any further steps to explore this matter must be taken under other forms of the Senate.

Senator GREENWOOD - I acknowledge that, as is implicit in what you have just said, Mr President, this is a question seeking a legal opinion, such as that of which earlier today you ruled out of order. I respectfully submit, however, that it would be unfair to allow the assertions which have been made to go unanswered. I must say, having read the judgment, that the political case which Senator Murphy wishes to make is not a case which had the acceptance of the Court. 1 shall, because the honourable senator asked me to speak clearly and plainly, read out the paragraph of the Court's judgment so that he may be informed, the Senate may be informed and others who are listening may also be informed. The Court said:

The case for an injunction is based on an allegation that the plaintiffs' fear that the police, acting under the Ordinance, will either prevent reerection of the tents or remove them if they are re-erected. Section 8a (2) of the Ordinance forbids the erection of tents by the plaintiffs on the land in question. Under section 5, if the necessary preliminary steps are taken, police officers can remove any tent erected, and the contents thereof.

I am of the view, however, that the plaintiffs have failed to establish any case for an injunction. They do not claim simply to be on the land-

Senator Murphy - It is not answered.

Senator GREENWOOD - Will you please allow me to finish? The judgment continued:

They do not claim simply to be on the land, as pedestrians, or for some casual recreational purposes, or even as members of an assembly, as that term is ordinarily understood. They claim a right to erect and maintain a number of tents and live therein for an indefinite period. Whatever the position may be if the Commonwealth consented to such a course, it is apparent that the Commonwealth does not consent but on the contrary actively opposes it. In these circumstances, the plaintiffs have no right to go on the land, or remain thereon, for the purposes mentioned.

That is a clear statement from the judgment of Mr Justice Fox. So, the whole assertion which Senator Murphy put to me by way of a question lacks foundation. There is no right on the part of these people to succeed in a claim for an injunction. That was what they asked the Court to give them, and the Court refused to give it to them. In those circumstances, why it should now be sought, for some political purpose, to suggest that the Commonwealth has been acting wrongly with regard to these Aboriginal people, I do not know - but I have my suspicions.

The basis upon which the Court made its decision will receive urgent attention, because it has been suggested that the manner of notifying Ordinances and, I would assume, regulations in the 'Gazette', in accordance with the requirements of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act ought to be examined. I will go no further than that. I do say, however, that the whole question of the Aboriginal embassy outside Parliament House has been the subject of political motivation by members of the Opposition and others who have sought to create a confrontation for purposes of their own. The fact that the Court has acknowledged that these Aboriginal people had no right to be on this land is, in my opinion, a very satisfactory outcome and a position which the vast majority of people in Australia believe should be the case.

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