HC Deb 11 December 1972 vol 848 cc19-20
15. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will raise at the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations the treatment of the Australian aborigines.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Anthony Royle)

We have no evidence that there is a consistent pattern of violations of human rights which would justify action in the United Nations.

Mr. Dalyell

Does the Foreign Office accept as true the figures given in the documents following the recent meeting which some of us had with Bobbi Sykes and her colleagues that the infant mortality rate among the Australian aborigines is the highest in the world? If that is accepted, is there not some reason for having discussions with the incoming Australian Government about it?

Mr. Royle

We recognise that infant mortality is high but that must be a domestic matter and one in which we should not interfere. It should be recognised that nomadic peoples, perhaps like some Highland peoples, encounter special problems.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is it not a case that the first Australia aborigine to have done so recently received a knighthood from the Queen—just in time? Does not that reveal a certain attitude to the problem of a aborigines on the part of the Australian Government? I agree, however, with the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) that this is a serious question which should be discussed between Commonwealth Prime Ministers rather than taken by one Commonwealth Government to the United Nations.

Mr. Royle

This must be a matter for the Australian Government. The new Labour Government, I understand, is pledged by statements made by Mr. Whitlam earlier this year and during the recent election campaign to introduce a system of land tenure, among other things, for aborigines in their traditional areas, that system to carry with it full mineral rights. That will help them considerably. The question of legislation or alteration of the aboriginal people's position in Australia and the point about infant mortality must remain matters for the Australian Government.

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