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Extract from interview with Sir Ronald Wilson, former Solicitor General, WA (1969-79), former Judge of the High Court (1979-89), President of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 1990-97.

... I think there's a parochialism here that was very much at home with the White Australia Policy, and I think the legacy of that policy still lingers. There is no doubting that the land is so important to West Australians, pastoralists, the pastoral industry and farming. And Aborigines are seen as a threat to that, which is odd because we've got a pastoral industry because of the work of Aboriginal stockmen. Non-Aborigines could never have survived the way the Aborigines could survive in those early days when pastoral areas were being developed and became viable, and co-existence is relatively easy to contemplate on those vast areas of land without any threat to the rights of pastoralists. That was the Wik decision and if the present government had not insisted on, "bringing the pendulum back" as Mr Howard said in one interview justifying the ten-point plan, the Wik Amendment, we wouldn't have the same fear that pervades the West Australian community today. The Premier is the biggest advocate of it that there could be, and the money that he has wasted in fighting the Mabo decision. They passed that Act right in the beginning that extinguished native title and established a form of statutory title. The High Court threw it out seven to none. Now where were the government's advisers that they couldn't even perceive what a unanimous High Court would do. It's fair enough when the court divides three, four. It doesn't matter which side you're on you can maintain your sense of respectability.

Sir Ronald Wilson, March 2000
[Battye Library, OH3011]

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