By Bill Mason
BRISBANE — The Borbidge government risks a massive blow-out in compensation to Queensland Aborigines after its refusal to give six Palm Island elders $7000 each for under-payment for wages while employed by the state during the 1970s and '80s.
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commissioner Zita Antonios said on October 29 that the state government should have apologised to the islanders and paid them out, as HREOC commissioner Bill Carter had recommended last month. She said the islanders would be forced into the Federal Court for justice, potentially exposing the government to even higher payments, more legal costs and a damaging legal precedent which would force them to compensate thousands of other Aborigines.
"If the Palm Island people win, the only avenue left to the government would be the High Court, and we know how bad Queensland's record has been in the High Court in recent years", Antonios said. "These people have waited a hell of a long time and this decision means that once again they are waiting."
The solicitor for the Aboriginal elders, Bob Haebisch, said on October 29 he was anticipating lodging a formal complaint with the United Nations over the case.