30th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave- I inform the Senate that this morning the former Department of the Treasury was abolished and a new Department of the Treasury and a new Department of Finance were created, and that the Honourable Phillip Lynch was appointed as Treasurer to administer the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Finance. The functions of the new departments will be as indicated in the Prime Minister ‘s statement on 1 8 November except that the general and life insurance functions will now be a responsibility of the Treasury. Senator the Honourable Robert Cotton will continue to represent the Treasurer in this place.
-I present the following petition from 704 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the need exists for postal facilities to be again restored in the Russell Lea area because may aged and infirm residents are unable to travel to Post Offices at Five Dock or Drummoyne.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 3710 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government:
Subscribe to the view that the Australian Broadcasting Commission belongs to the people and not to the Government of the day, whatever political party.
Eschew all means, direct or indirect, of diminishing the independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
Reject all proposals for the introduction of advertising into ABC programs.
Develop methods for publicly funding the Commission which will prevent the granting or withholding of funds being used as a method of diminishing its independence.
Ensure that any general enquiries into broadcasting in Australia which may seem desirable from time to time shall be conducted publicly and that strong representation of the public shall be included within the body conducting the enquiry.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition from 6 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people seek justice in this land which is rightfully theirs.
That they cannot begin to have their freedom and independence until all discriminatory laws are abolished and land rights are granted.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that land rights be granted now, on these conditions:
Immediate ownership rights by tribal groups of land they continue to occupy.
That all existing lands designated as Aboriginal reserves be handed over to the respective Aboriginal groups, and that the land be effectively controlled and owned by the Aborigines in that area under their law and customs.
That Aboriginal lands include total rights to all natural resources, and that present mining and prospecting be suspended until negotiations are held with Aborigines.
That land ownership and control be legally protected and regarded as inviolable.
That Aboriginal people be compensated for the loss of all Aboriginal designated reserves, tribal lands, and other lands revoked by the Commonwealth and State governments.
That before compensation is decided negotiations be held to acquire those lands plus any other lands deemed necessary by the respective Aboriginal groups and tribes for their survival and benefits.
That any ‘Crown Lands’ which are of traditional or sacred significance to Aborigines be ceded to them in perpetuity.
That all sites of anthropological or traditional significance to Aboriginals other than those on reserves or crown land be opened to the use of Aborigines without fees or constraints.
And that legislation be passed to abolish the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Acts and their regulation and by-laws.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition from 34 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill 1976, does not satisfy the Aboriginal needs for land in the Northern Territory.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should:
Amend the Bill to ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 9 citizens of the Australian Capital Territory:
To the President and the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That many Australians are concerned at the recent outbreak of racial riots and killings in South Africa.
We your petitioners do therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government:
1 ) Call upon the South African Government to eliminate apartheid and racial discrimination.
2 ) Withdraw the Australian Trade Commissioners from South Africa in accordance with the UN resolution 341 1G (December 1975).
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable President and Senators in Parliament assembled, and to the Honourable Senator M. Guilfoyle, Parliament House, Canberra. The petition of certain parents and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we the undersigned declare that we are concerned at the increasingly alarming child care situation, where only one place is available for every 10 pre-school children and where, in New South Wales, only 184 out of the 891 child care centres in existence offer long day care for the children of working mothers, despite the changing socio-economic conditions in Australia and the increased numbers of working mothers.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that you make funds available urgently for long day care centres and that all funds allocated for child care be directed only to those child care centres willing to provide long day care, preschool and after-school care, holiday care and emergency day care for children.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Cotton.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Sibraa and Senator Jessop.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That whereas this nation through its duly elected Houses of Parliament is deemed to abide by the true aims and principles of the United Nations Charter and of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
And whereas such Charter and Universal Declaration purport to uphold the fundamental and permanent right of every country and of every race to genuine free elections and to proper self-determination,
And whereas the peoples and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, amongst others, described as the Captive Nations because they are under the forcible occupation of troops of a foreign power or are compelled to accept a puppet dictatorship under pain of military invasion by the troops of a foreign power should that dictatorship ever be seriously challenged, are indisputably denied these basic human rights,
So therefore it is a matter of national honour and integrity, of moral and Christian duty, and of international justice and humanity, to publicly and constitutionally acknowledge these basic human rights of the peoples of the Captive Nations, and this is in course of being demonstrated by free peoples and their governments throughout the world being now called upon to treat the whole of 1977 as being ‘International Captive Nations Year’.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, will accordingly take all appropriate steps to publicly declare immediately possible that the calendar year of 1977 shall be treated as ‘International Captive Nations Year’, in keeping with the world-wide movement amongst free nations everywhere.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Sheil.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Objection to the metric system and request the Government to restore the imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Townley.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people seek justice in this land which is rightfully theirs.
That they cannot begin to have their freedom and independence until all discriminatory laws are abolished and land rights are granted.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that land rights be granted now, on these conditions.
And that legislation be passed to abolish the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Acts and their regulations and by-laws.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Bonner and Senator Knight.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate, and the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Commonwealth Government restore the Petrol Price Equalisation Scheme immediately for the benefit of those people who live away from the seaboard.
Your petitioners believe that the matter is urgent.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Sheil.
To the President and the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That many Australian are concerned at the recent outbreak of racial riots and killings in South Africa.
We your petitioners do therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Knight.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Government’s child care policy should be immediately clarified and announced to ensure continuity of programs and allow effective forward planning.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Jessop.
-Mr President, I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the following matter be referred to the Standing Committee on National Resources for inquiry and report: The Commonwealth’s role in the assessment, planning, development and management of Australia’s water resources, having particular regard to (a) the diverse responsibilities of the Commonwealth and the States and (b) the national water policy statement recently endorsed by the Australian Water Resources Council.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. In view of the statement of the Minister for Primary Industry in Mackay on 3 September that the Australian Government had adopted what is known as the dirty float and the Government’s decision announced this morning to revalue the Australian dollar by 2 per cent, could the Minister indicate the maximum and minimum United States dollar values to which the Australian dollar will be allowed to rise or fall?
– I was not in Mackay, so I do not know what was said; but perhaps I can throw some light on this scene. I think it will be said in my favour that I have been commenting to my colleagues here for some days that we are in a different exchange regime from that which we enjoyed in the past. What I will do now is read out what the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia said today:
The average trade-weighted exchange rate of the Australian dollar has been adjusted as from the opening of business today.
The effect of the variation is to reduce the extent of the devaluation since Friday 26 November from 1 17 1/2 per cent to 1 5 Vi percent.
This operational adjustment follows consideration of the exchange rate by the group of three officials designated in the Treasurer’s statement on 28 November.
The change is the first of ‘more frequent and smaller shirts in the relationship of the Australian dollar to the “ basket” of currencies ‘.
The intention is for such shifts to take place when the assessment of all relevant economic factors indicates a need for movement in the level of the exchange rate, thus permitting the use of the exchange rate as a more flexible element amongst the available arms of economic policy.
That is as much as I can say. General discussion beyond that I cannot engage in. Areas of limits I know nothing about; but, of course, the Government will stand ready to hear the advice of the economic tsars of the Senate from time to time.
-Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. The previous question was not asked as a flippant question and I did not expect a flippant answer. So I ask this question of Senator Cotton as the Minister for Industry and Commerce: Is he not aware that the business community generally is very concerned about this fact? I say with great respect that it is not a matter of brushing it aside; the business community is very much concerned about it. As this Government claims to be a government which understands economic management, is the business community not entitled to be given an indication by the Government of the limits within which the Australian dollar will be allowed to rise and fall against the United States dollar? Will the Minister ask the Treasurer to make a definitive statement as a guide to the business community? I suggest that if the Minister and the Treasurer do not understand the significance of this matter to the business community they get some new advisers.
-It was not a flippant answer. Senator Wriedt now has asked me a question and also has asked me to ask the Treasurer to do something. I understand perfectly well the consequences of a different exchange regime. I have been trying for a week to indicate quite politely that there are such consequences. I have been trying to do so, to be helpful and useful. Of course these things are difficult; of course they imply different relationships and different understandings. However, if honourable senators direct their minds to the consequences of speculation in the exchange rate which took place here and in other places they will agree that it is not flippant to decline to involve oneself in any contemplation of future speculation. The Treasurer is the person who has the direct responsibility. There is a management scheme under the Reserve Bank, the Treasury and the Prime Minister’s Department and I will ask those people for information. It is their judgment as to what further they wish to say. I shall not involve myself in comment and speculation now, as I have not in the past.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I preface it by drawing the Minister’s attention to the annual report for 1975-76 of the Director-General of Health, in particular the statistics appearing therein which support the statement that alcohol is a major factor in more than 3000 deaths each year in the Australian community. In view of this appalling and needless waste of Australian lives, will the Minister inform the Senate of the success, if any, which has resulted from the adaptation of the list of actions quoted in this report? I refer to those approved recently by the National Health and Medical Research Council.
– I am aware of the concern of the Australian community about alcohol and the dangers associated with its misuse. I am unable to give the honourable senator the information he has requested with regard to the success, if any, of the matters stated in the 1975-76 report of the Director-General. I will seek that information from the Minister for Health as soon as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Will the Minister inform the Parliament how many homes were built in the Bamaga group of settlements for Aborigines between 13 December 1975 and 30 November 1976? Will the Minister also inform the Parliament how many homes were built for white staff members in the same settlement over the same period?
– As the question requires precise information, I suggest that it be placed on notice for the attention of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
-I ask a question of the Leader of the Government. He may or may not know of the existence of a Mr Brian Toohey. If not, I inform him that Mr Toohey writes under that name in the Australian Financial Review, and I quote from one of his episodic articles this morning:
As has been shown by lengthy extracts published … in this newspaper from documents prepared from the Government’s top professional advisers . . .
I ask: Was Mr Toohey a Press officer for Mr Barnard when he was Minister for Defence? When did Mr Toohey obtain the documents on defence matters from which he quotes? Did Mr Toohey take documents with security notations when he left Mr Barnard’s office? Are the documents from which he quotes security documents?
– I rise on a point of order, Mr President. The honourable senator has already asked a question about whether the documents were taken by Mr Toohey when he worked for Mr Barnard. To go on and suggest answers in subsequent questions is a breach of the question time procedure. A whole series of rhetorical questions was appended to the original question which have no relevance to it but which merely suggests answers to the Minister.
- Senator Cormack, do you wish to add anything to your question?
-Yes, I do, Mr President. Are you going to give a ruling on the point of order?
– Proceed with your question, please.
– When did Mr Toohey obtain the documents prepared on defence matters? Did Mr Toohey take documents with a security notation when he left the government service? Are the documents from which he has quoted documents with a security notation? Finally, what moral philosophy is accepted that junior members of the government establishment can themselves decide how those documents shall be distributed and the information displayed in the public Press?
– I rise to order, Mr President. The honourable senator, by way of a question, is making some very serious allegations. He has gone from one allegation to another. It is my view, and I hope you will support it, that such a serious allegation should be a matter for debate and should be raised in another form and not at question time.
– I shall allow the question, and I leave the Minister to answer it as he thinks fit.
-I am surprised that honourable senators opposite should wish to stop the question from being asked. I cannot understand that. I thought the honourable senator was asking a series of questions in which he asked for answers on matters of fact. I have heard of Mr Toohey and I have heard of the Australian Financial Review, but I certainly have not read either his article or his newspaper today. I do not know whether the gentleman concerned was a Press officer with Mr Barnard, but I shall attempt to find that out for the honourable senator.
– It was 5 years ago at least.
-I would not know, senator.
– It might be even longer, and the honourable senator comes in here at this stage and makes some very serious allegations.
-As Senator Georges said, my colleague and friend Senator Sir Magnus Cormack has made some serious allegations. He is but running off a newspaper report under the by-line of a Mr Brian Toohey.
– If we ask a question you say you would not have any belief in a newspaper report.
-I am staggered how honourable senators on the Labor Opposition benches seem to be rushing to Mr Toohey ‘s defence. I would have thought that if the allegations made by the questioner are serious honourable senators opposite should also regard them as serious matters.
– But how can you answer such a serious allegation at question time?
-I am not going to attempt to answer it. If the honourable senator had just let me finish I would have finished a long time ago, and he would not have been so excited, his blood pressure would have looked after itself and he would eventually have got into the Greek Army that he is so anxious to join. The 3 other questions which the honourable senator asks me refer to matters not within my knowledge. I shall seek the information from my colleague in the other place.
-I ask a supplementary question. It is not a rhetorical question, it is not an ironical question and it is not a question which relates to policy. My final questionI would be grateful if honourable senators would listen- is: Is there no moral authority in the government domain that can protect the foreign policy and the defence policy from selfappointed and self-anointed public censors?
-I suppose that is a philosophical question which is but an indication of the decay of a lot of things in our society. I think that before that question could be answered we would need the answers to the 3 previous questions. Having got those answers, should they be in the affirmative, I think the fourth question would answer itself.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. In view of the confusion in the minds of honourable senators and members of the public resulting from the fact that a little over a week ago the Australian dollar was devalued by 1 7Vi per cent and has today been revalued by some 2 per cent, and in view of the fact that last week as a result of the devaluation a statement was made by the Treasurer pointing out the necessity, for Australia’s economy, for the devaluation, will a similar statement now be made pointing out the necessity for the revaluation and what was wrong with the previous devaluation? Will the Minister also undertake that in the event of subsequent revaluations or devaluations taking place during the next 2 months or so statements will also be issued by the Treasurer and an opportunity be given to members of the Senate to learn the reasons why the most recent revaluation or devaluation was correct and the previous one was incorrect, and give us an opportunity to discuss these matters?
-I am sure that it will be recalled, because it was not so very long ago, that the Treasurer made a statement on this whole matter, and I of course made it here.
– But that was on the 1 17 1/2 per cent devaluation.
– If the honourable senator would bear with me in his excitement, that statement talked about the position of a changed exchange regime. It talked about the fact that for years we had taken very fixed positions and now we would have a much more flexible position. That is what it talked about. I regret that it is difficult for honourable senators opposite to understand this, but this is a fact of their lives. When the Treasurer decides to make a statement on this matter undoubtedly I shall make the same statement here.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen a reported statement by a Mr Dillon of the Chamber of Manufactures that Government members advocating tariff reductions following devaluation were acting in an irresponsible manner and should ‘belt up 1 1 ask the Minister can Mr Dillon be advised that the Parliament is not irrelevant and that members of Parliament have a right and responsibility to discuss and debate important issues and not to take note of selfish pressure groups, without receiving such elegant advice from people such as Mr Dillon.
Opposition senators- Hear, hear!
– I have some friends. Perhaps the Minister might advise Mr Dillon that he would better serve his own interests if he followed his own advice.
-I somehow think that my colleague has answered his own question. I have not seen a report of any statement by Mr Dillon. I would not know Mr Dillon if he walked into this chamber. If that is the sort of advice that he goes around giving, I have no great desire to meet him, either. But one would have thought that debate in the community on any matter of public interest ought to be encouraged so that the people will be better informed.
– You had better tell Senator Cotton that.
– We are not averse to debate, Senator Grimes. With a little bit of luck, even you might learn something. That would be a really remarkable event. It is quite obvious that you have not read the statement which was issued by the Treasurer following the devaluation announcement. As I was saying, there is nothing wrong with informed debate. One of the problems is that we get it in this place only from this side of the chamber. Perhaps Mr Dillon ought to seek some advice from honourable senators opposite, who seem to have the same approach to public affairs as he does.
-Will the Minister for Industry and Commerce take up Senator Sim’s question and give us his version of Mr Dillon’s advice, since I believe that Mr Dillon is one of the Minister’s advisers? Does he agree with the answer that Senator Withers has given? What is the Minister’s response to Senator Sim’s question?
-I am reminded of a quotation from the Bible, namely, ‘In my Father’s house there are many mansions’. I have found as a Minister in this Government and I presume the same situation has applied to previous governmentsindeed, Senator Wriedt might have enjoyed this happy experience- that one is never short of advisers. I think that we are fortunate in Australia in that we have something like 40 000 potential Prime Ministers and 60 000 potential Treasurers. That sort of advice is always frequently available to people who have responsibilities. I might say, without wishing to flatter anybody, that I have tended to find that the most qualitatively useful advice has come from a long and sensible debate in this chamber. I do not particularly like to be threatened as to what I should do by anybody anywhere, either in this chamber or outside it.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Is it a fact that the report of P. G. Pak-Poy and Associates Pty Ltd on South Australian tourism, which cost some $80,000, was prepared with financial assistance by the Federal Government? Is it a fact that the Federal Government agreed to this report being tabled in the South Australian Parliament some weeks ago? Is the Minister aware that this report has not yet been tabled in the South Austraiian Parliament? Can the Minister state whether there is any reason, particularly from the Federal Government’s point of view, why this report has not yet been tabled?
-The honourable senator was good enough yesterday to ask me whether I could find out about this matter. I have ascertained the following information: In December 1974 the South Australian Government commissioned P. G. Pak-Poy and Associates to undertake a tourist development study of South Australia at a cost of $79,000, of which the Commonwealth agreed to contribute $40,000. The purpose of the study was to assist the South Australian Government to formulate future development and marketing strategies in the tourism field on a State-wide basis. The study involved, firstly, a comprehensive examination on a regional basis of South Australia’s tourist attractions and facilities and existing visitor patterns; secondly, a detailed assessment and evaluation of South Australia’s tourist resources; and, thirdly, the formulation of long term regional development plans and allied marketing proposals. The tabling of the report in the South Australian Parliament is clearly a matter for the South Australian Government to decide. My Department has no knowledge of the report having been tabled in the South Australian Parliament. We know of no reason why the report should not be released. We would like to see it released. It would be useful if it were.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. It concerns the excellent report of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on the plight and circumstances of Vietnamese and other refugees. As we are unlikely to have any debate on immigration before this session ends, can the Minister obtain from her colleague in the other place an undertaking that the recommendations will be examined and implemented and that the Minister will have tabled in this chamber and in the House of Representatives a statement concerning the progress made in implementing the recommendations contained in the report?
– I was speaking with my colleague, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, on this matter this morning. He is examining the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee’s report, which I have asked my Department to do also as we are aware that many of the recommendations are constructive. I would like to see them implemented as soon as possible, too. I undertake to draw Senator Harradine ‘s question to the attention of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I assure Senator Harradine that both the Minister and I are looking closely at the recommendations.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. I refer to a recent address by Mr Walter Lippmann, Chairman of the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria, during which he expressed regret that the Community Relations Council has not yet been established under the provisions of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. Can the Minister indicate why the proposed Community Relations Council has not yet been formed, to achieve the desirable objectives set out in the Act, and whether the Council is likely to be formed at an early date?
– I am not sure whether this question of the appointment of the Community Relations Council comes within the area of responsibility of the Attorney-General, whom I represent, or under the jurisdiction of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. In any event, I do not have available to me at the moment the information to answer the question. I will pass the question on to the appropriate Minister and endeavour to obtain information as soon as possible.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I do so because it has been suggested in some circles that he is one of the top decision-makers of his Government. I ask him in that capacity: Can he inform the Senate whether the Government has any information as to the amount of capital that has flowed into Australia since devaluation? Has the Government given any consideration to placing an embargo on the future outflow of capital that may arise as a consequence of the revaluation decision today, especially if that capital is speculative and came into Australia only in the last 10 days and someone now stands to make a profit of nearly 20 per cent without the capital having been of any benefit to this country?
-I suggest that the honourable senator place his question on the notice paper.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I refer to the industrial stoppages which have threatened petrol supplies in 5 States during the Christmas holiday period. Has the Minister noted the Press comment that if stoppages persist supplies could be reduced to 20 per cent of normal supplies? Which unions were involved in the maintenance bans? Can the Minister say whether votes were taken of rank and file unionists to endorse this action? What is the total membership of each union involved? How many unionists attended meetings called to discuss imposing maintenance bans?
-I think the honourable senator was referring in his question to a ban placed on maintenance by members of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, the Electrical Trades Union, and the Australasian Society of Engineers at the Shell refinery at Geelong. This action delayed the starting-up of the refinery following repairs which had to be undertaken there. The output of this refinery had been boosting supplies in New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland. I think this is the one to which the honourable senator referred. I am pleased to be able to inform the Senate that the maintenance bans were lifted as from 8 o’clock this morning following a conference before Mr Justice Robinson of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. There are, of course, still some shortages following earlier bans which had been placed as a result of industrial action in other States and these have also been aggravated by a breakdown at the Shell refinery at Clyde. All these factors have combined to delay the return to normal of supplies of fuel to retail outlets.
However, the success which I have been able to report of the conference this morning with Mr Justice Robinson and the lifting of the bans as a result of that conference emphasise the importance which the Government has always stressed, and always will stress, of the parties to a dispute taking the dispute before the Commission and having the processes of the Commission and the laws observed. That, in the Government’s view, is the most appropriate and satisfactory way of resolving these problems. Senator Jessop did ask one or two specific questions as to the number of members of unions and the number of members present if meetings were held and so on. I have not got those statistics available but I will endeavour to obtain them from the Minister whom I represent.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Will the Minister advise the Senate whether a directive was issued by the Department of the Treasury early this current financial year to commissioners of taxation that they should slow down on issuing taxation refunds because the Government did not have the money? Will the Minister advise whether there is still a policy on this slow-down tactic? What is the average delay in processing taxation returns and the issue of refund cheques?
-I really do not know anything about that. I have no knowledge whatsoever of this matter. I would be very doubtful that what the honourable senator suggests is correct. Really the only thing I can do is to ask the Treasurer to let me have a definite answer for the honourable senator.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Why did the Prime Minister agree to the establishment of a select committee of the House of Representatives to investigate the tourist industry when for some three or four months a joint Government committee has been investigating this industry very thoroughly? What does the Prime Minister hope to get from this select committee additional to what would have been achieved by the Government committee? Are members of the select committee entitled to expenses, remembering that the members of the existing Government committee do not receive expenses? Can the Minister tell me whether the Prime Minister is really interested in the tourist industry, remembering the policy that he came out with at election time, then forgot about, then the Government committee was appointed and now he is apparently ursurping its position with the appointment of a select committee? Can the Minister tell me why the Prime Minister considers that the only people who know how to investigate the tourist industry are members of the House of Representatives, not senators?
– I can answer some of the questions. The members of the new House of Representatives Select Committee on Tourism, as it is a parliamentary committee, will be entitled to such expenses as are allowed under the determination of the Remuneration and Allowances Tribunal. I have no knowledge of what they are. I suggest that the honourable senator look at the report of Mr Justice Campbell. As to the reason for the setting up of the Select Committee it was a Government decision supported by the Government parties. I imagine it was supported also by the Opposition in the other place.
– It did not oppose it.
-It did not oppose it. I suppose if the Opposition did not oppose it it must have supported it. It did not vote against it.
– It was the first time we were asked to join in such a committee.
-That is right. You are most likely delighted to be able to further your information and your knowledge. The Government is always prepared to help the Opposition in that fairly desperate task. There are roles both for parliamentary committees and for party committees. They are not necessarily exclusive, one of the other. The Government was of the view that there was a role for the parliamentary committee to play in investigating this matter. I think that view would have support right throughout the Parliament. The fact that there are no senators on the committee does not mean that it will not be a successful committee. There is a continuing role, as all honourable senators will know, for members of Parliament to investigate matters within our respective party committees. There is also a role, albeit a separate role, for parliamentary committees to investigate the same subjects. I do not think there is anything unusual in having both a parliamentary committee and a party committee looking at one and the same subject, almost at one and the same time. I imagine both bodies are doing that at the moment.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs cast any light on the recent loudly proclaimed actions of the Indonesian Government in the reported release of some 2500 political prisoners? Were those 2500 persons released en masse or does that figure represent the total number of people released over some years, or were the 2500 people merely moved from prison to detention camps? I ask this question in view of somewhat conflicting reports on this matter.
-I shall seek the information from my colleague in the other place.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the fact that Tasmanian meat processors have already started their 1977 kill in anticipation of having marketing arrangements rationalised, can the Minister advise whether the proposals are yet completed and whether Tasmania can expect to receive consideration in line with the case put forward for its seasonal operation and limited shipping service?
-The Australian Meat Board has met and composed changes to market entitlements in regard to exports to the United States for the year 1977. Those proposals take into account the position of Tasmanian exporters and, in particular, the disabilities of their seasonal operation and limited shipping service. In view of the announcement this morning of a significantly increased sale to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the present improvement in the price of beef and mutton, no firm decision has been taken on the final arrangements to apply for 1977. Additionally, I think most honourable senators know that discussions are going on in Washington at present about the 1977 regime. Any announcement in that regard will have to wait, of course, until all the discussions are concluded.
-My question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, refers to the case of a young person who this year worked for S months in a store and later in a labouring job but who currently finds himself unemployed. If he now decides that he will return to school next year but actively seeks work until then, will he currently be regarded as a school leaver for the purposes of receiving the unemployment benefit, even though he has been away from school for one year?
– I shall examine the case that has been outlined by the honourable senator and give him advice with regard to it.
-I wish to ask a supplementary question. In view of the fact that one person in Brisbane is in this situation at the moment and is finding himself in a difficult financial position, I was wondering whether the Minister’s reply could be expedited.
– Yes, I undertake to have the matter examined today and I shall advise the honourable senator this evening.
-Can the Minister for Industry and Commerce say when a decision on the future of the shipbuilding industry at Whyalla can be expected?
-The present position concerning the shipbuilding industry is that the Government is waiting upon a communication from Mr Wran, the Premier of New South Wales, about arrangements dealing with the proposal to have 2 ships built at the Newcastle State Dockyard by the Australian Shipping Commission. The whole operation of shipbuilding, therefore, is contingent upon that proposal which is due to come back to this Government from Mr Wran, I think, within about five or six days. I cannot take the matter beyond that because once that matter is clarified Whyalla will be greatly involved in the whole operation.
– My question, which is also directed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce, is on the same subject about which Senator Messner asked his question. Has the Minister seen a statement to the effect that the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions has had discussions with the Prime Minister and other officials, I understand, as recently as last week, in connection with the problems of the shipbuilding industry. Is the Minister aware of what was discussed at that meeting? Can he inform us as to whether any progress was made in regard to a solution of the problems which now exist in respect of both places?
-My best understanding is that which is derived from the Press- I think rather like that of the honourable senatornamely, that the President of the Australia Council of Trade Unions has had a discussion with the Prime Minister about arrangements for restraining wage and price increases. I have no knowledge of any discussion about the shipbuilding industry. Had there been definitive discussions, I certainly would have heard.
-Has the Minister representing the Attorney-General seen a report in yesterday’s Australian Financial Review to the effect that certain employees of the Australian Legal Aid Office are refusing to join the Western Australian Legal Aid Commission to be established under legislation already passed by the Western Australian Parliament, which will cover the whole field of legal aid in that State? Can the Minister state whether or not employment will be available in the new Commission to the employees of the Australian Legal Aid Office under conditions not less favourable than those existing under their present arrangement?
-The Attorney-General, whom I represent, has had his attention drawn to the article to which Senator Tehan refers. He has already made a number of statements in the Parliament and elsewhere about his concern for the protection of rights enjoyed by members of the staff of the Australian Legal Aid Office who elect to transfer to the Legal Aid Commission to be established in Western Australia. The AttorneyGeneral, of course, is standing by the undertakings that he has given in respect of this matter. The Western Australian legislation provides for an agreement to be entered into between the Commonwealth and the State in relation to the transfer of staff who so elect, lt also provides for the retention of existing and accruing rights to the extent provided under the agreement or arrangements. There have been consultations with the staff associations and opportunity will be afforded for further consultation with the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations and interested staff associations in regard to this matter.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security: Has the staff utilisation review recommended that the Migrant Community Services Branch, which numbers over 40 officers working on post-arrival services for migrants, be disbanded and absorbed into a new structure not recognising a specifically migrant oriented branch? If so, what justification has been given for this proposed change? Does the Minister agree with me that to disband the only branch of the whole Commonwealth service identifiable with migrant community services is hardly in the spirit of the original idea of giving migrants specific services?
– I am not able to answer the first 2 parts of the question with regard to recommendations or the reasons given for recommendations. But I am able to assure the honourable senator that I agree with him with regard to the necessity to have an identifiable Migrant Community Services Branch and the need to give migrants the best services that we are able to give them, whether in matters of social security or in a more general way to assist them in their settlement in this country. I shall seek advice on the first 2 parts of the question and let the honourable senator have an answer.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I take up with him the matter of public comment today in regard to proposals relating to a pause in wage claims. I refer particularly to the comment relating to reductions in sales tax and excise to offset price increases flowing from devaluation and the lessening of expectation in regard to wage claims that such a reduction might cause. Will the Government examine these adjustments in taxation especially in these particular areas, with a view to influencing the present situation with regard to inflation and any claims for a wage pause or wage price control?
– When we were having discussions earlier with Mr Hawke, of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and peak unions the possibilities of a reduction of indirect tax in order to achieve better results in the consumer price index were talked over thoroughly. The Government will keep this matter under continuous review but the evidence of what a reduction of indirect tax might achieve in relation to a permanent reduction of the CPI was not very conclusive. I believe that a lot more work needs to be done on it. What I have said does not mean that the Government wants to walk away from the matter. If Australia could achieve a cessation of wage and price increases I am sure that we all would be a great deal better off. That includes the work force, the consumers, and everybody else.
– I direct to the Minister for Social Security a question which arises from a question I asked yesterday. I ask it for the benefit of Senator Wright who interjected during that question and said he hoped I would cite the case that I had mentioned. Will the Minister or her advisers examine the case of Julius v the Bishop of Oxford in 1872, contained in the House of Lords reports pages 215 to 247. The court held that where a power is conferred upon a public officer or authority for the purpose of being used for the benefit of a specified class of persons in defined circumstances there is a duty on the officer or authority to exercise the power in relation to the class of persons concerned and in the event of a failure to exercise a power the Court will require the power to be exercised. Will the Minister or her advisers look at similar judgments, quoted in that judgment, and which led up to the forming of the case law- the cases of Alderman v Backwell, Rex v Barlow, Rex v Havering-atte-Bower, Macdougall v Paterson, Morrisse v The Royal British Bank, and Reg. v The Tithe Commissioners? After considering those judgments will the Minister reconsider whether the action of the Director-General of Social Security under section 107 of the Social Services Act is valid in refusing the unemployment benefit to school leavers?
-I will undertake to have the judgments cited by Senator Cavanagh examined. After that examination we may be in a better position to answer the last part of his question with regard to the powers of the Director-General. The powers of the DirectorGeneral under the Social Services Act are specific. I believe that he already has had advice on which he believes he can undertake his duties under the section of the Act that has been specified.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Health a question which follows upon a question I asked previously in this chamber. Bearing in mind the financial assistance given to State hospitals can the Minister give any reason for the Tasmanian Government’s decision to prohibit pensioners and levy payers who have privately insured for hospital insurance only from using the intermediate beds at the Royal Hobart Hospital?
– I am unable to give any reason as to why the Tasmanian State hospitals have made the decision not to admit such persons as intermediate patients. I understand that the Minister for Health was concerned about this matter and took it up with the Tasmanian Government to permit admission to intermediate ward care for people who require it. I will seek such information as is available.
– I ask the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs: Have any approaches been made by the Federal Government to the States in order to secure a referral of the States’ wage fixing powers to the Australian Government? If so, what responses have been forthcoming from the State Premiers to such approaches? If not, is the Federal Government contemplating making requests to the States for referral of such powers to it?
– I am unaware of any such approaches. I will seek the information and let the honourable senator have an answer later.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, relates to the several recent episodes of food poisoning on international flightsnot only this week’s report of food poisoning on British Airways flights but also the recent report in the Medical Journal of Australia of an outbreak of food poisoning due to vibrio parahaemolyticus picked up by travellers probably in Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. Does Qantas Airways Ltd pick up and serve any raw food at intermediate ports? Does Qantas pick up and serve any seafood at intermediate ports? Does Qantas pick up any unboiled drinking water at intermediate ports? Are all members of the cockpit crew allowed to eat the same consignment of food picked up at intermediate ports?
-This question follows one that Senator Baume asked me yesterday arising out of an incident on a British Airways aircraft. As an addition to the information which I supplied yesterday I have some information regarding Qantas Airways Ltd because the honourable senator’s question yesterday also related to Qantas. It is true that Qantas picks up some raw food other than seafood at intermediate ports, in the form of tropical fruits. My advice is that no seafood is uplifted at Bombay. In fact no seafood is uplifted for economy class passengers in South East Asia. As to first class passengers I understand that lobster is served ex Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, but this is imported from Australia and New Zealand. Lobster is served to first class passengers ex Hong Kong; but this is lobster Newburg, and the particular gastro-enteritis organisms are not thermo-stable, apparently. I understand that in Manila and Denpasar shrimps have been used in first class hors d’oeuvres- apparently first class and second class gastro-enteritis are involvedbut this practice has been discontinued. Qantas does not pick up any flasks of water anywhere. Water comes through the aircraft water system and all water is treated according to the standards laid down in the Qantas maintenance manual.
The final question is an important one. I think this happens on all aircraft: The captain and first officer do not eat the same food; nor do they eat at the same time. No seafood is served to Qantas crew during flights and all crew members are asked not to partake of seafood within 24 hours prior to departure. The honourable senator will understand that the significance of the reference to seafood is that it is believed that either its ingestion or the ingestion of food which has been in proximity to it is the way in which this foodborne complaint is being transmitted.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. In view of the fact that the basis of the report of the Senate Select Committee on Mount Lyell Mining Operations was that the IVA per cent devaluation should ensure that the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd could resume operations at the former level and thereby save the jobs of the approximately 400 people who were to be retrenched, is there not a distinct possibility now, in the light of today ‘s 2 per cent revaluation, that the position will so change as once again to place in serious jeopardy the jobs of a considerable number of employees of the Mount Lyell company who otherwise might have been retained?
-I have not yet had an opportunity to study fully the report of the Senate Committee to which Senator Devitt refers. I would not be in any position to make any comment, not having studied the figures and calculations on which many of those conclusions were based. However, I will refer the question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations whom I represent and endeavour to obtain an answer from him.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Recognising the advantages of the devaluation of the dollar to many Australian industries, and its assistance to the main industries of the Northern Territorypastoral, mining and tourism- and having in mind the degree of isolation and distance from markets which is felt by the Northern Territory communities, and also the fact that in the interests of the Darwin economy it is essential to import directly from overseas, particularly such items as timber and cement, will the Government take action to ensure that home building and development within the commercial life of Darwin and the Northern Territory will not suffer through higher building costs?
-It is certainly true that the decisions made by the Government in relation to the Australian exchange rate will have a significant beneficial effect on major industries in the Northern Territory, particularly the mining and tourist industries. As to the particular concern expressed by Senator Kilgariff, the Government is considering- and this has been made quite clear by my colleague Senator Cottonlevels of tariff which may be adjusted without having any adverse effect on Australian industries. I think that was the point the honourable senator had in mind in relation to the importing of building materials into the Northern Territory. That matter will be watched closely by the Government.
As far as the general question of prices is concerned, I refer the Senate to the statement made yesterday by the Minister whom I represent, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. He said that he had conferred with the Chairman of the Prices Justification Tribunal concerning possible price abuse following devaluation of the Australian dollar. The Minister pointed out that under section 16 of the Prices Justification Act the Tribunal could act on its own initiative or in response to ministerial direction to inquire whether price increases made by particular companies were in fact justified and whether those companies had to notify a price increase. It is the Government’s intention that unjustified price increases should not occur on goods which nave been purchased by resellers prior to devaluation. That is one of the major things which will be monitored by the Government.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it correct, as stated in yesterday’s and today’s Australian Financial Review, that the Reserve Bank has been instructed to exempt the agricultural sector from the higher interest rates induced by devaluation? If so, did the Reserve Bank dissent? Will the trading banks be unlikely to advance funds for agriculture if they are arbitrarily compelled to provide interest subsidies? What plans does the Government have to fill the credit vacuum created by its policies?
-Like the honourable senator, I have read these comments and I know no more than what I have read. It is one of those areas where I think the question should go on notice for a clear and definite answer.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I refer to an article by Mr Hugh Lunn in the Australian newspaper on 18 November concerning the growing incidence of skin cancer in Australia and the need for all health departments to advertise both the dangers involved and the need for people, particularly children, to wear hats and sun screens. Has the Government any plans in hand to do this in respect of its Department of Health and to advise the most suitable and effective skin screens available to the public?
– I recall the article referred to by the honourable senator but I am unaware of any plans that the Minister for Health may have initiated with regard either to an education program or to any other requirements relating to the best form of skin screen against skin cancer in this country. I think most of us are aware of the statistics which show the high incidence of skin cancer in Australia, and I will draw the matter to the attention of the Minister for Health.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Social Security. Will special consideration be given to school leavers applying for the unemployment benefit who returned to school in 1976 only because of the depressed job market- and who have since been kept by their parents- because they believed that either a job or the dole would be available to them at the end of this school year?
-I assume that those school leavers who have left school this year will make application for employment through the Commonwealth Employment Service and in other ways, and then the Director-General of Social Security will determine, on the facts before him, whether they are eligible for unemployment benefit. I hope that those students who have been endeavouring to get a job during the whole of this year will be able, as a result of some of the Government’s initiatives, to obtain assistance in finding employment rather than proceeding to receive unemployment benefit at this stage. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has introduced some schemes which relate directly to those school leavers of last year. I hope that the matters mentioned by the honourable senator will be able to be covered in that way rather than by school leavers seeking unemployment benefit at this stage.
-During question time yesterday Senator Donald Cameron asked me a question about family allowances. It may be appropriate at this time to give him the response to the question he asked then. He asked whether family allowances and additional pensions and benefits for student children ceased when a student left school. The response is that family allowance payments to school leavers who are not permanently employed will be continued during the school vacation and there is therefore no inconsistency with the Government policy not to regard school leavers as unemployed for unemployment benefit purposes until the end of the school vacation. However it has not been the practice to make payment of additional pension or benefit to a child over the age of 16 years who has left school. But in view of the practice adopted in relation to family allowances, payment of additional pension and additional benefit in respect of school leavers will now be continued until they commence permanent employment or become eligible for payment of unemployment benefit.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. It concerns the supply of trained statisticians for the Public Service. I ask: When was the decision made to phase out the Cadet (Statistics) Training Scheme? Is it a fact that 1976 is the last year during which trainees from that scheme will emerge and be absorbed into the Public Service? Is it a fact that graduates from the scheme are absorbed into various departments of the Australian Public Service and not just into the Bureau of Statistics? Is the Government prepared to undertake a further assessment and reexamination of the scheme and its value with a view to reconsidering the decision of the former Labor Government to cut off this valuable source of trained people for the Australian Public Service?
– No decision has yet been made to phase out the Cadet (Statistics) Training Scheme, but earlier this year the Public Service Board informed the Australian Bureau of Statistics that no cadets would be appointed in 1976 in view of the restrictions on staff service growth and the availability of suitably qualified graduate staff through the normal Public Service graduate recruitments. So at this stage no statistics cadets are to be appointed in 1977 and also it is not known whether 1976 will be the last year in which statistics cadets will emerge and be absorbed into the Public Service. It really depends on whether the scheme is recommenced m the future. The cadets enter the Public Service through the Australian Bureau of Statistics. As officers of the Service they are eligible to move to other departments in accordance with the concept of a career service. Recruitment to the Public Service is the responsibility of the Public Service Board under the Public Service Act and the need for cadets in this area is being kept under review. The Department of the Treasury and the Public Service Board are currently assessing the need for an intake of cadets in 1977 under the general Treasury cadet scheme.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Today is the first anniversary of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, without a doubt a day of shame and tragedy from which Australians can draw very little comfort. I ask the Minister: Is he aware of a letter to the Prime Minister from the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace calling upon the Government to renew its efforts towards persuading the Indonesian Government to allow international aid organisations into East Timor? Is the Government prepared to act on this request?
-I shall have to seek that information for the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I ask: How does the Minister reconcile the Treasurer’s claim in last week’s statement dealing with devaluation that full wage indexation and the 2.2 per cent September quarter wage increase, giving a 9 per cent annual increase, would have destroyed the Government’s previous economic strategy, with the fact that the Budget Papers assumed an almost identical increase in the consumer price index and the average weekly earnings- for example, 12 per cent? Further, was the 12 per cent increase in the average weekly earnings assumed for the purpose of estimating the tax revenue set out in Budget Paper No. 1 at page 117 deliberately overstated in order to understate the estimated Budget deficit?
– That is a most interesting question. I suggest that it be placed on notice.
– My question is directed to Senator Durack in his capacity as the representative in this chamber of the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Public Service Matters. The Minister will be aware of considerable publicity surrounding the return of the former Australian Ambassador to Yugoslavia, Mr Malcolm Booker. Mr Booker, a career diplomat who has published a book on Australia’s foreign policy entitled The Last Domino, has not been offered a job in the Department of Foreign Affairs and has been subjected to strong pressures by his Department to retire. I ask: Why has Mr Booker not been offered a job? Does the Minister agree that under section 72b (4) of the Public Service Act, Mr Booker has a statutory right to reintegration in his Department by an appointment of such status and salary as are determined by the Public Service Board, having regard to the office previously vacated by him and the period of his appointment as a representative in another country of the Government of Australia? Can the Minister confirm that Mr Booker has been told by his Department- apparently in defiance of section 72b (4)- that he must retire or accept a job at the level he was at in 1963? Can the Minister explain why a request from Mr Booker to the Board in May of this year for confirmation of his rights under section 72b (4) has not been properly answered? Finally, does the Minister agree that the independence and professionalism of Australia’s foreign service depend on the rights of foreign affairs officers under the Act being fully respected?
-I really do not know whether that was a question from Senator Ryan seeking an answer or a speech by Senator Ryan giving us her views on this matter. But, insofar as the questions to be extracted from it are concerned, I shall refer the matter to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Public Service Matters but I think the matter should more appropriately be referred to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I shall have it referred to one or other of them.
– Yesterday Senator Douglas McClelland asked me 5 questions concerning the Commonwealth Fire Board and the fire at Nowra. I answered the first 2 questions in the affirmative and undertook to seek the information necessary to reply to the remaining 3 questions. I can now inform the honourable senator that a search of the records of the Commonwealth Fire Board has not revealed any request from the Royal Australian Navy for advice relating to the RAN base at Nowra. The Board has not carried out any inspections of the Nowra base, but it has advised the Department of Defence of its willingness to assist the Naval Board of Inquiry which has been established to look into the recent fire. It is, of course, not physically possible for the Commonwealth Fire Board to inspect all Commonwealth properties. It does, however, carry out inspections on a programmed basis of properties selected at random in particular areas. By way of further explanation, I can inform the honourable senator that it is a Treasury requirement that details of any fire on or affecting Commonwealth property be reported to the Fire Board. The Board will be requesting a full report of the findings of the Naval Board of Inquiry and, in accordance with its normal practice, will study and comment on the report, making any necessary recommendations to the Department of Defence.
– Last week, in answer to a question from Senator Primmer, I undertook to table the legal advice with regard to students on vacation not being regarded as unemployed. I now seek leave to table that advice.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– For the information of honourable senators, I lay on the table a document entitled ‘Resolutions Adopted at the Australian Constitutional Convention, Wrest Point, Hobart-27-29 October 1976’.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Acts Interpretation Amendment Bill 1976.
States Grants (Housing Assistance) Bill (No. 2) 1976.
Appropriation (Urban Public Transport) Bill 1976.
Income Tax Laws Amendment ( Royalties) Bill 1 976.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the Priorities Review Staff report on the Borrie Report.
– Pursuant to section 147 of the Defence Act 1903 I present the annual report of the Royal Military College of Australia covering the period from 1 February 1975 to 31 January 1976.
– Pursuant to section 12 of the Immigration (Education) Act 1971 I present the annual report on migrant education for the year ended 30 June 1 976.
-by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the accident investigation report of the Department of Transport Air Safety Investigation Branch relating to the incident near Cairns Airport, Queensland, on 23 October 1975, involving a Hawker Siddeley Heron aircraft registered VH-CLS. Due to the limited numbers available, references copies of this report have been placed in the Senate Records Office and the Parliamentary Library.
That the Senate take note of the paper.
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-For the information of honourable senators I present the text of a statement by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs relating to the disbandment of the Council for Aboriginal Affairs.
-by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-I present the report of the Commonwealth of Australia Branch delegation to the Twentysecond Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference held in Mauritius in September this year. I seek leave to make a short statement concerning the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-As honourable senators well know, the annual Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference is sponsored by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, which represents about 90 Commonwealth parliaments and some 9000 Commonwealth parliamentarians. The twenty-second Conference was attended by delegates, secretaries and official branch observers from 86 branches of the Association and by observers from associated organisations, including the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Secretariat. Australia was represented by one delegate from each of the States and a delegate from the Northern Territory and by 6 delegates from the Commonwealth of Australia Branch. Senator G. S. Davidson also attended in his capacity as Australasian Regional Councillor, and the delegation had the services of Mr D. M. Blake, V.R.D., First Clerk Assistant, House of Representatives, as secretary to the delegation.
The Conference agenda fell into 4 main headings: International affairs, economic problems, social problems, and parliamentary institutions. All members took part in both plenary session debates and panel discussions, as indicated in the report. The first- International Affairs- concentrated mainly upon developments in the Indian Ocean and developments in southern Africa, and as could be expected there were differing opinions expressed. In the main, however, a measure of tolerance and some compromise were discernible as is the nature of Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conferences. It was obvious that in the consideration of economic problems the parliaments represented had done their homework, and there was a good deal of common ground in suggested solutions, particularly in matters related to commodity arrangements and educational aid, and I commend the debate on these subjects to members of this chamber.
Debate on social problems concentrated upon the protection of the environment and the problems of population growth, unemployment, the drift to the cities and poverty. There was a general reasonableness in the approach to these problems and a concensus that they were international as well as national. There was also an awareness that the parliamentary institution as we know it is under some threat from socioeconomic pressure groups, from socio-political extremists, from electoral apathy and media cynicism.
A verbatim report of the discussions will be issued by the General Council of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The summary report of discussions is included in our report. As leader of the delegation and as branch General Councillor, I also attended meetings of the General Council, and in this regard I am happy to report that Australian proposals for the reorganisation of the managing and governing bodies of the Association, reflecting the changing nature of the Commonwealth and economic circumstances, have been well considered and decisions should be made at the next conference in Canada in 1977. In the meantime, a subcommittee of the Association is due to meet in London in January to draft a new Constitution.
I make just 2 very brief observations. First, there is a need perhaps for some continuity in branch representation for reasons of maximum effectiveness. Secondly, a national consensus on matters of international import might well be an objective of real value however difficult to achieve in a democratic society. I would like finally to acknowledge the efficiency and aid of the Secretariat of the host branch, the General Council Secretariat, the Legislative Research Service of the Parliamentary Library, the Secretary to the delegation, His Excellency, Mr Truelove, the Ambassador to Tanzania and finally my own colleagues.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 10 a.m.
– I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the remaining stages for the passage through the Senate of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill 1976, the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Bill 1976 (No. 2) and the States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bill 1976 being put in one motion at each stage, and the consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
It is purely a machinery operation.
– I ask a question with leave. Does this mean you are going to cut back the time on the debate?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Message received from the House of Representatives acquainting the Senate that it had agreed to the amendment made by the Senate to this Bill.
The following Bills were returned from the House of Representatives without amendment:
Seamen’s Compensation Amendment Bill 1976. Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees)
Amendment Bill 1976. United States Naval Communication Station (Civilian
Employees) Amendment Bill 1976.
Motion (by Senator Cotton)-by leaveagreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1976, the Loan (Income Equalization Deposits) Bill 1976 and the Loan (Drought Bonds) Amendment Bill 1976 being put in one motion at each stage, and the consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speeches of those 3 Bills incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speeches read as follows-
Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1976
The major purpose of this and associated Bills I shall shortly introduce is to give effect to the Government’s income tax initiatives announced in the Budget Speech. The Bill also contains provisions relating to other aspects of the income tax law. One of the Budget proposals dealt with in this Bill, and in two of the associated Bills, is the scheme of income equalisation deposits being established for the benefit of primary producers.
The scheme will provide valuable assistance to companies and individuals who carry on business as primary producers and whose incomes can, because of seasonal and market conditions, vary considerably from one year to the next.
The income equalisation deposits scheme will encourage primary producers to make deposits in years m which their incomes are high and thus provide funds to draw on when incomes fall. In this way the scheme will have a stabilising effect on the levels of rural incomes and expenditures. Provisions governing the financial aspects of the scheme are embodied in an associated Bill entitled the Loan (Income Equalization Deposits) Bill 1976. As those provisions, together with the amendments being made by this Bill to the Income Tax Assessment Act, are explained in detail in a memorandum I have arranged to be circulated, I think I need do no more for the present than refer to some general features of the scheme.
The incentive for primary producers to make financial provision under the scheme is to be found mainly in the income tax deductions that will be allowable for moneys deposited. Conversely, proceeds received on the withdrawal of deposits for which tax deductions have been allowed are to be treated as assessable income for taxation purposes. The scheme will be available for companies and individuals who, in income tax parlance, are engaged in a business of primary production. This includes farming, grazing and other rural activities and the carrying on of fishing or forest operations.
Moneys deposited under the scheme will be borrowings by the Commonwealth and Loan Council approval has been obtained for this. Deposits will be accepted by the Commissioner of Taxation, to whom applications to withdraw moneys are also to be made. Interest, initially at the rate of 5 per cent per annum, will be payable on deposits. The interest rate will be variable by regulation.
Following enactment of this legislation, deposits that are lodged with the Commissioner not later than 3 1 January 1977 will, within the limits provided in the legislation, be allowable as tax deductions against income of the 1975-76 income year. Deposits lodged after 31 January 1977 and not later than 31 August 1977 will be deductible in respect of income of the year ending 30 June 1977. Thereafter, deposits made in the period of 12 months ending 31 August of each year will be deductible against income of the year ending on the preceding 30 June. For a taxpayer whose accounting period for income tax purposes ends on a date other than 30 June, the 12 months period will end 2 months after the close of the particular accounting period.
Deposists may be made by any individual or company but income tax deductions will be available only to depositors who carry on a business of primary production in Australia, or are partners or beneficiaries entitled to share in income from such a business carried on by a partnership or trust estate. An infant beneficiary who is presently entitled to a share in primary production income of a deceased estate may qualify for deductions for deposits made by the trustee of the estate out of the beneficiary’s share of the estate’s income. Deposits relating to any particular income year will be allowable as tax deductions up to an amount equal to 40 per cent of the depositor’s gross income receipts for the year from primary production activities. The deduction allowable in any assessment, however, will be no greater than the depositor’s taxable income from sources other than property. The total accumulated deductions at any one time, allowable to a depositor in respect of amounts lodged under the scheme or as drought bonds, will be subject to an upper limit of $ 100,000.
As a general rule an amount for which a tax deduction is allowable under the scheme must remain on deposit for at least 12 months. A deposit may, however, be withdrawn within 12 months if the taxpayer is experiencing serious financial difficulties caused by circumstances not in existence when the deposit was made. A depositor seeking to withdraw an amount within 12 months of lodgment will be required to satisfy the Commissioner of the grounds on which the application was based. If the Commissioner is not satisfied, the matter is, on the taxpayer’s request, to be referred to a taxation board of review for consideration.
Amounts deposited in respect of the 1975-76 income year, that is, not later than 3 1 January 1977, can be withdrawn at any time if the taxpayer is experiencing serious financial difficulties, whether or not the difficulties are due to conditions that existed at the time that the deposits were made. These special arrangements recognise that drought conditions may have been experienced by primary producers since 3 1 August 1976, which would have been the last day for making deposits in respect of the 1975-76 income year if the scheme had then been in operation.
An amount deposited and withdrawn by a primary producer before the end of the period in which a deposit may be made in respect of a particular year will not be allowable as a tax deduction. So, for example, if a primary producer places an amount on deposit on 5 January 1977 and, on or before 3 1 January 1977, lodges an application to withdraw it on grounds of serious financial difficulty, a deduction will not be allowable against 1975-76 income if the deposit is returned.
Where an application to withdraw deposits is lodged, or where a depositor dies, becomes bankrupt or, being a company, begins to be wound up, the relevant amounts- to the extent of the income tax deductions that have been allowed- are to be included as assessable income. Generally speaking, the amounts will be treated as income derived in the year in which the application to withdraw is lodged. In cases involving death, bankruptcy or winding up proceedings, however, the amounts will be treated as assessable income of the tax period ending on the date of the relevant event. Amounts allowable as deductions in respect of deposits, or amounts included in assessable income as a consequence of withdrawals, will not be taken into account in ascertaining provisional tax payable.
Primary producers will, of course, continue to be able to apply for recalculation of provisional tax on the basis of estimated taxable income. With the introduction of the new income equalisation deposits scheme, there will be no need to continue the earlier drought bond scheme and it is to be wound up. Present holders of drought bonds for which tax deductions have been allowed will be permitted to convert their holdings to income equalisation deposits, without any immediate tax consequences.
I turn now to other extensive provisions of the Bill which propose to change very significantly the basis on which deductions are allowable for the major capital expenditures of general mining and petroleum mining enterprises. It was indicated in the Budget Speech that the Government intends to promote a healthy and efficient minerals sector and at the same time ensure that a fair balance is struck between the levels of income tax payable by the mining industry and by other industries.
In reaching the decisions affecting mining enterprises that are to be implemented by the Bill, the Government gave close consideration to the report of the Industries Assistance Commission that dealt with the income tax arrangements for the mining industry. Deductions available for capital expenditure on the development of a mine or oil field, on the provision of community facilities adjacent to a mine or field, or on the purchase of mining rights or information, that currently are allowable over the estimated life of the mine or field will, for new expenditures, be allowable on reducing balances, by reference to a maximum life of S years instead of 25 years. This will increase the minimum annual rate of deduction from 4 per cent to 20 per cent.
New exploration and prospecting expenditure incurred in searching for petroleum, and the lifeoffield deductions for allowable capital expenditure on the development of a petroleum field, will henceforth be deductible against assessable income derived from any source by the person incurring the expenditure. New capital expenditures on facilities for the transport of minerals, including oil and natural gas, that are now deductible over 20 years will, at the option of the taxpayer, be deductible over either 10 or 20 years.
In addition, the classes of eligible expenditure on transport facilities for this purpose will be expanded to include certain capital expenditures of a non-plant character that are incurred in providing port facilities in relation to the transport of minerals, including petroleum. Each of the amendments proposed in relation to the taxation of the mining sector is to apply in respect of new expenditures incurred after Budget day, 17 August 1976.
The Bill also gives effect to 2 Budget proposals relating to the dividend distribution requirements of the income tax law. With the needs of small businesses particularly in mind, it is proposed to lower the minimum distribution required to be made by private companies to avoid tax on undistributed income, by increasing- from 50 per cent to 60 per cent- the proportion of after-tax business income that a company may retain. It is not proposed to vary the 10 per cent retention allowance for property income or to provide a retention allowance for dividends that one private company receives from another. Private companies will benefit from the increased retention allowance in their undistributed income tax assessments in respect of income of the 1975-76 income year.
The Bill also proposes to terminate the excess distribution provisions that enable a private company that has paid more in dividends than the undistributed income tax formula requires for an income year to take credit for the excess in calculating the minimum distribution that it is required to make in respect of its income of a later year. The Government has received representations urging that, on one view or another, it should not proceed with this proposal but, after careful consideration we remain of the view that the case for terminating the excess distribution provisions is a compelling one.
To a substantial degree, the dividend policies of private companies are in conformity with the dividend distribution requirements of the income tax law so that no more is paid in dividends than is needed to avoid a liability for undistributed income tax. Most of the existing excess distributions are the products of various kinds of tax minimisation arrangements and the continued availability of the amounts would benefit relatively few private companies not associated with arrangements made to exploit the distribution provisions.
Sophisticated arrangements of shareholdings within private company groups have been devised to circumvent the very complex measures that have been enacted to reduce tax avoidance by private company interests. There can be no certainty that further changes in the excess distribution provisions would, given the nature of the situations to be dealt with and the quite bewildering complexity of this area of the law, hold out any greater assurance of success than the amendments made as recently as 1973. But in any event, the situation created by the increase now proposed in the retention allowance- when considered in conjunction with the effects of other income tax initiatives that have been taken by the Government or are proposed- provides a strong case for terminating the excess distribution provisions.
With the retention allowance for business income raised to 60 per cent, a level of 40 per cent of taxable income less tax is about the limit to which a private company’s sufficient distribution could be reduced without adversely affecting the role of the provisions of the tax law designed to ensure that private companies distribute some reasonable amount of after-tax profits as dividends to shareholders. Continued availability of excess distribution credits would adversely affect revenue in the same way as an increase in private company retention allowance levels, but with the benefits accruing almost exclusively to persons who had devised ways of circumventing basic distribution requirements of the law.
Being satisfied that the need for the excess distribution concepts no longer exists, the Government is taking the only practical course open to it. The provisions are, accordingly, to be terminated so that excess distributions will not be available in determining whether private companies have paid sufficient amounts by way of dividends in respect of income derived during the income year ending 30 June 1977.
For a company which ends its financial year on June 30, the effect of the termination arrangement will be to permit any available excess distribution to be taken into account in measuring the sufficient distribution required to be made by 30 April 1977. No excess distribution will, however, be reflected in the calculation of the distribution required to be made during the 12 months period ending 30 April 1978, or in any subsequent distribution period.
Another provision of the Bill will give effect to the announcement made by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) last month of the Government’s decision to exempt from tax the income derived by the Thalidomide Foundation as trustee for thalidomide afflicted children. As a consequence of the exemption each of the children will be exempt from tax on his or her share in the income of the Foundation.
Mineral exploration expenditure in Papua New Guinea is another subject dealt with by the Bill. Subject to some transitional rules, the right to deduct such expenditure was withdrawn in 1975 when that country became independent. We have since agreed, as had the previous Government, to a request by Papua New Guinea that the life of the transitional provisions be extended. The extension will permit deductions for exploration expenditure incurred up to 30 June 1978 in pursuance of exploration rights held at the time of Papua New Guinea’s independence.
A technical amendment is also being made to the definition of ‘resident of Australia’ for income tax purposes. One part of this definition has long treated as an Australian resident a person who is, or is a designated dependant of, a contributor to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund. Because the recent change in superannuation arrangements for Commonwealth officers has led to the constitution of a new fund, it is necessary to bring up to date the references in the definition to people who are contributors to the Superannuation Fund.
Another measure in the Bill terminates as from 1 July last the residual application of the tax concessions for visiting industrial experts that, subject to some phasing-out rules, had been withdrawn in 1973. This final termination was announced in June and follows the decision to abolish a grants scheme that had in 1973 been substituted for the former tax concessions. As mentioned earlier, an explanatory memorandum relating to the Bill is available to honourable senators providing detailed explanations of the provisions of this and three related Bills and makes it unnecessary for me to dwell on the provisions at the present time. I commend the BUI to the Senate.
Loan (Income Equalization Deposits) Bill 1976
This is the second of 3 Bills designed to give legislative effect to the Government’s decision to establish a scheme of income equalisation deposits for the benefit of primary producers. As I have already explained features of the deposit scheme in speaking to the Bill that has just been introduced, I need refer only briefly to the purposes of this measure.
The provisions of the Bill are basically in line with other loan raising laws although there are some differences because of the particular nature of the deposits. First, the proceeds of income equalisation deposits are to be transferred to a new trust account established by the Bill. Secondly, because the Commonwealth, in accepting deposits, does not issue securities, the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act will not apply. Thirdly, because of income tax implications, the deposits will not be transferrable from one person to another.
The Bill appoints the Commissioner of Taxation as the person authorised to determine requests for withdrawal of deposits and authorises him to declare, in certain prescribed circumstances, that deposits have become repayable. Depositors are given a right to have a request for withdrawal referred to a board of review if it is refused by the Commissioner. Honourable senators will have detailed explanations of the Bill’s provisions in the memorandum circulated on this and associated measures. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Loan (Drought Bonds) Amendment Bill 1976
This Bill is the third of the series of measures to give effect to the income equalisation deposits scheme. It proposes to amend the Loan (Drought Bonds) Act in relation to the conversion of drought bonds to income equalisation deposits to which I have already referred. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill be taken through all its stages without delay.
Motion (by Senator Cotton) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 6 December, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Wriedt had moved by way of amendment: but the Senate is of the opinion that this scheme does not recognise that each household in Australia is entitled to adequate and conveniently located accommodation at a price which does not impose too great a strain on household resources, rather it perpetuates existing inequalities.
-Before the debate on this Bill was adjourned yesterday, I had dealt with arguments raised by the Opposition. I was looking at the various provisions of the Bill and examining how it had widened the area of the number of people who will now be eligible to qualify for the homes savings grant. The Government’s initiatives under this Bill will considerably extend the area of operation of the previous legislation. It will give young people an additional incentive to save so that they will be able to purchase their own home with a maximum Government contribution by way of a homes savings grant of $2,000.
There were a considerable number of restrictions on eligibility under the old legislation which I think ought to be mentioned. These were that the applicant had to be married, had to be under the age of 36 years, had to be an Australian citizen for a period of 3 years and had to be resident in Australia throughout that period. The criteria have been widened considerably. All that applies now is that the applicant must be an Australian citizen or have permanent resident status. The 3-year waiting period has been abolished. The applicant must be at least 18 years old and must be acquiring his first home. As I have stated previously, the maximum grant of savings has been raised to $2,000. In effect, to qualify for the maximum grant, the applicant must have saved a total amount of $6,000. But savings in respect of that amount may be in a much wider form than applies under the existing legislation. I think it is fair to say at this stage that all that increasing the amount of savings to $6,000 does is to keep pace with present and perhaps prospective inflation rates. There has been an inflationary growth over the last 3 or 4 years and the figures fixed under the old legislation are now out of date.
The wider field of savings is worthy of mention. Deposits with savings banks, excluding savings bank cheque accounts; fixed deposits with trading banks; deposits and shares with building societies; deposits with a credit union and money paid towards the purchase of land or the construction of a home are all eligible and acceptable forms of savings for a person wishing to qualify under the scheme. The scheme has also been widened to allow more than one person to join in an application. For example, the legislation will allow a widow or widower and child, or a young couple with a widowed mother or mother-in-law to support, to make an application together provided that the application applies to their first home; that is the limitation.
I wish to spend a few brief moments covering the question of a very important extension effected by clause 13 of the Bill. It enables a person or persons together who have entered into a contract for the construction of a dwelling house on rural property to qualify, even though the applicant or applicants may not have title to the land. This is a very important and worthwhile extension of the provision. This legislation will enable people in rural and remote areas to qualify for the first time. Sub-clause ( 1) of clause 13 of the Bill reads:
on or after 1 January 1977, a person has, or persons together have-
The Secretary is satisfied that the land forms part of a rural property owned by another person (whether that other person holds the land as a trustee or not) who has given permission to the first-mentioned person or persons to occupy the dwelling-house when completed . . .
That clause is important. It sets out in detail just what these qualifications are. It avoids the necessity and expense of survey fees and of applying to the municipality for permission to subdivide or for various permits which are now necessary under original development ordinances and town planning schemes. All in all, the Bill provides for a very worthwhile extension of the scheme to people in country areas.
I conclude my short remarks by saying that this is a very worthwhile piece of legislation. It encourages the thrift and independence of young people. It teaches them to look after themselves. It encourages them to save and to be independent and not to look to government to support them at every turn. I commend the legislation to the Senate as a worthwhile piece of legislation. It can only do good for the vast number of people throughout Australia, particularly those young people who are endeavouring to acquire their first home.
– in reply- The Senate is debating the Homes Savings Grant Bill 1976 which seeks to implement the Government’s stated election policy. It extends a homes savings grant policy which has operated, I think, since 1964 for a period of some 12 years. It is a policy which has conferred significant benefit and help on about 360 000 families in Australia. During the time that the scheme operated under the previous Liberal Government in its first 8 years of office, it was a conspicuous success.
The whole spectrum of housing has become bedevilled by one factor, namely, the high inflation rate. It has destroyed the capacity of the person on an ordinary income to own a home. Senator Wriedt mentioned the quartering system. It was the generally accepted principle that onequarter of a person’s wage would be the servicing amount for a home loan. Clearly, although in the past the quartering system was adequate, today it would require either a single breadwinner’s wage of about $280 a week or the combined wages of 2 working spouses to buy a home. Clearly, therefore, what has happened through inflation is that the ability of average income earners to own their own home has been destroyed. Concurrently with inflation interest rates rose. During the period of the Whitlam Government the bond rate rose from about 6.6 per cent to 10.6 per cent, indicating a pattern of rising cost structure.
The real benefit to be restored to potential home owners must come in any policy to reduce inflation. This is the Government’s main and overriding policy. Consistent with it, this policy of homes savings grants is a very valuable one. The Government supports the Bill and opposes the proposed amendment.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
-May I refer the Committee to clause 13(1) and ask the Minister for an explanation? It seems to me from the explanatory notes on clause 13 (1) that the only person or persons who could be the recipients of a grant under this clause would be those who could pay cash for the purchase or the building of a home. I believe that no bank or lending institution will grant money for that purpose unless the person requiring the home is the actual owner of the land whereon the building is to be placed. A person who is eligible for the grant may purchase a rural property and then at some subsequent date a son or daughter of that person who could be eligible for a grant also could, by virtue of this clause, apply for and receive the grant. That person could then erect or place the home on the property of the father or mother, as the case may be, and at some subsequent date, for all sorts of reasons, could walk off the property. Would this clause not mean that the home would then revert to the parent and therefore, in effect, the parent could well be the recipient of 2 homes savings grants?
– As I understand it, clause 13(1) provides that a person building a home on a rural property owned by another person may be deemed to be the owner of an interest in the land if he has been given permission to occupy the dwelling by that other person. That is clear. It may well be that the person seeking to borrow money to build might have an arrangement whereby a mortgage can be held over the actual farm property. That is a matter of negotiation between the true owner of the land and the person who seeks to build a house upon it. There are ways in which a person might secure a loan and not require cash. It is true, as Senator Primmer said, that if the person should walk off the land the ownership would revert to the owner of the land. That is the essential risk that the borrower takes when undertaking these arrangements. I think this is a case of hard cases making bad laws. It is true that there may be exceptions but I think the honourable senator, having some farming interests himself, would agree that this is a valuable step.
– I am not sure that it is a valuable step. One of the problems confronting rural people in this day and age is the viability of a property. A person may well go onto the land at a period of time when it is a viable proposition for the son or daughter of that person also to settle on the property. This is happening almost every day. We all know that because of the inflationary trends that prevail in our society that farm may well become a non-viable proposition. The countryside is full of dwellings built by sons or daughters on their father’s or mother’s property. Within a decade, the son or daughter has left. The point I am raising is that, in that instance, a parent is placed in the position of being able to be the recipient of 2 homes savings grants. He is put in an advantageous position when compared with every other citizen in the community.
– I have had some experience in my legal practice with cases of this type and I think I could usefully add something to this debate. Clause 13 is a good clause. It will enable the people it is designed to help to be assisted. What has been happening up to now is that when a son wishes to build a home on the family farm he has to survey a block of an acre or one and a half acres. The block may have to be of 10 acres if some sort of restriction applies under the town planning scheme or an interim development order for the municipality. People have been carrying out these surveys but it is a fairly costly business. This could still be done if a person wished to go through with the exercise and if he qualified for the homes savings grant.
However, the extension in this clause would help in appropriate cases. I suggest that the legislation is designed primarily to assist in the fatherson situation on a family property. There is no suggestion that people in significant numbers in other situations would wish to qualify. I do not think that Senator Primmer was strictly accurate when he said that the parent would receive 2 homes savings grants. The homes savings grant would be paid, on the completion of the home, to the son or the applicant as he will be under the legislation. It will be paid once and for all and he will at least have that grant whatever happens to the house later. So the situation outlined by Senator Primmer will not arise. As the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) has already mentioned, the problem of finance is not really difficult, because the parent will be in a position to put his title into a bank and guarantee the advance which will be necessary to enable the house to be built. Having looked at the situation in some detail, I feel that clause 13 is a worthwhile extension. I see no way in which it could be amended to improve it.
– I want to raise another point in relation to clause 1 6 which states:
If he is a successful applicant the money is paid to him under clause 3 1. An eligible person must be over 16 years of age who may be married or single. I am concerned about this because when the previous Homes Savings Grants Bill came before this House that provision was queried. I refer to a debate in the Senate in 1964 which is recorded in Hansard on page 1431. Senator Sir William Spooner was the Leader of the Government at that time. He was an astute and capable leader, and one had some respect for the information he gave to the House. I asked him why the benefit was not extended to the single person and he replied:
asked why marriage is a prerequisite to the payment of this grant. The answer is that there is no constitutional authority to pay it to a single person, to an engaged couple or to two single persons. It is payable only to a married couple.
Senator McKenna, who was then Leader of the Opposition, interjected:
It is a family allowance.
Senator Sir William Spooner replied:
That is right.
There is no constitutional power for the Commonwealth to be involved in housing. Housing grants to the States are section 96 grants. Under the previous Act the Government had the constitutional power to pay the grant to married people because it had constitutional rights to give benefits to families. When the new homes savings grant was announced, I asked in April this year the following question:
What constitutional authority has the Government to make home savings grants to single persons, as proposed in the statement submitted to the Senate?
This was question on notice No. 571. The Minister replied:
The Attorney-General has advised that it would not be in accordance with practice to furnish legal opinion on the Commonwealth’s constitutional powers in answer to a question. I would, however, refer the Honourable Senator to the decision of the High Court in the Australian Assistance Plan Case (7 A.L.R. 277), which provides a reasonable constitutional basis for the making of the grants by the Commonwealth.
Having perused the report of the Australian Assistance Plan case, I fail to see any similarity. It dealt with corporations and provisions for groups of people, mostly families; but there was nothing about the homes savings grant for single people. I do not raise the matter too strongly. In 1964 I said that if the grant could be extended I would favour paying it. I am wondering now whether this is one of those things which are done in the belief that there will never be any challenge to their constitutional validity. It is difficult to visualise who would challenge a single person getting the grant in order to test the validity of this provision.
This brings up a most serious question which concerns me: Is this Government much concerned with the constitutional position of its legislation? Questions have been asked concerning school leavers and the Minister today tabled a legal opinion which she had received, supporting the Director-General’s opinion. However, having read it, I suggest that it only justifies the Director-General in forming the opinion that a person cannot be genuinely unemployed if he is a full time student. There is no suggestion in that opinion that if the applicant meets the other criteria and has left school he is not entitled to the unemployment benefit. So there would appear to be no legal support for the direction of the Government given in the hope that if a payment is made no one will challenge it and the Government will get away with something for which perhaps there is no constitutional power and which is not what Parliament intended when it enacted an Act of Parliament creating the benefit. I have raised this question to show the difference of opinion that exists, a difference which appears to be based solely on the Australian Assistance Plan judgment. I think it falls far short of giving the constitutional power which the Government believed in 1964 it did not have.
- Senator Cavanagh has raised a useful point, but my advice is that the Government is satisfied that there is a constitutional head of power to do this. The Government is not simply leaning on the Constitution and relying on no one testing it. My understanding is that, since the time Senator Sir William Spooner spoke in the manner that Senator Cavanagh has suggested, legal opinion has indicated that single people can receive this benefit, and that is the advice on which we are resting at the moment.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 30 November and 6 December, on motion by Senator Guilfoyle:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
-The long-awaited Bill has arrived in the Senate, but it is merely a shadow of the 1 975 Bill. I want to say a number of things in relation to the Bills before I get on to their main parts. I am sorry that we have had to take the 3 Bills cognately, because it has not given us an opportunity to speak at length on each Bill. Basically the Aboriginal Council and Associations Bill (No. 2) is the same as the Bill the Labor Government introduced more than a year ago and obviously debate on that would not be very lengthy. However, the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill and the States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bill are in a different category. I suggest to the Government with respect that when amendments to these Bills are moved, particularly the amendments to the land rights Bill, it will have an excellent opportunity to restore some of the credibility it has lost over the last 10 days or so. We had devaluation; then the birthday cake incident; then the Government burned out most of its Fleet Air Arm; and now it has revalued. People do not know where the Government is going. I hope that it will accept some of these amendments so that we will know what is to happen in these areas.
Last night I received the co-operation of the Senate in having some documents incorporated in Hansard, and scattered through my notes now I have a number of documents which I would like to have incorporated also. They should not cause any problem for Hansard, and I will seek their incorporation at the appropriate times. Obviously this Bill has received wide publicity and great support in the electorate, particularly where the Aborigines are largely congregated. I want to read a few of the telegrams which have been sent in, because they represent an appeal to the minds and hearts of members of this Parliament. I will refer to only a brief selection of those I have received in the last few days. The first was from the President of the Central Land Council. It was addressed to the Sydney Land Rights Committee as well as to me and stated:
Please keep on fighting for the land rights Bill until it becomes law. We want the Bill passed but we are very worried about the mining parts. Help us make them stronger for Aboriginal people. We are too far away in Alice Springs. Speak strongly. You know what we are asking for.
The next was from the Grafton Aboriginal Legal Service and stated:
We know you will fight against the iniquitous provisions of Viner ‘s land rights Bill. Anything short of total and complete control in hands of Aboriginal people is a sell-out and perpetuates intolerable injustices against them.
The next was from Silas Roberts of the Northern Land Council and stated:
Wish you the best of luck with land Bill. Our hopes are with you.
A telegram from Ray Nagas states:
Best of luck in the Senate tomorrow. We are all behind you.
I received a telegram from Monty Pryor of the Townsville Land Rights Committee which states:
Full support north Queensland Aborigines regards Northern Territory Aboriginal Land Rights Bill. We shall be waiting outcome.
I received a telegram from the North Queensland Land Rights Committee in Cairns. This is particularly significant because it spells out the hopes and aspirations of the people in that area. It states:
Good luck Aboriginal and Rights Bill debate. Next step land rights Queensland. All our support.
It was signed by Mick Miller, Clarrie Grogan, Barbara Russell, Peter Noble, Bob Holroyd, Eric Kooila, Mark Noble, Ivy Sam, Esme Hudson and Fred Mundarby. A telegram from Naomi Myers of the Aboriginal Medical Service states:
Good luck land rights debate today.
It indicates that some representatives of the Service in Sydney will be attending here today. A telegram from Joyce Clague of Nungera reads:
Support land rights Bill for Aborigines.
I understand that she sent a similar telegram to Senator Bonner. Senator Bonner got upset because he did not understand it. During the 1975 election campaign the famous Ellicott telegrams were distributed far and wide in this land, and a specially prepared telegram was sent out over radio telephone in the central northern areas. I have a copy of the tape which was dispersed over this very isolated area, and I seek your permission, Mr President, to play a couple of minutes of that tape to the Senate. It relates to a telegram which was sent out by Mr Ellicott last year when he occupied the position which I now occupy.
– I must point out to the honourable senator that to the best of my knowledge there is no precedent for the playing of tapes in the chamber.
– Could we create a precedent and try it, Mr President? ‘
– We have available the machinery for incorporation. Is there a transcript of the tape?
– Yes, I have a transcript of it.
– The request to play a tape involves a matter of precedent which requires looking at very closely before consideration could be given to its implementation.
-I accept your ruling, Mr President. I will keep the tape. It will be available for members of the Press after I have finished speaking if they want to hear it. I will quote a small section of the transcription of the tape, and I assure the Senate that there is nothing subversive in it. It contains only the words of Mr Ellicott, as related by somebody acting on his behalf. The second section states:
Aboriginal Land Rights. Will grant land rights over all aboriginal reserves in Northern Territory. Will help aboriginals to buy land of reserves. Land Rights Legislation to have top priority immediately after election. All Aboriginal Councils and other interested bodies and persons to be consulted on Land Rights Bill. Want local Aboriginal Land Owners to control use and development of their land and to decide who should be permitted to enter whether Aborigine or non Aborigine. Prospecting and Mining to reflect views of local Aboriginal Land Owners. Protection for all sacred sites. Mining Royalties from Aboriginal Land to go to Aboriginal people and fair share to local Aboriginal Land Owners.
The final message read:
In Government will consider all other proposals supported by Aboriginal people.
Vote Liberal and National Country Party on 1 3 December for new deal for Aboriginal people.
I seek leave of the Senate to have the transcription incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows:
LIBERAL NATIONAL COUNTRY PARTY POLICY ON ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS FOLLOWING OF MAIN POINTS
No. 1 -Aboriginal Affairs Budget
No cut in Aboriginal Affairs Budget or in programme. Funds to be shared among Aboriginal Communities on fair basis. Funds to continue to be made available for housing education employment, help Legal Aid etc. Pensions payable to Aboriginal people will not be cut and will rise automatically twice a year with cost of living increases.
No. 2 -Aboriginal Land Rights
Will giam land rights over all aboriginal reserves in Northern Territory. Will help aboriginals to buy land of reserves. Land Rights Legislation to have top priority immediately after election. All Aboriginal Councils and other interested bodies and persons to be consulted on Land Rights Bill. Want local Aboriginal Land Owners to control use and development of their land and to decide who should be permitted to enter whether Aborigine or non Aborigine. Prospecting and Mining to reflect views of local Aboriginal Land Owners. Protection for all sacred sites, Mining Royalties from Aboriginal Land to go to Aboriginal people and fair share to local Aboriginal Land Owners.
No, 3-Aboriginal Self Management
Aboriginal Representatives to be encouraged to play greater role in Policy Making. Urgent inquiry to be held into role of National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. Investigation to remove waste and inefficiency. Independent and efficient Aboriginal Organisations to be encouraged.
No, 4-Additional Funds
Two new entitlement funds to be set up to recognise National responsibility for dispossession and dispersal of Aboriginal people. Money for Aboriginal loans and land fund commissions to continue.
No, 5-Develop Aboriginal Self Reliance
Wish to reduce white bureaucracy in Aboriginal Affairs and increase Aboriginal staff. Will give priority to extra Aboriginal Field Workers’ and Advisors in help, education and Community development. Also priority to new Aboriginal Pre-Schools. Priority to expansion of Education in Aboriginal languages. All Australian children to be taught Aboriginal History and culture. Aboriginal parents to help in education programmes. Will investigate employment and training schemes to increase Aboriginal jobs.
In Government will consider all other proposals supported by Aboriginal people.
Vote Liberal and National Country Party on December 1 3th for new deal for Aboriginal people.
Liberal National Country Party Spokesman on Aboriginal Affairs
That message conveyed to the Aboriginal people at about this time last year what were the policies of this Government, then the Opposition. The Government has been in office for almost a year, and in the Bills we are debating today almost all of those promises have been repudiated. Superficially, the Bill resembles the Bill introduced in 1975 by the Labor Government, but that is where the resemblance ends. As we are debating these Bills cognately, if it is satisfactory to the Minister I will deal firstly with the councils and associations Bill, then the loans Bill, and finally with the land rights Bill. I will deal with them in that order because it will save confusing everybody and at the same time it will give the Opposition an opportunity to outline the major points it wants to make.
The Aboriginal Councils and Associations Bill (No. 2) 1976 has not been amended or altered greatly by the Government, but there are a couple of intriguing amendments associated with local government which need some explanation, and perhaps when the Minister is replying she might be able to say something about that. One suspects, of course, that the amendments have been designed to protect private enterprise collaboration with the Queensland Government. There are many problems in Queensland, both at the government level and because of the provisions of the 2 Acts. The local government Act was amended some time ago, and I think it was amended basically to frustrate the then Labor Government from giving land rights to Aboriginal people living in the island areas. I have no doubt that that was inspired by the Premier of Queensland, and perhaps the Minister will explain that to the Senate in detail. After the 1967 referendum, and this was one of the reasons for the introduction of the Bill by the Labor Government, and on the appointment of Mr John Gorton as Prime Minister and Mr W. C. Wentworth as Minister for Social Services and Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs, there was a slight whiff of fresh air.
Shortly after his appointment, Mr Wentworth stated in a letter to me that the 1967 referendum gave the Commonwealth concurrent powers with the States in relation to Aborigines. Early in the Prime Ministership of Mr Gorton, he and Mr Wentworth visited Queensland and told the Queensland Government that they would be doing something about land rights. But when Mr Gorton was removed from office by the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), and Mr Wentworth was sacked from his portfolio of Aboriginal Affairs and replaced by Mr Howson, who is no longer with us in this Parliament, the whole scene changed. The new Prime Minister, Mr William McMahon, and the new MinisterinCharge of Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Howson, went to Queensland, apologised to the Premier of Queensland and promised that there would be no more trouble with land rights. It is significant that at that time the Howson portfolio became popularly known as the bits and pieces portfolio because it was tied up with three or four other things, in the same way as the present Queensland Department is tied in with the Department of Fisheries.
The election of the Labor Government on 2 December saw new initiatives, new aspirations, and a new hope for Aboriginal people throughout Australia, even though they were a comparative minority in the total Australian population. Money was allocated, and this gave a fresh incentive to people to work towards new goals. In Queensland we had the problem that money was frequently spent unwisely when it was channelled through State departments and sometimes it was not spent at all. In one case, a special grant of money for the relief of unemployment of Aboriginal people was allocated in a local government area but for political purposes it was kept by the State Government in the Treasury for a period of many months. In fact, some thousands of dollars of interest had accumulated by the time the money was paid out to relieve unemployment in a particular local government area. There was great resistance to the registration of housing associations and similar organisations, and at one stage during the period when my colleague Senator Cavanagh was Minister for Aboriginal Affairs some 28 or 30 associations had not been registered. That provides some of the background to this Bill.
Some doubts were expressed by the Aboriginal people about some of the clauses in that BUI, but when it was first introduced by the Labor Government the provisions of the Bill were not intended to be mandatory. There are many other methods of registering organisations and associations, and those already registered through other channels could remain in that category. I hope that the powers contained in the Bill are not misused by the Government. It might be wise to take on board the suggestion that the provisions of the Bill ought to be re-examined in 6 or 12 months time. I know that some doubt has been expressed by a few Aboriginal people who have spent some time considering the provisions of the Bill since it was reintroduced by this Government. It might be wise if the precaution of reexamination were taken, if it were found necessary.
I turn now to the States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bill 1976, and in the Committee stage the Opposition will move an amendment to this Bill. We seek certain information, and we believe that the amendment, which will be circulated, ought to be accepted. Again it comes back to how money is spent by the States. We feel that by the insertion of a few words this might save a lot of heartburning in the future. I foreshadow the addition of the words: ‘the purpose for which the amount was paid’. There are areas in which money has been misspent, not by Aboriginal people but by those who are responsible for the cutter. I have raised this in this chamber before.
Early in this sessional period I asked probing questions regarding financial misadventures at Hooker Creek. This was many weeks ago. The Minister has not replied. Either he cannot find the answers or he does not intend to reply anyway. I also asked some questions about what appeared to be reckless spending in the reorganisation of the Melbourne office. Again there has been a failure to answer, but I am hopeful that somewhere along the line I will eventually get this information. I know that officials in Melbourne were asked to supply the information to the Minister. That information was supplied. I shall quote shortly from one of the messages that came from Melbourne. I think it was departmental officer Malone who said recently that he thought my office had a better filing system for departmental documents than his office had. I shall refresh the minds of members of the Senate on some of the questions that I asked. One concerned the installation of a PABX system which apparently was unwarranted in the circumstances, the establishment of a printing section and the establishment of a photography section. I know that part of the message that was sent to the Minister included the following words:
The photographic section also transferred from the State to the Commonwealth under the transfer conditions. The cost of establishment of the dark room as a separate cost item is not known. At the time of the transfer of the regional head office from Melbourne to Box Hill the photographer position was filled and the photogaphic dark room and equipment fully utilised. Since then the photographer has reached retirement age and because of staff ceilings his position is not filled.
Yet all this money has been spent. The message continues:
However, the dark room continues to be utilised by competent persons.
I want to know why it is being utilised, who is utilising it and why was it built in the first place. I say to the Minister for Social Security that when I asked these questions in the Senate during an adjournment debate previously I honestly thought I would get a reply. Perhaps the Minister might be able to build on that part of the advice that was sent to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs being passed on to me. I should like to get the information officially; I do not like getting it that way.
If I have not given enough justification for our amendment, let me give a few facts about an area in north Queensland known as The Gorge. This is situated on a reserve about 8 kilometres from Mossman, which is just south of the Daintree River. It is a beautiful little place. The village is situated on roughly 20 to 25 hectares of land and surrounded by mountains, jungle and mountain streams. The people there are descendants of people who some 40 years ago were removed by force from the Daintree River area. Immediately after they were settled on the new reserve at the Gorge all the old people developed hook worm and similar parasitic tropical diseases and their lives were cut short. Today the little huts that are there- there are about twenty of themindividually have no light, no water and no septic or other facilities. The people want to stay there. They want to build new homes there. They do not want to be moved to Mossman or to any other town, although two or three have been forcibly removed.
During the time of the Labor Government a housing association there was funded for the purpose of building homes on this land. The people were forbidden to do this by the State Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement. Then the Australian Government decided to buy an area of land adjoining, but while the negotiations were proceeding the State Government came in with a higher bid, bought the block of land and the houses are still not built. There is one house that has electricity and a water supply and it is occupied by a white family. The State ought to be made to explain what it does with the money. This applies also to the Northern Territory. I give this background to show the reason for proposing the amendment. I wrote to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs about this matter. There are 2 short letters which are associated with this inquiry. I shall not go through them. To save time I seek leave to incorporate those letters in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The documents read as follows-
You will recall in the debate on the Appropriation Bill, No. 1, in the Senate on 9 November seeking some information regarding the settlement near Mossman known as the Gorge.
From the tenor of your speech, it appears that you may not have received Mr Viner’s letter of 28 September 1 976 which provided some information in response to your question. In case it has been mislaid, I attach a copy of the Minister’s reply.
To supplement that reply in the light of some of the comments you made, I have obtained the following additional details from our Brisbane office.
The Gorge reserve is under the control of the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement and that Department has refused permission for building. The Department gives as its reason that a housing survey by its staff showed that a majority of people at the Gorge wished to move to nearby towns. The Goobidi Bamanga Community Advancement Society in Mossman state that a number of people wish to remain at the Gorge. The Society sought to buy adjoining land earlier this year but the State Government excised part of the land to the reserve ‘in order that building close to the reserve may be incorporated in the reserve proper’. This action stifled the Society’s attempt to acquire the land.
The only money made available for housing in the area was by way of grant to the Goobidi Bamanga Community Advancement Society which has received grants totalling $137,930 and has purchased six houses in the townships of Mossman and Newell at a total cost of $ 1 20,64 1 .
Yours sincerely, (L.A.J.Malone) First Assistant Secretary
You wrote to me on 20 August concerning the housing problems of residents of The Gorge.
After discussions with officers of my Department the residents were advised that their application for a housing grant would be fully considered if they could obtain land.
I have been informed that subsequently the only land available was purchased by the Queensland State Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement and Fisheries which has refused authority for construction of houses at The Gorge. Consequently no funds were provided.
Yours sincerely, (R. I. Viner)
– I thank the Senate. I wish to refer to another example of why there ought to be some sort of checkback on these things. I turn to another State, Western Australia, and to a pretty little place known as Beagle Bay. If people want to know where Beagle Bay is they may have to look at a map. It is in a fairly remote area. Some considerable time ago an organisation was established there to build nouses. I think the preliminary inquiries go back almost 3 years. Today there are still no houses built. There is an area of conflict and some people are blaming other people and what-have-you. I shall cite a couple of facts on the matter. I was there in the last 6 months. For some reason or other the Minister seemed to be following hot on my trail. One can only assume that he had obtained a copy of my itinerary. There was nothing secret about it. I was not worried because he was following me. He was unable to land at Beagle Bay because by some act of man or God all the brush around the airport was on fire and the end result was a pall of smoke similar to the mushroom cloud of Hiroshima or perhaps the other place where all good Liberals fear to go.
– This is a Bill on tourism, is it?
– If the honourable senator goes to that place on a tourist trip he can let me know what it is like when he comes back. I might be able to join him. This subject is serious and it needs urgent investigation by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and to some extent by the Department of Social Security. I shall not go through and give names but I shall give the names of the principals shortly, with their permission. I suggest that in this case the missionaries have blamed the consultants but the consultants have a quite different story. I wish to quote two or three paragraphs from one of the statements made to me by Mr Alan Bonham, who is a senior lecturer in the Civil Engineering Department of the University of New South Wales, Duntroon. In a communication dated 25 October 1976 he states:
In March 1975 a brief was received from Laurie Virr, Architect, for the Beagle Bay Housing Society, to provide civil engineering services such as water supply, drainage and road works for Beagle Bay. … It is desired that all proposals be compatible with a total design approach where all practitioners associated with the project strive for a complete integration of the requirements of their respective disci- plines. The other practitioner at the time was James Weirick, l andscape consultant and subsequently I invited Tony Wood of ACI Fibreglass to design the fibreglass structure of the water tower and Malcolm Campbell, Chairman of the FRP Division of the Plastic Institute of Australia to train and supervise the Aborigines in the use of fibreglass.
The construction of the fibreglass tank was a new development. After having talks with those who designed it and having seen the structure, I think it is workable. But because of the cutback in finance, the cessation of development everywhere a few months ago, as far as I know the tank is still lying on the ground. It has not yet been erected. The real value of it will be seen if it is up before the wet comes. I do not want to proceed through all the notes I have made. I think it would be much fairer to the whole argument if I had a particular document incorporated. There are some effective maps available but I do not seek to have them incorporated because I know it cannot be done. However, they are available for any honourable senator opposite who would like to study them. There is also a diagram on the back of this submission that was made by Mr Bonham which cannot be reproduced either. I understand that. I seek the incorporation of those few pages in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The writer is a Senior Lecturer in the Civil Engineering Department of the University of New South Wales at Duntroon in Canberra.
In March 1975 a brief was received from Laurie Virr, Architect, for the Beagle Bay Housing Society, to provide civil engineering services such as water supply, drainage and road works for Beagle Bay. Quoting from the brief: ‘It is desired that all proposals be compatible with a total design approach, wherein all practitioners associated with the project strive for a complete integration of the requirements of their respective disciplines.’ The other practitioner at that time was James Weirick, landscape consultant and subsequently I invited Tony Wood of ACI Fibreglass to design the fibreglass structure of the water tower and Malcolm Campbell, Chairman of the FRP Division of the Plastic Institute of Australia to train and supervise the Aborigines in the use of fibreglass.
Laurie Virr spent almost six months living closely with the Aboriginal clients and the writer visited Beagle Bay with him in April 1975. The civil engineering works on the existing mission site were barely adequate by very low standards. The most significant aspects of the problem were the poor stock of Aboriginal housing, the high groundwater table with frequent flooding, the rusted out condition of tanks and pipes in the water supply system and the frequently unoperative septic tank systems. The close proximity of the rusted out water supply network and regularly flooded out septic tank network was seen as a potential health hazard.
In April many other desirable support systems at Beagle Bay were ineffective or giving low serviceability. The market garden, piggery and chicken runs had recently fallen into some neglect Electric power, required for pumping water, was available only at certain times. The mechanical workshop was subject to flooding and consequently the tools and spares were subject to rapid deterioration.
The Beagle Bay location is extremely remote with remarkably poor communications, a harsh climate and lacks natural resources except for sand and water; consequently any malfunction of engineering services could take a week or very much longer to be repaired by outside specialists.
The following principles were developed with the Aboriginal members of the Beagle Bay Housing Society for the provision of civil engineering works for the housing scheme and for the proposed upgrading of the standard of existing works where necessary-
Beagle Bay is about ten kilometers from the coast in the remote west Kimberley area. The land system to the south consists of a sand plain with little organised drainage. Away from the coast are deep red sands with low scrubby woodlands grading to deep yellow sands with taller scrubby woodlands further north and nearer the coast where the rainfall is higher. North of Beagle Bay are coastal flats with sandy dunes and paperbarks grading to saline muds with mangrove forests in the Beagle Bay Creek.
The new urban development at Beagle Bay is located in the limited space available on an old sand dune, and is almost surrounded by old tidal flats which are prone to regular flooding. The surface of the sand dune consists of permeable, uniform fine sand and this material extends down to some depth although in places the sand hill core consists of fine sand mixed with silt and clay and is quite impermeable. The depth of the generally permeable subsoil is evidenced by the fresh water springs which occur far out in the tidal creek and by the level surface of the ground watertable which flows to the north east with a slope of about one in two hundred.
Heavy rainfall is generally confined to the humid summer months from November to March and although the level of the water table may rise only a fraction of a metre this may be sufficient to inundate the low lying flats. The annual rainfall is 725mm.
Much of the ground surface of the old settlement area is covered with couch grass, and during intense rainfall events the stormwater quickly soaks into the grass and infiltrates through the sand. Where impermeable surfaces exist the stormwater is concentrated by overland flow. This flow then generally runs into the grass and overland until the flow is sufficiently distributed for complete absorption by infiltration. During very intense short rainfall events general overland flow may occur over both permeable and impermeable areas but this will happen for only five or ten minutes once or twice each year.
The control of stormwater is shown in Drawing No. 3 which is a diagrammatic cross-section of residential development at Beagle Bay. Roads and other impermeable areas will be kept narrow in width and the flow from these areas dispersed over adjacent permeable areas further down the slope. The entire urban area is to be domed in a continuous convex curve to ensure that no low pockets of land exist to attract the collection of silt, clay and peaty material, allowing puddles to form and muddy hollows. The hip roofed buildings are designed without gutters and rain runs directly from the roof onto a low step and is dispersed into the surrounding couch grass turf. The roads and parking areas are generally narrow and with crossfall at the natural slope of the ground so that no formation grading is required. The road construction consists of stabilised soil with hardened shoulders and a low cost bitumen surface is provided which is roughened to retard the overland flow of stormwater.
Where impermeable areas form a fairly small fraction of the total land area the stormwater drainage will be mainly by infiltration. Where impermeable areas of roofs and road surfaces are concentrated the overland flow will inevitably occur in specific locations, over the bitumen and also over the grass, but this shallow flow will occur very infrequently and will quickly disappear.
A further problem is the need to control the high ground watertable levels in the wet summer months and this has been achieved by the use of a shallow drainage channel, lined with local couch grass and draining into the nearby tidal creek. This channel, which is shown in the drawing, also drains the nearby flats.
It can be seen that the need for an expensive stormwater pipe system has been avoided at Beagle Bay. The need for curbing and guttering to channel away stormwater has also been avoided. The first design strategy has been to disperse the stormwater as widely as possible through the grass thereby making the infiltration process as efficient as possible. The second design strategy has been to direct the excess rainfall through the grass by a long route and thus to retard the runoff.
On the debit side a need has been created for some hardening of the road shoulders to prevent rutting by vehicles wandering from the road and there is a requirement for the provision of extensive areas of smooth mown couch grass or other ground cover suitable for armouring the ground surface and retarding the overland flow of stormwater.
Aesthetic judgements are essentially subjective, but it is believed by all concerned with Beagle Bay that the use of roads and paved areas at grade with the surrounding grassy lawns is greatly to be preferred to expensive conventional suburban streets with curbs, gutters and stormdrains which are generally out of line and level with the natural slope of the land.
The cost of the storm drainage channel system to date is $4233, which is within budget estimates.
An extensive soil investigation and testing program was carried out in the laboratories of the Department of Civil Engineering at the Royal Military College at Duntroon in Canberra, using soil samples brought from Beagle Bay.
The economic solution for access roads consists of a light bitumen surface and a base course consisting of selected granular fill but with insitu cement stabilised soil in certain locations.
This work is well within the capacity of the aboriginal labour force using plant most of which is already on site.
A great deal of attention has been given to the question of sewage treatment and disposal and extensive discussions have taken place with the aboriginal people, public health authorities in Western Australia, and elsewhere, and with special attention given to experience in similar communities to the north in South East Asia.
The attitudes of white Australians and aboriginal Australians were compared and contrasted. The conveyance of sewage by water through pipe network systems with stabilisation treatment followed by discharge into a creek is very much a white man’s concept. In the U.K. and the U.S.A. the streams flow fairly continuously and the system was adequate for many years in preventing the spread of disease, but at the same time formidable water pollution problems have developed which will be alleviated only at high costs. Australian streams tend to dry out frequently and are, therefor, less suitable for the dilution of sewage effluent. Thus for many centuries a strong element in European culture has been the discharge of sewage effluent into water courses giving rise to pollution levels. On the other hand aboriginal culture and custom would oppose the fouling with sewage of water holes. It should be remembered that aboriginalsociety existed in Australia for many centuries without producing any significant pollution.
For these and other reasons ‘ECOLET’ dry biological toilets will be provided for the new houses at Beagle Bay. One of these toilets has been in experimental use by aboriginals in a house at Beagle Bay for two years and has proved to be entirely satisfactory. The ‘ECOLET’ biological toilet which oxidises all degradable waste uses two compartments separated by an electrically heated coil. At the time of assembly the upper compartment receives a layer of humus and peat which serves as a bacteria bed. The lower compartment incorporates a tank for collecting the mineralised wastes. A heating coil maintains a temperature compatible with the optimum activity of the micro-organisms and good water evaporation. A fan which is situated in the upper part of the toilet has the purpose of making the air taken in at the bottom of the apparatus circulate through the bed of humus, and carries away water vapour and odours via the ventilation chimney which will extend through the roof of the house. More than 25 000 similar biological toilets are in use in Sweden, Finland, France, Canada and U.S.A. Approval has now been given for the general use of ‘ECOLET’ toilets in New South Wales. The cost of a suitable toilet is $350.
Drainage trenches will be used for soakway and evaporation of domestic sullage water. The drains are located in permeable soil and where the depth to the ground water table is adequate.
A new water supply and pipe main reticulation system was designed to completely replace the existing system which has rusted beyond economic repair.
The new system was designed for a peak seasonal demand of 450 litres per capita per day which includes domestic, mission and irrigation demands.
The completed bore and proposed pumphouse are located beyond the south west edge of the settlement. The direction of movement of the ground water is from south west to north east so that pollution of the well by sullage drainage is not possible.
The design of the borehole screen was made in collaboration with Mr O. Bergelin, Well Screen Manager of Johnson Screens. The bore incorporates a gravel packed stainless steel screen and is to the highest standards. Soil tests were made in the laboratories of the Department of Civil Engineering at Duntroon. Pump tests show that the well will be more than adequate for all anticipated future requirements. Cost to date $5,828.
The pipe reticulation system was designed to satisfy the Commonwealth standard for suburban fire protection at all hydrants on the new system which are located close to all new and existing buildings both domestic and mission. PVC pipes will be used because of the amazing rate of rusting and replacement of the existing pipes, because of low transport costs for the lightweight PVC pipes and because laying PVC pipes can be easily accomplished by aboriginal workmen.
The water tank is a cylindrical fibreglass tower 16 metres tall and 5 metres in diameter. The tank is designed to store one day’s supply at a suitable tap pressure and a sufficient supply to satisfy the Commonwealth standard for suburban fire protection. In case of pump or power failure, several days reserve supply for domestic demand at restricted usage would be available in the lower part of the tower at gradually diminishing tap pressure. The fibreglass structure of the tank was designed by the late Mr Tony Wood of ACI Fibreglass. The aboriginal employees and members of the Beagle Bay Housing Society have been trained and supervised in the use of fibreglass by Malcolm Campbell who has been responsible for fibreglass training for many years and is currently Chairman of the FRP Division of the Plastic Institute of Australia.
The cost of the tower to date is $30,173 which is well within budget estimates. This cost includes Malcolm Campbell ‘s fees for training and supervision.
The water tower is by far the largest fibreglass tower in the southern hemisphere and it is a great credit to the aboriginal people at Beagle Bay that they have achieved a technological triumph.
The skill in using fibreglass is now being used in the production of fishing boats with a mould provided by Mr Campbell.
It is anticipated that the skill and the equipment will also be used in the production of 5 metre diameter, shallow stock water tanks for wide use in the area, and a swimming pool for Beagle Bay.
The basic civil engineering works must necessarily precede the house building on this type of project. Designs are now complete and all works accomplished to date are within budget cost estimates. However, construction was stopped at the worst possible moment because the main concrete beams and slabs were not poured and the steel is open to deterioration in the water tower base and the drainage channel culverts. The tower is still lying on its side and furthermore many thousands of dollars worth of equipment and materials may be lying neglected on the site including fibreglass depositor, fibreglass materials, generator, compressor, welder, scaffolding, covers, mixers, cement, shredder, truck, front-end loader with backhoe, scales and many minor tools.
Because the civil engineering works came first we were able to make excellent progress before the dismissal of Dickie Cox, the former excellent Chairman of the Beagle Bay Housing Society by the former mission superintendent. The society accounts were then taken over by the mission and out of the hands of the consultants.
The mission superintendent is apparently able to remove any person from the mission whom he considers undesirable under Western Australian law.
On the occasion of a double wedding ceremony at Beagle Bay I spoke to a number of aboriginals who had felt obliged to leave Beagle Bay to avoid suffering the indignity of arrest and removal. Subsequently, the Bishop removed the mission superintendent.
It would seem that a command structure exists where the Bishop exercises considerable power over the mission superintendent and the mission superintendent exercises considerable temporal as well as spiritual power over the aboriginal people on the mission.
I have no doubt that this medieval power structure is inconsistent with a policy of aboriginal sell determination.
-A senior architect, Mr Laurie Virr who is the consultant to the Aboriginal Housing Panel, carried out extensive planning work at Beagle Bay. In an extensive document that has been supplied to me he makes complaints about overt and covert resistance to his planning, to financial mismanagement and to the mismanagement of physical resources. It is not for me to judge as to who may be at fault. But it is for the Department properly to investigate the matter and to examine all of the options and see what went wrong. I do know that as a result of these problems no Aboriginal homes are being built in the area. The stage has now been reached where there is a further problem in that it looks as though a Government department will have to continue with the matter. I suppose that this is somewhat unethical after the work that has been put into it, unless there is some evidence to blame the consultants in this case. I think honourable senators will recall that on the last occasion here I was on the other side of the fence insofar as consultants are concerned. I think it is important that the Department itself be allowed to judge. I seek leave to incorporate that document in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
Following a request from the Beagle Bay Housing Society for Federal assistance, the Aboriginal Housing Panel, thru the DAA, was requested to finance an initial study, together with the preparation of a report and the provision of recommendations with regard to future housing requirements at the settlement. The writer, being at that time a consultant to the Panel, was invited to accept the commission to conduct the study and prepare the report. Immediately upon acceptance of this commission, preparations were made for a visit of more than three weeks duration to the settlement, a thoro study was made, a report and recommendations prepared, and copies presented to all interested parties.
Consequent upon the relationship established with the Beagle Bay aboriginal community, and their acceptance of the Aboriginal Housing Panel’s report and recommendations, the writer was then invited to accept the commission to give practical form to the suggested proposals resulting from the study. Accounts of the problems encountered by architects on similar projects, previous experience, further extensive reading, enquiries made of anthropologists, psychologists, meteorologists and health authorities, besides another visit to the settlement for wide ranging discussions with the inhabitants on matters arising from the initial report, were all relevant factors in the formulation of a design philosophy for the entire program. This philosophy embodies the following concepts:
Their whole way of life being different, the enthusiasm of many aborigines falls away when employed on the same project for a prolonged period. This suggests that any dwelling that takes between 6-9 months to construct, on site- a period quite acceptable to most
European Australians- will pall in significance to aborigines before it is complete).
Prior to the commencement of any design work a thoro appraisal of the available building resources of the area was undertaken. Local experience was consulted at the outset, and this allied to first hand observation made during long and widespread journeyings thru ‘out the area revealed little of use for a major construction program. Stone suitable for concrete aggregate is at such a premium within the vicinity that the small deposits available are required by the Main Roads Department for the surfacing of the major highway. The quality of the remaining available material was subjected to detailed laboratory analysis, but proved to be totally unsuitable for use in even moderate strength concrete. Intensive enquiries made of the Bureau of Mineral Resources; Wapet; Department of Geology, SGS, ANU; and the W.A. Government Departments of Mines, Main Roads, and The North- West failed to reveal any other sources of suitable aggregate material. Timber for structural purposes was found to be almost equally non-existent. The quality of the local sand was revealed upon laboratory analysis to possess such fine and even grading, and to be so lacking in sharpness, that considerable difficulties would be experienced if it were employed in the manufacture of concrete.
Concurrent with the study of local building resources, arrangements were made for a topographic survey to be undertaken. Long, detailed discussions being held with representatives of the Beagle Bay aboriginal community regarding the types of dwelling they envisaged as being suitable for the climate and their mode of life. The requirements were for shade, means by which they could exploit the breeze, plumbing and cooking facilities, and, protection during cyclones- in that order. Final concepts for the dwellings emerged in very large measure from these discussions, resulting in designs that manifest the values and way of life of the inhabitants and the exigences of the local climate.
Completion of the topographic survey enabled detailed study to take place of the land suggested ibr the construction of the new settlement in the initial report The water table is very high over the entire area, resulting, during the wet season, in the inundation of the lower lying land upon which some of the existing sub-standard dwellings are located. An old sand dune runs in an arc from east to south, and along the eastern end of its ridge are sited many of the principal mission buildings. To the south the ridge offers excellent building land, limited in area, but having a gentle slope and providing an excellent foundation of permeable, fine sand. Discussions with the consultant hydrologist (Alan Bonham) and landscape architect (James Weirick) during a subsequent visit to Beagle Bay confirmed the suitability of the area in all respects and site planning was commenced.
Apart from the locating of the principal mission buildings on the choicest sites in the area no conscious planning had previously been carried out at Beagle Bay. Shops, administrative, residential and light industrial areas are, at present, almost inextricably mixed, making it necessary to propose the relocation of some existing buildings in order that an optimum environment may be created. Proposals conceived to impose the least impact on the ecology of the area were incorporated into the planning. Two of these are of major importance- the system of stabilised soil roads of single vehicle width, but incorporating lay-by areas to permit passing; also, the drainage system designed to disperse the stormwater as widely as possible, relying on slow overland flow and maximum infiltration, and thus dispensing with a costly piped scheme in favor of a flat vee channel lined with couch grass.
Within the proposed new residential area all the houses are sited so as to be able to attain maximum exploitation of the prevailing breeze, which is from the north-west. Pedestrian ways run across an open area and converge at centres of major importance.
The designs for all four residence types were conceived to employ the same basic elements - a bathroom/laundry/kitchen unit, storage units, and grouped french doors having banks of louvers- providing economies in the scale of production, yet permitting diversity within the unity of the overall concept. Any desired exploitation of the breeze will be possible by control of the opening of the french doors and the manipulation of the upper and lower banks of louvers. The penetration of the roof by the skylit plumbing unit will result in the bathroom acting as a natural chimney, inducing a draft even on the many summer days when not the slightest natural breeze occurs at Beagle Bay. During the course of a cyclone the wind pressure will tend to push the louvers against each other, assisting in the exclusion of driving rain.
It is envisaged that it will be only during the occurrence of a cyclone that all the french doors will be entirely closed. Despite 85 years of missionary endeavour there is no widespread need amongst the population of Beagle Bay for the degree of privacy within a house demanded by Europeans. Indeed, during discussions, the view was frequently expressed by all age groups that, whilst not wishing to interfere in the affairs of their neighbours, they nevertheless expected to be able to see what others in the community were doing. It was considered that a person who closed the doors of thenhouse during a period of normal circumstance must be engaged in some activity that was against the interests of society.
A design for the smallest proposed dwelling- Type 1- was prepared and sent to the community for appraisal. Approval of the concept came after more than 3 weeks of discussion and analysis by the aboriginal people and followed a meeting between the writer and the community during which those aspects of the proposals not made apparent by the drawings were evaluated. Designs for the three larger dwellings proposed were then prepared, with similar intervals provided for discussion amongst members of the community. Finally, after the approval of the designs for each of the proposed dwellings had been received, all the drawings were displayed publicly and comments again invited, in an attempt to ensure that there had been no second thoughts with regard to the appropriateness of the schemes.
Efforts to establish a suitable water supply were frustrated by repeated failures in being able to attract a drilling contractor to Beagle Bay. A number of contractors indicated that they were interested in sinking a bore, altho the majority made mention of a sum of $10,000 being necessary just for the transportation of the drilling rig and associated materials to the site. However, during a period of some months none of these contractors appeared at Beagle Bay, nor did they send any message of their intention so to do. Finally, in desperation, an old drilling rig was located at Balgo Mission, after which a parry was sent to haul it to Beagle Bay. Before a bore was established to provide a residential water supply it was considered prudent to sink an agricultural well at Lake Louisa, some 32 kilometres from the settlement, in order to test the dilapidated drilling rig. Few problems were encountered during the sinking of this shaft, and now, after many months delay caused by factors beyond their control, the Aboriginal Council has erected a windmill and tank over it.
The sinking of the bore for the residential water supply was beset with difficulties caused by the decrepit condition of the rig. During the periods it was operational rapid progress was made. Preliminary investigations had indicated that ample water would be found at a depth of 22 metres, but the bore was taken down initially to more than 30 metres before being backfilled to the design depth. The bore was developed in the standard manner considered good practice, before a stainless steel screen welded to the 125 mm column was lowered and surrounded by a gravel pack. The efforts required to obtain the gravel for this pack are illustrative of many of the problems that are to be encountered when engaged in construction work in this remote area. The quantity of material required for the gravel pack was small, eventually being contained in two 200 litre oil drums. It was necessary that the material pass a No. 14 and be retained on a No. 25 sieve, neither of which was available in the area. Lengths of the respective meshes were ordered from Perth, but the supplier was not willing to effect delivery until payment had been made. The resultant delay was aggravated by transportation difficulties and some weeks had elapsed before the Housing Society was in receipt of the screens. Frames had then to be constructed, the sieves fitted and the whole transported, together with shovels and oil drums, to a contractor’s yard in Broome. The desired material was then segregated, by hand, from a massive heap of coarse sand and taken back to the bore site.
As soon as the bore had been completed, developed and sealed the scheme met with overt opposition from the mission superintendent, and covert resistance from Bishop Jobst. The designers of the bore, screen and gravel pack were Messrs A. Bonham and O. Bergelin, working in collaboration, after exhaustive soil tests had been carried out in the laboratories of the Engineering Department, University of New South Wales, Duntroon. Both men are leaders in their chosen fields and Mr Bergelin has been responsible for the details of more than half of all the designed bores in Australia in recent years. Notwithstanding the knowledge of these facts, and despite the water supply scheme having the approval of the aboriginal community, the mission superintendent announced that he was determined to sink two additional bores. The measures required to prevent this occurrence are largely contained in letters appended to Mr Bonham ‘s submission, but one relevant document from the writer’s files is attached. A copy of this document was handed to Mr G. Cornish, of the DAA, Perth, on December 11, 1 975, and corroborating evidence is in the diary notes of Mr Bonham and Mr Weirick.
It was the stated policy of the then mission superintendent to spend the bare minimum of funds necessary to keep the establishment in operation, in expectation that the Federal Government would acquire the property on behalf of the aboriginal community. This parsimonious attitude extended to tools and motor vehicles, so that when the preliminary works of the building program commenced the inventory of hand implements available for use by the Housing Society comprised 2 shovels (one with a broken handle), 1 hammer, 1 pick head (but no handle), 1 rusty, buckled saw and 1 small jam can full of 50 mm nails. There was not even a builder’s line, and it was necessary for the writer to purchase a reel of fishing line from the mission store to serve as a substitute. It was a year from the commencement of planning before the Housing Society was able to take delivery of a motor vehicle, as will be related later. Surely few enterprises of this nature have had humbler beginnings?
With the exception of the establishment of a suitable residential water supply, it was considered imperative to accord priority within the works program to the construction of the stormwater drainage channel. There was a necessity to control the high ground water table, especially in the wet summer months; to alleviate the inundation of the old tidal flats; and to remove the pools of stagnant water that form in small, impermeable basins and represent a health hazard. Furthermore, the septic tanks connected to the sewerage system of the schoolboy’s dormitory were inoperative, as the inverts at the terminations of the absorption trenches were higher than those of the outlets of the tanks. Great pools of effluent had formed under the dormitory and their dispersal was of the utmost importance. The Housing Society not being in possession of a theodolite, boning rods were constructed and the drainage channel set out by their use. Earthworks associated with the channel were carried out by hiring a bulldozer and grader from the mission; the mulching, fertilizing and seeding with couch grass was done by hand. The work was completed by the onset of the last wet season, during which the drainage channel performed admirably, not only coping with the run-off from a period of exceptionally high rainfall, but also maintaining above flood levels areas of land that have previously been inundated. Spoil from the channel earthworks was spread beneath the schoolboy’s dormitory, raising the grade level by more than 300 mm. This action, together with the provision of new, correctly graded absorption trenches, resolved the potentially dangerous situation that had previously been created. Perhaps the most important area saved from inundation by the construction of the drainage channel is the existing motor vehicle workshop, at present sited on a ridiculously low site.
The water storage tower was in the course of construction when the Federal Government called a halt to the work, pending a review by the Department of Construction. It has been designed to withstand cyclones, and when completed will be 16 metres in height and S metres diameter, with a capacity of 275 000 litres. The top portion will serve as a balance tank; the lower as a reserve supply at gradually diminishing pressure, in case of mechanical or electrical failure. Insitu fibreglass was selected as a material and method of construction for several reasons. Primarily, the high freight costs to Broome and the long, narrow, unmade road thence to Beagle Bay, result in advantages for a lightweight material transported in small, compact units.
Secondly, the atmosphere at Beagle Bay is amongst the most salt-laden in Australia and traditional tanks have had very short lives.
Thirdly, in an area lacking employment opportunities, the encouragement to aborigines to acquire the skill of working in fibreglass, with its possibilities for the construction of stock tanks, boats and other items, appeared to offer prospects of tangible advancement. In the work carried out to now, the aboriginal people have shown themselves to be very adept in the use of fibreglass. They have had as their instructor Mr M. Campbell, an industrial chemist. In great demand as a speaker to industrial groups, Mr Campbell has been President of the Fibreglass Division of the Plastics Institute of Australia Incorporated for the past three years, and is considered by many to be the nation’s leading practitioner. When completed, the tank at Beagle Bay will be by far the largest fibreglass storage vessel ever constructed in Australia and it is largely the work of aboriginal people. The framework upon which it is being constructed is demountable and re-usable, either in whole or in pan, enabling tanks to be constructed for other communities if required, both for residential and stock storage.
Instruction in the use of fibreglassing materials and techniques culminated in the manufacture of a small fishing boat; prior to commencing work on the construction of the water storage tower. News of the manufacture of the boat spread rapidly, resulting in orders being received at Beagle Bay for more than a dozen similar craft. These orders emanated from Derby and Broome and are extremely valuable in an area where employment opportunities are few, besides providing vindication of the initial concept.
It was intended that all the materials necessary for the construction of the water storage tower be carried from Perth to Beagle Bay on one 10 metres long truck. However, despite the most careful planning this aim was not achieved, the failure being almost entirely due to the inability of manufacturers and suppliers to honor delivery dates and take cognisance of delivery instructions, even though the latter were supplied in writing.
Designs for the aluminium, louvered, french doors that form the major components of the walls of the proposed dwellings and pumphouse have been made and a number of prototypes manufactured. Modifications to the original concept have been made in accordance with the experience gained and all the technical problems have now been solved. The total cost of labour and materials amounts to less than $5,000. When it is considered that this endeavour represents pioneering work- no previous model existing- and that the doors could have wide application in other housing settlements in the tropics, the sum expended can be seen to be negligible.
As word of the general approach to the Beagle Bay scheme became more widespread, a number of persons of goodwill and outstanding ability in their respective occupations offered to carry out work on behalf of the aboriginal community. Some of this work related to the testing of soil samples in connection with the re-establishment of a vegetable garden. Yet another task concerned the writing of a report on the viability of growing mangoes as a commercial undertaking at Beagle Bay. Such work was done without charge, by persons who considered the Beagle Bay project to be a really significant social and political enterprise.
With the exception of the first few months after the commencement of the project, it is not unfair to assert that the attitude of the mission towards the housing program, and aboriginal advancement in general, has been one of apparent co-operation masking covert resistance. During the initial period the writer was subjected to the most subtle pressures m an attempt to prevail upon him to provide a housing scheme, DAA construction of which relied primarily upon European Australian labour. Letters were received in the mail at this time, from contractors in Perth, Port Hedland and elsewhere, all unsolicited, offering a variety of services and building techniques, and, sent at the instigation of the mission superintendent Aborigines were expected to adopt the roles of labourers. (Last year, at Beagle Bay, a hospital was constructed, costing in the vicinity of $375,000. Although much of the work involved was well within the capacities of many of the members of the aboriginal community only two were offered work, and then towards the end of the project when some painting was required to be done.) When it became apparent that there would be no yielding to pressure, subtle or otherwise, the mission adopted the approach referred to above.
Gross interference, sometimes in regard to the design approach, and the placing of every conceivable obstacle in the path of the progress of the works came to typify the mission attitude. Its primary objective appeared to be to cause the project to founder by discrediting the consultants, implying, at every opportunity, and to anybody who would listen, that they were incompetent. Concurrently, the mission set out to gain every possible financial advantage from the existence of the Housing Society. It must be hastily added that a few junior members of the religious fraternity, brothers and lay workers, viewed this attitude with disfavour. These people have bestowed numerous kindnesses on the Housing Society and will continue to do so.
It is not too fanciful to suggest that the mission saw, and perhaps still sees, the housing program as a means of swelling its own coffers, whilst also having the quality of services to its buildings improved. Despite the fact that the mission was the constant recipient of assistance in the form of government grants, charity was nowhere apparent. Prior to the Housing Society being able to acquire its own equipment, a charge was placed by the mission on the use of every single item that was required to be borrowed. Forsaking a tradition more than 1000 years old, of the provision of church hospitality to travellers, the mission proceeded to charge the Housing Society exorbitant rates for the accommodation provided for consultants, whilst tourists were boarded free of charge. Five sheets of particle board stored in an unused shed were assessed at having incurred a rent, during a period of S weeks, representing almost 40 per cent of their cost. When representations were made regarding this outrageous charge, one was informed that all dealings had to accord with established business principles!
Another example concerns the hire of a Landrover at a time when the Housing Society had yet to acquire its own vehicle. The mission acquired the Landrover through a contact in the W.A. Public Works Department for $300. Rental to the Housing Society was assessed at $25 /day, plus the cost of oil and fuel. Within a few weeks rental charges amounted to $900. The mission was aware that consultants were answerable to the DAA with regard to the speediest implementation of the works and of the difficulties created by the lack of a motor vehicle. However, if the Housing Society required the use of a mission vehicle then it had to meet whatever price the mission chose to set upon its hire. Fuel was charged at 8 1 cents/gallon, or 8 cents above the Broome retail price. Of course, the mission purchased fuel wholesale. Diesel fuel also commanded retail prices, even though purchased under an excise exemption certificate. It was only when the mission learned that the Housing Society had made inquiries with regard to furnishing its own fuel supplies that offers to reduce the prices charged were made.
It can only be surmised that the reasons for this change of heart were twofold. Firstly, fear that the Housing Society application for an excise exemption certificate would reveal the source of supply and the price paid over and above that for excise exempt fuel for which rebate would be due for the previous 12 months. Holders of excise exemption certificates have to undertake not to resell at retail prices, but the mission could have allowed the Housing Society to purchase at cost as the work was being carried out on land still under its jurisdiction. Secondly, if the Housing Society had established its own supply of fuel, the quantity required by the mission would have been drastically reduced, so increasing the price from the wholesaler. Plans for the Housing Society to establish its own fuel supplies were in hand at the dme the works were stopped. The savings resulting would have been considerable.
Some grants made to the Housing Society were initially placed in the mission bank account. It was only with considerable difficulty and elapse of time that it was possible to have these transferred to the Housing Society account, the interest having accrued during the interim benefitting the mission.
During June 1975, the Bishop of Broome and the then mission superintendent asked the writer to assess the cost required to enable toilet facilities to be added to the kindergarten at Beagle Bay. The understanding was that drawings had been prepared, but that funds were not available. It was put to the writer that as architect for the overall scheme, an approach by him to the W.A. Pre-School Board could well produce a sympathetic hearing and a positive result. In good faith, the writer arranged an appointment with Ms B. Jones of the Pre-School Education Board. During the interview Ms Jones divulged that not only had funds been allocated for the project, but that a quotation had been accepted and the contract let. The writer had been sent, unbeknown to him, on an attempt to obtain the allocation a second time.
On the writer’s first visit to Beagle Bay it was learned that a rations and clothing economy prevailed, married men receiving in addition $10 cash per fortnight, whilst single men received only $4. This state of affairs applied even when married and single men had been engaged upon the same tasks. At this time there were in operation pig pens, a chicken run, a vegetable garden and a fish trap. With the advent of the housing program and the payment of award wages to those employed by the Housing Society, these selfsupporting features of the settlement were abandoned and the community forbidden to re-establish them. This action made dependence on the mission store, with its extremely high prices, a necessity, so ensuring that the church benefitted to the maximum degree from the wages paid to the Housing Society workers. In June 1976, eggs were retailing at $2.20/dozen in the mission store.
A further occurrence since the introduction of award wages to Housing Society employees has been the imposition by the mission of a charge for services. The charge is said to cover the costs of garbage collection, power and water, and is levied at the rate of $5 /wage earner/week. Housing Society employees’ houses were omitted from the garbage collection as it was held that the Society truck was to be used in this regard. However, no reduction was made in the levy applied to these persons as a result of this action. Power is available for limited periods only each day, and on frequent occasions water is in short supply due to the decrepit nature of the existing reticulation system. Obviously, this levy is not only exorbitant, but inequitable, as four wage earners using a room consume little, if any, more power than a single occupant. At least one household is levied $20/week.
As the relationship between the aboriginal people and the consultants prospered and the former began to confide in the latter, the efforts of the mission were directed towards the composition of the aboriginal council. Mr David Cox, a strong personality, was the Housing Society President at the time the writer first visited Beagle Bay. Mr Cox is an extremely gifted man who is accorded enormous prestige thru ‘out the West Kimberleys, and he has the welfare of the Njul-Njul people at heart. Thru ‘out his presidency he represented his people strongly in his dealings with the mission superintendent. When the election of the new council was announced in 1975, the mission nominee- a very weak man- was declared President, whilst Mr Cox, standing for election to the committee on this occasion was unable to muster sufficient votes to attain membership. The new president displayed little interest in the housing project and rarely visited the construction sites. Moreover, when decisions were required he proved to be incapable of responding before he had consulted the community adviser- the mission superintendent.
On his infrequent visits to Beagle Bay, the DAA representative resident in Derby never once appeared at the construction sites, nor did he discuss matters with any member of the aboriginal population. The entire duration of his visits to Beagle Bay were spent in the office of the mission superintendent. In an effort to discredit the writer, these two persons, with the assistance of the bishop, alleged he was receiving fees of $400/day! Altho never given credence by the aboriginal population in general, the rumor was spread far and wide. The documentary ‘proof of this claim was a document the writer had prepared for the Lombadina aboriginal council, at the bishop’s request, on which were listed the estimated costs of the preliminary works for the establishment of a housing program. This document formed the second page of the application to be made to the DAA in Derby for an establishment grant. The first item, high on the page, was headed ‘Survey’, underneath which was the item ‘Field work- S400/day’, this referring to the topographic survey necessary before any definitive planning can take place. The figure of $400 /day refers to the salaries and allowances of a licensed surveyor and two chainmen carrying out work in the north-west of Western Australia, and was obtained from the Federal Secretary of the Institution of Surveyors Australia. By stapling the two sheets of the application together in the top left hand corner, it was possible to fold back the upper of these in such a way that the word ‘Survey’ was not visible on the lower. Such were the methods used to discredit the consultants to the Housing Society. For what other reason would the mission superintendent of Beagle Bay need to possess a document referring to the mission at Lombadina, and why would a bishop see fit to make such a provision?
Despite inordinate delays in the processing of applications for funds made by the Housing Society to the DAA in Derby, means were found by which a continuous program of work was maintained by a small workforce. However, the establishment of a cooperative store to sell food and clothing, and operated by and for the benefit of the aboriginal people, was never undertaken. Not being encouraged to discuss this proposal with the DAA representative in Derby, an enthusiastic group from the aboriginal community requested the writer to raise the matter with the Perth office of the department. This was done at the first available opportunity and enquiries made of potential suppliers, but the mission claimed there was no building suitable for the establishment of such a store. Meanwhile, the mission clothing shop continued as a thriving business concern, the purchases made in May 197S being sold at a minimum 60 per cent profit.
The construction of the new hospital at Beagle Bay in 1 975 provides an insight into the attitudes of the mission administration. With the exception of one dormitory, the hospital is the largest building at Beagle Bay. Requiring a staff complement of 14 for its successful operation, including 1 resident doctor, the building far outstrips both the needs of the settlement and the firmly stated intention of the Community Health Service to provide no more than one nursing sister for the establishment. No child has been delivered at Beagle Bay for more than 12 years, yet the new hospital contains both a maternity ward and a delivery room. The children of Beagle Bay mothers are delivered at the hospital in Derby, to which the women are taken by the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Emergency cases of all descriptions are treated in a similar manner. Being fully aware of all the facts mentioned above, why did not the mission administration make representations to government with regard to the obvious squandering of public funds, especially when they had no hesitation in so doing in regard to the activities of the Housing Society, whose funds were spent with the exercise of great care.
There was no aspect of the works that received more attention from both the aboriginal community and the consultants than the allocation of funds for vehicles, plant and tools. The desirable attributes of all prospective purchases provided seemingly endless topics of conversation for the aborigines, especially amongst members of the Housing Society workforce. No item was purchased that would not nave diverse uses on the settlement after the completion of the housing program. Moreover, an attempt was made to obtain items whose quality and utility were matched with the robustness that is made mandatory by the harsh working conditions. As no provision had been made by the DAA for the community to have a purchasing officer on its staff, the task of ordering all the vehicles, plant, tools and materials necessary for the project fell to the writer. Prior to this, energetic attempts were made to persuade the aborigines that one of their people should adopt this role, but they claimed that having been subjected to a rations and clothing economy for most of their lives they were unfitted for the task. No amount of persuasion was successful in having them modify thenexpressed view. Most of the items required had first to be evaluated and a choice made between competing brands. A price had then to be bargained for, a confirmatory order and delivery instructions written, and the goods paid for by Housing Society cheque. After delivery had been made to the haulage company, the goods had to be inspected to ensure they conformed with the order in every respect, and, that they had been adequately packed. This last was necessary as the lack of one specific component could delay the progress of the works for a considerable length of time. There is no way that one can walk down to a corner store at Beagle Bay, or raise a telephone, in order to purchase an urgently needed requirement. It is imperative that all possible checks be made to goods purchased before they are removed from the vicinity of the supplier. Activities of this type are usually beyond the scope of a consultant’s services, but in locations, and for schemes such as Beagle Bay they must be accepted as the norm. If done in a professional manner they are extremely time consuming, besides adding considerably to the responsibilities already held for the architectural aspects and general administration of the project.
Each stage of a project was explained in detail to the workmen who were to be involved, and as many as possible encouraged to refer to the drawings. This procedure was aimed at enabling the aboriginal people to rapidly and accurately interpret the construction documents in order that future project inspectors could be recruited from their own ranks. When opportunities presented themselves for the workmen to gain experience in building operations from which they had previously been excluded by the mission, all took full advantage of them. Almost every stage of the work resulted in the acquisition of a new skill by a number of persons, their manual dexterity and acute powers of observation ensuring that a minimum of time required to be spent on instruction. Prior to the establishment of the Housing Society very few aborigines had ever been encouraged by the mission to learn a skill, their role being limited to carrying the tools, and the passing of them to lay brother craftsmen.
Benefits that were not sought, but that accrued to a wider cross-section of Australians than those directly involved, resulted from the works carried out at Beagle Bay. For example, the landscape architect made a collection of the plant material within the area, delivering it to the W.A. Herbarium for identification. Restricted by both lack of funds and staff from engaging in the widest possible field of research, the Curator was delighted to receive specimens from an area that has had to remain largely ignored by botanists. Furthermore, the designs of the houses evoked the interest of aboriginal communities throughout tropical Australia, copies of the drawings being sent to all those who requested them. At least, these drawings could be the means by which the various aboriginal communities formulated their own housing requirements. Inasmuch as the designs manifest aboriginal living habits and values, instead of those of European Australians, it is possible that they could have contributed more. Papers have been published in journals, and all consultants have delivered lectures to professional institutions and university departments regarding many aspects of the works. Australian society was receiving much more than just a housing scheme at Beagle Bay for the public monies expended.
All aspects of the design work and much of the preparation of working drawings was complete when the Beagle Bay project was brought to a halt. The water and electricity reticulation proposals were ready for implementation on site. It is proposed to construct a new power house within an area designated for light industrial purposes on the site plan. The siting and construction of this building should ensure that the nuisance factor resulting from the noise of the power generating equipment is substantially lowered. The single existing generator is housed in an unlined galvanised iron clad building, and located close to some of the houses that are to be retained in the final scheme, these having been erected com.paritively recently by the W.A. Government. This generator has been subject to frequent breakdown. Despite the dislocation of many of the activities of the community caused by such interruptions to the power supply, they were not unwelcome to the Mission authorities who saw them as a means of provoking government into providing additional plant from which the church would benefit. Tenders have been called for the electrical power generation, and what appears to be a most satisfactory bid received. All of the preliminary work has been carried out on the design of the proposed cement stabilised roads, a suitable cross-section determined and laboratory tests conducted on many different soil samples taken from within the settlement in areas over which motor vehicles will travel. It is proposed to conduct a short, practical demonstration of the soil stabilising technique, after which road construction can be continued in an intermittent manner, dependent upon the availability of the workforce from other aspects of the building program. Much pf this professional work has been paid for by the Housing Society, but some fees are still outstanding. The Department of Construction has displayed little interest in authorizing the settlement of these accounts, and this delay has resulted in one consultant suffering considerable hardship. All consultants except one worked for $lS/hour, with a maximum of $120/day, regardless of the number of hours worked. Consultants often worked 1 4- 1 6 hours per day when visiting Beagle Bay. These rates are little more than half those recommended by most professional bodies.
On Friday, June 1 1 1976, the writer received a telegram sent from Beagle Bay by Mr Malcolm Campbell. The text read ‘Minister plus eight visiting 16th’. Until this time none of the Housing Society consultants had any knowledge of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs proposed visit to the settlement. Bishop Jobst possessed this knowledge, but had not thought fit to mention it to Mr Campbell, the latter having been at Beagle Bay since May 30. Mr Campbell derived his knowledge from a conversation with Mr David Cox, the Past President of the Beagle Bay Housing Society.
At such a late hour it proved to be extremely difficult to obtain transportation to Broome from Canberra, either via Perth or Darwin. Eventually a single seat was found on an aircraft arriving in Broome at 9.25 a.m. on June 16. In order to ascertain whether this flight would enable arrival at Beagle Bay to be achieved before the appearance of the Minister, Bishop Jobst was then contacted. He confirmed the Minister’s proposed visit, offered no explanation as to why he had not felt it necessary to inform any of the consultants, but suggested that the writer accompany him in his private aircraft from Broome to Beagle Bay immediately after arrival on the commercial flight. It was learned during this conversation that the Minister was due to arrive at the mission during the mid-afternoon of June 16.
Upon being met by Bishop Jobst at Broome Airport on June 16, the writer was informed that prior to landing at Beagle Bay the aircraft was going to transport another priest to Lombadina Mission. As the aircraft flew over the Beagle Bay area on its way to Lombadina, bushfires were visible to the south-east, but some 25-35 kilometres distant from the air-strip. Depositing the other passenger at Lombadina, the aircraft then set course for Beagle Bay. There was a light smoke haze as the landing was made at this destination, but it was of little significance. Mission transport was available to carry us to the settlement, where we arrived at 1 1.30 a.m. The bishop immediately began a solitary tour of the mission.
At approximately 3 p.m., Bishop Jobst informed the writer that he was concerned about the bushfire danger to the airstrip and had consequently contacted the DCA in Derby, advising them of this fact. His message had warned against the Minister’s aircraft attempting to land at Beagle Bay, adding that he had decided to close the air-strip. After disclosing this action, Bishop Jobst said that he was aware that Mr Viner was to be present at a meeting in Derby that evening, as he had received an invitation to attend. He felt sure that the Minister would be interested in talking with Mr Campbell and the writer at some time during the evening, despite the fact that we were without invitations, and, offered to allow us to accompany Mr Keith Kitchener and himself on the flight to Derby.
Another hour had passed before the party returned to the air-strip. Whilst travelling there from the mission, the writer heard the bishop issue instructions to the acting superintendent to set fire to the undergrowth at the edge of the strip in order to ‘burn back’ towards the very slowly advancing bushfires. Whilst at the mission it had been learned that the opinion of the most knowledgeable aborigines was that the fire would take two or three days to arrive in close proximity to the airstrip. As soon as the aircraft had completed take-off, fires were lit on the south-east side of the runway, the same direction as that from which the breeze was blowing. Simultaneously, the white cross signal was placed in the middle of the strip, indicating that it was closed.
Arriving at Derby Airport, the party was met by the local priest and taken by car into the town. Consultants have, on previous visits to Derby, been offered hospitality for the night at either the local presbytery or church hostel, but on this occasion the bishop insisted that Messrs Campbell and Virr find private accommodation. In addition to the ministerial party, there were many other visitors attending the evening meeting, as a result of which all hotel and motel accommodation was occupied. After a long and hitherto fruitless search, the two consultants were able to obtain rooms at the YWCA
Upon arriving at the venue for the meeting between the Minister and local aboriginal representatives, the consultants found Bishop Jobst in conversation with the local DAA representative. This gentleman immediately approached Messrs Campbell and Virr and stated that it would not be possible for them to speak with the Minister as attendance at the function was by invitation only. As they left the room Bishop Jobst followed, commenting that he would attempt to persuade the Minister to discuss the Beagle Bay scheme with them. It was agreed that the consultants would obtain a meal in the motel dining room and continue to remain there for the duration of the evening. Messrs Campbell and Vin positioned themselves at a table from which it was possible to observe ali persons entering and leaving the room. Some time after 9 p.m., when it was obvious that the gathering was drawing to a close, they again approached the room in which it had been held. Neither the Minister or Bishop Jobst were to be seen, so the consultants returned to their rooms for the night.
Upon meeting Bishop Jobst the next morning he declared that he had made two attempts to find the consultants in the dining room on the previous evening, but had been obliged to tell the Minister that his efforts had been unsuccessful. The dining room has dimensions no greater than 9m x 6.5m, and throughout most of the evening had no more than nine persons within it. At the times Bishop Jobst claimed to have entered the room only five persons occupied it.
On the previous day, the bishop had been insistent that his aircraft had to depart from Derby no later than 9.30 a.m. on June 1 7. Arriving at the airport, it was observed that luggage was being loaded aboard the VIP airplane and measures taken ready for its departure. Having left the mission the previous afternoon with almost empty tanks, the bishop was required to take on fuel before departing from Derby, but although this delayed his intended departure, the ministerial party had yet to appear at the airport by the time the bishop ‘s airplane set out for Beagle Bay.
Looking down on the bushfires as the flight progressed it was apparent that they had moved no closer to the Beagle
Bay airstrip than they had been on the previous day. Moreover, the breeze had now moved round and was from the north-west. Arriving over the mission it was observed that the white cross signal had been removed from the strip, and the aircraft had absolutely no difficulty in landing. However, immediately the aircraft had come to rest, mission staff replaced the white cross signal and set fire to the undergrowth on the north-west side of the air-strip. Furthermore, the aircraft had been brought to rest so that it obstructed the runway, ensuring, in combination with the white cross signal, that not even a short distance landing could be attempted.
The consultants had received word that the Minister had expressed strong disappointment at not being able to inspect the water storage tower construction. Later that day his aircraft flew over the mission.
On the following day Senators Keeffe and Mcintosh, accompanied by Ms J. Bernasoci visited the mission, including the site of the construction of the water storage tower. Messrs Campbell and Virr were both working at the site at the time, but no attempt was made by either Bishop Jobst or the mission staff accompanying the party, to introduce the visitors to the consultants.
Upon returning to Perth on July 4, the writer made the DAA aware of what had taken place at the time of the Minister’s intended visit to Beagle Bay. On July 7, in Canberra, the Minister’s personal staff were made aware of the details of the incident.
During the last months of 1975 a number of lay missionaries who assisted with the administration of the mission began to voice their disquiet over what they considered to be irregularities that were taking place with regard to the finances of the establishment. The lay missionaries asked that these matters be drawn to the attention of the DAA in Perth, and copies of supporting documents were made. Additional information was also provided, it all being placed in the hands of the DAA, Perth, by the writer, on December 1 1, 1975. The resulting inquiries culminated in the mission superintendent being transferred to pastoral duties in Melbourne. Despite the fact that the mission was required to repay government a considerable sum of money, it is understood that no charges were laid. It is known that the mission was $32,000 in debt in October, 1 973. By mid- 1 975, the mission superintendent had up to $200,000 (Two hundred thousand dollars) invested in a Perth finance company, earning interest. His goal was to build a retirement home for the priests of his order, who are presently lacking such facilities. Verification of this information can be obtained from Mr £. Dunn, who also possesses copies of the documents presented to the DAA.
Residents at Beagle Bay have their mail subjected to scrutiny by the mission authorities. No recipient of social security payments handles the cheque sent by the government department. The mission apprehends all such mail, the aborigines receiving a sum of money representing the value of the cheque minus the deductions made by the administration. Interference with Housing Society mail sent to the mission became so serious that it was necessary to resort to obtaining a private mail box at Broome. Telegrams sent to the Housing Society were frequently delayed until their content was no longer of any value. After the election of Mr Keith Kitchener as President of the Housing Society, the mission gained access to the keys of the mail box in Broome. This, coupled with the fact that the mission took possession of the Society’s account books and would not relinquish them, made conditions almost impossible for the latter’s book-keeper.
Although all residents at Beagle Bay are subjected to indignities by the mission, the worst fate is probably that of the young women residing in the dormitory. After five of them were absent from work for one day, they were beaten until they screamed whilst still lying in their beds early the next morning, this at the hands of the sister-in-charge. They were then required to complete that day, not only their normal tasks in the mission laundry and sewing room, but also the work outstanding from the previous day. This event occurred in June, 1976, the writer observing the young women still at work as he passed the laundry and sewing room late in the evening.
Mr Peter Dowding, of the Aboriginal Legal Service, Port Hedland, W.A. was made aware of the conditions prevailing at Beagle Bay at the time of his visit to the mission earlier this year.
In mid-April, 1976, the writer received a letters from Mr T. Long, of the DAA Perth, in which it was stated that the works at Beagle Bay might be subjected to the monitoring of the Department of Construction’s review Committee. The final paragraph of this letter stated that a Mr K. Wiley of the Department of Construction would be in contact in due course in this regard.
On June 14, whilst in Perth en route to Beagle Bay, the writer was invited to attend a meeting at the Department of Construction, chaired by Mr Wiley. Questioned as to the reasons for not replying to the Department’s letter requesting information regarding the project, he answered that he had received no such letter, a response that was obviously not acceptable to the committee. For the following 4 1/2 hours the committee maintained a barrage of questions relating to the Beagle Bay scheme. Their attitude was hostile and derisory, particularly that of Mr Wiley. The major concern of the committee was that the Beagle Bay scheme had too many innovatory characteristics. Collectively, they failed to appreciate that any scheme that is to truly reflect the expressed desires of aborigines and display respect for the environment, needs must contain aspects that appear to some as innovations. The committee’s initial attitude to the water storage tower was that work upon its construction should be immediately abandoned, the cost written off, and a traditional tank provided.
Mr Wiley, an electrical engineer, claimed that the designs for the houses were such that they were not cyclone proof. This criticism does not withstand scrutiny, as for years before the devastation of Townsville the writer had been incorporating into all the buildings he designed elements that were subsequently recommended as good construction practice for cyclone affected areas. Moreover, discussions regarding the finer details of the dwelling construction, particularly their proof against cyclone damage, have been held by the designer with an organisation that was also selected by the Department of Construction to undertake the engineering design and fabrication of houses for the reconstruction of Darwin.
Since a further meeting with Mr Wiley on July 4 when it was learned that the Department of Construction had decided to assume control of the Beagle Bay project, nothing has happened with regard to the continuation of the works. This is despite the fact that it was made abundantly clear to the Department that important reinforcing steel relating to the construction of the base for the water storage tower would deteriorate rapidly in the prevailing climatic conditions unless measures were taken to pour concrete around. That this vital piece of reinforced concrete construction has been held in abeyance is a matter of considerable concern. Mr Wiley claimed that the Beagle Bay consultants were overawed by the north-western environment and that the Departmental practitioners were familiar with it, and so better fitted to do the job. However, the evidence referred to above would strongly suggest that this is not so.
Of equal significance is the fact that by taking no action for so long, the Department has allowed the favorable period during which fibreglass fabrication can be carried out at
Beagle Bay to elapse, thus preventing the further construction and completion of the water storage tower to recommence before late April 1977. Early in August the Department had been furnished with a program relating to the completion of the water storage tower, together with a request that an early decision regarding resumption of the work be made. It was not until mid-October that a reply was received- too late to allow construction to be completed before the onset of the wet season.
The Department of Construction’s Perth office asserts that it is not possible to run the Beagle Bay project from Canberra. However, it was administered from this city for some 17 months, and not without a measure of success. The consultants involved include at least three who are at, or very close to, the pinnacle of their professions, and all are extremely proud of what has been achieved at Beagle Bay. The writer’s colleagues are highly professional and it reflects no credit on the Department of Construction’s practitioners when they attempt to denigrate the work of such persons. Of course, the project did not run smoothly at all times, but how was it possible for it so to do? It was a sincere effort to do the job really well, but when one is dealing with a problem that has suffered 200 years of neglect there is very much to learn, and, despite the best efforts, mistakes will be made. The Aboriginal people recognised that an attempt had been made to devise a scheme that accepted their values, rather than one that ignored them. Their response was such as to result in the establishment of a truly constructive partnership between the black and white Australians engaged on the project.
The Department of Construction’s organisation employs standard specifications and is contractor oriented. Both of these factors are largely irrelevant if the program of selfdetermination and self-help is to have any meaning. The Beagle Bay community does not want, nor does it need, Department of Construction houses, designed by anonymous professionals and constructed by white Australian contractors. It is doubtful that in such an enterprise there would emerge the fostering of any significant human relationships between members of the two races. Moreover, there will be no economies made if the Department assumes control of the project, its overheads being considerably higher than those hitherto prevailing. Further, its staff will have to make themselves familiar with existing designs, or prepare alternative proposals, either of which will involve increased time, and hence, cost.
As the Beagle Bay scheme was conceived, the aborigines were to contribute their intimate knowledge of the environment, the consultants their skills in architecture and engineering. It was in this democratic relationship, especially as the personal ties between members of both groups developed, that the mission perceived the threat to its continuing existence. From the inception of the housing scheme the influence of the mission upon the lives of the aboriginal community diminished markedly, and as their trust in the consultants grew, the latter became aware of the ruthlessness and rapaciousness to which the indigenous people were subjected. Becoming rapidly aware of its loss of influence, the mission placed the blame on the shoulders of the consultants and determined that they had to be removed. It then established a plan whereby this aim could be achieved. From the foregoing it must be assumed that Bishop Jobst wished to denigrate the efforts of the consultants in the eyes of persons such as the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, without giving them an opportunity to defend themselves. The consultants were always at pains to be courteous to the mission administration and not to antagonise them, but a confrontation was inevitable.
-There is another document concerning a minor matter that I would like to have incorporated in Hansard. I think that it might be about the last one. It is a letter addressed to me by Mr Viner. It also concerns the Beagle Bay issue. I seek leave to have that document incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
In your letter to me of 3 October you referred to representations you had received from members of the Beagle Bay Aboriginal Housing Association about funds to build about thirty houses.
This particular housing operation has run into serious trouble during the last year in regard to the type of consultancy being provided to the Housing Association by a Canberra-based architect. My Department, together with the Department of Construction is at present assisting the group to terminate the consultants’ contract and officers of the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development are preparing plans and specifications for the continuation of the program at a much more practical level.
The group has received considerable funds over the past two years but there has been little to show for it and no housing units have yet been erected.
The Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development is examining the extension of electrical and water facilities to the site and is preparing a housing pro- gram. I hope to make some funds available for the current financial year to make a start on homes and a three year program is also being formulated.
A combined team of officers from my Department and the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development and surveyors from the Department of Administrative Services visited the group on 18 October 1976 and I am most hopeful that the long delays suffered by this group will soon be at an end.
There are some residual problems in regard to the excision of land for the group to which the Roman Catholic Church will first have to give its approval, but when this is secured there should be no further hold-ups.
Yours sincerely, R. I. VINER
Senator J. B. Keeffe, Parliament House, CANBERRA, A.C.T. 2600
-I have in my possession many similar documents alleging mismanagement. It is alleged sometimes of other departments, sometimes of consultants and sometimes of reserve or commission administrators. Suffice to say that this does make the foreshadowed amendment justifiable. It ought to be carried when it is finally moved. It does appear that there are other areas in which restrictive practices of all sorts have occurred. Sometimes Commonwealth money is spent to build good gaols. They look more like motels than gaols. I admit that I used to complain about sub-standard lockups on settlements. Today the accent seems to be on the building not of air conditioned gaols but of very substantial gaols and they nearly always seem to have someone in them. That is particularly so in Queensland, where the 2 Acts, the by-laws and the regulations can be manipulated. It is obvious that an all-out assault is being waged in that State at the moment and that it is supported by white-dominated reserve councils- and the whites do dominate the councils on the reserves with a few exceptions. One way in which they overcome the problem is to make sure that people are moved off their reserves and are not allowed back. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a 314-page document in this respect.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
STATEMENT MADE BY BRIAN JOHN BARRY TAKEN BY ALANNA DOOLAN ON THE 11th DAY OF NOVEMBER 1976 AT TOWNSVILLE
My name is Brian Barry and I am presently living with my grandfather, Jack Barry, at 37 Leeds Street, Gulliver. I was born on the 3rd February 1 958 at Palm Island.
About 5 months ago I went over to Palm Island to get a job. I could not get work in Townsville so I heard that I might be able to get one on the island. I ended up getting a job at the Hospital as a wardsman I worked Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and I also worked night shifts some times. I received $120 approximately per fortnight wages.
On Tuesday afternoon about 12 noon on the 9th November 1976, 1 was told by someone that ‘Dukie’ Baira (Chairman of the Palm Island Council) wanted to see me in the office. I then went up to see him. Earlier that day I had had a verbal disagreement and argument with my girlfriend, but it was only a domestic quarrel and nobody was hurt.
When I went into the Council office, ‘ Dukie ‘ was there and so was Mary Twaddle, another Councillor. ‘Dukie’ asked me what the trouble was all about with me and my girlfriend and why we were fighting. I just told him that it was a personal argument between my girlfriend and myself and we had already sorted it out.
He then started bringing other things into the conversation like throwing off at the Barry family and I also started doing the same thing. Then the next thing I knew he got really angry and he jut me with his closed fist on the forehead. He caught me off guard and I lost my balance and I fell down on a pile of chairs and some wood. I fell on my right knee and hurt it very badly.
I did not hit him back. As far as I know when this happened, Mary Twaddle then walked out of the office, but she would have seen this happen. Then ‘Dukie’ went and got the police and I was then taken down to the gaol and locked up. I was then put on the afternoon plane at about 4.30 p.m. to go to Townsville. ‘Dukie’ told me he was putting me off the Island because I was causing trouble.
I forgot to mention previously that when I was still in the Council office after being hit. I was hurting pretty badly in my right knee from the fall and I asked them to take me to the Hospital for treatment, but they would not take me at all. They just took me straight to the gaol.
Before I left the Island I asked if I could collect the rest of my clothes, but I was not allowed to do so. I was also told that if I came back to the Island to get them I would be locked up again and put off the Island.
When I arrived in Townsville I went to stay with my grandfather, Jack Barry and I told him what happened. We then went down to see Mr Tomlinson, the manager of the Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement office in Townsville. He informed us that there was nothing he could do as it was out of his hands. Then he cited us sections of the Queensland Acts and the Aboriginal Council ByLaws.
I attended the Townsville General Hospital outpatients clinic on the 10.1 1.76 and received treatment for my knee. I am presently walking with the aid of a crutch and I will be unable to work for a few days.
I would tike to go back to Palm Island to live as I really enjoyed my work as wardsman at the Hospital. There is no jobs available here in Townsville and I will probably have to apply for unemployment benefits now.
I have never been in trouble previously on the Island for any reason. I have never been in gaol previously.
STATEMENT MADE BY ALAN PATRICK NUGGINS TAKEN BY ALANNA DOOLAN AT TOWNSVILLE ON THE 11th DAY OF NOVEMBER 1976
My name is Alan Nuggins and I am presently living with my grandfather, Jack Barry, at 37 Leeds Street, Gulliver in Townsville. I was born on Palm Island on the 30. 1 2. 1 954.
I was about 8 years of age when I left the Island with the rest of my family and for the most part of my life I have lived on the mainland. I went back to Palm Island about 1 month ago to see my relatives and friends. I was only there for 4 days when I was told to leave.
This happened about 1 month ago as I said before when I first went over to Palm. I was staying with my aunt, Angela Barry. I had only been there for 4 days and then early one morning I was asleep in my cousin’s house on the couch when the police came in and woke me up and put me in the police car.
I never asked them any questions. They just told me that Dukie’ Baira (Chairman of the Island Council) wanted to see me in the office. On the way, they also picked up another bloke (I don ‘t know his name ) and we were then both taken straight to the gaol. I never saw ‘Dukie’ Baira at all. They locked me up and then put me on the late plane that day to go to Townsville. I didn’t see the point in asking to see Dukie’ Baira because he won’t listen anyway. I was given no reason as to why I was being put off the Island.
I was only on the Island a few days so I never had a chance and I never got into any trouble of any sort whilst I was there. I only went to see my people. I would like to be able to go back to Palm Island to visit my friends and relations some time again, but I might not be allowed back and I might get locked up and put off again.
I am presently receiving unemployment benefits.
Re: Paulette NUGGINS
Mr Jack Barry, grandfather of the abovenamed girl, informed me today that Paulette is now back on Palm Island.
Paulette was kicked off the Island on the 16.9.76 by the Chairman for being a non-resident.
Mr Barry said that he went over to the Island recently to see Jacob Baira and find out why she was kicked off and why she wasn’t allowed back. He also told Jacob Baira that she wished to return to Palm to live. Apparently Jacob told Mr Barry that the reason Paulette was kicked off was because she was not working and just walking around the Island doing nothing.
He then said that if she wrote a letter to the Council they would consider it again. She did this and Mr Barry said that they received a telegram saying that she could return. She is now back on the Island.
– I might say that that document contains signed statements of people who were unfairly treated. In one case a chap who was working on a reserve was gaoled and then removed for no reason. The situation is set out in that document. Honourable senators opposite can read it for themselves. The money that is suppose to go to some areas does not seem to be finding its way to where it ought to go. I have before me a document supplied to me by the Two Rivers Aboriginal Co-operative Ltd. It lists 13 families which are living in grossly sub-standard accommodation or camping on a river bank or whose children have been placed in orphanages. Twenty-five children are involved in this respect. They range in age from babes-in-arms to children early in their early teens. That document sets out the names of the people, the number of children involved and how they are living. To save my having to go through it, I seek leave to have that document incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
Mrs D. Handy 3 Children in Ballarat Orphanage. 1 adult cripple son.
Mr S. Clark. Wife and child living with mother in Housing Commission, cramped conditions.
Mrs B. Logan. 1 child.
Mrs S. Hallam 3 children. Pickers hut.
Mr S. Grimm. Wife and 2 children living in 2 rooms.
Mrs J. Foreman 2 children in Mildura Orphanage.
Mr N. Jackson. Wife living on river bank.
Mrs J. Black Living on river bank.
Mrs A. Maddigan. Living in caravan with 2 school children. 1 teenage son.
Mrs Briar. Wife (Dareton) living in hut on river bank have asked for assistance on this side of the river.
Mrs D. Badenock 6 children.
Mrs A. Clark. 5 children and teenage niece.
Mrs D. Clark 2 adult invalid children, 4 primary school grandchildren, 2 teenage granddaughters, also a home for transient people.
-On 2 1 October I received a telegram from the Hooker Creek Community Council in the following terms:
Council has received official grant figure for 1976-77 from DAA of $263,268. Are you aware that this amount is $39,832 less than grant received for 1975-76 and does not provide for any operational or capital expenditure for 1976-77. Council employees presently on a 6-hour day instead of 8-hour day as a consequence. Could you please explain how this situation is arrived at with the LiberalCountry Party policy of no cutbacks in Aboriginal affairs as per Ellicott ‘s telex message received before last elections.
The telegram was signed by the President of the Council. Another telegram, which was received on 18 October, reads:
Please be advised that this community cannot continue operations on your allocation for 1976-77 of $104,000. Your ledge to maintain employment at 30 June level also cannot e maintained.
That telegram was signed by David Daniels of Hooker Creek. I received another telegram from the Two Rivers Aboriginal Co-operative Ltd, in relation to which I incorporated a document a few moments ago. It reads:
Will Two Rivers Aboriginal Co-operative Ltd be granted extra funding because of added $25m in view of statement of devaluation of dollar -
The dollar was revalued 2 per cent today, of course- spiralling costs. As $12,500 is totally inadequate. Diabolical that State departments should benefit by extra funding and that Aboriginal organisations be discriminated against.
– To which Bill are you speaking, Senator Keeffe?
– I am speaking at the moment to the States Grants Bill. The honourable Senator should understand that the Minister and I have agreed on this matter. I hope that he agrees with it, too. I want to quote a few more extracts. I want them on the record because they show that this Government has not kept its promise in any way to the Aboriginal people since 13 December, which is the day on which it was elected to office. I refer now to a telegram from Wingellina in Western Australia, which reads:
We strongly request that current attitude and policy towards decentralised communities be immediately changed. There are between 100 and 150 people at Wingellina with no employment possibility due to your Department’s policy. Hence we currently have 25 men registered as unemployed with more to follow.
I was in the north-west reserves area recently. The contents of that telegram are totally true. It continues:
The current level of financial support by your Government for decentralised tribal community in central Australia is ensuring that these basically healthy small communities are destroyed and with them the cultural life of a large group of Aboriginal people. We desperately seek your support in a meaningful way to save the situation.
Last year the Labor Government gave these homelands communities about $10,000 as establishment money. They have not been allocated a cent in this year’s Budget. I refer now to a telegram to me from the Two Rivers Aboriginal Cooperative Limited dated 29 September. Its cynicism carries a message:
The price of Tamie ‘s dinner set would have kept one or even two Aboriginals employed for one whole year.
The next telegram to which I refer was sent by the National Aboriginal Consultative Council representative for No. 3 Region. It was sent as a result of offices being closed down because, it was said, they were no longer wanted. Strong rumours are now circulating that the Government is going to take the whole Commonwealth presence away from Victoria. I am not sure that that is in the best interests of the Aboriginal people. The telegram reads:
It is a gross untruth for the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the Hon. Ian Viner, M.P., to state that the Aboriginal people in the Swan Hill and Morwell areas and their organisations had made significant progress in the management of their own affairs, as he suggested in his Press statement of 30 September 1976, when announcing and justifying the closure of Victorian Swan Hill and Morwell Department of Aboriginal Affairs offices.
A letter dated 24 September 1976 addressed to Mr Viner and signed by Mr Hugh Hudson, the Minister for Planning in the South Australian Government, reads:
I am appalled by your Government’s decision to drastically reduce the amount of money available for Aboriginal housing in this State.
Your action has disrupted a program which has been running smoothly and effectively in South Australia with significant social benefits for the Aboriginal people and for the society of the State as a whole. The action of your Government will create and perpetuate overcrowding of families in sub-standard conditions.
Later in the letter Mr Hudson made reference to the Ellicott promise. He said:
In these circumstances I find it incredible and deeply disturbing that you can now inform me that the Commonwealth allocations for general housing for Aboriginals for South Australia has been slashed from $2,507,900 in 1975-76 to $3 13,000 this year.
Undoubtedly some petty cash out of the $23m will go to South Australia. I wonder how much. In a plea for financial and physical help the
Bundjalong Tribal Society Ltd of Lismore on 6 October 1976 said:
A revised policy and programming is essential and urgent in such needy areas as: (a) housing (b) health (c) education (d) employment (e) legal service (?) medical service (g) preschool training (h) alcoholic rehabilitation.
The health situation in this area and the whole of the north coast is bad among the Aborigines and prevalent in all age groups . . .
It will be noted that very few of the messages I am reading today came from white people. Very few of the words I am saying are my own words. I am conveying, in the best way I know, the messages from the Aboriginal people themselves, whether they live in the urban areas, whether they are of the Pitjantjatjara tribe whose messages I mentioned a few moments ago or whether they are from Maningrida or somewhere else. The messages are coming from the Aboriginal people themselves.
In April 1976 I received a pathetic letter from a resident of Edward River whose name cannot be used because the standard doctrine of the Queensland Department is to remove from Aboriginal reserves anybody who complains. So I will not mention the person’s name, but I will quote from the letter. It states:
Please we need more houses here at Edward River. People short of house here, thank you people ask for the house what, need to ask for the house people need more house here at Edward River . . .
Of course, the people are not getting houses at Edward River. Apparently it is thought much better to put the houses into some other areas and probably give them to white employees. I asked a question today about houses at Bamaga. I have since found out from other sources that twice as many houses were built for white people on an Aboriginal reserve last year as were built for Aboriginal people- again by the Queensland Department.
The Aboriginal Children’s Adoption Service, a very necessary service, has been starved of funds ever since it was established. It was set up to save the lives and to improve the health of Aboriginal children and to find out where Aboriginal children came from. There are many white people in the community who adopt Aboriginal children as wards, use them as pets until they are 13 or 14 years of age and then return them to a home. I have mentioned before the case of a little girl from Weipa who today cannot be traced. It is fairly well known that a minister of religion, an official of the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement and Fisheries and one other person were involved in the kidnapping of that child. The police cannot find her and the Department cannot find her; but, worst of all, the parents cannot find her. Yet an organisation such as the Aboriginal Children’s Adoption Service, which tries to keep black children with black relatives, friends or parents, is being starved of funds because its social value is not realised by the Government.
Every time it rains in Alice Springs 1000 Aborigines get wet, cold and sick because they have no shelter. In the outside areas they have to dig every day in a dry creek bed for water to drink. There are 10 hot showers, 11 toilets and no power points for those 1000 people. There are 26 fringe camps; but only one group has obtained a lease, and that is over a minimal area of about 4 hectares. They have been given no money to develop that area. Worse than that, if a child gets sick in the middle of the night there is no telephone and no way that the parents can get ready access to a doctor or medical assistance.
The Davenport Community Council in South Australia has complained about the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. It states:
It arbitrarily cuts our budget to pieces, item by item, without any reference to us. The Department assumes that it knows we can get by for instance with $2,000 worth of water instead of $5,000 worth, presuming that our original estimate was just an optimistic guess. But more seriously, it arbitrarily cuts funding for individual salaries and wages . . .
A letter from Fitzroy Crossing complains of the treatment of Aborigines in the Kimberley area. As time is running out I will not quote in detail all the documents I have. I will state where they come from and seek their incorporation in Hansard. There is one from the Kimberley area and one from the Garden Point Council on Melville Island. There is a letter to Mr Viner from which I have made the appropriate extract. It is from representatives of the Campaign Against Racial Exploitation. The Aboriginal Legal Service is affected, and the Aboriginal Arts Council is not being funded. A member of the Liberal Party in South Australia has said that Aboriginals do not need the sorts of things they are claiming, because they are undesirable and a dirty lot. He also said that they are a lazy lot. Sir Charles Court, the Premier of Western Australia, this year returned to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs a very large sum of money that was intended for Aboriginal housing, but in that State lack of housing is still a serious problem. I seek leave to incorporate 3 documents in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Extract from letter from Stan Davey c/o Community Welfare, Fitzroy Crossing 18 Feb. 1976.
The Kimberley Aborigines, and probably all W.A. groups would be better off if they had no expectation of receiving assistance from the Department. Their anticipation that the Department might carry out some fraction of the promises it makes, keeps them in suspense and they sit and wait as their conditions deteriorate. No expectations would at least have them prepared to explore other means of improving their own situation’.
Telegram from the Garden Point Council on Melville Island dated 19 October 1976.
Aboriginal employment as at 30 June Garden Point Council 40 people. Now being reduced to 19 as from 31 October because of budget allocation. This community conformed with minister’s instruction to maintain employment as at 30 June and now faces mass unemployment plus restricted earnings for favoured few as heads of families being employed. Maximum of 28 hours per week will give income well below minimum basic wage. Request Government honour election promises to Aboriginal people . . .’
Letter to Mr Viner from CARE (Campaign Against Racial Exploitation) 23 March 1976.
Further your reported comments concerning the need for all groups in the community to bear the brunt of government budget cuts is unfortunate. For decades, the Aboriginal people have been kept in a position of inferiority, a depressed social and economic condition and the butt of Australia’s racism.
Our obligation to the Aboriginal people transcends these short-term policy changes.
The Aboriginal people have been bearing the brunt of the white man’s policies for decades. We cannot expect them to bear it any longer. We urge you to restore cuts in Aboriginal spending and prevent any further reductions in expenditure on Aboriginals’.
– Let me sum up my remarks on this Bill. Aborigines are told about consultation ‘, but ‘consultation ‘ turns out to be a meeting with the Aborigines to discuss what the Department has decided to do or not to do for them. There is also reference to the word ‘discuss’. In the famous Ellicott telegram there was a promise that there would be discussions. The word ‘discuss’, as interpreted by the Aborigines, means to tell or to direct. ‘Deferment’ is another famous word that has been introduced into Aboriginal affairs. All Aborigines can tell you that ‘deferment’ has come to be known as the cutting off of funds without any advice. Then there is the other famous term ‘feasibility study’. That is a very happy term that the Minister frequently uses. The Aboriginal interpretation is that ‘feasibility study’ is the best known means of deferring action indefinitely.
I come now to the Aboriginal Lands Rights (Northern Territory) Bill, which is a most important Bill. I am not saying that the Bill to which I have just spoken is not an important Bill. The land rights campaign is now of many years duration, but this Bill goes only a fraction of the way that we need to go. In 1975 and early 1976 the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs both said that a comprehensive Bill would be introduced and that the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly would have no control over any part of it. These statements were reiterated and repeated time after time. But the Bill now before the Senate almost certainly appears to have been drawn up by the Australian Mining Industry Council, with the addition of a few amendments by the Government. Again it has made the Aborigines a political football. I do not want to recapitulate all the arguments I have used in this chamber before. If one had asked the Australian Mining Industry Council to draft the Bill, I do not think it could have done a better job than the Bill which the Government has presented as a Government document.
If anyone is in doubt as to what the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly proposes to do, I suggest that he examine the new projected ordinance and its definition of a traditional Aboriginal. I understand that as a result of pressure this ordinance has now been withdrawn; but, quite frankly, knowing the general attitude of the majority Party in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, I would not be a bit surprised to see it reappear when we go home for Christmas. In the document that has been produced here the Government has handed over the rights to sacred sites; it has handed over rights to just about everything else that is dear to Aboriginal people. It ought to be forced to appear before the United Nations and explain its reasons for the continued suppression of our indigenous majority.
– What has been handed over?
-The Government has handed over everything that is worth while. The honourable senator will understand better when I start moving amendments later this evening. Queensland and Western Australia both have a long history of suppression of blacks in the interests particularly of the mining combines. I quote a paragraph from Comalco ‘s latest handout.
Comalco ‘s operating management at Weipa and its staff personnel responsible for liaison -
I am developing this argument to prove that the Government is totally dominated by the mining lobby in the Northern Territory Legislative
Assembly and also by the Australian Mining Industry Council and the absentee landlords in the pastoral industry. They are the people who have made the policy for this Government in this legislation.
– What rubbish.
– You can say that at a later date. I repeat the quotation from Comalco ‘s handout brief. It reads:
Comalco ‘s operating management at Weipa and its staff personnel responsible for liaison have developed a close relationship with the Aboriginal community at Weipa South. The members of the Weipa South Council meet regularly with Weipa management. This is principally concerned with consultation on rnining programs which may involve significant areas of interest to people in the community, but ranges over many other matters.
That is from the journal Aborigines and Islanders of Weipa, notes on background and current position, October 1976. Even this paragraph, paternalistically phrased, is not true. Sites of significance m the Weipa area have been raped and plundered over a period of 20 years and even now the Weipa Aborigines speak of their places in whispers because they fear despoilment by yet another bulldozer. At Port Hedland I saw significant rock carvings on more than one occasion being used as a site for the stockpiling of mining spoil. We expected something better from the Australian Government in respect of a territory over which it has total control- the Northern Territory. One would have thought that the Government would have been able to have had a confrontation with the miners if it wanted to do that but it did not. The Bill even forces the Gurindjis to go back and make another claim for their land even though they were promised automatic title on 16 August 1975. The Opposition has honoured an agreement made by the Liberal Party in 1972 regarding the mining of uranium. This is in our recent policy statement. But this Government has not kept any of the promises that we made to Aboriginals anywhere in the Northern Territory at all because this Government is forcing all of these people to go back and to make fresh land claims. So much for some sort of political ethics so far as this Government is concerned.
The Tanami Desert belongs to the Walbiri people. It is an area of land that this particular group has been trying to obtain legally for 40 years. It has now been taken out of the schedule and again this Government is forcing these people to go back and make their claim. I have been told by some of the Walbiri people that in fact the person this Government is frightened of there is involved in a large pastoral interest and that is why this Government has taken this area out of the schedule. This Government has blocked the hearing of land claims at Borroloola claims that should have been heard on 26 August this year, but by direction of the Government Mr Justice Ward was forbidden to hear them. The Bill means that there will never be a proper case put in for this land. It also means, if honourable senators care to look at some of the last lot of amendments to the legislation, that this Government has now made it watertight for the mining interests at Borroloola because they will never have to contest anything if the Aborigines want to put a claim in for the area as their claims for that area are not going to be heard under this new amended legislation. That is the way this Government has sold these people down the drain to the mining companies. I will quote a few more paragraphs which speak for themselves. I quote again Wemen Rubuntja even though there are people on the other side of the chamber who are trying to rubbish him. He said:
What do the church ministers think about Pastor Albrecht trying to stop the Land Bill for the Aboriginal people?
Some time ago I talked to Pastor Albrecht. I think I have been as fair as anyone in an attempt to hear both sides of this question. I have in my hand copies of fake documents that have been produced by Pastor Albrecht and a number of people to block the giving of land rights to Aboriginal people. I note that indirectly the Minister has taken notice of some of them, but these sorts of things- they are there if anybody wants to examine them- do not tell the true story. This is what is said in this particular message. It reads:
Land councils have been trying to tell people about the bad changes in the Bill. Pastor Albrecht has been mixing up people- Aboriginal people.
Wenten Rabuntia was referring to a new ally of the Country Party Legislative Assembly; none other, of course, as I mentioned a moment ago than Pastor Paul Albrecht. If the Senate desires I am prepared to table those documents, but I think most people on the other side of the chamber wish they would all go away. I want to quote a copy of a telegram that was phoned into my office at 5.0 p.m. It reads:
Aboriginal veto provisions on mining in Land Rights Bill meaningless until known who already holds exploration leases and terms of Commonwealth agreement with Mount Isa Mines over Borroloola claim are clarified. Do not allow the Bill which mocks integrity of Australians in acknowledging Aboriginal rights to land.
It is from the National Cp-ordinator of Action for World Development, Bill Armstrong. A number of claims have been made in the Northern Territory, including submissions which were made by people in the Territory, particularly people from Wattie Creek. I finalise my remarks on these few points. In March 1976 a telegram was sent to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Viner. The message in the telegram was: ‘Give us back our land ‘. It was signed by the top men at Areyonga. In March 1976 1500 elders and representatives from numerous Northern Territory communities travelled for periods of up to 3 days to Alice Springs to demand rights to their land, and that of course is where my colleagues on the other side of the chamber talked to the Aboriginals, agreed with them, went home and issued a Press statement disagreeing with them. On 15 September 1976 Buthugurrulil on behalf of the Gamalangaclan and with the support of the Milingimbi people wrote to the chairman of the Northern Land Council seeking the passing of this Bill and claimed protection for their fishing rights, their dreaming places and their land. The Northern Territory News of 12 November carried a Press statement by Mr Neville Perkins, and I quote:
I would like to see the Government not giving any powers to the Assembly in regards to the Land Rights Bill. The Country Liberal Parry up here is generally biased against Aboriginal people. It is extremely disappointing that powers over sacred sites and entry permits are going to the Assembly in the Northern Territory.
At a meeting of clan leaders on Elcho Island on 12 February 1976 it was stated:
The traditional owner must have the final right to say yes or no to use of the land. There is no need for more exploration permits. The rnining surveyors have already been right through the whole area. They have broken the rocks . . . There is no need for them to come back. The Traditional Land Owners must have the truth about minerals before being asked to make decisions. Money /royalties must come to traditional owners first before the dust is raised.
That is a heartrending story putting the request of the people in that area. On 25 February the President of the Haasts Bluff Council sent a telegram to the Prime Minister protesting against the action of the Government as a repudiation of its election policies. On 3 November 1976 the Yuendumu Women’s Society sent me a telegram demanding that the Tanami Desert be included in the Bill for land rights. The Methodist Church of Australia, the Quaker Race Relations Council, the Presbyterian Church of Australia, the Congregational Union of Australia and the United Church of Australia have all come out in support of full land rights for Aborigines. A few weeks ago I wrote to the Trade Practices Commission claiming that an advertisement published by the Australian Mining Industry Council, the content of which was its answer to the Land Rights Bill, was a false advertisement I received from the Commission a reply which stated that it could deal only with certain aspects in trade or commerce. But the Commission was careful to note the following in a paragraph of its letter:
If the advertisement is false, as your letter suggests, it has to be dealt with in political or other terms outside the Trade Practices Act.
I hope that the Australian Mining Industry Council, having taken note of what I have said here today- it will take note- will realise what I am talking about. It has led everybody, including the Government, up the track.
Roy Marika, MBE, who is chairman of the Yirrkala Community Council, gave to me on a visit to Yirrkala a list of points which is consistent with the amendments the Opposition proposes to move to the Bill and which he wanted to see incorporated in the original land rights legislation. I seek leave to incorporate that document in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
POINTS TO BE DISCUSSED WITH MEMBERS OF THE OPPOSITION PARTY VISITING YIRRKALA ON TUESDAY 28 SEPTEMBER 1976
Northern Territory Land Rights Bill
We want the Land Rights Bill to be passed this year.
We have been waiting for this for a long dme, and therefore want it passed as soon as possible this year, 1976, and not 1977.
This, we believe is right and just for us to request.
We do not want the Bill to be passed just to suit the White Australians, especially politicians, and therefore we do NOT want changes to the original Woodward Report.
2 kilometre Limit
To us, the sea means as much as the land.
We have songs, dances and sacred stories which goes from the land to the sea.
We have had so many problems, particularly in coastal Homeland Centres, with prawning boats and other foreign vessels coming into shores without informing Aboriginal communities. We would allow this only in emergency cases.
Visitors without Permission
We are facing so many problems with four wheel drive vehicles and motor bikes going beyond mining leases. There has been little restriction put on these people. We want more control over this situation, whereby visitors must seek approval from the Yirrkala Town Council.
Law and Order
Law and order has not been carried out fairly and justly to all concerned, by the Police Department in Nhulunbuy.
We have not been satisfied with their service towards the community here at Yirrkala. We would want to work hand in hand with the Police Force for both citizens here and in Nhulunbuy. WE WANT A FAIR GO.
We do not want any mining prospects by any Mining Companies until the Land Rights Bill is passed.
We want to have the control of our land, and therefore the Land Trust will consist of Aboriginal representatives from each clan. We do not want other bodies to have control over our land.
We want the Land Trust to be divided into two main bodies which are (i) Western Arnhem Land Trust (ii) Eastern Arnhem Land Trust and, therefore do not want just one main Land Trust as stated in the Land Rights Bill in its present form.
Department of Education
We would want more of our own people working in the schools and teaching our own children.
We want the Department to make money available to employ more Aboriginal teachers.
We would want Aboriginal staff to have replacements in the same way as European staff are replaced.
Budget Cut Backs
This year it has not been ‘cut backs’, but a devastating situation for us where so many of our people are unemployed now, which means so many more problems in our community.
Many of our people are not receiving any form of income, which means families have to go without food.
We believe that the cut backs this year have not been fair, especially to the Aboriginal Councils.
We would also want budgets set aside for our Homeland Centres.
I, as the Chairman of the Yirrkala Town Council, and on behalf of my community, support these points and would want every consideration to be given to them as a direct request from us.
Mr Roy Marika, M.B.E.
Chairman Yirrkala Community Council.
– I still have a large amount of material available to which I wanted to refer, but I have only a limited amount of time in which to use it. I say to honourable senators opposite that the case put forward by the Aboriginal people and those in the community who support them is totally justifiable, it is totally honest, and it ought to be granted. For 200 years we have misused and abused the Aboriginal people in this country. We have given nothing in return. The whole of their life, their background and their culture is based on their land, on the things that grow from the land, on their power to be able to wander their own country and on their power to be able to live where they want to live. The new development that is occurring of clans now being able to go out and live in small family groups has made a tremendous difference to morale. But this Bill denies all these things. All that the Government will hand back are the reserves.
The land freeze will expire on 3 1 December. I wonder whether it was arranged that this Bill would come on for debate so late in the session that the white people would get first grabs at the land that will be offered around the town areas. The Aboriginal people will not be able to get in their applications in time. The applications submitted probably will not even be properly prepared. With the limited number of people available to assist them with the preparation of their claims, it is almost certain that large numbers of claims will never see the light of day. The Government has held up this legislation for a year. It stopped the hearings on land claims many months ago, and it will not make the minor concession of extending the land freeze for another six or twelve months simply because it does not want to do so. The vested interests, the people who need that land around the towns, are the people to whom the Government is pandering. It is pandering to them by giving away to the Northern Territory the right to decide on the preservation of sacred sites, the right to determine who shall preserve the wildlife on Aboriginal land, and the right to determine who shall fish in Aboriginal waters and in waters adjoining the traditional areas. The Labor Party is opposed to the Bill in its present form. We hope that the amendments we propose to move later during the Committee stage will be carried.
– The Senate is considering 3 Bills, but I shall confine my remarks to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill to which Senator Keeffe devoted about 18 minutes of his speech. The other 2 Bills, although important, will be dealt with, I believe, by other honourable senators. It is my belief that the Land Rights Bill is an historic Bill and that this is an historic occasion in the Parliament of Australia, because the passage by the Australian Parliament of that Bill is in its way as significant as the referendum result of 1967 in what it promises and means to the Aboriginal people of Australia.
I have served on many parliamentary committees with Senator Keeffe who has just spoken in the debate. I have found Senator Keeffe to be a fair, just and reasonable chairman. But having heard his speech today, I feel a sense of shame at the way in which he has spoken in the Senate. He failed to acknowledge at any stage any of the advantages which will flow from this legislation or any of the things the legislation will mean to the Aboriginal people of Australia.
The second reading debate is, after all, an opportunity to state some of the principles in the legislation and some of the goals and aims. It provides an opportunity to examine and to explore those principles, and I will try to do that. I will leave for the Committee stage consideration of those detailed matters which occupied so much of the time of the honourable senator who has just resumed his seat.
The threads we draw together include, first, an expression in the Senate in 1975 when my colleague, Senator Bonner, who is the first member of the Aboriginal people to enter an Australian Parliament, proposed a motion which was agreed to unanimously by the Senate. It is worthwhile recalling to honourable senators the terms of that motion. They state:
That the Senate accepts the fact that the indigenous people of Australia, now known as Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, were in possession of this entire nation prior to the 1788 First Fleet landing at Botany Bay, urges the Australian Government to admit prior ownership by the said indigenous people, and introduce legislation to compensate the people now know as Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders for dispossession of their land.
That was an expression of will agreed to unanimously in the Senate on 20 February 1975. We should join that with the thread that came out of the referendum of 1967, which was an overwhelming expression by the people of Australia to remove the discriminatory provisions from our own Constitution. We should add to that the thread which is provided by the findings of the Woodward Commission- a Commission appointed by the former Government It was appointed in February 1973 and presented its second and final report to the Parliament in April 1974. If we draw those threads together we arrive at the need for the provision of land rights for the Aboriginal people. We have had presented from both sides of this Parliament, and from the honourable senator who has given such a mean and ungenerous speech today, land rights Bills and land rights proposals.
Today we are debating and will pass the first Land Rights Bill in the history of this nation. As one of the representatives of this Parliament on the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, as a member of the committee that worked under the chairmanship of Senator Keeffe to examine the environmental conditions of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, and as a member of the committee which under the chairmanship of Senator Bonner brought in the report on the environmental conditions of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, it gives me a special pleasure to be able to take part in this debate. I remind honourable senators that the second progress report of the Senate Committee to which I have just referred was tabled, I believe, in 1973. At page 2 of that report the following appears:
We see as an imperative need the firm establishment of a national outlook favourable to and actively seeking the restoration to the Aboriginal people of the fundamental human dignity and self respect of which they have been largely, and in some instances completely, deprived in the historical development of European settlement and the exploitation of the resources of this continent. In justice and equity, this nation can have no lesser aim for the survivors of a people who have been so disadvantaged by changes forced on their traditional and highly specialised way of life and, until recently, so ignored by the national conscience.
The provision of land rights is part of that response. This Bill is not the last word on land rights. It is, however, the first. It is the first step which this nation is taking towards Aboriginal land rights. Its provisions should be welcomed, acclaimed and acknowledged.
I believe it is hard to over-emphasise the significance or the promise of this piece of legislation which will grant land rights to groups of Aboriginal people- something which the honourable senator who led for the Opposition forgot to mention. It will provide the legal framework in which land rights can be granted. It will attempt to accommodate the realities of land holding by traditional Aboriginal groups via land trusts.
We recognise the difficulties involved in what we are undertaking. I point out once again that we see this legislation as a first step. This Bill will protect Aboriginal communities against exploitation of various kinds. It will create a framework within which the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly will be able to propose subordinate legislation. Only within this framework will the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly be able to operate. In case Senator Keeffe has forgotten, clause 68 of this Bill refers to roads on Aboriginal land; clause 69 refers to the protection of sacred sites; clauses 70 and 71 refer to rights of entry and clauses 73 and 74 refer to reciprocal legislation which might be passed by the Northern Territory.
– The laws of the Northern Territory.
– The honourable senator who interjects perhaps does not understand that some of these clauses create specific offences in relation to certain activities against Aboriginal land. Before people criticise, they should read these clauses of the Bill to understand what they offer.
When the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) announced that he was introducing a revised, amended Bill, he also announced that if both Houses of the Parliament agreed, a joint committee would be created comprising members of the Opposition and members of the Government Parties in both Houses. He said that this Committee would undertake 2 main tasks: Firstly, it would examine the extent to which traditional land owners were able to exercise their rights under this legislation, and surely no one would object to that; secondly, it would examine the adequacy of the complementary legislation proposed by the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. We are creating a vehicle by which we will be able to ensure that the provisions of this Bill are successful and that our aims in matters such as complementary legislation are properly met. It is hoped that this committee will be established before the Senate rises this week, that it will commence its work immediately and that it will be able to report to this Parliament by the middle of 1977. It is our intention that this Bill should be effective. By setting up this Parliamentary committee we are creating a watchdog to ensure that the intentions of this Parliament are carried out.
I am satisfied that by this legislation we are moving to honour yet another of our election promises. We promised before the last election that there would be legislation to provide land rights for the Aboriginal people. This legislation provides those land rights. I shall not read that part of our policy document which contains our promises on land rights, but they are in that document. This Bill will move towards their achievement.
I should like to draw the attention of the Senate to the processes which we have followed in introducing this legislation. We were aware of the public interest that surrounded land rights legislation. Honourable senators will recall that the second reading of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill was made in another place on 4 June 1976. The Bill was then laid on the table for examination and comment by interested groups from the community, from within government and from all parts of Australia. I commend to any Australian following this debate that he or she read the sensitive, sympathetic and evocative speech given by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on 4 June when he introduced this legislation. It contains, in a philosophical sense, the reasons why we believe that land rights are so important, our understanding of the relationship of the indigenous people of Australia with their land and our determination that our legislation should be just and adequate.
Since that Bill was laid on the table, there has been extensive consultation. We have not hurried or rushed this legislation through the parliament. We have ensured that the public debate could be complete and adequate. I am led to believe that the Bill which came back to the Parliament and which was then re-introduced in amended form on 1 December contained some 48 amendments. These amendments covered areas including the protection of Aboriginal rights on mining against decisions in the national interest so that any decision would be subject to disallowance by Parliament. They contained new clauses on sacred sites and rights of entry. This new amended Bill is the result of activities, representations and submissions by many interested groups, including, of course, the report of a committee of this Senate which was made available to the Government. We in the Government Parties have worked hard to understand the various points of view. We have worked with the Ministers in order to seek the very best amendments that we could obtain. I am proud of the amended Bill which has come before us now. I am proud of what it promises and what it offers. I should hope that during this debate we do acknowledge what this Bill does provide.
I believe that in most parliaments there are very few moments which are as important as this one. We are dealing here with an issue which is one of national conscience as well as being a particular issue involving land rights for the Aboriginal people. The acceptance and endorsement for the first time in this country of the legislation before us says something about our society; it says something about our beliefs and mores. It says something about the kind of nation we are and would like to be and about our national morality.
The Bill is historic. Actually it is not before its time. The House of Commons had a select committee which looked at the conditions of the Aboriginal people. Part of its report read as follows:
We still must express our conviction that if we are ever able to make atonement to the remnant of this people, it will require no slight attention, and no ordinary sacrifices on our part to compensate the evil association which we have inflicted; but even hopelessness of making reparation for what is past would not in any way lessen our obligation to stop, as far as in us lies, the continuance of iniquity.
This report by the House of Commons was not a 1977 report, nor even a 1937 report. It was written in 1837, 140 years ago. It drew attention at that stage to the requirements of justice for the Aboriginal people. This Bill represents one of the great steps along the road to providing this justice.
As Senator Keeffe pointed out, white Australia has a sorry history in terms of our relations with the indigenous people. Our communal conscience is not clear. We cannot ignore the past. We cannot ignore the need to respond, not only literally but also figuratively in many ways. The blood of Aboriginal people is on our hands and on the hands of past generations of white Australians.
Today in Australia, one of the most affluent countries in the world, we have in our midst a group of people who are disadvantaged, dispossessed and disorganised. In terms of their housing, their employment, their health, their education and their prospects they do not have access to the things we regard as proper and normal in today’s Australia. Land rights will assist one group of those Aborigines to function in a way they want to function and to get a fairer share of what exists in this country. I was interested to read in the Bible from the book of Joel the following words:
I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten.
Those words are not altogether inappropriate for what we are trying to do in Australia now.
The Fraser Government has continued the work which was begun during the last Administration. It has reintroduced the land rights legislation. It has made itself available for consultation. It has accepted amendments and it is now determined to pass that legislation and to make it work. Let us keep the Committee debate, when we come to an examination of different clauses of the Bill, until we get to that stage. In the second reading debate let us at least acknowledge that we are moving in a real way towards the provision of land rights and greater justice for the Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. I hope that today we can place on record that both sides of the national Parliament are supporting what are just and honourable proposals and what is decent legislation.
I shall listen with interest to hear honourable senators acknowledge- whatever criticisms they might have of the particularities of clauses- that with the passage of this legislation for the first time the Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory will have land rights and that this will be good, new, positive and desirable. I hope that honourable senators will proclaim what is being given, what is being achieved and what is being offered in a bipartisan spirit. I believe that this land rights legislation does no more than offer justice in a humanitarian way to the indigenous people of Australia. I believe that it will be a monument to the Thirtieth Parliament. I hope that in the discussions which take place during the rest of this debate we can acclaim its promise and support it in the Senate.
– I rise to support my colleague, Senator Keeffe, in the discussion of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill. I shall confine myself to that Bill and leave the other two associated Bills for later discussion. I do not think that any doubt has been indicated by previous speakers that the Bill before us is a vast improvement on the Bill which was introduced in June of this year. That must be recorded as a tribute to the individuals, parties and groups around Australia, who presented some information to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner). I think it will be acknowledged that it was a credit to the Minister that he was prepared to accept some of the recommendations and amendments put forward by these groups. But let us make sure that there is no cause for smugness on the other side of the House. The fine words that have been spoken ring a little hollow when we remember that had it not been for the shameful events of 1 1 November last year this legislation would have by now been enacted and Aboriginal people would have had land rights.
– All Aboriginals in the Northern Territory.
-That is right. Although we have said that the Bill is much better than the June Bill, it still does not go far enough. We will make objections to it but we will leave those, as Senator Baume suggested, to the Committee stage.
I want to indicate the broad range of objections which we are to make. The first one is the role of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. This has been softened to a degree by the comments made by Senator Baume reminding us that everything discussed in the Assembly will be discussed with the Minister first and that this Parliament will have the right to give or deny assent. That mechanism is valuable. The second objection we have is that the Bill as it stands abandons the needs criteria. This is one of the strongest platforms of the Bill introduced by the Labor Government. The rights of the traditional owner are the only rights that are being looked at. This Bill has overlooked the needs criteria which is so important, particularly to those people who live on the fringes of towns or in towns. It limits the powers of the Land Commissioner. Those of us who saw the work done by Mr Justice Ward will realise that it is unfortunate that this aspect of the legislation has not been allowed to stand as it was before. Despite the comments made on the other side of the House it gives- this must be agreed- undue emphasis to the wishes of the mining companies. We seem to have adopted an approach very similar to the approach we use to our overseas investors, that of the frightened fawn. We seem to be seeing in mining the panacea for all our economic ills.
The concept of Aboriginal land rights is extremely complex. I personally believe that it would take Aboriginal people to explain it. Since we do not have a group of Aboriginal people here, we must do the next best thing. I have tried to do this. I have travelled around the Territory asking Aboriginal people, Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal groups: ‘What do you want me to say about land rights?’ I have a lot of very interesting information in transcript form, and I will quote quite a lot of extracts from the transcript. Perhaps this will interrupt my speech. It will not flow as well as some we might hear but I think it is pretty important that we hear what the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory say. To save having too many quotations I have included a number of these in the text and I will refer to them as I go along. I have information drawn, not only from Aboriginal people but also from other people in the Territory who have spent many years working in the field. Let me make the point very strongly at this stage that I do not claim to be an expert on Aboriginal affairs. All I can claim is that I have been involved for a number of years in observing what has been going on in the Northern Territory. I have worked under the 2 governments which have been working with the Aboriginal people. So I have some little background that perhaps I can bring to the debate. I want to give some background information in order to clarify what we really mean by land ownership in the Northern Territory. This is important, because it will help us in the debate. If I may make a comment about the other place, it is clear that in that place there was not a full understanding of what we mean by ‘land ownership’. The first point that must be made- I think we all agree on it- is that the Aboriginal concept of land ownership is not the same as ours and that if it is a different concept we will need a different system to embrace it.
We hear a lot about traditional owners, but what do we mean by ‘traditional owners 7 I can speak only of the Top End of the Territory; others can speak later about other parts. There, under a patrilineal descent system, land is recognised as belonging to a clan. There is no doubt about it. Everybody knows that certain land belongs to a certain clan. We have to be careful, because a person will speak of ‘my country’, meaning the place where he was conceived; but that is not necessarily his traditional land. The way he will get land is by patrilineal descent. However, there are variations. I would like to mention one of these, because it does affect our understanding of this subject. The first quotation I have relates to Groote Eylandt and the transfer or giving of land. This comment was made by Jambana:
My grandfather came from Mainland. Now we are here in this place (Groote) now Maminyamanja- Clancy’s grandfather and my grandfather (real grandfather) had a meeting. After the meeting he said now this place here is your place now, you can own this place. It s nothing to do with Maminyamanja now.
I said to Jambana:
So the land was virtually given to the Lalaras?
Yes, given to the Lalaras.
That was 2 generations ago- approximately 50 years ago- and it has been accepted that now the Lalaras are the owners of that piece of land. I then asked what would happen if a young fellow from the other group came back in 50 years time and said: ‘That land used to belong to my grandfather. I want it back’. The group was adamant that this would not happen. A promise had been given- that was the phrase that was used- and the land is accepted as belonging to that group. The Aboriginal people know who owns the land. I am told, and I accept the proposition because I have been told it in so many places, that the Aboriginal people will always know who owns the land. This has a particular effect on any legislation we introduce.
I want to raise an extra point here, and that is that the traditional owner is not the only one who has decisions to make about the land. I will read an extract which will make it clear that another group of people, who might be called managers or something of that sort, also have decisions to make. So, we have to be very careful when we talk about the traditional owners as the only ones having some influence or part in decisionmaking. I read from some work of Beulah Lowe, who will be well known to a good many honourable senators. This quotation indicates the responsibility and interest of some other groups: lt will be seen, then, that many different clans have rights over a certain piece of land. For example, part of Milingimbi is owned by the Walamanu clan. Even though the original members of this clan which actually owned this part of Milingimbi are all dead, there are still members of the Walamanu clan alive, whose clan territory is Bunbuwa These Walamanu people are therefore regarded as the owners of this pan of Milingimbi. However, these people stand in the relationship of mother’s mother and mother’s mother’s brother to Djawa, Djilminy, Rungurr, etc., of the Gupapuynu clan, so Milingimbi also belongs to these men. In addition, members of the Wangurri clan, whose country is Cato River in Arnhem Bay, the Wubulkarra clan and others also have rights over this pan of Milingimbi because they all belong to the Mandjikay group of clans which have the fish nuykal’ as their totemic ancestor. This fish swam from the
Cato River to Howard Island, to Milingimbi and other places, thus joining all the clans of the places he visited into one ‘mala ‘(group).
So, it is not a simple situation. We cannot just talk about the traditional owners as if they were a single person; so we see the appropriateness of the trusts that are being set up by this Bill. It is an attempt, and a good attempt, to fit the Aboriginal law into the present Austraiian law. There is no doubt that there will be some confusion, and I do not think there is any doubt that there will be need for further explanation by people in this Parliament, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and members of the land councils. There is confusion between land trusts and land councils. This was exemplified in the debate in the other place. We must make sure that we are clear in our minds as to what we mean by ‘trust’ and council’; but I will not go through it at this stage. I stress at this stage the need for flexibility in the implementation of this Bill. As this is a second reading debate and we are not attacking anyone, I make the point strongly that flexibility must be exhibited by whoever has the responsibility of implementation.
I would like to go into a little background as to the attitudes of the major political parties over the last few years. I will refer to a document which was produced by a senior officer of the Department in Darwin and which was sent out to the Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory to help them understand what is going on. It is prepared in question and answer form and part of the document reads:
Question- What was the attitude of the major political parties towards Aboriginal land rights before 1 970?
Answer- Whilst a number of individual parliamentarians developed an interest in traditional claims to land before 1970- and several were active in assisting Aboriginal bodies in this field -
I imagine that the officer was thinking of Kim Beazley, Gordon Bryant and others-
Political parties as a whole did not regard it as a major issue or as a matter which needed a special mention in their platforms. At this time, of course, public interest in the subject was not significant either.
Question- Were any official statements made by the Government about land rights before 1970?
Answer- Yes, but they did not favour Aboriginal claims to traditional lands. Two statements by the then Minister for the Interior (who was responsible for Aboriginal matters in the Northern Territory), Mr Peter Nixon, in August 1968 and September 1 970, made it clear that:
The Government believes it wholly wrong to encourage Aborigines to think that because their ancestors have had a long association with a particular piece of land, Aborigines of the present day have the right to demand ownership of it. ‘ (Hansard3.9.70)
Question- When did changes in political policy on land rights first occur?
Answer- There is considerable evidence of ‘re-thinking’ in all parties before the 1970s, despite the statement quoted above, but no party formally committed itself to recognition of traditional land rights until the Australian Labor Party, at its Conference in June 1971, pledged itself to grant land rights when it should come to office. The A.L.P. platform did not, however, specify how land rights would be granted or on what basis- only that these rights would be granted.
Question- What about the Liberal-Country Party Coalition?
Answer- Until the A.L.P. Government was formed in December 1972, the official policy of the coalition parties towards land rights remained unchanged. A major policy statement by the then Prime Minister in January 1972 on Aboriginal Affairs recognised Aboriginal interest in obtaining secure tenure to land and indicated the Government’s willingness to assist in this. Traditional rights to land were not mentioned, however, and in fact a subsequent statement by the then Minister for the Interior, Mr Ralph Hunt, in February 1972, made it clear that no such rights would be recognised.
So, with this sort of attitude within the parties, let us look at the annual reports of the Welfare Branch and see how this was implemented within the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, or the Welfare Branch as it was from 1970 onwards. It is quite clear that from the 1950s to the 1970s the attitude that existed was that the disabilities of the Aboriginal people could be overcome if they could be moulded into facsimiles of white Australians. We had a situation in which the Department or the Welfare Branch attempted to provide clothes, European education, European food, health services and so on to the Aboriginal people in the same quantum as would be supplied to a European community. I have mentioned in this place before that one of the outstanding teachers of the early 1950s said that he would do a much better job if he could change the colour of the Aboriginal children’s skin; he was trying to do everything else.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-Before dinner I said that the policy of the 1950s to the 1970s was that the ‘disabilities could be overcome if Aboriginals could be moulded into facsimiles of white Australians’. I finished on the point that serviceshealth services, clothing, food, education and so on- had been provided. By the end of that time there was some quite clear, tangible, visible evidence of the ‘success’ of that scheme. Roads were through; schools were operating on a curriculum which belonged more to Europeans than to Aboriginals, but they were operating and a lot of children were in attendance; the Government had established some economic, so-called, projects. But it was quite clear that the Government was not happy about what was going on. In 1 972 the McMahon Government put out a statement which indicated that it was not happy with the way the policy was proceeding and was going to change it. The evidence of that failure was all around. There was a great deal of alcoholism. I suppose it would be very facile to blame the Government for that, because in 1963 and a little after legislation had been passed allowing the Aboriginal people to drink. Obviously that would be a too simplistic way to approach it. There was a lot of vandalism. There had been a decline in social discipline throughout the settlements and missions, and many people who had been trained were not applying the skills they had gained. It was clear that the Aboriginal people saw the policies as being European and therefore irrelevant. So the alcoholism, the vandalism, the decline, were all symptoms of something else.
It is interesting to note that at that time land was being allocated, but allocated in a way similar to European allocation. In other words, there was no recognition of traditional ownership. Bulman, Yugal Pastoral Company and other properties were given land under the European system, and the proposed subdivisions had no regard at all for traditional owners. The seeds were sown for a good deal of inter-clan trouble. In 1972, with the advent of the Labor Government, many changes occurred because of the recognition by the Labor Government of the value of land, the value of language and the value of culture to the Aboriginal people. There was a policy within the Department of Aboriginal Affairs which allowed the department to shed control of institutions such as schools, hospitals, forestry developments and so on. The Government introduced bold innovations at that time, which have already been mentioned, which enabled self-examination by the Aboriginal people and enabled them to work towards establishing their own identity. One of the major innovations was the encouragement of assistance towards establishing homelands centres. The people were encouraged to move out to their own areas and to establish their living on a particular piece of land. Money was given in direct grants to give the Aboriginal people the opportunity to guide their own affairs and to make their own decisions. The bilingual program introduced education in Aboriginal languages.
The results were quite dramatic. For the first time we saw changes in the dynamics of Aboriginal society. I am not suggesting for a moment that there were not mistakes. It was quite clear that at that time people believed that the Aboriginals possessed a degree of knowledge and expertise in financial matters which most of us do not have. So there was quite a deal of what one might call a waste of money, waste of vehicles and so on. I personally do not regard it as waste because I see it as educational, but nevertheless it gave people the opportunity to say: ‘This will not work’. I nave made those points to indicate that the policies of the parties reflected back in the attitude of the department. I should like to read a summation of the situation by a man who has had well over 20 years experience working with Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. Speaking of the work of the Labor Government, he said:
Generally, the gain has been to the base of Aboriginal culture and through that to a strengthening of the personal ability of individual Aboriginals to cope with the existing circumstances in which they find themselves. It is essential that administrative convenience and financial economies do not interrupt this process if the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory are to effectively manage their own affairs, control their destiny by free choice and, most importantly, for the health and self respect of their whole people, are able to exploit that part of their assets that they need to exploit in order to pay for those things that they want from other Australians. Any return to the controlled, mendicant societies of just a few years ago would interrupt a process that has brought out, for the first time, the inherent strengths and stability of Aboriginal society and demonstrated, for the first time, that Aboriginals have the capacity and will to be an effective unit in the larger Australian scene.
I should like to turn now to a consideration of the role of the Legislative Assembly and of the attitude of the people in the Northern Territory towards the Assembly playing a part in land rights legislation. I wish to read a number of quotations which I think will be self-explanatory. Taking just one isolated Aboriginal, Mr Wiyandiji Nunggula of the Allawa Tribe, who would be known to quite a number of people here, he had this to say:
Many Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory do not agree with the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. The Northern Territory Legislative Assembly are not genuine regarding the Aboriginal land ownership policy.
We feel that the Legislative Assembly will favour the white pastoralists, who is one who comes and goes, who lease the land but do not value the land as we the Aborigines do. Who does not recognise the traditional land holding rights of the Aboriginal people, who are residents on the land.
Referring now to some of the evidence which I took on the trip, a group at Ngukurr answered some questions which I put. I asked:
Where would you see the legislation being passed? All in Canberra, or some in Canberra and what they call complementary legislation in the Legislative Assembly?
The answer was:
We had a meeting down the village, and the people told me very strongly that they wanted it all decided in one place, instead of two places, and that one place is better in Canberra, or else one lot of decision made here, and one lot of decision in Darwin.
And what was the main reason?
The answer was:
Well the people up in Darwin know what is going on here and know what could benefit the Aborigines. They would stop a lot of goodness out of it in the Territory.
Moving to a group which has been working in the Territory, the missionary group, I will deal firstly with the Victorian Council of Churches, who supported Mr Justice Woodward in this way:
We concur with the view that ‘land rights legislation should not be capable of being affected in any way by Northern Territory ordinances’ … In particular we consider that the following matters should remain the responsibility of the Australian Parliament and Government:
Protection of fauna on Aboriginal lands;
Right ofentry on Aboriginal lands;
Protection of sacred sites;
Turning from the smaller group to the larger body, the Australian Council of Churches, this was its recommendation:
Withdraw from the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly powers to make laws over sacred sites, entry permits, fishing rights and control of territorial waters, etc
The Northern Land Council and the Central Land Council have also suggested that no legislation should be enacted in the Legislative Assembly. It should be remembered that the land councils are the Aboriginal people, so that what has come from them is the wish of the people. If I could refer now to another quotation from the transcript, on the visit to Yirrkala of a man called Gatjil, one of the leading young people of the Northern Territory said:
My main concern is for the aspects of the Bill which go to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. We have had some strong arguments with the Legislative Assembly, particularly when they were at the annual council meeting at Elcho Island.
An elder of the group, Roy Marika, who would be well known to a lot of senators and others, spoke in the language, and Gatiil translated. He said:
Well, unfortunately the people in Darwin, who have been in the Territory for so long, claim to be experts in Aboriginal affairs. Unfortunately, they are the ones who are in the Assembly already and they are saying that this is what should happen to the Aboriginal people, saying that the Parliament in Canberra is not doing what it should do. ‘We are the experts and we know how this legislation should go through’.
I said to them:
Would you claim that these people are not experts?
The reply came:
No, of course not.
Statements that have been made have led Mr Viner to make some of the amendments which he has made. I am pressing strongly the view that he look further at the evidence in front of him and consider that no legislation whatsoever should pass through the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. It is the wish of the people of the Northern Territory- I am only speaking for them- that this legislation should be enacted in the Federal Parliament. Of course this has led to a conflict between Dr Letts and Mr Viner. An article in the Northern Territory News of 1 April 1976 states:
Dr Letts criticised the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Ian Viner, for having preconceived ideas on the Aboriginal land legislation.
He made up his mind without consulting the people of the Territory.
One senior adviser told him that the bill should not go through the Assembly because you can ‘t trust the Assembly. ‘
Dr Letts said there were frightening prospects for pastoralists who had land on tenure.
Dr Letts said the proposed bill posed the single most detrimental legislation to the Territory.
Perhaps I should read a comment from the statement of Dr Letts in the Legislative Assembly to indicate the attitude or philosophy of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. Speaking of this Bill, in March Dr Letts said: . . it is the duty of this Assembly to bring to the notice of the Federal Government certain aspects and effects of recent Aboriginal land policy which can only be detrimental to the future of this nation, including its Aboriginal people.
He went on to say that he believed Aborigines seek correction and justice in respect of past mistakes but they do not, to the best of his knowledge, seek to achieve this by turning the sword of discrimination against their non-Aboriginal neighbours’. I think those words sum up the attitude of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. I turn now to land councils. The Northern Territory Legislative Assembly is opposed to land councils. In the Northern Territory News Dr Letts was reported as saying that there was no need for Aboriginal land councils as they were unnecessary bureaucratic bodies. The headline in this newspaper of 4 March this year stated:
The article states.
Aboriginal land councils could be abolished in their present form if the Legislative Assembly gains control of Aboriginal land rights legislation.
This was revealed today by the majority leader of the Assembly, Dr Letts.
I do not want to go ahead with this aspect. Obviously this extract is talking about the totality of the land rights legislation. I am trying to establish the attitude of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. Of course in reality the land councils are Aboriginal bodies dealing in real terms with important matters arising from the fact that Aborigines are important land holders in the Northern Territory. This means that mining companies have to meet across the table and battle out agreements with the Aboriginal owners of the land before they move on to the properties. It is not a situation of simply a branch or department saying: ‘Yes, you can go ahead’. Land councils represent most of the major communities in the Northern Territory and they are accepted by the Aboriginal people. I think this is the important fact. They have gained stature by the good work that they have done and this has reinforced and strengthened the Aboriginal culture in the Territory. It is an essential part of the legislation to have land councils.
I turn now to the permit system. This has ranked high in some of the discussions that have gone on. There is no doubt in the minds of honourable senators in the Opposition- I think this is shared by honourable senators oppositethat the permits should be in the hands of the owners, the same as in our own society. But I raise the matter because a lot of nonsense has been talked about the permit system. A claim was made in the other place that the Australian Labor Party opposed permits. I want to put the record straight. When Labor discussed this matter in the Northern Territory Legislative Council the Labor members wanted the permits in the hands of the Aboriginal communities, not in the hands of the department. The Welfare Branch, without any doubt, used permits to keep out any people whom it did not want to go to Aboriginal communities. It kept out those who perhaps had political philosophies different from those of the government of the day. But it is this very paternalism that I think the Aboriginal people found disturbing and it is certainly the attitude about which the Labor people in the then Legislative Council wanted to complain. They wanted to make sure that the Aboriginal people themselves gave the permits.
From the evidence I collected. Aboriginal people are quite clear that the traditional owners will have the say about who goes on to the properties. They are happy for the land councils to administer the permits as long as they have an arrangement whereby the councils contact the traditional owners for approval. They are happy to see all Aboriginal people move freely through the Territory. It is interesting that at all the places I mentioned the comment was made to me that the part Aboriginal people would need permits to enter unless they lived after the manner of Aboriginal people. I think this should satisfy Mr
Kentish and some pf those others who fear the brown men from the south and fear that the Aboriginal people of the north cannot cope with these people going north. The issuing of a permit is not to be used as a weapon by any department as it has been used, but will be an arrangement insisted on by the Aboriginal people. There is nothing to be frightened of in this situation. From my experience I believe- I am sure honourable senators opposite also believe thisthe Aboriginal people are a warm, friendly people who want their own privacy but are prepared to welcome visitors.
I move now to the matter of sacred sites. The comments and information I collected suggest that sacred sites are very diverse. There can be sacred sites on land, in fresh water or in sea water. A sacred site can be just a movement or current of water in a particular place. A spirit path through an area- as was explained to us in the case of a mountain which moved from central Arnhem Land to Groote Eylandt- may become a sacred area. There is a good deal of dissatisfaction with the present situation. The Aboriginal people of the Territory feel that they have been let down by the Legislative Assembly. It is clear that most of the sites cannot and should not be fenced. The evidence given to me suggests that there is a certain lack if a fence is put around a sacred site. Someone said to me: ‘You do not put fences around your churches’. All the sacred sites cannot be adequately mapped for a number of reasons. Some attempts have been made by some of the groups to map some areas but it is clear that some areas are too sacred to be spread around among other people. They cannot be put on maps. But like the situation with the ownership of the land, the sacred sites are known to the Aboriginal people so there is no problem in that regard. The view that came out strongly was that the legislation regarding sacred sites should be dealt with in Canberra and not in Darwin. I read again from Ngukurr. The transcript states:
I agree that because the Assembly has had it for a long time, I know that because of the station Council. We used to ask for sacred sites to be kept, had to go through all sorts of legal things and we didn’t understand, and when we did go through all that, say if minerals were found there, I know a place at Groote Eylandt and the government decide to mine. Whether it is the sacred site, or not, just tear it up! Shouldn’t be done in Darwin. They had plenty of opportunity already. They say they all know the Aboriginal people better than they know them in Canberra, why didn’t they assist them by making sure that the sacred sites be kept sacred sites? They knew all along. The Government in Darwin knew more than the people in Canberra about the sacred site at Gove and everywhere. But they didn’t do anything about it. They just let it go and mucked it all up.
I shall quote a shorter comment from Angurugu on the same line. It states:
Sometimes we get it a bit hard from the people in Darwin. We don’t get it straight, only time we get it straight is in Canberra.
I move to a comment that Senator Baume mentioned in relation to roads. It is clear from the discussions I had that the Aboriginal people say that the roads can be traversed by almost anyone as long as rangers are placed at the point at which the road enters into the reserve so that they can make clear to the people travelling into the area that they must not move off the road and that there are certain areas into which they should not go. Some suggestions were made that signs could be erected saying that people must not go here or there. But I think the main feeling was that if rangers were there to stop people at the ‘gate’ they could tell them what they should do. This seems an excellent idea. We could utilise it and we could even see a situation in which a number of rangers could be employed, perhaps to act as a type of guide to move people through areas. Once again, the permit system would apply and people would not be allowed to enter areas unless they had permits.
– I was going to make that point, Senator Baume. The comment was made that no new roads would be built without consultation and there would be consultation and not necessarily disagreement. It would be a matter of whether the road would serve the whole of the people of the Territory and whether it would interfere with sacred sites.
I want to deal now with the subject of mining. Again I will be brief because other speakers from this side of the House will deal more fully with this subject. I indicated in my comments about the chap who was speaking of the Labor Party’s achievements that the ownership of minerals is vitally important. Honourable senators will remember the comment about the resource which they had to sell, the proceeds of which they could use to buy what they needed. The comment that came through strongly was: ‘If we had our minerals we could sell them and we could break our dependence on the European people and move ourselves forward’. The Aboriginal people have a clear idea of the place and value of minerals. They have a clear idea of ownership. They make it clear to us who owns the minerals and which areas belong to that person. They make it clear also- which I find fascinatingthat the owner has a responsibility to share. This was put in a very unemotional way- again at Groote Eylandt- when it was said to me:
Well what we’re doing on this manganese business, with Gemco doing it here on the island, Maminyamania should be getting that money, but that’s not fair. Not fair for the other clans. Now every clan they’re involved with this money, the whole community on the island. Another thing, half of the money goes to the government for the people for the whole of the Northern Territory.
That person was asked whether he meant the Aboriginal Benefits Trust Fund and he said yes. He was asked whether he was happy with that arrangement and he said yes. When we discussed this matter at Roper River the need for assistance for those people on whose land minerals have been found came clear when David Daniels had this to say:
Before they say yes, the Northern Land Council or whoever has the legal backing should go and assist the Aboriginals straight away, wherever they got a mineral find, and really get it legally set up for the Aborigines. Because Aborigines will say yes. They’ve done that to a lot of places now. Gove, Groote Eylandt, . . . because they said yes. It should be more looked into before they say yes.
I sum up that point by saying that ownership is vital and that the exploitation of the minerals is what the people need to buy what they want.
I have tried to present the Aboriginal point of view and the point of view of some other people in the Northern Territory on this most important subject. As I said at the beginning of my remarks, I believe that the Bill is an improvement but it falls short of the ideal. The amendments which the Opposition will be proposing later bring the Bill much closer to the ideal. The eyes of the world are on us. The Government has an opportunity to make a significant contribution and one which will last. The Government has an opportunity to gain credibility in the eyes of the Aboriginal people. Many honourable senators have seen the document which was sent down from a meeting held on Elcho Island earlier this year in which the people said:
We are grateful to the Labor Government for respecting our tribal law and allowing us to keep it without change. We regret that we must state that since the Liberal Government, led by the Honourable Malcolm Fraser came to office, certain changes that it has brought about give us cause for much unhappiness, and we do not like the signs we detect, in the policy of the present Government.
It think that this Bill is an opportunity to overcome that attitude and that image. Senator Baume was correct when he said that this is a most historic Bill. We have waited many years for it. Let it be writ large without imperfections. The dignity- perhaps even the survival- of a wonderful race of people hangs in the balance. We must not let them down.
I conclude my remarks by quoting part of a letter which was written by an Aboriginal man and which is headed ‘From Black to White’. The man is James Galarrwuy Yunupingu, who would be known to a number of people present. He said:
The land is my backbone. I only stand straight, happy, proud and not ashamed about my colour because I still have land. The land is the art. I can paint, dance, create and sing as my ancestors did before me. My people recorded these things about our land this way, so that I and all others like me may do the same.
I think of land as the history of my nation. It tells us how we came into being and what system we must live. My great ancestors who lived in the dmes of history planned everything that we practice now. The law of history says that we must not take land, fight overland, steal land, and so on. My land is mine only because I came in spirit from that land, and so did my ancestors of the same land . . .
My land is my foundation. I stand, live and perform as long as I have something firm and hard to stand on . . .
Without land I am nothing. Only a black feller who doesr ‘t care about anything in the world.
He finished it in a most unusual way- remember that this is a letter from black to white- by saying:
My people don ‘t want to be like you !
I plead with the Senate to give very careful consideration and thought to this Bill and to the amendments which will be moved later this evening.
– Some 4 weeks ago when I was travelling through the Northern Territory I was requested to meet a group of traditional owners. The traditional owners asked me to convey a message. They said: ‘Tell the Government and tell the Parliament that as from now it is not our intention actively to pursue amendments to the land rights legislation’. They went on to say: ‘Tell them that, despite the fact that they will not hear from us again, in times to come we will continue to go to government and ask government to listen to us’. They said this because they were afraid of what was happening amongst the Aboriginal people. I am speaking on behalf of this group of traditional owners.
– Thirty of them from the centre of Australia.
-Senator Cavanagh can have his say later. I remind the honourable senator that I have lived in the Territory for 46 years and I know the Aboriginal people and they know me. The elderly Aboriginal men are wise men. They have a culture of thousands of years behind them. But it is the fear within them of what they see around them through the emotions of so many of people in the Northern Territory being disturbed that makes them believe that they should do no more. They have said this to me. The day before they had attended a land rights meeting south of Alice Springs. There was a large number of people there including many traditional owners there. The people who organised the meeting talked over the traditional owners. This has caused fear in the traditional owners and many people in the Northern Territory. These Aboriginal people said that those who organised the meeting talked over them and they were not able to speak. They went along and had no role to play other than to listen.
The thing that disturbed the elderly traditional owners while they sat there under the trees and endeavoured to have some say was that the young people, who were continually drinking and who would leave to get something more to drink and then come back, shouted the elderly people down. That is the truth. What does it mean? It means that the elderly Aboriginal people fear for the future of their culture and their Aboriginal lore. One elderly man who was there went round taking the names of the other elderly people who sat passively and listened. Some did not understand what was going on because it was not Aboriginal people who were speaking. It was Mr Eames, of whom we have heard before, and a person from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. They spoke, as the Aboriginal people said, with a paper in their hand but did not refer to it. This old man, who is concerned for the future of his people, went around and took the names of the traditional owners who were there. He took 62 names, until somebody told him to stop. I do not ask questions of the Aboriginal people. It is a dangerous practice. If one just asks an abrupt question and expects an answer, one is likely to get anything. I usually sit down and listen. He said: ‘I wrote down 62 names. I only had half, but they bushed me.’ They bushed him and then said: ‘As you leave you can sign the paper at the door’. That is an illustration of the problems that are before the Aboriginal people today.
This legislation has been hurried to quite an extent. Honourable senators opposite have indicated that the Labor Government introduced its Bill last year. Had it not been for that day when the Australian Labor Party lost power, that Bill would have been through by now. But that Bill was brought into the Parliament and proceeded with without the people in the Territory receiving copies of it, having the matter referred to them or being consulted. Someone may say that that is an untruth. What I am saying is that the cultural Aboriginal, the person who abides by Aboriginal law, did not see the Bill; neither did many other people in the Territory, although it was promised. We saw in the last week or two of the
Parliament a move to ram it through, despite the Northern Territory and the feelings of its people.
Let me give an indication of how perturbed some of the old traditional people are. They feel that if they are shouted down and not recognised as traditional owners a group without a knowledge of their culture and of their Aboriginal law can come in and disturb them, push them aside and make them act in a peculiar way because of the effects of liquor. If this happens we will see the end of the Aboriginal traditions and culture as we know them now and which have lasted for thousands of years. The Aboriginal people have been concerned. I have a telegram that was sent to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner). It may not be in language that we understand. It is from about 16 old traditional people who live in the southern part of the Territory at places such as Papunya, Mount Ebenezer, Docker River, Hermannsburg, Alcoota, Ti Tree, Napperry, Maryvale and so on. They say:
This is my thought and the other Aboriginal men. We are not satisfied land trusts go to anyone. I am land trust myself according to my law. Please we want you to come to us on Thursday to talk about this matter. We want to see you come and talk with us. Mr Eli Rubuntja and we other men. We are leaders of Aboriginal people. We want to see our land rights in our own land.
One is filled with sorrow because of what has happened over the last couple of years. While these old people wish to speak to government and people in authority, they have had little chance to do so. It is the others who have come in who have spoken. When I speak of ‘others’ I do not speak of Aboriginal people. I seek leave to incorporate that telegram in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
Copy of telegram sent today 2 1 October 1976 59:
This is my thought and the other Aboriginal men. We are not satisfied land trusts go to anyone. I am land trust myself according to my law. Please we want you to come to us on Thursday to talk about this matter. We want to see you come and talk with us. Mr Eli Rubuntja and we other men. We are leaders of Aboriginal people. We want to see our land rights in our own land.
– A considerable amount of work has been done in the southern part of the Territory. Many traditional Aboriginal people were interviewed, not in the cold confines of a sophisticated air-conditioned building in a town but in the bush, in their own country, in their homes, on the river bank or in the shade of a tree. Translations were made of what they said. An extremely large number were interviewed. They were given an understanding of what was before them and they gave their comments. I will not seek to include in Hansard the document recording their comments, because of its volume; but those who are interested in the thoughts of Aboriginal people may be inclined to read it.
– Who compiled the document?
– I will come to that, if Senator Cavanagh will have a little patience. I have a telegram that was sent to various members of the Government Parties. It came from a meeting of traditional people only. No white people were there. They were not invited. However, I understand that later Mr Bob Huey of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and, I think, Mr Geoff Eames attended by invitation. It was a spontaneous meeting of people who were concerned about their future. Part of the telegram reads:
We want each land owning clan to receive its own land titles from the Government direct. We don’t want any land trusts holding more than one piece of traditional land.
When I speak, as I say I do now, on behalf of these Aboriginal people, I do not decry the principle of a land trust. I think a land trust can be incorporated in this legislation, provided it applies only to a particular land owning clan. I seek leave to incorporate the telegram in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
TheHon.R.I.Viner,M.P. Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Parliament House, Canberra. A.C.T.
The Hon. A. E. Adermann, M.P., Minister for the Northern Territory, Parliament House, Canberra. A.C.T.
We do not want any restrictions placed on our right to hunt for food and for ceremonial purposes on pastoral properties, crown land and national parks and wildlife reserves. We do not want a central land council because our land owning clan already has its own councils. We want each land owning clan to receive its own land titles from the Government direct.
We don’t want any land trusts holding more than one piece of traditional land. We want a Government Land Commission to hear our claims for land and to pass our claims on to Government for action. We also want the land commission to help us talk with mining companies so that we do not get cheated. We want the Commission to receive our royalty payments and distribute this money in consultation with the clan from whose land the royalties have come.
Anybody wanting to explore for minerals or do any mining on Aboriginal land must approach the traditional owners through the Land Commission. We want the Government to listen to our word when making laws about our land. We are very angry that some men are turning our word around and saying this is the word of Pastor Albrecht and the Finke River Mission.’ (Signed) by 32 Aboriginal people from a large area of central Australia- Thursday 18 November, 1976.
– I believe that viewed at this particular time when the Aboriginal people had taken it in their own hands to have discussions on this land rights legislation this article is a reasonable record of a meeting that these Aborigines had with a reporter. I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard. It appeared in the Centralian Advocate of Thursday, 4 November 1976.
-Is leave granted?
– Who is the author of it? I only want to find out who is the author so that we can identify the document.
- Senator Kilgariff, would you advise the Senate who is the author of the article. Are you saying it appeared in a newspaper?
– The article was taken from the Centralian Advocate.
– Who wrote the article?
-It was written by a person called -
– Pastor Albrecht.
– I will come to his name later. Honourable senators should realise that this particular person is not a member of the Centralian Advocate. He is a person with some conscience which so many other people whom I will describe later do not have. I have sought leave to incorporate the article in Hansard.
– We cannot grant leave if we cannot identify the document. This is the whole question. I do not want to refuse leave but let it be identified. If it is by an unknown author, then say so.
- Senator Kilgariff, may I suggest to you, to satisfy Senator Cavanagh and to enable the article to be incorporated, you might indicate who is the author of the article.
– The article is by a reporter of the Centralian Advocate.
– Thank you kindly. Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
Centralian Advocate-Thursday 4th November, 1976- Page 2.
A group of Aboriginal elders, traditional ‘owners’ of land in Central Australia, met in Alice Springs late last week and decided on a last-ditch stand to get the Government to change the whole structure of the proposed Aboriginal Land Rights Legislation.
The point they are trying to make is that they already have their own clearly defined ‘ title ‘ to their lands, their own ‘ permit system ‘ and their own machinery for settling disputes.
They want the Government to recognise this system and say that the Lands Council and the Lands Trust are quite unacceptable. Traditionally, they hold land with clearly defined boundaries under the control of Aboriginal landholders or custodians.
Only they could speak about this land- not a conglomerate like the Lands Council- and only they could hold the tide. The elders also gave an assurance they did not want to ‘take over’ cattle stations in the Centre and were quite happy for pastoralists to continue, providing their- the Aborigines- title to the land was recognised.
The meeting in Alice Springs last week, which lasted about 2Vi days, was not the organised kind such as those called to discuss land rights during the past year or so. The background is that twice a year the Lutheran Finke River Mission conducts a church leader’s course and about 30 men come to town for that.
But typically the Aboriginal men talked of their major worries first. They took over the meeting for a discussion of the Land Rights Bill, due to be debated in Parliament this month. They then went back out bush and brought in others directly concerned- traditional owners or custodians of land- and the numbers swelled to about SO.
They seemed a representative group, coming from Alice Springs itself and points north, west and south. Among the places they live are Hermannsburg, Maryvale, Mount Ebenezer, Docker River, Papunya, Napperby, Sterling, Tea Tree, Alcoota and Utopia.
The Aborigines telegrammed the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Viner, and asked him to come to their meeting. Mr Viner replied that he was too busy to get away so the regional officer of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Bob Huey, talked with the elders.
Earlier this year the field superintendent of the Finke River Mission, Pastor Paul Albrecht, and the superintendent at Hermannsburg, Mr Garry Stoll, who both speak Aranda fluently, translated the proposed Bill to various groups of Aborigines.
Paster Albrecht said the Aborigines were shocked that the Bill would not recognise Aboriginal law and asked that he and Mr Stoll bring back a tape recorder and ‘take our words to the Government’.
The result was a translated transcript covering some 200 pages which was submitted to the Government about the middle of this year.
But after last week’s meeting the Aborigines felt their words were not being listened to and they decided to draw up a petition to present to both Houses of Parliament.
The petition says that they are thankful that the Government intends legislation for Aboriginal land rights in the N.T. but points out that Aboriginal people already have their own laws according to which land is owned, defined, administered and controlled. Aboriginal land owning ‘clans’ have always held and still hold their own title to their land.
The petition points out that Aboriginal law does not allow pieces of land held under separate Aboriginal title to be placed into land trusts encompassing more than one piece of traditionally held land.
Also, Aboriginal law did not permit an organisation or body made up of Aborigines from different clans to speak on behalf of, advise of otherwise deal with any traditional landowning group in relation to its land.
The petition asked Parliament to ‘show respect for the laws of Aboriginal people and enact land rights legislation which will allow our traditional land laws to operate unhindered’. The Aborigines, who had spent 2Vi days meeting under a shady tree on the Lutheran mission block, also decided on the unusual step of inviting the Press to their meetings so that everyone should know their feelings.
Sometimes in English and sometimes with Pastor Paul Albrecht translating, the elders explained that is was just not acceptable for the Lands Trust to hold title to their land. Each land-owning group or ‘clan’ had clearly recognised owners and custodians or this land.
Nobody outside these groups could talk about other land- that was the concern of ‘that other lot’.
The Land Council and Land Trust would not work because Aboriginal law did not allow a body of Aborigines made up from different clans to speak for or hold title for any traditional land-owning group.
As an alternative to the proposed set-up under the legislation they wanted the Government to recognise each clan and for the Land Commissioner to issue the title to that land to the owner already recognised in Aboriginal law.
There seemed to be no chairman or recognised spokesman but a number said individually they just wanted the Government to recognise existing Aboriginal law.
If this did not happen Aboriginal authority would be broken down even more and there would be ‘big trouble’ and fights among Aboriginal people.
Asked why they had attended Land Council meetings they said they had come to listen but were reluctant to talk about their land because there were outsiders and unitiated men present.
The elders said that traditional owners, clans and land boundaries were clearly defined through their ‘tjurrunga’ and stories. Although these were ‘all in the head’ they could be put down on paper.
While they expected some royalties from mining or oil drilling the elders said there would be ‘no worries’ about mining or drilling on their land providing an arrangement was made with the traditional land owner.
They would like to be able to go to someone in the Government to make sure they were not cheated but once such an arrangement was made it would have the force of law.
And although all land in the N.T. is ‘owned’ by Aborigines- there is no ‘vacant Crown land’ such as Europeans recognise- they would be quite happy for land to be made available for non-tribal groups, providing an arrangement was made with the traditional owner. The same applied to cattle stations.
Providing they could have a ‘block’ where their most sacred sites were and where they could live and have a garden they were quite happy for the pastoral leaseholder to continue running his cattle.
One elder said: ‘He’s boss of the cattle and the grass- we own the land underneath’.
Now that this apparently representative group of Aborigines has made its stand their only worry is that the Government will not listen before the Bill is pushed through.
As one said: “There is no argument about whose country belongs to who. Only the Bill and the Lands Trust will make that argument’.
– To come to a better understanding of this document, which is available to anyone who wishes to read it, I refer to a summary statement by traditional Aboriginal landowners in relation to the proposed Aboriginal land rights legislation. As I am going to seek leave to have this statement incorporated in Hansard I recommend that people who are interested in pursuing the concept of traditional Aboriginal landowners read this statement. The authors of this summary, which is a translation of Aboriginal language, are Messrs Fargher, Ziersch Stoll, Pfitzner and Albrecht.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
Every group of traditional Aboriginal landowners in Central Australia to whom the Aboriginal Land Rights Bill (Northern Territory) 1976 was verbally translated was surprised and angered to And that it did not meet their expectations. Ever since the Land Rights issue was first raised, not by themselves, but by people from other places, they had taken it for granted that ‘Land Rights’ would mean the recognition by the Government of the existing traditional owners of land in accordance with the traditional Aboriginal system under which particular descent groups of people belong to particular tracts of land. They can understand and appreciate the good intentions of the Government in granting Aborigines title to their land in a way that would be fair to all Aborigines, traditional as well as non-traditional. However, they cannot accept the proposed legislation since it is based on white Australian concepts that do not in any way accord with traditional Aboriginal concepts of land ownership. They can see that the ‘Bdi ‘ could make sense in white Australian terms and that the many safeguards that have been incorporated into it would operate as real safeguards in white Australian society. However, in terms of their own principles of land-ownership, which still operate very strongly, they see the ‘Bill’ as being unfair to traditional land-owners in that they are not given sufficient recognition and do not have their own authority sufficiently acknowledged and protected. In fact, they feel that this proposed legislation would not give back control of their land but would, in effect, take it away from them and give it to somebody else. The Aboriginal organisations that the ‘Bill’ proposes to establish, particularly the Land Trusts and Land Council, are seen as being quite inappropriate and unworkable in traditional Aboriginal terms. They assert that the proposed legislation, if enacted, will produce deep resentment on the part of traditional land-owners, tension and conflict between Aborigines themselves as well as between Aborigines and white Australians. The serious consequences of the abovementioned resentment, tension and conflict can be appreciated more fully when the submissions of the various Aborigines are read.
Some basic principles in relation to traditional land ownership
Traditional land ownership in Central Australia cannot be understood except in relation to principles of kinship on the one hand and tjuminga on the other. The most important kin grouping in relation to land ownership is the patrilineal descent group, made up of people descended from a common male ancestor through the male line. Each patrilineal descent group belong to a particular tract of land and its members are called the Pmarakutwia (people belonging to the land, the land owners) for that particular area of land. A clearly defined system of leadership, and one recognised leader, exist within each of these groups. The female descendants from the male line are part of the patrilineal landowning group, but only the fully initiated males are taught the secret knowledge relating to the land and its tjurunga. The children from the females in the group belong to different land-owning groups, following descent through their respective male lines However, male descendants from women belonging to the land-owning group are Kutungula (custodians or managers of the tjurrunga and so also the land) for that group. People have links with other tracts of land through other descent lines (e.g. mother’s mother or father’s mother), but it is only in relation to father’s, and father’s father’s country, that traditional ownership rightly exists.
Inextricably linked with each particular tract of land are particular tjurrunga in such a way that ownership of the tjurunga necessarily means ownership of the land, and vice versa. The tjurrunga are not merely the sacred objects but are also, more importantly, the sites, myths, songs, designs and ceremonies connected with particular totemic ancestors whose travellings, actions, and places of abode are related in the myths and song-cycles. The travel routes followed by the totemic ancestors and recorded in the tjurrunga pass through successive tracts of land owned by various distinct landowning groups. The points at which the tjurrunga pass from one tract of country to another are recorded in the tjurrunga as pmirra arrkngirta (boundary points), and in this way the areas of land are defined. The songs, myths and ceremonies within these areas are the exclusive property of the people of that land.
Aborigines assert that the principles applying to land and tjurrunga ownership are fundamental to Aboriginal ‘law’ and are rigorously adhered to still today. The penalties for infringements in relation to land and tjurrunga are very severe, including the death penalty. Only actual landowners, together with their Kutungula (custodians or managers) are regarded as having legitimate authority and control in relation to their particular tract of land and the tjurrunga associated with it. Any failure to acknowledge this authority, or any attempt to supplant it, is regarded as a serious offence, and if persisted in can become a capital offence.
Implications in relation to the proposed legislation
Aboriginal land-owners already possess ‘title’ to their land, in traditional terms, through the joint principles of descent and tjurrunga. This ‘title’ can be held only by the Pmarakutwia (actual land-owners), together with their Kutungula (custodians or managers), and cannot possibly be held, even on their behalf, by anyone else. It is for this reason that the concept of a Land Trust holding title to land on behalf of a land-owning group is regarded as being impossible in traditional terms. It is also highly dangerous, since this is seen as a major infringement of the traditional land-owner’s rights, possibly resulting in the application of the death penalty.
For similar reasons the concept of a Land Council is completely unacceptable. Nobody but the Pmarakutwia (actual land-owner), together with his Kutungula (custodian or manager) can legitimately speak for himself and his group about matters relating to his land. The non-recognition or bypassing of the sole authority of the actual land-owners in these matters is again regarded as a very serious infringement of Aboriginal ‘law’.
Another major aspect of the ‘Bill’ which has created resentment amongst traditional landowners is the provisions relating to mining on Aboriginal land. It is regarded as quite wrong that anyone other than the actual landowners negotiate possible mining operations on their land. This section of the ‘ Bill ‘ has particular significance to traditional Aborigines because they see the minerals as having been deposited by the tjurrunga. They, therefore, consider that a fair proportion of royalties should be paid directly to the landowning group. Within these groups, strong principles exist for the proper distribution of any monies received. They consider that, according to the proposed legislation, actual landowners are not necessarily assured of receiving any part of the royalties.
The Aborigines consider that the only proper Land Rights legislation will be legislation that recognises the principles of traditional Aboriginal land ownership and the absolute claim of traditional land-owning groups to hold ‘title’ to their own land and to exercise control over it. They do not want other Aborigines holding title to their land on their behalf, nor do they want other Aborigines speaking and negotiating in relation to their land on their behalf. They want to hold the title to their own land ‘in their own hands’. They wish to speak for themselves directly with the Government and negotiate on their own behalf in matters relating to their land.
Traditional Aborigines are aware that they, being bound by Aboriginal ‘law’, are in a different position from nontraditional Aborigines who are not bound by this ‘law’. They consider that any Land Rights legislation will have to make special provision for both the traditional and non-traditional Aborigines if each group is to feel that their expectations have been satisfactorily met.
There are a number of reasons why traditional Aborigines have not made their voice heard on these matters before now. Their expectation was that Land Rights would be given in traditional Aboriginal terms. They saw the meetings of the Central Land Council as the white man’s way of handling some of the European legal aspects, and for this reason they attended these meetings in order to listen rather than to speak. In any case, it was almost impossible for them to speak about their land in any depth at these meetings because of the presence of uninitiated Aborigines and strangers from other areas.
The present submissions that they are making are a desperate last effort by them to prevent the enactment of a law which they consider will cause serious trouble and resentment and which cannot satisfy them. Instead, they feel that they will have been robbed of their land and left naked ‘. Their references to the application of the death penalty indicate how seriously they view this matter. They do not like or want to see people die. On the contrary, they are deeply concerned that Aborigines should be able to live in peace and harmony with each other and also with white people. It is because they see the proposed ‘Bill’ as sanctioning infringements of fundamental principles of Aboriginal law’ and thereby threatening the peace and harmony which this ‘law’ maintains, that they are so strongly opposed to the proposed legislation.
– Around this time some defamatory and vilifying statements were made about this person who has spent all his life amongst the Aboriginal people, although he is there merely to serve. Perhaps it was brought about by the intense jealousy of some people. Perhaps there are other reasons. He was attacked by people who were, I would suggest, afraid of the truth that he put forward on behalf of the Aboriginal people. Honourable senators will remember that in October on behalf of this person I circulated to members of both Houses this particular statement which is signed by him and which answers in full the criticisms which have been made. I am also going to seek leave to have this document incorporated. Perhaps I could read the last paragraph in which he says:
To reiterate, it seems strange to me that all of the criticisms relating to the Aboriginal transcripts have been directed at those involved in facilitating the submissions, and little or no attention has been paid to the content of these submissions and the principles they enunciate.
I seek leave to incorporate this statement in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
– Is that from Pastor Albrecht?
– I have identified it It seems strange to me that Senator Cavanagh did not hear me when I clearly indicated that the author was Rev. Paul Albrecht, a most distinguished and conscientious man in the Northern Territory.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
The following statement is an attempt to clarify some widely publicised misconceptions regarding the origin and intention of submissions made to the Government by various Aboriginals regarding the Aboriginal Land Rights Bill, N.T. 1976. 1 refer to submissions recorded at the following places on the dates shown:
Kwatjinmara Outstation 1 8th-26th June, 1976; Hermannsburg 29th June, 1976; Ilpirlalknarintja Outstation, 30th June and 1st July, 1976; Eight Mile Outstauon 6th July, 1976; Gilbert Springs Outstation, 7th July, 1976; Alknarintia Outstation, 8th July, 1976; Wallace’s Rockhole Outstation 12th July, 1976; Kwala Outstation 14th July, 1976; Haasts Bluff 15th and 16th July, 1976; and Papunya 17th July, 1976; also transcripts of conversations which centre around the concept of Land Trusts and Land Councils between Pastor P.G.E. Albrecht and various Aboriginals recorded at Aningee, Alcoota, TiTree, Neutral Junction, Stirling, McDonald Downs, Utopia and Amaroo Stations.
Criticism has centred on the persons involved in recording and translating these submissions and conversation which has had the effect of distracting attention away from what these Aboriginal men have to say. The additional information is given because various individuals and organisations have made written evaluations and appraisals of the transcripts primarily for the enlightenment of the Government but at the same time giving them wider general circulation. To the best of our knowledge these evaluations have been made without any attempt to communicate with the Aboriginals who made the statements. The insinuation that the transcripts are submissions of the Finke River Mission are quite false. Of the Aboriginals involved in making submissions, quite a number have seen the criticisms and they have found it almost impossible to believe anyone could generate such ideas with any pretence of honesty.
In order that these evaluations and criticisms can be fairly assessed it seems pertinent to briefly outline the roles played by the Europeans and their motives for doing so. In the Hermannsburg area the Europeans concerned felt that they had a responsibility to ensure that the Aboriginal people were informed of the content of the Land Rights Bill and therefore decided to verbally translate it from cover to cover. This was subsequently also done at Haasts Bluff and Papunya after receiving requests from certain Aboriginal men resident at these places. At the end of the first day of translating, the Aboriginal men present requested the Europeans to bring a tape recorder the following day as they wanted to send word to the Government. This was agreed to, as was the further request to translate and write up the material. The same request was subsequently made by nine other groups. Apart from the initial decision made that the Bdi should be translated from cover to cover, the role played by the Europeans was determined by the Aboriginals themselves. They directed them to tape their statements, not to edit them when translating and then to send them to the Government as their submissions. The locations at which the Bill was translated and the people present at each place was also determined by them. All the translations were read back to the people concerned for possible correction and were signed by them before being forwarded to the Government. The purpose of the summary statement and marginal comments was to facilitate a quick reference system for very busy politicians. That these should have become the main target for criticism at the expense of serious note being taken of the contents of the submissions by Aboriginals is most unfortunate.
The statements were made by the various Aboriginals in different places, at different times and generally without any knowledge of what other Aboriginals had said. The validity and the genuineness of what these various men are saying is, I believe, indicated by the consistency and correlation that is readily apparent throughout these submissions.
Their responses are not a step by step western style analysis of the Bill as some people seem to have expected as being the only legitimate response. Their responses were, in my opinion, not negative, as some of the critics have suggested, but were intended to be helpful and positive. Then- statements are clear, articulate and extremely pertinent to any proposed legislation. The promise of Land Rights to them automatically means the recognition of the Aboriginal, social, legal, political and religious system that belongs to the land. They were confident that the basis of the Bill with the proposition of Laid Trusts and Land Councils could only have stemmed from a lack of knowledge on the part of the Government as to how the Aboriginal system works. Consequently they responded logically and coherently by explaining their social and legal system. Where the social and legal basis in Aboriginal terms was in conflict with the legal basis provided in the Bill, the added legal provisions and safeguards became meaningless since the basis is considered unworkable. Hence certain basic principles are stated over and over again. The separateness of Aboriginal descent groups, the principles of land ownership and management together with the penalties for infringement are given as the underlying reasons why Land Trusts and Land Councils made up of different Aboriginals will be an instrument of tension that places Aboriginals in serious conflict with other Aboriginals and also with white society generally.
To reiterate, it seems strange to me that all of the criticisms relating to the Aboriginal transcripts have been directed at those involved in facilitating the submissions and little or no attention has been paid to the content of these submissions and the principles they enunciate.
(for) P.G.E. Albrecht (Rev.)
– I follow that statement with a further letter. As I have not sufficient time to read these statements I wish to incorporate them because I think it is necessary that the air be cleared in relation to this matter. I refer to a letter written on 2 1 November 1 976 by Professor T. G. H. Strehlow. Professor Strehlow is a man who has served for more than 60 years with the Aboriginals in Australia and particularly in the. Northern Territory. I would say that he is ohe of the most experienced men in Aboriginal matters now, in clan ownership, in understanding the traditions of Aborigines and so on. Yet unfortunately these days it is evidently not the thing to do to look at these old men who have spent their lives with the Aboriginal people. It seems to me that the trend these days is to go for what we might call the trendies. The trendies’ are the people who have arrived on the scene in the last four or five years. I wonder at times why these trendies have arrived in the last four or five years.
Perhaps I am a little cynical but in my mind I associate them with the fact that over the last few years some $ 100m a year has been spent on Aboriginal people. I will qualify my remarks to some degree. I do not include everyone in that statement because there are very many genuine people who have in the last four or five years worked and are still working with Aboriginal people. They are dedicated people. But I suggest that there are some people who are on the bandwagon. I seek leave to incorporate this letter in Hansard?
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
The CENTRALIAN ADVOCATE of 1 1 . 1 1 .76 carries two fantastic statements by Lawyer Eames and Native Affairs Assistant Director Huey on a meeting of ‘tribal’ elders recently held in Alice Springs. The following historical account (based on more than sixty years of close association with the Central Australian tribes) may help to set matters in their true perspective. Mr Winton (NOT Wenton) Rubuntja is a third generation Unmatjera man, flinging his weight about in the ancient Eastern Arandanjinanga section area of Alice Springs, probably egged on by white ‘soolers’. His father’s father, Ntungantuarinja, came- somewhere around 1 873- to the newly-established Telegraph Station as a young married man, without local permission, and was killed by the enraged locals when his son, Bob Rubuntja, was still a ‘baby in a pitchi’. A man called Kabilia from Jessie Gap later married the widow, and thus became the foster father of Bob Rubuntja, whose totemic ‘land rights’ (as his name showed) were confined to Mt Hay in the Hamilton Downs area.
Mr Bob Rubuntja, a man of great knowledge of ‘other men’s traditions’ (but not of his own) kept on being regarded as an ‘interloper’ the real Alice Springs tribal elders, and as accused by Line Party Bob Kukatja and others in 1955 of having removed the last Alice Springs sacred objects from their caves and handed them to Native Affairs departmental officers without the consent of their real owners. Mr Winton Rubuntja, one of Bob Rubuntja ‘s sons, was never inducted into the secret knowledge of his father’s or grandfather’s areas: in 1955 and 1960 he kept away from all ceremonial gatherings and openly expressed his sophisticated ‘white’ contempt of the stupid beliefs of his black forefathers. He has now become, somewhat curiously, the black spokesman’ for the apparently Eames-inspired and Hueyblest Central Land Council, which- as the Eames land rights claims presented before Mr Justice Ward in November, 1975 showed- is keen to win support from Walbiri and Pitjantara groups by handing over to them large slabs of the ancient Eastern Aranda Alice Springs land, while the few real descendants of those Aranda folk who had lived in this area for probably hundreds or even thousands of years and who are probably largely unaware of their undoubted traditional claims to this soil are to be left without any land rights or compensation whatever. Little wonder that the Central Land Council and Lawyer Eames have the support of recent Walbiri and Pitjantjara newcomers into these ancient Aranda lands!
The attempts made by Messrs Eames and Huey to excuse this blatant piece of proposed tribal robbery by denigrating Pastor Paul Albrecht and the well-informed black Hermannsburg elders I find despicable. The setting up of a Central Lands Council will benefit mainly white lawyers and administrators, and seems to have wide-spread ‘white’ support among Federal politicians: the real black land owners will be denied their full traditional ownership rights.
What reputable anthropologist would back such a major crime against the real heirs to this Aranda region I find impossible to imagine, though I have my suspicions. Ignorance’ would probably be too kind a term for this sort of ‘anthropological misbehaviour .
Professor T. G. H. Strehlow, 30 Da Costa Avenue, PROSPECT. S. AUST. 5082 2 1st November, 1976.
– I suggest that this letter by such an authority as Professor Strehlow is of value to everyone in the Senate and particularly the committee that we have forecast is to be formed. A few weeks ago I presented a petition in the Senate. The petition is self-explanatory. It is signed by many traditional land owners in the southern part of the Territory. Anyone wanting to quarrel with these particular statements should look at the names of the people who have signed this petition. I think it would be fair to say that I have known most of them all my life. They are fine Aboriginal people.One could go further and say that not only are they fine but also, in the sense of Aboriginal culture, they are refined.
The situation is that under this Bill the title of the land will be in the hands of the Aborigines. It has been mentioned by Woodward and by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner)- this is what I believe-that land should be vested directly in the traditional owners. As I have said, that was an undertaking of Woodward. Honourable senators will remember that in his second reading speech the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs endorsed that principle but claimed considerable legal and practical difficulties in its application. The major difficulties were seen as devising a mechanism for declaring inalienable Aboriginal land, the nature of the title to be granted, and determination of the traditional owners and the boundaries of their area.
In an endeavour to overcome those difficulties, white man’s institutions and procedures have been suggested in the form of land trusts and land councils. Traditional Aboriginals do not themselves recognise these difficulties. In thensociety the traditional owners and those persons who are part of the local descent group, the land owning group, who can hold the land as trustees and can speak for the group, are strictly determined. For them, institutions such as land trusts and land councils are foreign and irrelevant and, insofar as they claim to represent and speak for traditional owners, quite repugnant. I use the expression ‘quite repugnant’ because the concept of land councils is foreign to Aboriginal law. No person can speak for another man’s land, and the owner of a particular piece of land cannot speak for any other person’s land. There is a clear line of ownership in Aboriginal law which far outlives and outreaches our laws. Their culture has lasted thousands of years.
The situation is such that if we want the legislation that we pass to work, we must honestly recognise the land-owning Aboriginals, the traditional land owners. That concept has brought about a lot of confusion. I think that a lot of emotion has been generated in the Northern Territory over that matter. I commend the previous Government and the present Government for the action that they have taken, but misunderstandings have arisen. If you go to an Aboriginal person and say ‘You are being given back the land that you have always held and which you recognise as your own. You are going to be given land rights’, to that Aboriginal person that means that he is being recognised for the future as the owner of the land for which he is the representative in that land-holding clan and which has been handed down from his father, his uncle, or whoever. Of course, that really is not the case, because the proposal under the legislation is to set up land councils and land trusts, and the land will be vested in the land trusts. As I said before, I am not against the principle of land trusts, providing that they recognise the landowning clans and that the land owner is the land trust.
Time is getting on, and I wanted to say much more on that point. However, I must now refer to some other matters.
– You are supporting the Bill, are you?
– I am supporting the Bill. While I agree with land rights for Aboriginals, what I am doing and what I have to do- I have said before in other places that I was going to do this- is endeavour to clear up the misunderstanding which exists in relation to the traditional land owner and in relation to the way in which we grant Aboriginal people land rights in a paternal way by imposing upon them this foreign concept. It would be wrong if I did not do that.
There are other parts of the Bill with which I agree. However, as I have said before, I must speak up on the principle of properly recognising the traditional land owner. Whenever I have spoken on this matter I have been insistent that if we are going to establish land trusts and land councils we have to ensure that those bodies are the servants of the traditional land owner. I think that is one of the better points contained in the legislation, namely, that there has been a tightening up as best we can achieve in legislation. We nave to ensure that the land councils cannot act without the authority of the traditional owner.
I wish to have incorporated in Hansard a paper written by Mark de Graaf, who is a senior lecturer in anthropology and is head of the Department of General Studies at the Alice Springs Community College. The document comprises notes on the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill 1976. It is an extremely interesting document. During the last 20 years this person has spent much time living with the Aboriginal people in areas as far west as the Western Australian border. I recommend that honourable senators read what he has written. I seek leave to incorporate that document in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
(Submission to the Senate)
Mark de Graaf B.A. (Anthr.) (W.A.), MACE., F.R.G5.
Senior Lecturer in Anthropology Head of Department of General Studies
The comments I make below about traditional Aboriginal concepts of land ownership are based on a long-standing and close association 1 have had with Aboriginal people of the Western Desert of Australia. This association commenced in 1957 and has been maintained by regular visits to communities and smaller groups and field trips ever since.
The Western Desert in anthropological terms is roughly the area of unsettled desert country between and ranging into the station cmjjv,- nf the Pilbara and the Goldfields in Western Australia and the cattle country of the Northern Territory, bounded in the north by the Kimberley cattle country and in the south by the Bight. The linguistic groups I have worked with are among others: Mantjiltjara, Putitjara, Wanman, Kiyawangka, Katutjara, Ngatatjara, Wmampa Pintupi, Ngarti, Wangka Tjungu, Walmatiri, Mangala, Kukata (Luritja), Nangatatara, Kuwarawangka and Yankuntjara.
The communities where speakers of these languages reside and which I have visited regularly are among others at Mount Davies, Musgrave Park, Ernabella in South Australia, at Warburton, Giles, Jingalong, Balgo, Wiluna, Leonora and Laverton in Western Australia and at Docker
River, Papunya, Haasts ‘s Bluff, Brown’s Bore, Waruwiya Bore, Yayai in the Northern Territory as well as numerous pastoral stations. Although many of these communities are outside the Northern Territory, anthropologically there are only minor differences between say the territorial concepts espoused by the Mantjiltjara at Wiluna in W.A. and the Pintupi at Yayai in the N.T., who were traditionally neighbours!
My research work over the past twenty years has been concerned mainly with the mapping of the Gibson and Great Sandy Deserts in anthropological, that is, Aboriginal terms. Initially commenced as a hobby and at one time supported by the Australian Institute for Aboriginal Studies, but largely self-funded throughout the years, the project has yielded gradually a detailed picture of the desert people in W.A. and the N.T., allowing accurate mapping of local group and linguistic boundaries, the approximate or accurate position of thousands of waters and sites and localities. This framework, where complete, allows the accurate plotting of the various paths made by the dreamtime ancestors of the Aboriginal people, the plotting of individual and group movements in a historical perspective and from the point of view of the mechanics of nomadic exploitation of the country. In this regard the study is unique in Australia, both in its intent and magnitude. It is a life-long project.
I believe that my appointment as Lecturer in Anthropology at the Darwin Community College and my later promotion to Senior Lecturer in that subject and Head of the relevant College Department was based largely on this practical field experience. The exploratory work undertaken was recognised by the Royal Geographical Society (England) when I was elected to the Society as a Fellow.
It has been found necessary to spend up to several months of every year in the field to continue to make progress with the project. Fieldtrips are made with a convoy of vehicles, sometimes a single vehicle, accompanied by Aboriginal men. Most of the trips involve long sections, arduous cross-country driving, often at speeds of less than 5 mph, at times for periods of up to several weeks. Fuel and water depots are established ahead and sometimes an aerial reconnaissance is made of the proposed traverse.
My work is not well-known in anthropological circles for a number of reasons. I do not have the urge to ‘publish or perish’. The realisation that the time will come soon that some of the information I am seeking will no longer be available and in some cases is already lost forever has made me concentrate on the gathering rather than the publishing of material. The intimate knowledge of the desert gained in some 45 desert trips has enabled me to assist many people and official bodies.
One of the more well-known undertakings was the NorthSouth Expedition, conducted during the summer of 1971-72, when my party of five vehicles travelled from Wyndham in the Kimberleys to the Bight. This project was sponsored by State and Commonwealth governments; for instance, the party was accompanied by a Special Air Services radio vehicle with three operators.
It follows from the above that the relationship between the Aboriginal and the land would figure prominently and constantly in my dealings with Aboriginal people. No trip is made without Aboriginal participants, mainly because they tend to be without real value. The approach used to obtain Aboriginal participation is of interest here.
The proposal for a trip for the purpose of mapping an area of traditional Aboriginal land is usually discussed with the group thought to be closest associated with the area. After initial approval has been obtained, the proposal is left with the Aboriginal people to think about. It is discussed again on future occasions, sometimes over a span of many months, in a few cases more than a year. When final arrangements are made, the Aboriginal group involved with the area to be visited AND the area to be traversed on the way are then consulted on who should accompany the expedition, assuming that the project has Aboriginal approval.
The following basic considerations are listed as being relevant to the current Landrights Bill. They are offered here for the purpose of clarification. As a ‘swinging’ voter, I hope the information is not seen as politically biased. I am trying to present anthropological evidence as I see it It is provided here in the hope that it agrees with the concepts of land ownership as espoused by the Aboriginal people I have worked with. I do not consider myself to be an expert, nor do I believe any non-Aboriginal person to be an expert in these matters. I would claim to know about this more than some and I hope to represent what I believe to be the Aboriginal concepts m good faith.
The information presented may not entirely agree with that provided by some anthropologists. The approach, duration, depth and aims of anthropological studies varies greatly. Obviously, differences must emerge whether one gathers material on questions to do with the land by interviewing Aboriginal people say on the back verandah of a settlement house or by actually travelling through that same person ‘s country day after day.
The information applies to the areas South, Southwest, West and Northwest of Alice Springs and into W.A. and to a lesser degree to other parts of the N.T., with the exception of the ‘Top End’. It does not apply to other than the traditionally orientated communities or individuals.
For simplicity’s sake, Aboriginal terms have been avoided where possible.
These ‘families’ usually consist of a senior male, his wife or wives and their children, sometimes and temporarily accompanied by visiting ‘relatives’. The landowning group may be composed of several families. The senior males are usually ‘brothers’ (actual or classificatory), that is men having the same section or sub-section affiliation. The authority of the senior male in each ‘ family ‘ is reckoned by the order of their birth, the first-born is ‘number one’ (in authority) and so on. This hierarchy in the authority is known by the communities generally, enabling the Aboriginal to pinpoint the right man to approach when dealing with matters relating to the land. (In a recent ABC program in the Peach’s Australia series on Central Australia, an elderly Yankuntjara man, owner of Ayers Rock, who was called ‘number one’ told Bill Peach the story of the Wallaby dreamtime ancestor as it related to Ayers Rock, while another man, ‘number two’ translated it into English. The roles could not have been reversed, except in the absence of number one and then only with his expressed approval.)
The senior male can delegate his authority in some ways, e.g., he may consent to a younger man accompanying a white group to visit his country. He would rarely if ever do this in the case of an Aboriginal group visiting his country and this would perhaps not have occurred at all in traditional times. The ‘ boss ‘ must be there.
I believe we should realise by now that the imposition of foreign cultural concepts does not work and tends to create artificial power bases for the opportunist.
It is true that major areas of the N.T. (and later on the adjoining portions of the other States) would have to be surveyed in much the same way as I have surveyed major portions of the Western Desert An early on-going program to this end would certainly be a prudent move, providing it utilised the services of people who had the knowledge, the empathy and the communication skills to carry out such a task. I am convinced the Aboriginal people would not hesitate to co-operate. Their enthusiasm in my work confirms this.
It would be necessary to extend the current freeze on the allocation of unalienated crown land to allow the area to be mapped and the traditional owners approached in a way which left no question as to what the future developments would be if no claim was made by them.
The logistic disadvantages of taking into account Aboriginal reality is surely not a good enough reason to go ahead with legislation that could be suspect.
The fear of political problems associated with deferred legislation also should not be used as an argument to hurry through inadequate or faulty legislation.
Recent statements on what alcoholism is doing to the Aboriginal people are related to the land issue. The tie to the land and all it stands for provides the traditionally orientated Aboriginal with his identity, his religion, his on-going spiritual well-being. I believe that many Aboriginals are unaware of the present trends in the debate and that those who have some knowledge or awareness are confused or only partly informed. I am not saying that people have gone out of their way to create this situation. What I do say is that I believe that a new full round of consultations at the local landowning group level is necessary, without political or vested interests impinging, to build up bit by bit a real understanding on the part of the traditional Aboriginal landowner and at the same time to give our legislators a clearer view of the issues. It would be helped if the matter became a nonpolitical issue in which every politician would eventually vote according to his conscience, given that the question is not whether landrights should be given but how.
Unless a new attack is made on the whole issue, I fear that there will be new tensions and frictions, new problems eventually hastening the breakdown of traditional Aboriginal society to a point where it has no more viability. The magnitude of the problems ahead is too calamitous to contemplate.
a re-drafting of the Bill based on the above;
to explain and test the various concepts of the new legislauon before introducing the new legislation to Parliament.
N.B. The quality of consultation and surveying would entirely depend on the kind of people charged with the responsibility to carry out this task.
-I now turn to the much maligned situation in the Northern Territory. I refer to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, of which I was a member for some 16 years. I suppose I have got more qualifications than anyone else in this place to speak of what has happened in the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly during the last 16 years. Firstly, I wish to incorporate in Hansard a document entitled ‘The History of Aboriginal Land (NT) Legislation and Policy and the LiberalCountry Party Government’ written by the Northern Territory Majority Leader, G. A. Letts. That document outlines the history of Aboriginal legislation in the Northern Territory, which commenced many years ago. That history commenced in August 1964 when the Northern Territory Legislative Council appointed a sessional committee on Aboriginal integration. In May 1965 the Committee recommended legislation in regard to land tenure on Aboriginal reserves. I suggest that this was the first move in Australia towards the commencement of recognition that Aboriginal people should own land. I seek leave to have that document incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The Liberal-Country Party, in opposition, indicated support for the report ‘ in principle ‘.
A new joint party policy on Aboriginal Affairs was drawn up. Nowhere does it say that Aboriginal land legislation would be made only in the Federal Parliament.
Visiting Ministers and our candidate gave public assurances to the electorate that adequate opportunity for consultation with us would be given before decisions on legislation were taken.
Our protests to him on these points were clearly made.
We had no opportunity to put a contrasting point of view before the announcements. We had no prior knowledge that the Government had in fact taken a firm and final view on the matter. When was the policy- that there was no place for the N.T. legislature to be involved in this land legislationmade, and why was it not communicated to us?
The question here is one of mutual confidence and trust. Without these elements party politics have no advantage or merit.
Unless there is a place for the N.T. to be involved in making its Aboriginal land legislation, as it has in the past, I feel that there is no place for me in future association with the Liberal and Country Parties.
My position on this point is not negotiable. I have lived and worked for Territory advancement with Aborigines, in general, and politically for too long to accept any other position.
Respectfully, GOFF LETTS, M.L.A. Majority Leader, N.T. Legislative Assembly
I refer very briefly to a document entitled Northern Territory of Australia: Legislative Council- First, Second, Third and Fourth Reports of the Sessional Committee on Integration ‘. I think it was formed in 1 964. 1 was the first chairman and Mr Fred W. Drysdale who was a member of the Labor Party was deputy chairman. He was a fine person who gave much for the Aboriginal people. This particular document is available for those who wish to read it. I should like to read a couple of the clauses in the report to honourable senators. Clause 19 on page 14 reads:
The opinion has been expressed to your Committee that some of the difficulty experienced in the integration of the Aboriginal arises from the loss of dominion over land. His being dispossessed of land is one of the reasons why he has lost his own organization and discipline. The authority and discipline of the group, formerly enforced by the sanction of denying the enjoyment of the fruits of particular land, is forbidden by our law and many of the methods and practices formerly used for the purpose of enforcement now are so contrary to law as to warrant punishment. On the other hand the European law is not well adapted to his society and, in his eyes, is inadequate because it prohibits things which he regards as lawful but tolerates situations which to him are anathema.
Clause 20 reads:
It may be retrogressive to speak of giving back to the Aboriginal communities some of the authority which they have lost, for, generally, the aim must be to have them accept the standards and authorities consistent with the European communities . . .
So the report goes on. I suggest that the first piece of legislation in Australia regarding Aboriginal land rights was produced by a private member of the Northern Territory Legislative Council, Mr Ron Withnall. It lay on the table of that House for a considerable time. It was hoped that authority would pick it up. Eventually it was picked up, as is outlined in that history. It was picked up by the Liberal-Country Party Government before Labor came to power. That Government initiated this method of granting land on reserves to individuals and groups.
– I am afraid I do not know how many hectares were involved because, like many others, I am not particularly acquainted with the metric system. I have never really had the time to work out the area of this particular cattle lease which I am going to visit next Friday week and which is called Pepar Manarti
-How many square miles?
– It comprises about 800 to 1000 square miles. This particular group was granted land under this Northern Territory legislative ordinance. I checked the other day and there are 100 children there so one presumes that the population must be about 200 people. They are living off this cattle lease and are branding cattle. It is a viable concern. I am very proud to be one of those people who played a part in granting those Aborigines this lease of land way back before such a system was considered anywhere else in Australia. But then what happened? We hear tonight how great the Labor Party has been in promoting land rights for the Aboriginal people. What it actually did in the Northern Territory was to freeze land rights for the Aboriginal people. Some 65 leases from household to business leases were granted. At
Maningrida I think there were two or three leases of different sizes. But the previous Prime Minister came in and froze the whole scheme. He cancelled it by administrative order. There were many more applications in front of the Aboriginal Lands Board. If the system had not been frozen those people would have been given their land. Since then there has been this move to bring Woodward into the matter. I have certainly no complaint about that. I am merely illustrating that those honourable senators on the other side of the chamber should not get this grandiose idea that they are the only people who have initiated Aboriginal land rights in Australia. Far from it. It was the previous Liberal-Country Party Government that initiated such measures. From there the scheme could have been developed as we intended to develop it, but the Labor Party saw fit not to do so.
– It got power and it did something.
– What it actually did was to freeze land rights in the Northern Territory. There are some other matters that I wish to speak about in the Committee stage so I shall bring my remarks on the second reading of the Bill to a close. First of all, however, I wish to deal to some degree with the complementary legislation that is to be enacted by the Northern Territory. I should like to refute some of the suggestions that have been made here tonight. There has been whingeing and this knocking of the people on the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. There are people who come from all walks of life in the Northern Territory.
– In the Country Party.
-Admittedly this is so because there are 19 members of the Legislative Assembly, 17 of whom are from the Country Liberal Party and 2 of whom are independents. There has not been a Labor member for a long time. I suppose this is the reason why honourable senators opposite are knocking the Legislative Assembly. They cannot take it. The fact that there are 1 7 electorates in the Northern Territory and the Labor Party cannot get one of them riles honourable senators opposite; it makes them sore. So what do they do? They knock the Legislative Assembly in a petty way. Let us turn to another matter, this business of sacred sites. I do not wish to speak on it for too long. I outlined the situation completely in speaking on the Heritage Commission legislation when I pointed out that for the first time in Australia legislation was introduced into the Legislative Council to deal with the protection of historic sites, sacred spots and objects.
– You did not do much about Comalco. You let Comalco walk over you until Senator Keeffe ‘s Committee moved in. Then you got action.
– The honourable senator does not know what he is talking about. In fact I sometimes wonder whether honourable senators opposite can read.
– Why do you not sell your motel interests? That is all you are interested in. You have a vested interest in keeping a poor working class in the Territory. You want to keep them on under award rates for your motel.
- Mr President, as I was saying before that bit of thunder, legislation in regard to sacred sites, objects and so on was enacted from a private member’s Bill. It was the first legislation of its type in Australia. The Northern Territory Legislative Assembly- it was called the Legislative Council in those days- had the ability to pass only a Northern Territory ordinance. As I indicated in the debate on the Australian Heritage Commission Amendment Bill, this power was then handed over to the federal sphere for administration.
– That is a very important point.
– As the honourable senator says, that is an important point. The Legislative Council had the ability to pass an ordinance but it did not have the ability to take executive action. I wonder why the honourable senators on the other side of the House who are being critical about what the Legislative Council did, did not, as senators in the Federal Parliament with some power over Federal departments, see that within the Federal sphere action was taken to do this.
As I have indicated before, we should not judge the success of protecting Aboriginal sacred sites by the number of sites that are gazetted. The Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory have sites which, under their law, they are unable to declare. This is a problem which we have to face in the future. I should like to correct one matter in relation to the permit system. Several years ago legislation was passed by the Legislative Council which made it necessary for nonAboriginal people to have permits to go onto Aboriginal reserves. The permit system has worked extremely well but at one stage it was under threat by the Labor Party in the Northern Territory Legislative Council which endeavoured to have the system removed so that people could go onto Aboriginal reserves without any restriction. I suggest that in future if members of the Labor Party wish to make rash statements they should at least examine history.
– I seek leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave- I am indebted to Senator Ryan for permitting me the time to make this statement. We are anxious that it should coincide with a similar statement which is being made in the House of Representatives.
The Government has reviewed the tariff structure consequent upon devaluation of the Australian dollar. As a result of this review, the Government re-affirms that there will not be any general or across the board reduction in tariffs. It has, however, decided upon action in selected areas either to remove temporary assistance or to reduce tariff levels where such reductions will not have adverse effects on local industry. In reaching these decisions the Government has had in mind the difficult competitive position of Australian industry which has developed in recent years due to a combination of escalating domestic costs, exchange rate variations and some illconsidered indiscriminate tariff reductions.
In determining the changes I am about to outline the Government has been particularly concerned to ensure that any undue inflationary effects from the tariff arising from devaluation are eliminated without adversely affecting the improved competitive position attained by Australian industry in consequence of the devaluation. Whilst for the reasons explained in this statement the Government has decided against general tariff adjustments the specific decisions taken and which I shall detail shortly affect approximately $2000m worth of Australia’s imports and will make a significant contribution towards moderating import price increases following devaluation.
As honourable senators will be aware, there were massive increases in wage levels in Australia in 1974 and early 1975 relative to increases in wages taking place in our major trading partners, and in particular the United
States and West Germany. These increases have had the effect of significantly reducing the competitive position of Austraiian industry. By way of illustration, in the last 6 years wages in Australia’s manufacturing industry increased by 130 per cent compared with 53 per cent in the United States and 70 per cent in West Germany.
In addition to the increases in wage levels in Australia compared to those occurring with our trading partners, since December 1 97 1 the value of the Australian dollar had, prior to devaluation, increased relative to that of the United States dollar, notwithstanding the devaluation by the Labor Government of 12 per cent in September 1974. Further, since December 1972 there has also been the 25 per cent across the board tariff cut of July 1973 and a number of other tariff reductions of considerable importance to particular industries. Taken together all these factors have resulted in a very considerable erosion in the competitive position of manufacturing industry since December 1972.
According to estimates made by the Industries Assistance Commission 1975-76 annual report, the general competitiveness of the Australian import competing sector, which essentially means manufacturing industry- as indicated by movements in a combined index of changes in Australia’s exchange rate, the inflation rate in Australia compared with that in other countries, and reductions in tariff protection and other assistance- declined by 17 per cent between 1970-71 and 1975-76. The reduction in competitiveness has had a major effect on employment in manufacturing industry which fell by almost 100 000 between May 1974 and the end of June 1 976. This reduction has been compounded by the tendency of some sections of Australian manufacturing industry to move off-shore in order to minimise the cost disadvantages involved in local manufacture. Only when viewed against these figures and developments can the notional increase in protection resulting from the recent devaluation of the Australian dollar be seen in its true perspective.
The Government is therefore firmly of the view that any attempt to fully offset the effect of devaluation in improving the competitive position of manufacturing industry by a general compensatory tariff cut would be unwise and very costly to industry confidence. In addition such an approach is not appropriate to a situation where the exchange rate is being administered on a flexible basis. The Australian dollar has already moved upwards since the new exchange rate arrangements were introduced.
Whilst the protective consequences of a partial compensatory tariff cut would be less severe, it would nonetheless introduce an element of great uncertainty at a time when industry confidence is so critical to economic recovery. Nevertheless, the Government is concerned that in some areas existing levels of assistance are now more than is necessary to permit industry to be competitive with imports and that a contribution to restraining the rate of inflation can be made by reducing selected areas of assistance.
The Government has therefore decided to remove a number of temporary assistance measures. It is the Government’s intention that:
In relation to motor vehicles, circumstances now permit the temporary restrictions to be removed. However, the Government reaffirms its policy that about 80 per cent of the domestic market will be preserved for the local industry.
The Government is also satisfied that the other temporary assistance measures listed above can now be removed. However I should make it clear that temporary assistance measures applying to footwear, clothing, textiles, domestic appliances, files and rasps, fine papers, plywood and orange juice are not affected by these decisions. It was considered that removal of temporary assistance measures on these products at this stage might lead to a recurrence of disruption.
I would remind honourable senators that under the provisions of the Industries Assistance Commission Act no action to remove temporary assistance measures flowing from an interim IAC report can be taken without receiving a final report from the Commission. This restraint does not apply in respect of temporary assistance measures imposed following reports by the Temporary Assistance Authority.
The Government has also decided to act on the IAC’s report for the multilateral trade negotiations. This report was commissioned to provide a basis for possible tariff reductions in the context of those negotiations. It was received by the Government in January 1976 and has been under study in departments since then. It provides the basis for a wide range of tariff reductions which will have a cost saving effect. The IAC has stated in this report that in making recommendations its approach was not to recommend a reduction in duty if such a reduction appeared likely to have generally adverse effects on local industry. In its report the Commission found that:
These tariff reductions will be implemented as soon as administratively possible; but, because of the wide range of tariff items covered not all changes will be completed until 31 January 1977. Preliminary details of these changes will be available through customs houses as soon as possible. The Government has taken these concessionary measures as part of its economic package in order to modify possible cost increases and emphasises that the reduced rates are provisional. The rates may be confirmed or adjusted in the light of future circumstances.
Honourable senators will be aware that the Temporary Assistance Authority machinery is available in the event of any unforeseen disruption caused to local industries as a consequence of these tariff reductions. In total, these changes will affect in excess of 900 tariff items out of a total of about 2750 items in the Customs Tariff. Imports of goods covered by these proposals total about $ 1,800m. Details of the IAC’s report on the MTN will be released as soon as copies are available.
The Government also considered the removal of primage duties. Primage duty is a customs duty separate from normal tariffs. It was introduced as a temporary revenue measure in the 1 930s and over the years it has been removed on an item by item basis as opportunities have arisen. Primage still applies to about 350 items in the Tariff, generally at rates of either 3 per cent or 7 per cent ad valorem. Primage duty collected in 1975-76 was about $8. 5m and it is estimated that total trade subject to primage is in the vicinity of $150m. Some primage duties will be removed as a result of the action now to be taken on the IAC’s MTN report. The Government has decided to refer the remaining primage duties, which are not covered by the actions outlined above or already under reference, to the Industries Assistance Commission for study and report. In addition the Government will immediately examine those reports of the IAC currently held, in respect of which no decisions have been taken, to determine whether any of those reports should be returned to the IAC for reassessment in the light of devaluation. When this examination has been completed a statement will be made.
The by-law system makes provision for duties to be waived on imported goods for which suitably equivalent goods are not reasonably available from Australian producers. A considerable proportion of Australian imports of capital equipment and producer materials enters under the customs by-law system. The operation of the customs by-law system will help ensure that the price effects of devaluation are not unnecessarily inflated by the tariff. I would like to point out to honourable senators that, through the operation of the customs by-law system and because of the fact that a large number of tariff items provide for duty free entry, in excess of 60 per cent of Australia ‘s imports enter duty free.
In deciding against across the board changes in long term levels of assistance, the Government noted that there were a number of areas where tariffs are considerably higher than the general level. As indicated in the Government’s preelection statements, it is the Government’s view that these areas of the tariff should be subject to close and continuing review. The Government, therefore, reaffirms that it will proceed with the tariff review program in accordance with the current timetable. This will ensure that those areas enjoying very high levels of protection will be subject to review. Decisions on IAC tariff review reports will be taken in the light of the improved competitive position of Australian industry resulting from devaluation.
I should make it very clear that the Government would be extremely concerned if any sections of manufacturing industry were to apply the benefits of devaluation towards wage settlements outside indexation principles. If evidence emerges that this is occurring, the Government will not hesitate to refer the industries concerned to the IAC for early review and report. This approach will complement the action already foreshadowed in respect of surveillance by the Prices Justification Tribunal of any unjustified price increases following devaluation. The Government considers that the devaluation of the Australian dollar, combined with the actions
I have announced in relation to the tariff, should ensure that the competitive position of Australian industry is restored without unnecessarily adding to inflationary pressures in the economy.
– The statement that has just been read by Senator Cotton is obviously of considerable significance and should not be debated in the chamber on such short notice. It is a matter of regret that a statement of this nature should come before the Senate so quickly, but I wish to make it clear that Senator Cotton is not responsible for that. I discussed this with him earlier tonight and he indicated to me his desire that the Opposition be given proper notice of the statement to be brought down by the Government. Unfortunately, the system is such that it has been introduced here on very short notice. In view of those factors, I believe that the proper course for the Senate to adopt tonight would be to adjourn the debate so that we can discuss the statement in more detail tomorrow. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I draw the attention of the chamber to the second piece of legislation before us tonight, the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Bill (No. 2). The Opposition will not be opposing the Bill, although we will be moving some amendments. I, and I believe other Opposition senators, have been approached by members of the Aboriginal community throughout Australia who have expressed some concern about this Bill. I will outline briefly the nature of that concern. Some Aboriginal Australians have expressed a fear that there is some element of compulsion in this legislation whereby Aboriginal groups will be forced to register or to incorporate under this legislation. They have expressed the fear that groups already incorporated under State legislation or local council provisions will be forced to change and to incorporate under this Federal legislation. On examination of the Bill, I found no suggestion of any compulsion on Aboriginal groups to incorporate under this Bill. However, I hope that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), when replying to this debate, will clarify for the benefit of those Aboriginal people who have expressed some concern the fact that there will be no element of compulsion on Aboriginal people to incorporate under this Bill; that they will have the choice of incorporation under the Federal legislation and that it will be their choice. That is all I wish to say in respect of that Bill.
I now make some remarks on the major piece of legislation before us tonight, the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill. I agree with one of the honourable senators from the Government side who preceded me, Senator Baume, that this is an historic Bill; but it is at that point that my agreement with Senator Baume stops. I must say, for the record, that I was outraged to hear Senator Baume accuse the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Keeffe, of making a mean and ungenerous speech when he rose to lead for the Opposition in the debate. I point out that Senator Keeffe has spent a lifetime getting to know and to understand the Aboriginal people, their values and their culture. In stark contrast, Senator Baume boasted of his association with the Institute of Aboriginal Studies and his membership of a couple of committees which have been concerned with Aboriginal affairs. He gave us a quick and very slick white man’s view of the historical situation over the last two hundred years. He pointed out to us the various disadvantages experienced by Aboriginal people during that time, a contribution which was quite unnecessary because all of us here are quite aware of the serious disadvantages suffered by the Aboriginal people.
I say to Senator Baume that his selfcongratulations about the importance of the Bill and the pride that he expressed on so many occasions during his speech about the significance of the Bill were quite unjustified and, I might add, quite tasteless. If Senator Baume is serious about his interest in establishing the rights of Aboriginal people to secure the land which they properly own, perhaps he will be prepared to support the amendments which will be moved by the Opposition at a later stage to improve the probability that the Aboriginal people will indeed be able to exercise those rights. If Senator Baume does accept the amendments, perhaps then he will have something to be proud of.
I am not proud of this Bill. Indeed, I am not proud of anything which European Australians have done in relation to Aboriginal Australians. There is no cause for pride by anybody, either in this chamber or outside it, on that subject. I do not want to out-do Government senators, who used rhetorical flourishes and self-flagellation in their expressions of guilt about the past and made extravagant and melodramatic promises about the future, but I do want to draw attention to some of the deficiencies in the Bill before the Senate. As it stands, the Bill is a great improvement on the Government’s land rights Bill introduced by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) in another place in June 1976. The Opposition accepts that. It was claimed by certain Aboriginal persons that that Bill was a sell-out to the mining interests in this country, and the evidence for that is to be found in the amendments which the Government subsequently moved.
When the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs reintroduced the Bill with 42 amendments there were improvements in 2 areas- the reduction in the rights of the Northern Territory to make ordinances interfering with the rights of Aboriginals over their land, and some slight increase in the negotiating powers of Aboriginal persons with the mining companies. However, I do not think we should be overwhelmed with gratitude because the Government has seen fit to introduce these amendments. In fact, the pattern of presenting a Bill and subsequently amending it is one with which we are becoming very familiar on this side of the chamber. It seems that the Government has evolved a technique whereby it presents legislation which is quite outrageous and quite unacceptable to the public at large and to the particular interest groups who will be affected by the legislation. The Government then permits a period of lobbying and discussion on the Bill and comes back to the Parliament with amendments which are certainly an improvement on the outrageous legislation it started with but which still fall a long way short of what the Government should have done in the first place. That has happened with a number of pieces of legislation, particularly broadcasting, funeral benefits and now Aboriginal land rights. Although there have been improvements, those improvements do not provide strongly enough for the rights of Aboriginals over their land. They do not recapture the spirit of the Woodward report, and the legislation is still quite inferior in specific ways to the legislation introduced by Labor last year.
I should like to comment generally on some of the major deficiences in the Bill. The Opposition will be moving specific amendments at a later stage and I will speak in more detail then about the deficiencies. One of the major deficiences of the Bill as it stands is that the Aboriginals’ right of veto over the development of minerals by rnining companies is still too restrictive. It is still restricted to new exploration licenses. The Aboriginal people have no veto rights over the development of areas where exploration licences have been granted in the past. The most important example of that undue restriction is in the Booroloola area, where the Aboriginal people will have no right of veto over the development of any minerals which the Mount Isa company wishes to develop. That is quite shameful, given the timing of this legislation and the things that have preceded it. What happened at Booroloola was that the Aboriginal people had started making claims to vacant Crown land. Had the claims been successful, the mining company would have been forced to obtain Aboriginal consent before there could be any development. However, the claims were stopped in August of this year by order of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). The claims had actually been started and a judge and the parties were ready to proceed. After the order from the Prime Minister to stop the hearing of the Booroloola case, the Commonwealth Government entered into an agreement with Mount Isa Mines Ltd. The terms of that agreement are not yet public, but one can readily assume that they will provide a right of lease to the Mount Isa company and a guarantee of mining in that area. That is a particularly shameful example of the Government manipulating the time lag between the claims started by the Aboriginal people in the Booroloola area and the introduction of this legislation.
Similarly, in the case of the Ranger project, through the legislation before us this evening the Government has sought to prevent the Aboriginal people from having a veto over the right to develop minerals which may be found there, and the Opposition will be moving an amendment in that respect. On the subject of the Aboriginal right of veto in relation to mining, I point out that the Commonwealth Government will still have power to mine Aboriginal lands under the Atomic Energy Act. Further, Aboriginal consent will not be required for mining oil or petroleum pursuant to the provisions of the Petroleum Prospecting and Mining Ordinance 1954. The national interest provision, which is being reintroduced in the present legislation, states that decisions overruling an Aboriginal veto in the national interest will have to come before the Parliament and can be overruled by either
House. That is a very welcome provision. However, it does not compensate for the fact that the Aboriginal people will have veto rights only over new licences.
The second matter which is of concern to members of the Opposition and, more seriously, to the Aboriginal people, relates to complementary legislation. The Federal Government has failed to accept its full constitutional responsibility, which it gained as a result of the 1967 referendum on Aboriginal rights, to regulate and administer all matters affecting Aboriginal people. It is disappointing and distressing that 4 important matters have been allowed by the Commonwealth Government, which had the responsibility, to go to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly for complementary legislation. They are, firstly, the power to declare and control Aboriginal sacred sites, about which a lot has already been said this evening; secondly, the issue of entry permits to Aboriginal land; thirdly, the access to territorial seas adjoining Aboriginal lands; and fourthly, the control of entry to pastoral properties.
I appreciate that clause 73. of the Bill does impose some limitation on the powers of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly in these matters, but only to the extent that the Northern Territory ordinances are capable of operating concurrently with the Act. I remind honourable senators the Woodward report recommended that all these matters should be matters for Commonwealth legislation. Although the Bill provides that the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is to be consulted by the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly when it is introducing ordinances on this matter, we do not consider that that provision for consultation is a guarantee that the views of the Federal Minister will be implemented or that the rights and desires of the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory will have priority when the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly is proceeding in these matters.
The provisions in the Bill for complementary legislation by the Northern Territory are contrary to the Woodward report; they are contrary to the Labor Bill of 1975, and they are contrary to all the representations from Aboriginals from the Northern Territory which members of the Opposition have received. They are also contrary to a report of the bipartisan Senate committee which inquired into the environmental conditions of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and which recommended a redrafting of this Bill now before us to re-establish Commonwealth power over all Aboriginal land. I suggest that those Government senators who signed the report of that committee are honour bound to support the amendments of the Opposition on this matter when they are moved.
The third respect in which the legislation is unsatisfactory is that it leaves out the needs basis for land claims; that is, it hands claims based on needs back to the Department of the Northern Territory. These claims based on need will not be heard by the land commissioner in the same way that claims based on tradition will be considered. This is a serious omission and one which could have tragic consequences. For example, it will mean that the fringe dwellers of Alice Springs will have to wait a very long time- maybe forever- to get land rights. The Department of the Northern Territory has been extremely slow in processing claims to date. According to the view put to members of the Opposition by Aboriginals from the Northern Territory the Department has not been particularly sympathetic. We consider that this provision removing the needs claim from the jurisdiction of the lands commissioner is also contrary to the Woodward report and more importantly is contrary to the wishes as expressed by the Aboriginal people of central Australia. I think also it is a sellout because it is avoiding the most difficult area. Legislation giving Aboriginals formal rights over reserves is not a complex matter unless minerals come into the question. Legislation providing for land claims on the basis of need is a very complex matter- a difficult matter. It seems to me quite shameful that the Government has pushed this difficult, complex and sensitive area out of the land commissioner’s area of responsibility and back to the Department of the Northern Territory.
I have talked about need and I mentioned the town dwellers of Alice Springs. I should like to make a couple of comments from personal observation. I cannot possibly claim to have the personal knowledge of the Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory that previous speakers have had. I would not suggest for one moment that my personal experiences in that regard have been anything like as extensive as theirs. However, I visited Alice Springs for the first time earlier this year. I found it the most shocking experience I have ever had. I have seen humans living in poverty in many places in the world- in Asia, Europe, the United States of America and South America. I have never seen anything to compare with the poverty, the degradation- if I may say so- and the hopelessness of the people living around Alice Springs. I found it difficult to comprehend that those Australians- they are
Australians like myself and like members of this chamber-were forced to live in those conditions. I say ‘forced’ because conversations with these people revealed that they were as aware of the awful conditions in which they were living and as unhappy about them as any person could be. I was particularly distressed by the situation of the children and even more distressed by the concern about the children expressed by the children’s parents. I submit that the need of these people would make their claims to land perhaps even stronger than the claims of traditional people who are still living on their own land and, to some extent, in their own way. I hope that when the time comes for a vote on the amendments on this matter of need honourable senators opposite will reconsider their position and judge that need is at least as important a basis for a claim as tradition.
There are some other areas where the legislation is unsatisfactory to the Aboriginal people. One has already been mentioned- the control of roads that go through Commonwealth property. The demands of the Aboriginal people in respect to this matter have not been met. I think my colleague Senator Robertson has gone into this matter in some detail so I shall not repeat the circumstances. Again this is an area in which the legislation must be improved. Of course another point is the refusal of the Government to extend the freeze on unalienated Crown land beyond the deadline of 3 1 December 1976. My colleague Senator Keeffe referred to this. Despite the subsequent hysterical and unjustified criticisms of Senator Baume I think he made a strong case for the Government deciding to extend the freeze on unalienated Crown land beyond that deadline so that the Aboriginal people may organise themselves to make claims under the legislation before us.
As I have said, I do not speak from great personal knowledge or experience of the Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, but I am convinced from the correspondence and the personal lobbying that has gone on during the last few months that the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory are not satisfied that this Bill represents a guarantee that they will be able to exercise the rights over the land that they own. To support that contention I refer to a letter which has been written to the Editor of the Age, although I understand not yet published, by David Anderson, who is the Executive Member for Information and Communications with the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. This is rather a long letter and I do not intend to read it out. In it Mr Anderson, who is an elected representative of the Aboriginal people, points out the many unsatisfactory aspects of the Bill and the ways in which the Bill must be improved if it is to give a guarantee of land rights to the Aboriginal people. He also makes some constructive suggestions based on the land rights legislation that has been implemented in Canada. I seek leave to have this letter incorporated in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Young)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
125 Koorlong Ave MILDURA 3500, Vict. 30th November 1976
The Editor; THE AGE,
I refer to your report, ‘Land Rights Change’: Viner Details Bill Amendments, The Age, 18th November 1976. As the Aboriginal Land (N.T.) Bill 1976 will not be a most significant and progressive step in Australia’s social and political history. As the Bill’s provisions fail to provide for compensation for dispossession.
It could have as the Senate Select Committee on Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders Report of August 1976, recommended support, for Senator Neville Bonner’s Senate motion of 20th February 1975, which called for Compensation. The Bill and any future Land Rights legislation will not be adequate until it faces up to the significant and progressive legislative example of the Americans, in their treatment of her Indians Land Claims. As these words of President Truman, on signing the Indian Claims Commission Act on the 1 3th August 1 946, clearly reveal.
This Bill makes perfectly clear what many men and women, here and abroad, have failed to recognise, that in our transactions with the Indian tribes we have, at least since the North West Ordinance of 1787, set for ourselves the standard of fair and honourable dealings, pledging respect for all Indian property rights. Instead of confiscating Indian lands, we have purchased from the tribes that once owned this continent more than 90 per cent of our public domain, paying them 800 million dollars in the process- the largest real estate transaction in history. It would be a miracle if we had not made some mistakes and occasionally failed to live up to the precise terms of our treaties and agreements with some 200 tribes. But we stand ready to submit all such controversies to the judgment of impartial tribunals. We stand ready to correct any mistakes we have made. ‘
To correct the mistakes that Australian Governments have and are making concerning Aboriginal Land Rights, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the Honourable R. I. Viner, MP, must make amendments to the Lands Bill, to provide for compensation, for all land that is not returnable to the Aboriginal owners; which is something in the order of 80 per cent of the land in the Northern Territory.
So that the true and historically accurate traditional land rights of all Aboriginal tribes and their geanological descendants, may be properly and factually arrived at the Government should provide the research facilities that are obtaining overseas in North America. Namely the Research Branch of the Indian Claims Commission in the United States and the Office of Claims Negotiation in the Canadian Department of
Indian Affairs. The Aboriginal Legal Aid Services are not equipped to assist in the formulation and presentation of claims for the recognition of traditional Aboriginal land rights.
In the working out of land rights claims, in the Northern Territory, to avoid the possibility of inter-tribal conflict, all relevant factors must be taken account of, such as geanological, linguistic, geographical and tribal boundaries etc, in the researching, presentation and settling of land claims. For example, in the Central Australian regions, the historical research made by Professor T. G. H. Strehlow, must serve to all Australians interested in Land Rights, as a model of practical research in those tribal territories covered by his studies.
Until the Bills amended to include provision for an Aboriginal Claims Commission, with a Research Branch, to employ multi-discipline experts like Professor Strehlow, who has 43 years ago researched the theories and principles of Aboriginal land ownership and agencies of social control in Central Australia with actual names, dated and places, the legislation will hasten the destruction of tribal societies in the Territory. All Australians must think about these issues. Will they?
Executive Member for Information and Communications NACC
-I thank the Senate. We recognise that improvements have been made in this legislation. I think the important ones are these: Firstly, the national interest decisions which override an Aboriginal veto must once again go before both Houses of Parliament with the right of either House of Parliament to disallow the Government’s decision and to reinstate the Aboriginal veto. We welcome that. Secondly, the powers of the land councils which were set out in the 1975 Bill have been restored with the exception of their right to be involved in needs claims. With that exception we recognise the reinstatement of those rights. Thirdly, Aboriginal traditional owners who have to live outside their artificial State borders are now catered for in this Bill by being eligible for membership of land trusts and land councils. We welcome that. In summary, there are some important matters outstanding which have not been included in the Bill and which should be included. They include the restoration of the full role of the land commissioner, as outlined in the Woodward report; the reintroduction of the needs claims as cases which must be heard by the land commissioner rather than through the Lands Board of the Northern Territory; the withdrawal of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly from all land right decision making; and control over roads through Aboriginal land.
In conclusion I would like to say that I find it a rather tragic irony that, while we all say that we want Aborigines to have the land that they own and while we all say that we want legislation that will give them this land, we find ourselves going through an extremely convoluted and technical series of Bills, amendments, amended Bills and debates which are a product of our political system in order to say to the Aborigines: ‘If you want to have what you properly own, these are the conditions that you will have to fulfil’. I hope that that irony has not escaped other members of this chamber. I think Senator Kilgariff mentioned it. I also find it a sad reflection upon the current attitude of European Australians to Aborigines that there is only one Aboriginal member of Parliament here to debate this legislation, which is of such major significance to his people.
– There is not one on your side.
– I accept that criticism, Senator Baume. I would say that all of us here are paternalistic in our attitude to a lesser or greater degree. What we have to seek to do is to make that paternalism as minimal as possible. There is no occasion this evening for congratulating ourselves on what a wonderful thing we are doing for the Aboriginal people. What we are doing tonight is taking a long overdue, long awaited first step which is extremely modest and which is quite incomplete. I for one feel no sense of self congratulation about the Bill before us or even about the Bill as amended according to the Opposition’s endeavours to have it amended. I hope that those supporters of the Government who have expressed such strong emotional support for the rights of Aborigines will give action to those sentiments by supporting the amendments which we will be moving solely to improve the rights of Aborigines under this legislation.
– I trust that my speech, like that of Senator Ryan, will be relatively brief, but I would say that that will be the only point of comparison between the 2 speeches. Unlike Senator Ryan, I am not at all worried about saying that I am extremely proud of the fact that this Bill is before the Parliament. I would say to her that there are moments of satisfaction in being in the Senate. There are occasions when legislation comes before us which does represent a contribution to the improvement of the lot of Australians in a particularly important way.
In my short time in the Senate there has been a number of occasions when, as this evening, I have been pleased to rise and support legislationoften it has been legislation introduced by the Australian Labor Party and on other occasions it has been legislation introduced by the Government of which I am a supporterwhich I think is extremely significant. This is probably the most significant item that I have seen the Senate deal with. The sort of matters to which I am referring include the Racial Discrimination Bill, the Administrative Appeals Bill, the Family Law Bill and the Ombudsman Bill, which we dealt with just a few days ago. I believe that it is an unfortunate by-product of Party politics in Australia that the debate tends to obscure the fact that in measures such as this there is a large degree of bipartisan support which reflects the bipartisan support that exists in the community itself for certain sorts of social progress. That bipartisan satisfaction is not something of which we should be ashamed.
I think it is important that the Australian community sees that on both sides of this Parliament there is a commitment to Aboriginal land rights and that the differences which exist between the Government and the Opposition are differences as to matters which are round the edges and matters of detail, but there are substantial areas of agreement and I do not believe that we serve the country well if we seek to disguise those substantial areas of agreement. I would also say that this is an area, as with any delicate area, where there is room for honest differences of opinion. I certainly do not claim a monopoly of goodwill on this side of the chamber, but I do not think that it is fair either for the Opposition to suggest that there is in the measures which the Government has put forward any lack of goodwill or any lack of a real determination to find the most adequate solution to a very real problem.
I acknowledge the contribution which the Australian Labor Party has made in this field. I do not need to document it chapter and verse. Senator Robertson, in a very careful and measured speech, a good deal of which I might disagree with but the presentation and content of which left nothing to be desired, set out at some length the particular things that have been done by the Labor Party over the years to advance the cause of land rights. I, in turn, would like to acknowledge a few other people who I think have made significant contributions in this field.
As far as I know, Mr Justice Blackburn has not been mentioned in this debate. Yet I think that the manner in which Mr Justice Blackburn handled the Nabalco land case- although of course he eventually made a finding which was adverse to those claiming a native title or an Aboriginal title- and the judgment which he set out did a lot to educate people in the community to the fact that there really is a relationship between the Aboriginal people and the land they occupy.
I for one am grateful to Mr Justice Blackburn for the very great care he took in preparing that judgment, for the careful way in which he set it out and for the contribution which he has made to broadening the understanding by the Australian community of the Aboriginal relationship to land.
I would also like to acknowledge the contribution of Mr Justice Woodward, who was given a commission by the Labor Government in 1973 to report upon the appropriate means to recognise and establish the traditional rights and interests of the Aborigines in and in relation to land and to satisfy in other ways the reasonable aspirations of the Aborigines to rights in or in relation to land. I think it would be churlish not to acknowledge once again that the care with which the problem was tackled did a great deal to advance the understanding in the community of the very real need to establish land rights. I think it is very significant that as soon as the report was put down by Mr Justice Woodward it received bipartisan support from the parties in the Parliament.
It is well known to all honourable senators present that when the report was put down the then Government very quickly advised that it accepted the report in principle and the leaders of the National Country Party of Australia and the Liberal Party of Australia m the Parliament also indicated very quickly that they, too, intended to support the general thrust of the Woodward report. One ought to acknowledge that in all spheres of the political system in Australia there was an immediate reaction to the report that Mr Justice Woodward put down. Thereafter it became a matter of argument over detail and about the precise means of implementation. But since Mr Justice Woodward’s report there has been basically no real argument in Australia against the establishment of Aboriginal land rights. That, I think, is a great tribute to the quality of the work done by Mr Justice Woodward.
I would also like to record that I think the Liberal-National Country Party Opposition during that period was well served by Mr Bob Ellicott as its spokesman on Aboriginal Affairs. Mr Ellicott has been criticised in the present debate. But as one who worked with Mr Ellicott in the Party committees, I believe that he brought a very great depth of sympathy and understanding to the questions relating to Aborigines that came before the coalition Parties during that time and I believe that he made an immense personal contribution. It is only over one issue that there tends to be a concentration of criticism and comment and his general contribution during our period in
Opposition has tended to be overlooked. It is perhaps significant that Mr Ellicott was counsel for the Commonwealth in the Gove land rights case. I am sure that the understanding which he gained during his presentation of the Commonwealth ‘s case in that suit had done a great deal for the present Government Parties in increasing their understanding of the Aborigines.
The other person I would like to mention is my colleague Senator Neville Bonner. In the chronology of the events which have led up to this Bill, it should be remembered that Senator Bonner moved in this Senate a motion which was passed unanimously, with the support of all parties, and which is mentioned in the report of the Senate committee which has been referred to in the debate. Senator Bonner’s motion, which was endorsed by us all, stated:
That the Senate accepts the fact that the indigenous people of Australia, now known as Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, were in possession of this enure nation prior to the 1 788 First Fleet landing at Botany Bay, urges the Australian Government to admit prior ownership by the said indigenous people and introduce legislation to compensate the people now known as Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders for dispossession of their land.
I think Senator Bonner has cause for considerable personal satisfaction, whatever Senator Ryan might have said to the contrary, in the fact that this is a first step in that direction. I am not one who would pretend that it is the final step. But we are not legislating in this chamber for a final solution; we are legislating for a step which is a very significant step. I think that Senator Bonner can look at his resolution and say that, with respect to those Aborigines who have maintained a traditional tie to the land, we are fulfilling the demand which he made on us and which we endorsed in the Senate. It would be my personal hope that we in the Government Parties would direct our attention in the future to further steps we might take to live up to Senator Bonner’s resolution. I refer to the fact that our Parties’ policy is to set up certain funds which will be used for the benefit of Aborigines. My personal view- I stress that it is a personal view- is that we ought to try to get Government assistance to Aborigines on to the basis that it is regarded as something received as compensation for the dispossession of the Aboriginal people. I believe that we will make further steps and that the Aboriginal people will not be disappointed by the performance of this Government.
I thank the Government for the technique that it adopted with respect to this Bill, I, for one, thought that the Bill introduced earlier this year was unsatisfactory in a number of respects. A good number of the unsatisfactory aspects have been referred to already in debate. The fact is that the Government put a Bill before the House of Representatives and made it clear that it wished to listen to the people of Australia, including the Aboriginal people of Australia and all those other people who had an interest, before it determined the final shape of the legislation that it would put forward. I commend that method of dealing with difficult legislation to this Government and to any government that succeeds it. The fact of the matter is that the people of Australia generally, including the Aboriginal people, have had ample opportunity now to put views before the Government. I think that even the most churlish critic of the Government would agree that the criticisms and the views which have been put forward have resulted in a great strengthening of the BUI. It has been improved in substantial respects. I am delighted with the changes that have been made. The work that has been done within the Government Parties has been hard work by individuals who have been concerned with the welfare of the Aboriginal people. Again I pay tribute to Senator Bonner, who at all times has been a great strength, as far as I am concerned, in seeing that the Bill has been improved in significant respects. I acknowledge his contribution to the changes that have been made.
I would like to refer to a number of the specific aspects of the Bill in respect of which changes have been made and on which criticisms have been voiced. I also would like to pick up a very valuable point that was made by Senator Robertson in his contribution to the debate. He drew attention to the fact-with respect, he was far more constructive than Senator Ryan was in her comments in a similar field- that what we are trying to do here is to bring within European law something that is not part of European law. Mr Justice Blackburn in his judgment refers to the Aborigines’ relationship to land which has no comparison, no parallel, in our law. Yet we in this Parliament are being asked somehow to produce a statute which will protect that interest which is not part of our legal or historical tradition. By ‘our legal or historical tradition’ I mean the imported legal and historical tradition that has made the shape of the laws of this country. I think that Senator Robertson was right when he suggested, in effect, that this Bill proposed or provided an umbrella under which the traditional native title, the traditional Aboriginal title, could survive, exist, develop and change.
A very important point to which he drew attention is that the traditional title is not necessarily a fixed or immutable thing. It can be fluid. It can change. If we tried in this Bill in our legal terms to tie down Aboriginal title to some fixed sphere, then I believe that we would make a serious error. What we have tried to do in this Bill - I think it is flexible enough to permit it- is to ensure that what the Aborigines themselves say is their title can be allowed to continue to exist. It is possible, of course, that there will be difficulties under this structure in ensuring that that happens. There are many people in this chamber who are concerned about that aspect of the legislation. No one is more concerned than Senator Kilgariff, who made a contribution to this debate which was based, as he told us, on 46 years in the Northern Territory. I believe that he put a genuine point of view which relates to the real problem of the traditional Aboriginal land owner asserting his position against a structure which is imposed by our law. Mr Acting Deputy President, please do not interpret these remarks as an attack on the concept of the land councils. I support the concept of the land councils as a very important part of the Bill and the framework that the Government is seeking to establish. I believe that it will be terribly important that the land councils respect the traditional Aboriginal owners who are operating under their purview.
I draw the Senate’s attention to the fact that it is the Government’s proposal that there should be an all-party committee of both Houses to examine certain aspects of this BUI with a view to reporting to the Parliament to make sure that if there are difficulties we can amend the legislation. Notice of motion concerning the committee will be given later tonight, I think. One of the things about which the committee will be concerned is possible problems relating to the identification of traditional owners of Aboriginal land and the means of establishing the views of such owners to the satisfaction of the relevant land council. All that may sound like a bit of legal gobbledegook, but all it means is that we as members of Parliament cannot simply pass this Bill and forget it. We are committed to a continuing examination to make sure that the traditional owners in fact are protected under the structures we are seeking to provide for them in accordance with the recommendations of Mr Justice Woodward.
I welcome particularly the Government’s strengthening of the role of land councils. I thought that the original proposal which was put forward very tentatively by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) in his original second reading speech, for some of the work to be entrusted to the Aboriginal Legal Service, was impractical. I make that comment as a former member of the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia and as a great respecter of those organisations around Australia. I did not believe that the Aboriginal Legal Service was the appropriate body to be entrusted with this work. I welcome the fact that the councils have been given an expanded role in aiding the Aboriginal people rather than the Aboriginal Legal Service being given responsibility in that area.
No area of the Bill is more critical than the provisions with respect to rnining. On my reading of the Woodward report, I believe that the amended provisions now in the Bill are consistent with the recommendations of Mr Justice Woodward. They certainly meet my ideas of what is fair. I would like to quote from the Woodward Commission report. In paragraph 708 of the second report, firstly Mr Justice Woodward recommended:
Minerals and petroleum on Aboriginal lands should remain the property of the Crown.
That, of course, is the position under the Bill. Secondly, he said:
However Aborigines should have the right to prevent exploration for them on their traditional lands.
That is the position under the Bill. Thirdly, he said:
This Aboriginal power of veto should only be over-ridden if, in the opinion of the Government, the national interest requires it.
That is the position under the Bill. Fourthly, he said:
Any such decision of the Government should be subject to disallowance by either House of the Parliament.
Again that is the position under the Bill. The criticism which has been made is that there are situations where consent will not be required. There are specific matters dealt with in the Bill which provide that consent will not be required, merely agreement as to fair terms. Once again I turn to the report of Mr Justice Woodward, in the same paragraph sub-paragraph (xx). He said:
All existing rights of mining and petroleum companies will be preserved by the new legislation-
That was his draft- ‘all existing rights of rnining and petroleum companies will be preserved’. I quote that paragraph only in part, but the rest does not take from what I have quoted. That is the important distinction that has been made by the Government. Where there is an existing right this legislation will not retroactively remove that right but where there is not an existing right the Aboriginal people will preserve a right of veto over the mining of their land. That is a major victory, I believe, for the Aboriginal people and I believe it is a very proper provision to be included in this Bill. I must say, if I may be permitted to make a personal comment, that I was delighted that a member of the Labor Party chose to incorporate into the Hansard of the House of Representatives my letter on that subject to the newspapers.
One other matter I want to deal with is this very vexed question of the Northern Territory legislation. Here is an area in which reference has been made to a Senate committee report and all of us here are familiar with that report. This is a vexed and difficult area. I remind the Senate of the fact that we are not merely passing a law which will operate in a vacuum. We are passing a law which is to operate in the Northern Territory and I believe that subject to the proper protection of Aboriginal rights it is proper that the people of the Northern Territory should through their Legislative Assembly have some say in the way the law operates in the Northern Territory. I believe that there is a conflict there. There is a problem which government had to face and had to solve. To my mind the way government has faced it and has solved it is more than adequate and I for one will have no difficulty in supporting the Government ‘s provisions in this regard.
I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that specific rights in all these areas of subordinate legislation have been written into the Bill and there are provisions covering many of the major areas of concern. The Bill specifically provides where and how the Northern Territory legislature may legislate. In addition to that we have the clearest possible statement from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in the Commonwealth Government, Mr Viner, that the Territory legislation will be worked out in consultation with Aboriginals with Mr Viner’s involvement, and with his agreement. I stress that it has to be with bis agreement. I believe that that is a proper approach both from the point of view of this Government which has responsibilities to the Aboriginal people and in respect of the Northern Territory legislature which has responsibility to its electors. I remind the Senate that the Northern Territory is commencing a new era of constitutional development. It is unfair to aim at the representatives of the Northern Territory in the Legislative Assembly criticism on the basis of what has happened in the past because executive power in the Northern Territory in the past has been vested in the Federal Government. If anyone wants to complain about what has happened in the Northern Territory in the past it is simply not good enough to blame the Legislative Assembly. He must blame the Federal governments of the day.
We are moving on to a stage where some executive power is to be transferred to the Northern Territory. It is a new era in the Northern Territory. I do not believe that we can ignore that fact or the fact that the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory live with white people in the Northern Territory. It should be our aim to ensure that as much as possible they are subject to the same laws, the same legislation, that they are one people and one part of Australia. I would, however, for the benefit of those who are concerned again draw attention to the remarks of Mr Viner in the House of Representatives on 1 7 September 1 976 when he pointed out: the Government is also concerned to see that the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly is involved in the operation of the Commonwealth’s legislation in the interests of harmony, and not confrontation, between all people of the Northern Territory.
He also said that the Government will not fail in its responsibilities. As the back-up to those provisions I again draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that we propose that the Joint Committee on which the Opposition will have nearly an equal voice should have the specific responsibility of examining on behalf of this Parliament the operations of the provisions of the laws of the Northern Territory relating to entry to Aboriginal land, the protection of sites of significance, wild life conservation and entry to seas adjoining Aboriginal land. So the fact of the matter is that this Parliament is not stepping back from its responsibilities. It wants to see those responsibilities exercised by a harmonious partnership between the Legislative Assembly and this Parliament. It has preserved unto itself the responsibility for making sure that what should happen does happen. It is to have a committee of this Parliament on which the Opposition will be represented to ensure that that is so. I say to the Opposition that in this total package of what might be termed the issue of the subordinate legislation very great care has been taken to ensure that there is no stepping back from our responsibilities.
I have almost reached the magic minute that Senator Ryan reached and I undertook not to speak longer than she did. I close by saying that I think it ought to be on the record of this Parliament that the Bill as it is now before us is a conscientious attempt to meet the very varied views which exist in the community as to the final form of this legislation. I pay tribute to the work of the Minister who I think has managed to reconcile what I would have thought was almost irreconcilable. I pay tribute to Neville Bonner for his assiduous attention to this matter over the months that it had been before this Parliament.
-Although I had intended to say certain things in my speech the debate has been such a remarkable one that I have been forced to depart from my prepared speech for the purpose of replying to some of the remarks which have been made. I am very fortunate in following Senator Chaney in this debate. I think he has a deep interest in Aboriginal affairs and has done a lot in and before his dme as a member of Parliament for the purpose of benefiting Aboriginals insofar as the white man understands how we can benefit them. The honourable senator praises those whom he says we have neglected to recognise as having done a great job m furthering the interests of Aboriginal people. But he seems to assess one’s contribution to the Aboriginal cause by utterances they have made, not by their actions.
The honourable senator referred to what Mr Justice Blackburn had to say. Of course he said things favourable to Aboriginals in respect of land rights. What person who studied this position in a judicial capacity could say otherwise? But he never recognised Aboriginals had any legal claim to land. Let me turn to Senator Bonner. He moved a motion in this place- a commendable motion- but it had no more effect than ‘that in the opinion of the Senate’, which did not achieve anything. It was only an expression of Senator Bonner’s opinion about the entitlements of Aborigines. It did not achieve anything-
– If that is the test, why bother making a speech?
-Let us see what the test is. We have been told that he has worked assiduously through the campaign to have alterations made to the legislation, and now we have reached the stage of taking this memorable action to have before us a Bill which gives land rights to Aborigines. Senator Bonner will face the test during the consideration of that Bill of whether he supports the claim of Aboriginals to land rights or whether he supports the proposition put forward by every honourable senator who has spoken from the Government side, namely, that his is the beginning of the right of Aboriginals to claim land. I agree with Senator Chaney when he says that we would not be concerned so much with what our respective parties have done; the question is whether we are achieving something. That is the essential question. The Labor Party acted and the Liberal Party is beginning to do something. As Senator Kilgariff said, the beginning is the offer to a group of some hundreds of miles of land under lease. That is the beginning of the restoration of land to Aborigines in the Northern Territory. It was never suggested that they should have freehold title to the land. What we have before us now is a Bill which restricts traditional Aboriginals to claiming traditional land, which is quite contrary to what was recommended in the Woodward report. The legislation before us is limited to those traditional Aborigines who, in many cases, cannot be found today. It excludes from their traditional land roads and proposed roads. It does not include town areas. Those areas that are prescribed to be developed as town areas are excluded.
We are told that alterations have been made in relation to mining rights. Under the legislation a company has the right to continue mining existing claims and also to mine other sites in the area if a claim was in existence at the time of the operation of this Bill. Those companies which presented a claim before 4 June have the right to take up the option on that claim and begin mining on Aboriginal land even after it is declared Aboriginal land. The Woodward report recommended that 2 kilometres of the seabed adjacent to Aboriginal land should be part of that Aboriginal land, but that is not mentioned in the Bill. The Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory is to determine who can operate on the seabed adjacent to Aboriginal land. It had yet to be worked out in legislative form who can come onto their land. As Senator Chaney said, that is to be worked out by the Legislative Assembly in conjunction with a parliamentary committee on which the Opposition will have representation. But that must be related to their traditional land. So white legislators are to work out a scheme about how these people will operate on Aboriginal land for which we are saying we are giving them freehold title. That is the white man’s idea of the proposal.
Senator Chaney was proud of the fact that an Opposition senator had incorporated in Hansard a letter which he wrote to the Canberra Times. In that letter he said that there is nothing new in a company being refused the right to mine. In his State of Western Australia if it can be demonstrated to the court that the land is being put to a useful purpose, such as farming, then a mining company has no right to go in and mine that land. So there is equality in that regard. So here we have a comparison between the white man’s vision of commercial interests in land holdings and the Aboriginals’ idea of sacred entitlement to land. How we have confused those 2 things! The Woodward report said that the best thing we can do is let the Aboriginals decide the issue themselves. But now we say that we will not allow even the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly to make that decision; we will put forward some white man from the south to tell them what they will do.
I agree that this is an historic occasion because it is the first time that there has been the possibility of the Parliament passing a Bill which, despite all the restrictions that it implies, will give land rights to some people. Although it affects only a few Aboriginals in the Northern Territory, this is the first time that legislative recognition has been given to Aboriginal land rights. But look at what the Bill destroys. Senator Robertson tonight explained that Aboriginal land rights first appeared on the 1971 Labor Party platform. It formed part of Mr Whitlam ‘s policy speech in 1972. Prior to that we had 2 legal judgments on whether Aboriginals had some legal claim to land rights. One of those judgments has been questioned. I refer to that given by Mr Blackburn in relation to the Gove position. The other, which was handed down a little later by Mr Justice Foster, I think it was, following the Royal Commission in Western Australia, went into the legal aspects of the claim of Aboriginals to land rights.
Apparently the theory is that because Captain Cook came to these shores, planted a British flag at Botany Bay and read a proclamation claiming the country as a British possession, and because there was no military force sufficiently strong to throw him out of the country, it became a British possession and all the land belonged to the British Crown. According to those 2 judgments, because of the planting of that flag and the reading of the proclamation, Aboriginals have no legal rights to land in Australia. But Mr Whitlam said to Woodward when he appointed him: ‘You are not asked to find out whether there is a right. We acknowledge the right. It is your duty to find out how we can honour that right and give to the Aboriginal people the land which rightly belongs to them’.
Senator Chaney praises Woodward for the report he presented. I suppose in his report Woodward comes nearer than any other white man to understanding the Aboriginal claim to land. The report which he brought down contains his idea of the best method which can be used within white man’s society to grant land rights, while at the same time giving Aboriginals the maximum opportunity to operate on their own land. Immediately the report was presented the Labor Government adopted it in principle. Senator Chaney said that the Liberal Party did the same. I did not hear it do so, but we do not doubt his word. The Labor Government immediately drew up legislation to implement the principles as enunciated in the Woodward report. What was contained in the report was not the Labor Party’s idea about land rights. It was not the idea of someone else about land rights. It was the idea of the expert we appointed to make the inquiry. We introduced legislation which had the purpose of putting into operation the Woodward recommendations on land rights. That legislation was introduced into the House of Representatives on 1 1 November 1975. With all the Government’s attempts to justify its actions on 11 November- Remembrance Day- it has killed the putting into operation of the Woodward report which recommended the giving of land rights to Aboriginals. Now the legislation has been resurrected and brought into this chamber tonight.
We are told that this is a memorable occasion and that the Government is happy to be associated with the legislation. It is a Bill that ignores the Woodward report and refuses to put into operation the recommendations of Mr Justice Woodward. We say again that we still adhere to the recommendations of the Woodward report. In the Committee stage the Labor Party intends to move 23 amendments to bring the Bill into line with those recommendations. It will be a testing time in which the Chaneys, the Bonners the Baumes and the Kilgariffs will have to show how much they support the rights of Aboriginals to own land or whether they are just mouthing words of support. Government supporters and the Minister are on trial as to whether they support Aboriginal land rights.
It is all very well for honourable senators opposite to go around the Aboriginal communities, to make utterances about support and say: ‘Look what I did in the Senate’. Senator Bonner says: Look what I moved in the Senate’. His support will soon be tested because Aboriginals wil be told exactly what he did in the Senate. He moved a motion which in effect was nothing more than an expression of opinion by the Senate. He is trying to glorify himself by saying that he moved a motion in regard to Aboriginal land rights in the Northern Territory. But would Senator Bonner support the recommendation of the Woodward report that land rights be given to every Aboriginal in the Northern Territory? That is the test he has to pass. Or will he go along with the proposal that has been suggested by the Government, namely, that we will just go this far for a start. God knows when we will do anything else.
Senator Baume read out an article condemning Australia’s actions towards Aboriginal land rights. He quoted from a British publication which said that the British Government was concerned with the neglect of Australian Aboriginal land rights over 140 years ago. It took us 140 years to do something about Aboriginal land rights. If we proceed at this pace, there will be no tribal Aboriginals by the time we give land rights to Aboriginals. There will be only the drunken young Aboriginals. Senator Kilgariff tried to create a division between tribal Aboriginals and the young drunken Aboriginals who are going to control the issue.
Let us look at what happened when the Government introduced the Bill last session. Debate was adjourned for the purpose of getting opinions on the legislation. In the Senate and in the other place many hundreds of petitions containing thousands and thousands of signatures take up the time of both Houses every morning. Those petitions are signed by people who are dissatisfied with the Government’s approach to Aboriginal land rights. They want Aboriginals to be given full land rights. That is the greatest expression of public opinion on this Bill. Yet it has made no difference to the Bill. All Government senators who have spoken have said that the 42 amendments proposed by the Government will improve the position for Aboriginals. I would say that those amendments improved the conditions of mining companies more than they improved the conditions of Aboriginals. Where previously Aboriginals were not considered they remain that way.
Both Senator Baume and Senator Chaney thought it was a great thing that whereas previously the legislation required an arbitrator to determine whether national interest was involved now that question has to be laid before both Houses of the Parliament and either House has the right to disagree. The officer from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs who was advising the Minister told our Committee that if a motion of disallowance of a regulation is not discussed or not finalised within 15 sitting days, the regulation is disallowed but although anyone has the right to move for disallowance of a proclamation the Government says when the matter will be discussed. If it does not come up for discussion within 1 5 sitting days it is not disallowed. So the Government is giving a right without a meaning. This is not something of which the Minister is unaware. He has been notified of it by his officer who attended our meeting and made a note of that point. While the Government accepts the amendment from Mr Wentworth in the other place no one accepts this amendment. The rights of mining companies remain supreme.
I am very much concerned about the speech made by Senator Kilgariff tonight. Senator Baume, the first speaker for the Government, did show some compassion for Aboriginal land rights. He thought there was some justification for restricting the operation of the Bill but he tried to make out that the Liberal Party was solely responsible for Aboriginal land rights legislation and that it deserved all the praise. But what he said seemed to be undone by Senator Kilgariff. Since the Bill was presented there has been a campaign by Pastor Albrecht which very much suited the pastoral interests.
– That is unfair.
-It very much suited the pastoral interests in the Northern Territory.
– That remark does you no credit at all.
-It would have been much more unfair had I said that his campaign was on behalf of the pastoral interests. I said that his campaign that Aboriginal claims for land rights should not be met immediately very much suited the pastoral interests in the Northern Territory. We hear Pastor Albrecht ‘s utterances repeated here tonight. There was an attempt to create a division within Aboriginal communities with regard to young and drunken elements controlling land rights.
– He did not say that.
-No, but you did.
– I said that at a particular meeting.
– Is it not shocking? In the Aboriginal Land Councils, advised by lawyers, are elected representatives of the oldest tribal areas and spokesmen for the oldest tribal customs but we are now seeking to divide the Aboriginal communities by trying to convey the idea that there is a drunken element amongst the Aboriginals. The implication is that we should do nothing for these people because they are wasters. Who says that honourable senators opposite come in here and support Aboriginal land rights? Mr Justice Woodward said that great harm can be done if benefits are extended to some native people and not to others, whether by reason of degree of native blood or historical or geographical factors, particularly if decisions as to entitlements within the community are made outside the community. My opinion is contrary to that of Mr Justice Woodward. Mr President, I do not know whether you were in the chair at the time but that is why I was insisting on identification of all the documents that Senator Kilgariff was seeking to have incorporated in Hansard.
– A minor amount compared with Senator Keeffe.
-It seems that Senator Kilgariff is proud to be competing with Senator Keeffe. He admits defeat by Senator Keeffe. He had a lot of documents incorporated. We did not know what was in them; perhaps there was something in them that should not have been incorporated. Although it took a lot of time, we identified one incorporation as an article in the Centralian Advocate condemning this land rights Bill. We finally discovered that the author of this article was a journalist from the Centralian Advocate. He is one of the authorities on Aboriginal land rights whose material Senator Kilgariff incorporated in Hansard as one of the reasons why we should go easy on this Bill.
Professor Strehlow left the Institute of Aboriginal Studies. He fell out with everyone else who was doing something for Aboriginals. I acknowledge his long historical role with Aboriginals but he started a crusade of his own. These are the people that the senator from the Northern Territory brings up as authorities. The mysterious, old tribal Aboriginals he spoke to were not identified. He circulated a letter which had some 30 names on it but on the next day at a meeting in Alice Springs fifteen of these people wanted to withdraw their names from a petition. They were tricked into signing it. I am just bringing this up to indicate the extent of the campaign to stop Aboriginals getting their just claims to land rights. We are giving them those settlement areas where they were permitted to remain because much of it was barren, desolate country. The mining companies have the rights to mine the land. As I said, if we are honest in our verbiage -
– Are you?
-At least I can demonstrate it by action. Let us examine all the clauses of the Bill at the Committee stage. If it can be proved that it is beneficial for Aboriginal land rights that some amendments be made, let us be honest and not reject them because they come from a particular side of the chamber. If we are honest in our endeavour to assist Aboriginals, let us consider the merits of the amendments proposed. I hope that all those who have a genuine interest in the rights of Aboriginals will do so.
-As I rise to enter this debate I am mindful of words I read very recently and attributed to Father Patrick O’sullivan, Provincial of the Society of Jesus in Australia. Referring to the Bill before us this evening, he used these words: . . one of the most historical, important parliamentary Acts we shall see during our lifetime
In the capacity of both a senator and an Aborigine, I am compelled from the depth of my very soul to agree with Father O’sullivan.
I first spoke at any length in this House on 8 September 1971 when I hesitatingly delivered my maiden speech. I shall quote from that speech. I said:
Mr President, I crave your indulgence and the indulgence of honourable senators in that for a very short dme all within me that is Aboriginal yearns to be heard as the voice of the indigenous people of Australia. For far too long we have been crying out and far too few have heard us.
Part of this applies yet today. I yearn to be heard as the voice of the Aborigine but- I emphasise the word ‘but ‘-Mr President, in my opinion there has been a great reformation from that day in 1971 when I spoke of my people crying out and far too few heeding our calling. For proudly I say, Sir, that both sides of this Senate have heeded. It certainly was not always smooth sailing. In fact, during past years at times I, as the lone Aboriginal parliamentarian, thought it would be spears and nulla-nullas at 10 paces. But honourable senators heeded and the Senate proved that it cared. Honourable senators, I believe that you really cared, particularly on 19 September 1974 when after reasonable and healthy debate but without dissent you accepted my motion:
That the Senate accepts the fact that the indigenous people of Australia, now known as Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, were in possession of this entire nation prior to the 1 788 First Fleet landing at Botany Bay, urges the Australian Government to admit prior ownership by the said indigenous people and introduce legislation-
I emphasise that- to compensate the people now known as Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders for dispossession of their land.
While my people and I still await what we consider to be compensation for dispossession we are overjoyed that members of this enlightened chamber recognised that we were in possession of this entire nation prior to the advent of their forefathers. Mr President and honourable senators, approximately 27 000 fellow Aborigines in the tribal situation in the Northern Territory, those who are the inheritors of your recognised prior ownership, now desire their traditional land to be safeguarded by the Bill before the Senate. My brother Aborigines look to you, Sir, and to honourable senators and we ask you- we even beg, if necessary- for justice.
What is land, earth, and all that it entails? To an Aborigine in the tribal situation it is almost impossible to define. It goes far beyond the somewhat coldly calculated white man’s concept. Land ownership to my fellow tribal Aborigines is a continuing dynamic motion and is not, Sir, bounded by the geographical limits of a government surveyor. It is a living entity made up of earth, sky, clouds, rivers, trees, rocks and the spirit which created all these things. Land is their everything. In my wallet on a piece of paper, worn and somewhat faded now, are written certain words. I present them to you, Sir, and to honourable senators for I feel the verse best sums up literally the affinity existing between an Aborigine, particularly in the tribal sense, and his land. It is taken from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. It reads:
My body’s life and strength alone thou art;
My heart and soul art thou,
Oh! Soul and heart!
Thou art my being; and I am thou;
Since I in thee depart.
Those words were written a long time ago. Perhaps in this chamber this evening the white people will have some concept of what land means to my fellow Aborigines.
In about the middle of this year the Honourable Ian Viner introduced the land rights Bill into the lower House. He in his wisdom and the Government in its collective wisdom decided that the Bill should lie on the table to allow proper debate and to give an opportunity to all people who were interested and concerned in this issue- Aborigine and non-Aborigine- to look at the Bill, to examine it, to assess it and to bring to the Minister any points that they wanted to raise. I have here with me only a minute part of the material that was sent to me by interested people throughout the length and breadth of this nation. My file would be almost a foot thick. I will not be like Senator Keeffe and have it all incorporated in Hansard. Enough of that has been done today. The Government, to show its concern, also appointed Mr David Hay to examine and assess all this material and to make recommendations to the Government on certain aspects of what came out of appeals by people.
For a long time in this chamber, I and many of my concerned colleagues- I want to thank them- have spent hours and hours talking, thrashing out issues and trying to bring about the best Bill we could. Maybe this is not the perfect Bill, but it is a Bill which represents the final recognition by a government that the traditional Aboriginal people, my traditional fellow Aborigines in the Northern Territory, are to be given title to their traditional lands. Perhaps I still have some concern. Perhaps it is because I am an Aborigine who grew up and lived in a fringe dwelling situation and am conscious that many of the things that have been said here tonight have happened to my people. Not only am I concerned but also many of my fellow Aborigines will have some little suspicions because there are many interested people, many people with vested interests in Northern Territory land. So maybe we should have some suspicions and some concern. I would like to quote from the Woodward report, as it sums up why perhaps there will be some suspicions by Aborigines, particularly me- although I hope to be in this chamber for a long time yet and I will be keeping a close watch on what transpires henceforth in relation to this land rights Bill.
I quote from a section of the Woodward report which sums up what has happened to Aborigines since 1788. It says:
Aboriginal reserves in the Northern Territory were established for the protection of Aborigines. The larger reserves consisted of land which was either unsuitable or not then required for white settlement.
I hope we all take note of the words:
The larger reserves consisted of land which was either unsuitable or not then required for white settlement.
The report continues:
The small reserves were established to meet particular needs.
In most cases there has been a complicated history of proclamations, revocations, fresh proclamations, resumptions of part for other purposes and so on. In some cases doubts have arisen as to the boundaries or legal status of reserves. However there seems to be no point in exploring these problems; provided Aborigines are finally given tide to land described by geographic boundaries and not by past history, no difficulties should arise.
That is the history of land which was set aside in my own State of Queensland and in other States of the Commonwealth for Aboriginal people when it had no commercial value, no minerals and nothing else for the white man. Immediately minerals were found or the white man saw it as good agriculture land or good land on which to graze cattle or sheep it was resumed. It was no longer reserve. It went back to the white man. However, at long last, under the terms of this Bill this will not happen again. It will not happen because the Aborigines will be given title to the land. It will be theirs.
My time is running short; but I want to refer for a moment to the previous speaker in this debate, Senator Cavanagh, who grandstanded quite a lot and threw out some very strong challenges. He was a Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in the previous Government. He was regarded by Aborigines as a disaster in Aboriginal affairs. As a matter of fact, one Aborigine called him the Minister for white backlash’ when in this chamber he did everything he possibly could to prevent me from moving a motion in respect of compensation for dispossession. He said then that it represented only an expression of opinion, but it stated quite categorically:
That the Senate accepts the fact that the indigenous people of Australia now known as Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders were in possession of this entire nation prior to the 1788 First Fleet landing at Botany Bay and urged the Australian Government to . . . introduce legislation to compensate the people now known as Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders for dispossession of their land.
He was the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs at the time and he did not take that motion to his Government in the other place. He did not follow that motion through, and it went into limbo. That Government, this Opposition, this Australian Labor Party, which was supposed to be the champion of the Aborigines-
– Order ! In accordance with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 December 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1976/19761207_senate_30_s70/>.