30th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have ascertained that His Excellency the Governor-General will be pleased to receive the Address-in-Reply to Her Majesty the Queen’s opening Speech at Government House on Thursday, 24 March, at 5 p.m. I extend an invitation to all honourable senators to accompany me on the occasion of its presentation. For this purpose it is proposed that the sitting of the Senate will be suspended on Thursday at 4.30 p.m.
– I present the following petition from 233 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:
The slaughter of baby harp seals which is particularly heavy in the Canadian gulf of St Lawrence is a subject of profound and unhappy concern to many thousands of Australians.
Reliable statistics from the United States of America state that 127 000 baby harp seals from a total population of 200 000 were slaughtered in 1976 to provide furs. The slaughter season lasts only three weeks and the average income gained by the killers is a mere $700-$800 for a season ‘s work. It cannot therefore be rated as a prime source of income.
Furthermore, apart from the need of conservation of seal life as an ecological aspect in natural balance, the method of killing is by clubbing the seals, not humanely by shooting; bullets may damage the pelt and clubbing is cheaper. It is even reported that some seal pups are skinned alive to save unnecessary damage to the pelt and that mother seals which attempt to protect their young are clubbed and often maimed to discourage their interference.
We opine that in the cause of humanity and ecological conservation, the views of the Australian people should be expressed in a vigorous manner by the Australian Government to the Canadian Government.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 22 citizens:
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.
Petition received and read.
SenatorWHEELDON- I present the follow ing petition from 12 citizens:
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, although we accept the verdict of the Australian people in the 1975 election, we do not accept the right of the Governor-General to dismiss a Prime Minister who maintains the confidence of the House of Representatives.
We believe that the continued presence of Sir John Kerr as Governor-General is a cause of division among the Australian people.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Honourable President and Members of the Senate will call on Sir John Kerr to resign as Australian Governor-General.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 44 citizens:
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 grave concern is expressed about the Government’s intention to dismantle the Australian Legal Aid Office which is providing efficient, readily available legal aid to all communities in Australia.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will undertake a full national inquiry as proposed in 1975 by the present Attorney-General, as a matter of urgency.
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 the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government’s long term policy should be to provide 50 per cent of all funding for Australia’s roads.
That at a minimum the Commonwealth Government adopts the recommendations by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations for the allocation of $5,903 million of Commonwealth, State and Local Government funds to roads over the five years ending 1980-81, of which the Commonwealth share would be 41 per cent as recommended by the Bureau of Roads. by Senator Collard.
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 Baume.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That Australian Government employees strenuously oppose the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill first introduced in the House of Representatives on 8 December 1976. The basis for opposition includes the following reasons:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should reject passage of any legislation to extend powers of compulsory retirement of Australian Government employees unless and until any variation has been agreed with staff representatives.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Young.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the delays between announcements of each quarterly movement in the Consumer Price Index and their application as a percentage increase in age and invalid pensions is excessive, unnecessary, discriminatory and a cause of economic distress to pensioners.
That proposals to amend the Consumer Price Index by eliminating particular items from the Index could adversely affect the value of future increases in age and invalid pensions and thus be a cause of additional economic hardship to pensioners.
The foregoing facts impel your petitioners to ask the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Scott.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Does the Minister recall a statement made last year by the Treasurer in which he indicated his desire to see the proportion of the gross domestic product going to profits returning to its historical level, which prior to 1973 was around 14 per cent? I ask: Is it a fact that profits have now returned to approximately that level?
– I recall the statement, but only as one of a great number of statements that one delivers or listens to. I remember the general comment, and my recollection is that the share of profits is running at about 13.7 per cent at the moment. That is a reversal of the previous trend which is very much to be welcomed. I cannot take it any further than that, except to observe that it has been stated by various people who claim to be experts in this field that the old share of profits may not be large enough to generate the investment requirements for updating manufacturing in general Australian industry.
– I supplement my question by asking Senator Cotton to clarify his answer. Is he in fact saying that, as he understands the position, those levels have now returned to what the Treasurer described last year as historically acceptable levels?
-No; I thought I had been quite precise. I said about 13.7 per cent. If I recollect correctly, the historical level is over 1 5 per cent. That ought to answer the honourable senator.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Health been drawn to an article which appeared in the Melbourne Age on Thursday, 17 March, in which a specialist at the Royal Children’s Hospital is reported to have stated that ‘Australian patients have to be satisfied with second-rate treatment . . .’He was talking about the bleeding disease, haemophilia. His claim was that this situation came about as a result of Federal Government policy banning the importation of a commercially available product used in the treatment of this disease. Is it not a fact that the specialist’s statement is incorrect? Is it not a fact that steps have been taken already to expand Australian production of similar concentrates of the appropriate factor? Is this not occurring in the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories and through the Australian Red Cross Society? Is it not a fact that adequate provision for treatment of haemophilia commensurate with international standards is assured already in this country?
– My attention has been drawn to the report that was mentioned by the honourable senator. In 1975 the Department of Health undertook an assessment of the needs of the Australian community for the provision of factor VIII for the treatment of haemophilia. Total production of anti-haemophilic materials in Australia, which are made available through the blood transfusion services of the Australian Red Cross Society, has increased annually over the past 4 years, meeting the demands of patient care, primarily through the provision of cryoprecipitate. Production of factor VIII concentrate at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories commenced in the early 1960s and there has been steady progress in developing materials with increasing potency. The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories have kept abreast of overseas developments in this area
In 1 975 a decision was made for the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to embark on a major development program in the production of high purity factor VIII. This expanded plant is now in operation. This high purity product is intended for special clinical situations in the treatment of haemophilia, rather than to replace the use of cryoprecipitate which is a very suitable product for most purposes. A somewhat lengthy answer could be given to many of the matters which have been raised, but I think what I have said indicates that there are suitable arrangements to provide for the production to meet the needs of the Australian people in this matter. If the honourable senator has any further specific questions I shall give him further information in due course.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory, by reminding the Minister that there is a proposal to establish a Northern Territory Liquor Commission and that meetings have been held in various parts of the Northern Territory. Is the Minister aware that individual Aboriginals and Aboriginal organisations have not yet been involved in any discussions with those associated with the proposed Commission? Can the Minister inform the Parliament whether it is a fact that the Commission will discuss problems and take evidence from only those associated with the selling side of the liquor industry? Is it a fact that those who suffer from the excessive use of alcohol or those who desire to control the sale of alcohol will not be consulted in’ any way?
– I cannot speak from immediate knowledge of this matter. I have had presented to me some information on the background of the Northern Territory Liquor Commission. My understanding is that the honourable senator’s comment that interests other than those selling liquor will not be consulted is incorrect. My understanding is that the Liquor Commission will be taking evidence and advice from many areas. Indeed, I should be most surprised if this did not include people within the Aboriginal community. Indeed, I have been prompted by the honourable senator’s question to see that this advice goes to the Northern Territory.
– I ask the Minister for Education: Is it a fact, as asserted by Mr Peter Samuel in a recent article in the Bulletin, that the taxpayer is funding in Australian tertiary education institutions such degree courses as travel and recreational research, photography, secretarial studies and life management? If this be true, might not then the proposed course on funeral direction at the Gippsland Institute include a section entitled ‘Burying the Taxpayers with Financial Burdens for Academic Irrelevancies’?
– I responded to a question regarding the article by Peter Samuel several days ago. I reiterate what I said then- that whilst one could find some reason for criticising various aspects of the tertiary system, as one could in any operation, the broad brush with which the article was painted in fact distorted the scene. I remind the Senate that the expenditure on these institutions was cut back- cut back savagely- for the previous year, 1976, as a result of the Whitlam Government Budget. A belief is abroad, which is utterly wrong, that education has been in some kind of a beneficent heyday in recent times. I remind honourable senators that the cutback in funding for the 4 education commissions was $105m in the last calendar year. This cut right into the captial building programs of universities, for example, and forced the universities into a variety of economies.
That there may be some avenues for coordination and rationalisation is fully understood and recognised by the new co-ordinating commission which is being set up. That there might be individual savings in those areas is implicit in what we are doing. Anyone who believes that at this moment education is in a condition of luxury or extravagance fails to understand a central point, namely that the ratio between lecturers and students at universities in recent years has worsened perceptibly. In other words, the normal test shows that the amount of resources going into such factors as the studentlecturer ratio has shown a worsening. The capital building program has shown a worsening. I think it is true that there may be certain extraneous trivia. That is what we are now looking at.
– My question to Senator Carrick follows the one he has just answered with his usual inaccuracies which should be exposed at every opportunity. I do not intend to canvass all the inaccuracies in that answer. Is it a fact that he just said that in the last year of the Labor Government capital expenditure for universities was cut- cut savagely I think were the words he used? Is it not a fact that in the last year of the Labor Government $48m was appropriated for capital expenditure in universities and that in the first year of the Liberal Government, that figure was cut by $14m to $34m? These figures are contained in the Treasurer’s Budget Papers.
– In response to Senator Wriedt ‘s daily whimsies I have tabled the figures in the Senate on a number of occasions. The answer to the question which Senator Wriedt has just asked is that it is not a fact. As a result of the August 1975 Budget of the Whitlam Government capital expenditure of $60m for the calendar year 1975 was cut back to $28m for 1976. That was a cutback of more than 100 per cent.
-How much was it in 1 972?
-I thank the honourable senator for his interjection. I shall tell him what happened in 1976. 1 remind honourable senators that instead of cutting back funds for education commissions by $ 105m, setting aside the triennia and freezing allowances for all students as was done in June 1 974, we reversed the cuts in 1 976. That year was perfect joy. We increased real spending by 2 per cent. We instituted rolling triennia and we gave significant increases of student allowances. Since the honourable senator is again interested in those figures, if he so desires I shall have them incorporated once again in the Senate Hansard.
– I ask a supplementary question. Is the Minister for Education disputing the figures provided by the Treasurer in this year’s Budget papers? Is he disputing the fact that capital expenditure on universities in the second year of the Labor Government was $66m, that it was $48m in the third year and that in the first year of the Liberal Government it was $34m? If he is disputing those figures will he lay on the table of the Senate an explanation of why the figures he is quoting are different from those of the Treasurer?
– I have pointed out many times that Senator Wriedt quotes financial year figures whereas all figures for education are calendar year figures. I repeat that for the calendar year 1975 the figure was $60m for capital and that for the calendar year 1976, due to the Whitlam Budget decision, the figure was $28m for capital. That is a cut of more than half and those are facts.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. Is the child care legislation now under review? If so, would the Minister consider a review along the lines of the Government’s family allowances scheme so that more of the taxpayers ‘ money goes directly to the needy instead of in salaries to so-called experts?
– The Child Care Act which is administered by my Department is under review. Consultations have been held with some people in the voluntary sector associated with children’s services, and with State governments. Those consultations are continuing. We would welcome recommendations from people associated with these programs about amendments which we believe may be made to the Act in the forthcoming year. As to whether we will amend the Act in line with the family allowance scheme, there is no real comparison between the family allowance scheme, which is a universal, non-taxable benefit to families and all Australian children, and the organisations which conduct services under the Child Care Act. Those services under the Child Care Act are provided for a variety of reasons for care outside the home, because this is required by those who use them. We hope that we will be able to devise amending legislation which will give support to organisations in such a way as to enable them to give the best type of care to children who are cared for outside their homes for reasons that are obvious in many cases.
– I direct my question to Senator Guilfoyle in her capacity as the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I refer the Minister to a question asked yesterday in the Senate by Senator Knight which related to East Timorese refugees. The Minister said in her reply:
The figure given by Mr Dunn concerning the proportion of refugees who are said to have relatives in Australia overstates the total as known to the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. A closer estimate would be that between 5 per cent and 10 per cent have claimed relationships with Australian residents . . .
Can the Minister explain how the information was presented to her because information supplied to the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in December by the East Timorese Refugees Committee stated that there were 794 persons with relatives in Australia, which is approximately 50 per cent of the total number of refugees? Does the Minister believe that the inaccuracy in her statement could have been created by the fact that until recently the East Timorese refugees in Portugal had the benefit of only a monthly visit by an Australian official from Madrid? Would the Minister remind her adviser in the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs that the Senate expects accurate information in answer to questions asked in this chamber?
– The answer was given yesterday as a result of advice from the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs which has at its disposal all facts relating to the people from East Timor who in some cases were seeking refuge in this country. I do not know whether the statement made today by the honourable senator is based on the information of Mr Dunn and whether it is claimed that it is more accurate than all the information held by the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. What was said yesterday was taken from a considered statement using all the facts available to the Government. I will have investigations made of any information which was given to the Department in December, but the answer given yesterday used all information available at this stage.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs aware of the considerable concern in business and accounting circles in relation to the proposed treatment for balance sheet recording purposes of tax savings arising from the Federal Government’s cost of sales valuation adjustmenu Can he say whether the Corporate Affairs Commissioners in the Territories are investigating this matter? Recalling the confusion over tax effect accounting which was in evidence last year following a statement from the Commissioner in the Australian Capital Territory, will the Minister seek from his colleague clarification of the matter before 30 June 1977 when interested parties will commence preparation of financial statements?
– I shall refer that question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs whom I represent.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I am sure the Minister is well aware of the distress caused in both black and white communities by the consumption of alcohol and particularly methylated spirits. Will the Minister give serious consideration to the suggestion that the application of an emetic chemical to methylated spirits, which will not detract from its commercial properties but which will deter consumption, should apply in Australia as I understand is already being done in some other countries which recognise that they have similar problems?
– I shall have that matter placed under study by the Department of Health and perhaps by the Department of Science to see whether the suggestion which has been proposed may be adopted in this country. I agree with the honourable senator that there is concern with regard to the abuse and use of methylated spirits for purposes other than what may be the intention for such a commodity. 1 undertake to have a study done on the suggestion which has been made.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Science. I refer to a recent report that a warning has been given by 2 scientists of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial
Research Organisation that toddlers at Port Pirie in South Australia who have the habit of putting soil in their mouths run the risk of lead poisoning and that this could lead to problems in their health, development and behaviour in later life. The same scientists suggest also that the concentration of lead and cadmium in vegetables grown in that area greatly exceeds the concentration in vegetables grown in the Adelaide area. In view of the consternation shown by the City Council and by other citizens of Port Pirie, can the Minister provide the Senate with further information on this matter?
-The article was brought to my attention. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation advises me that although the heading may be somewhat alarmist, the article is reasonably accurate. It may be necessary to emphasise one or two points in relation to the matter which the honourable senator has brought forward. Scientists who have looked at the problem in Port Pirie believe that aerial contamination of the Port Pirie area with lead and cadmium ceased when the local smelters installed filters many years ago. Some additional contamination may have occurred through the use of slag from the smelters in home gardens. As was explained in the article, there are clear cut clinical symptoms of lead poisoning which can be readily recognised by medical practitioners.
However, research techniques are necessary to identify individuals with intakes of lead above the safe level laid down by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, but below those intakes which produce clinical symptoms. Even then the situation could be uncertain since the article stated that very little was known about what constituted lead poisoning in children when symptoms were not present. The 2 scientists who were quoted in the paper believe that the hazards of heavy metal poisons in the Port Pirie district are real, especially for children, and that people living in the area need to be aware of the risk. The reference to children eating soil needs a little clarification. Those scientists believe that in a small number of gardens in Port Pirie children who eat more than one gram of soil per day- that is about onethirtieth of an ounce which is a very small quantitywould exceed by at least 4 times what the World Health Organisation regards as the safe intake of lead and that by eating vegetables from a very small number of gardens in the area the safe limit for heavy metal intake could be exceeded. The scientists and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation suggest that further investigation by health authorities might be useful.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Social Security and take up the questions raised by Senator Knight yesterday and by Senator O ‘Byrne today about Timorese refugees. In particular, I refer to that part of the answer which the Minister gave yesterday when she said:
I understand that Mr Dunn’s statements are not entirely accurate. There are some 1400 East Timorese evacuees in East Portugal . . . Fewer than 600 East Timorese refugees in Portugal have applied for migrant entry to Australia.
I now refer the Minister to the answer to question on notice No. 1463, the fourth part of which asks:
Have any applications for visas to Australia been received from East Timor refugees now in Portugal.
The answer to that question was:
Applications received to 25 November 1976 involved 1511 persons.
Will the Minister take steps to reconcile those answers and to make certain that the answer that was given yesterday questioning Mr Dunn’s accuracy is suitably corrected.
– I certainly will look at the information given in answer to the question asked yesterday and to question on notice No. 1463. From my first observation of the figures now quoted by the honourable senator, they do not relate to what was asked in the question yesterday with regard to Mr Dunn’s information or to what was said in the answer yesterday in relation to the figures given by Mr Dunn. I will have a reconciliation made of the answer to the question on notice and the answer which I gave yesterday.
– My question also is addressed to the Minister for Social Security. Is any special study being undertaken of the needs of dependent children of lone fathers or are the grants given to the Working Women’s Centre in Melbourne and the Working Women’s Trade Union Commission in Sydney, a combined sum of $32,400, for investigating the problems of lone fathers or just those of working women?
-There is a number of studies being undertaken by the Office of Child Care. Some of them are being undertaken within the Department and others are using organisations in the community which may have access to other information that would be of use in our considerations. The 2 organisations mentioned in the question have been given grants to look at the needs of children of working parents, sole parents and invalid parents- the children of people who do need the services of children’s centres throughout what might be termed a working day or a day where care is required. The grants provided were felt appropriate for research to be undertaken and the information that flows from this research will be used by the Office of Child Care in formulating policies and programs for the next Budget. I stress that, if we were to look at the approvals for child care services provided in the last Budget, this would be regarded as a very worth while project for the children of Australia. There have been grants to isolated children, Aboriginal children, children of migrant parents and children who have handicaps. A whole range of child care services have been provided. I would hope that the 2 grants concerned will result in showing us the needs of children and giving us some recommendations on which we may plan future programs.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, has been provoked by photographs on the front pages of last Friday’s Melbourne newspapers and also yesterday’s antireferendum statement from Sir Robert Menzies. When this same Sir Robert Menzies told the House of Representatives on 29 April 1965 that the Australian Government was in receipt of a request from the Government of South Vietnam for further military assistance, was he lying? Did the Pentagon papers establish that he was lying? Was his lie to the Parliament ultimately responsible for the death of 493 Australian servicemen in Vietnam including 202 conscripts?
-I think that a question of that order does not deserve an answer. Really, I would have thought that the honourable senator would have had more respect for his own position in the Senate than to lend himself to the asking of such a question.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Can the Minister say whether the Government has investigated reports which indicate that the Carter Administration in the United States of America has accorded de jure recognition to Indonesian incorporation of East Timor? If so, what do these investigations indicate with respect to the United States’ stand on this matter? Can the Minister say what the Government’s attitude is? Has it accorded either de facto or de jure recognition to Indonesian control of East Timor?
– My instructions are that the Australian Government’s position as to recognition of the integration of East Timor into the Republic of Indonesia was set out by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Parliament on 20 October 1976. In essence, the Government has not recognised Indonesia’s incorporation of East Timor but for quite practical reasons, such as the provision of humanitarian aid and the reuniting of families, the Government has to accept certain realities. The Government understands that in answer to a question from a member of the United States House Asian and Pacific Affairs Sub-committee on 17 March, Mr Robert Oakley, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, said, among other things, that the Carter Administration had accepted the decision of the Ford Administration ‘to go along with’ the incorporation of East Timor into Indonesia.
– Can the Minister for Education advise what bodies have received grants for adult education under the States Grants (Technical and Further Education Assistance) Act? What amounts have they received? What are the nature of the projects? What funds are still available for such projects during this financial year?
– Only yesterday I communicated with the States on this matter. No funds have been made available to the States as yet under the States Grants (Technical and Further Education Assistance) Act 1976 for the purpose of assisting programs offered by nongovernment adult education bodies in 1977, the year to which the Act applies. Detailed discussions of appropriate administrative arrangements for the grants have now been concluded with all States. These discussions related to the administrative agency in each State and guidelines for the administration of the grants. The guidelines have now been revised in the light of those discussions. I understand that the State authorities will shortly be calling for applications. An amount of $218,000 is available to States for this purpose in 1977. Yesterday I informed a number of the States that the particular agencies that they had indicated were acceptable to the Commonwealth.
-Can the Minister for Education say whether all places at Australian universities have been filled for the current year? If all places have not been filled, has the Minister any details of the universitios and courses in which there are vacant places? Is any research being undertaken by his Department as to the future demand on universities, including those still under construction, having regard to the present and projected fall in population growth?
-It is still a little early in the university year to be able to say what are the statistics. As the honourable senator will know, the month of March is virtually the start of the university year. In March and April there is a shuffling around and some duplication. It is not unusual for a student to enrol in more than one institution and then make a choice at a later period. So, the statistics are not yet available. I shall look forward eagerly to receiving them. They will tell a story which I think all honourable senators want to know. It is too early yet to measure by way of research what is happening. As to the years from 1 978 onwards, one can say a number of things. There is a consolidation in the university area, except for the new universities such as the Deakin University, the Murdoch University, the Newcastle University, the Wollongong University and the James Cook University. There is also some evidence to suggest that students now are not making universities their preferred choice but rather that they may be making colleges of advanced education or technical colleges their preferred choice. There is now some re-thinking in the community to the effect that degree courses are not necessarily those that would offer the best prospects of vocation. But as soon as figures of any accuracy are available I shall let the honourable senator have them.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. My question is further to that asked on Thursday of last week by Senator Wriedt about the scope of the current Prices Justification Tribunal hearing into motor vehicle spare parts pricing. I now ask: Is the Minister aware that at Monday’s hearing before the Prices Justification Tribunal the National Roads and Motorists Association was prevented from presenting pertinent evidence to the Tribunal because some of it related to spare parts manufactured or sold by companies which had not been called to appear before the hearing? In view of the importance of this matter, will the Minister now arrange with his colleague to have all the major motor vehicle and spare parts manufacturers called before the inquiry?
– I am aware of the evidence given by the NRMA before the Prices Justification Tribunal to which Senator McLaren refers. The matter of the relevance of evidence placed before such an inquiry is, of course, one for the Tribunal itself. The Tribunal apparently made a decision in regard to that particular evidence. However, I shall pass on Senator McLaren’s question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, in view of the situation which has arisen in regard to that evidence, and I shall endeavour to obtain an early reply from him.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade aware that large numbers of inferior quality music cassettes made in Asia are being illegally imported into and sold in Australia to the public? Is the Minister also aware that the production and sale of these cassettes breach international copyright laws and that the current maximum penalty for importing cassettes into Australia is a $200 fine which at present is totally inadequate to prevent such imports? Does the Minister intend to take any action, such as stricter policing of these goods or substantially raising the maximum penalty, to correct this situation?
-I am not aware of the matter raised by Senator Missen but I am grateful to have it brought to my attention. In my capacity as Minister for Industry and Commerce I shall certainly take up the matter because it does affect the production of cassettes in Australia as a competitive alternative to those produced overseas. I shall certainly ask the Department of Overseas Trade and customs officials to check out the matter.
– My question is directed to Senator Guilfoyle in her capacity as Minister for Social Security and perhaps also in her capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is the Minister aware that the women’s refuge in Canberra has made a public announcement recently that it has inadequate funds to continue its operations? Can the Minister confirm that the refuge has not yet been given any definite guarantee of funding after 30 June this year? Is the Minister now in a position to give assurances to the Senate that the Canberra refuge, which is solely the responsibility of the Federal Government, unlike the refuges in the States, will receive adequate funding to maintain its present level of services for the next financial year?
-! am aware that there is some concern on the women’s refuge in Canberra with regard to future funding arrangements. At present, assistance for women’s refuges is provided through the community health program which is administered by the Department of Health. In the Australian Capital Territory special arrangements are made through the Capital Territory Health Commission. For the current financial year the Canberra women’s refuge has received a grant of $20,000 from the Health Commission. It is understood that it has received a grant of some $4,000 from the Australian Capital Territory Totalisator Agency Board especially for child care services. As I understand it, the organisation is seeking $67,000 to cover its salaries and running costs for 1977-78. The refuge authorities, aware that future funding arrangements for refuges are being reviewed, have written to the Department of Health, to the Capital Territory Health Commission and to the Department of Social Security seeking an early decision as to how much of the amount mentioned it may receive from the Commonwealth and from which Department. I am aware of the concern. At present we are looking at the funding for the future programs of women’s refuges and a decision is expected to be taken by the Government some time in the near future. As soon as I am able to say what future funding arrangements will be the Canberra women’s refuge will be advised.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security: Are waterside workers who are retired under the redundancy plan, and as a consequence receive lump sum payments, entitled to unemployment benefits or do they have to wait until they qualify for age pensions before receiving any extra social service benefits?
– Any person is entitled to unemployment benefit if he is eligible under the Act. A determination is made taking into account a work test applied by the Commonwealth Employment Service and an income test applied by the Department of Social Security. The waterside workers mentioned would be eligible if those 2 tests were met and the lump sum payments that are received by them on termination of employment would be treated as income earned in the week in which it was received. So unemployment benefits would be not payable in the week in which they had received income beyond the income limit under the Act or in any other week where they had another source of income which debarred them on the income test. In general terms the answer to the question is that if the waterside workers meet the income test on the weekly basis following the week in which they have had their employment terminated they will be eligible for the benefits.
– My question also is addressed to the Minister for Social Security. Have all the views of Government departments been obtained and assessed by the Minister on a possible booklet dealing with issues of special interest to women? If so, what is the Minister’s decision on the future of the booklet?
– I am not aware of the position at this stage but other departments’ views have been sought as to whether a booklet of special interest to women should be prepared. I shall check whether all departments have given the information that may be required and whether a decision on the matter is to be taken by all the departments concerned.
– I refer the Minister for Industry and Commerce to a statement on incentives made in the Liberal Party policy document released on 28 November 1975. Concerning incentives to industry the document stated that the incentives ‘would be either direct grants or an offset of capital costs against income and would be at least equal to those operating prior to June 1974’. In view of this clear statement of policy I ask: Does the Minister still hold this view? Does he consider that other countries are doing more in this area and that an expansion is necessary? What type of incentives are intended to be implemented? When does the Minister expect to be able to announce an incentives program designed to assist the manufacturing industry?
– I suggest the honourable senator refer to the last Budget and the investment allowance proposals therein.
-I have a twofold question to ask the Minister representing the
Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. Can the Minister amplify the reference in the last annual report of the National Parks and Wildlife Service as to the specific cost of a wetlands survey? What is the Australian Government doing to break the nexus with the States that will make the migratory bird treaty more than a piece of paper as it appears to be at the moment.
-I think the honourable senator was referring in the first instance to the work on wetlands which started with a House of Representatives select committee in 1972. As I am advised, with respect to the statement in the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service annual report-I think that is the matter to which the honourable senator referred- the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation feasibility study report for a national wetlands survey included an estimate of a total cost of $3. 5m for a detailed survey to be carried out over a period of 8 years. That is a very considerable sum of money. The Council of Nature Conservation Ministers, meeting on 12 November last, considered a wide range of surveys, including a survey of wetlands. It recognised the need to continue detailed studies of the relationships between the characteristics of wetlands and their general background.
As to the second matter relating to migratory birds, whilst the Migratory Birds Agreement has not yet been ratified, pending completion of legislative requirements, co-operative action is being taken to implement aspects of that Agreement. For example, the Council of Nature Conservation Ministers standing working group on birds has been asked to examine the state of knowledge and to recommend research required to permit Australia to discharge its responsibilities under the Migratory Birds Agreement. The working group will be reporting on this task to the Standing Committee meeting in June this year.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is the Minister aware of reports that East Timorese refugees who left the Portuguese territory late last year and are residing in Portugal are now prepared to speak publicly on their experiences during the Indonesian invasion? Is the Government prepared to obtain evidence from them relating to the deaths of 6 Australian journalists and reported atrocities by Indonesian forces in
East Timor? Would the Government be prepared to send an all-party parliamentary delegation to Portugal for the purpose of collecting information?
-As to the first question, I am not aware of those reports. As to the other 2 questions, I will pass them on to the Prime Minister and seek an answer.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and refers to the statement made yesterday by the Minister that certain offices of the Commonwealth Employment Service will be opened on late shopping nights in order to help those who are in search of work. I ask: Is the Minister aware that probably the heaviest unemployment occurs in the New South Wales provincial cities of Newcastle and Wollongong and that no provision has been made by the Government for the employment offices in those cities to be kept open on late shopping nights? Why were these areas overlooked by the Government? Will the Minister take action to see that this gross oversight is rectified forthwith?
– I will pass on Senator Douglas McClelland ‘s question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and endeavour to obtain an early answer from him.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Science and refer to the Australian visit of a specialised plane from the United States of America. I ask the Minister: Has the Department of Science any interest in the mission of this airborne observatory, which the American National Aeronautics and Space Administration has in Australia, and would the type of research which such a laboratory can carry out be of any practical use to the Australian community?
-On 6 March a Lockheed C141 aircraft from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration AMES Research Centre arrived in Australia. It will be leaving Australia on 29 March. The Department of Science has liaison with NASA in a number of ways. Certainly the Department of Science, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and a number of universities throughout Australia have taken particular interest in this project. The honourable senator asks a question which is in the minds of many people these days, that is, whether something which appears to be purely scientific research is in actual fact of use to the community. One realises that an airborne laboratory to a value of some $ 10m is in actual fact just looking at stars. I believe a great benefit comes from this type of research.
I inspected the aircraft when it first arrived in Melbourne. It then proceeded to Western Australia, where it was engaged in an 8-hour flying trip nearly 3000 kilometres from the south-west of Perth at a height of about 1 5 000 metres. It made an observation of the occultation of a star by the planet Uranus. I could mention one matter that came forward from an observation made by this aircraft within the past 6 months. One scientist on board the aircraft was able to predict clear air turbulence ahead of the aircraft’s flying path. This is a most unusual discovery which, from a purely scientific point of view, of course, will result in a particular benefit to our commercial interests becoming available in the future. Honourable senators may care to know that this aircraft will be in Canberra, I think, on Monday next. Invitations have gone out to various committees, one of which is chaired by Senator Jessop, and to other interested honourable senators. They will find great interest in viewing this most unusual research laboratory.
-I ask the Minister for Science: Is it a fact that at the meeting of the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research in the Argentine last October the United States was asked to make every effort to obtain Landsat imagery over the whole of the Antarctic? Can the Minister indicate what progress the United States has made?
– I believe that in general the suggestions made by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate are correct. Such a meeting relating to the interests of the Antarctic was held during that time last year. For a number of years not only the United States but also this country and a number of other countries have been interested in gaining satellite imagery of resources and, indeed, of the whole earth surface. The thrust of the question from the Leader of the Opposition was whether the United States had been successful. Obviously the honourable senator would agree that I would be unable to state whether the United States considered it had been successful in this matter. But as the Antarctic is of such interest to both the honourable senator and me, I shall attempt to obtain that information for him.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, refers to Defence Force Retirement Benefits disability pensions. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a recent High Court decision which apparently found that the taxation of disability portions of DFRB pensions was invalid and that the Government is responsible for paying back tax payments for some years- 3 years has been suggested- which have been collected in this form? Is the Minister able to say what consideration is being given at present to this situation by the Government?
-My attention has been drawn to this matter in the sense that I read about it in the paper. I noted the matter very carefully. I have not followed it through beyond that. The honourable senator’s question will prompt me to ask the Treasurer what the Government proposes to do about the matter. Without any doubt, it is a very interesting case. In passing, one might say that one has to admire the person concerned who apparently did his own work, read the appropriate law and followed the matter through by himself. It seems to me to be an interesting example of what one can do in a system like ours if one is prepared to work at it.
– I formally ask the Minister for Social Security a question which I asked by interjection yesterday with regard to the criteria which pertain to applications made by East Timorese refugees from Portugal or any other place to enter Australia. I ask whether the strict conditions which hold for migration for other ethnic groups hold for the Timorese in the situation in which they find themselves.
– I was interested in the matter raised by Senator Georges yesterday and I sought for him information more specific than 1 was able to give him. As at 17 March of this year we had issued 47 visas to Timorese evacuees in Portugal. We had approved and were awaiting the issue for visas for another 12 persons. Approximately 171 persons were awaiting the determination of their visa applications. Amongst those 171 persons twenty were rejected on medical grounds. One hundred and forty-one were rejected on occupational criteria grounds. Subsequent to those applications, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs decided that he would waive the occupational criteria for brothers and sisters of persons resident in
Australia. Therefore, there will be a review of applications by those persons. I believe that the Minister will be exercising a degree of flexibility with regard to the occupational criteria among other criteria. Depending on the level of interest shown by the evacuees following their applications and the review of those applications, I believe that we may be able to waive the occupational criteria in some cases when there are relatives here or for other reasons determined by the Minister in the context of the flexibility I have mentioned.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister: In view of the Queensland National Party decision to oppose the first two of the referenda, which decision together with the opposition of State Liberal parliamentarians in Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania and a large number of Labor supporters, will ensure the defeat of the referenda, is there any truth in the current rumour that the Prime Minister is considering not proceeding with the referenda, thus saving a considerable amount of the taxpayers’ money and devoting it to more worthy causes?
-The Government intends to proceed with the referenda on 2 1 May and it intends to win them.
-I ask the Minister for Education whether it is a fact that some officers of the Department of Education will not accept statutory declarations, duly witnessed by a justice of the peace, from post-secondary students. Is it also a fact that when asked why a statutory declaration cannot be accepted from a student it is usual to state: ‘You would be surprised at what some students will put on a statutory declaration form’? Will the Minister advise whether it is acceptable for a student who wishes to claim independent status under the tertiary education assistance scheme to supply information in relation to past earnings on a statutory declaration form? Finally, are there any situations in which it is normal for students or parents to provide information to the Department of Education by use of statutory declaration forms?
– I have no knowledge at all of any incidents that would relate to the first 2 questions asked by the honourable senator. If the honourable senator has some particular information regarding the non-acceptance by a department of a properly drawn up statutory declaration, witnessed by a justice of the peace competent within the State or Territory, I should be grateful if he would let me have that information. It is my understanding that the Department has accepted information on statutory declarations. I am not aware of any delimitation. In case there are practices with which I am not familiar I will seek information and let the honourable senator know.
– I direct my question to the Acting Minister for the Northern Territory. No doubt the Minister has been advised that electricity supplies to the Darwin area have been seriously interrupted once again by mechanical failure. On this occasion the interruptions were caused by the failure of an oil line which was temporarily repaired after cyclone Tracy. Will the Minister indicate when the necessary additional generator will be installed or other steps taken to provide a reliable supply to overcome the hardship and food wastage which is becoming a way of life for the people of Darwin?
– I acknowledge the general thrust of the honourable senator’s question. I have been alerted regularly about problems associated with breakdowns in power supply in the Northern Territory. It is most regrettable that the people of the Northern Territory, particularly those in Darwin, have this inconvenience thrust upon them. Earlier in the year I visited the power station and saw that one or two of the generators were out of action. There had been quite a deal of trouble there. I do not know of the particular instance to which the honourable senator refers but it is my understanding that most of the trouble in recent times arose from a prohibition on working overtime. On Tuesdays, regularly, there had been some cessation of supply due basically to an industrial problem, not to a breakdown of the plant.
– That is not the case at present. That is why I specifically mentioned last week.
-Well, on Sunday night a lady in tears rang me. She claimed to be from Darwin. She pleaded with me to get the power supply restored over the weekend and said that she and her children could not cook their meals and be fed properly. I was very unhappy about the situation she faced. My understanding is that everything possible is being done in the Territory at present to maintain a power supply for the people. I understand that some problems have been due to breakdowns in equipment and some have been associated with difficulties with the power lines as a result of the cyclone. There is a problem associated with equipment although, I understand, the available power supply is far in excess of the normal reserve supply for a city of the size of Darwin in comparison with that which other capital cities have. As for the industrial situation, perhaps the honourable senator could assist in some way in seeing that that area of dispute is cut out so that the people of Darwin may receive their rightful power supply.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Is it a fact that magistrates dealing with criminal prosecutions in Canberra have disqualified themselves from hearing such cases as a result of an appearance of bias because both prosecutors and magistrates are responsible to one Minister? Has the hearing of criminal cases been deferred until the question is resolved? Has this impasse been created by the failure of the Attorney-General’s Department to issue an ordinance separating the 2 functions? Has the ordinance been prepared for some 4 months? If so, when might we expect a solution to the problem that is holding up all criminal prosecutions in Canberra?
– I have no information on this matter which would be helpful to Senator Cavanagh and the Senate. I shall refer the question to the Attorney-General and endeavour to obi: in an early answer for him.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs take the necessary action to have tabled in the Senate at the earliest opportunity the names of all persons and companies which were in receipt of the superphosphate bounty for orders of 400 tonnes or more in 1 976?
– I shall refer that question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs.
-Will the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development give an assurance that the inquiry into land and housing costs which is to be established by the Government will include some representation from the Australian trade union movement in order that the experience and knowledge of workers in the housing and construction industry will be available to the committee in its investigations?
– I shall refer that question to my colleague in another place.
– Yesterday Senator Douglas McClelland asked me a question concerning the prosecution of a Commonwealth policeman and of a former Commonwealth policeman in the Ringwood Police Court lust week. I am informed by the Commissioner of Police as follows: In May 1975, a Commonwealth police constable who had joined the force one month previously purchased an FM receiver from Ham Radio Supplies, Richmond, Victoria. This receiver was turned to the Victorian police radio band. The constable who was a ham radio enthusiast fitted the radio to his private car. In May 1976 he sold the radio to another constable who also fitted the receiver to his private car. In July 1976, while driving his car, this constable was stopped by the Victoria police for a routine traffic matter and the receiver was detected. This constable has since resigned from the force.
The 2 constables were later questioned by the Victoria police and summonses were issued against them for breaches of the Wireless Telegraphy Act. The summonses alleged that the constable had maintained and used an appliance for the purpose of receiving messages contrary to section 6 of the Act. Both men appeared at the Ringwood Magistrates Court on 17 March 1977. pleaded guilty and were placed on bonds of $ 100 to be of good behaviour for 12 months and ordered to pay $40 costs. The Magistrate when dealing with the case said: ‘The radio set involved, in the wrong hands, could be an embarrassment to the Victoria police’. The Magistrate did not say that their actions had been an embarrassment to the Victoria police. As can be seen the 2 constables had the radio at separate times. The total period of their possession was from May 1 975 to July 1 976. At no time were they acting at the direction of the Commonwealth.
Relationships between the Commonwealth and State police forces are very good. A mutual respect exists for each other’s separate role. Commonwealth police are trained to perform their specific functions and these functions are not seen as being in conflict with the State police role. Commonwealth police have been specifically instructed to co-operate with State police forces and other Government agencies. No complaints have been made by the Chief Commissioner of the Victoria Police in this matter. In view of the penalties imposed by the
Magistrate, the Commissioner of the Commonwealth Police does not propose to take any disciplinary action against the serving constable.
– I inform the Senate that I have received the following letter from Senator Keeffe:
Dear Mr President:
I hereby give notice that on Wednesday, 23 March, pursuant to Standing Order 64,I shall move:
That in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency: That the Federal Government has failed to honour its election promises to Aborigines.
Senator the Honourable Condor L. Laucke, President of the Senate, Parliament House, CANBERRA.
Is the motion supported?
More than the number of Senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
During the 1975 election campaign and prior to the commencement of that campaign we heard many statements from representatives of the parties who are now in government saying that there would be no cutbacks in money for Aboriginal affairs and that no one would be deprived of his just entitlement. In other words, the program under a Liberal-Country Party government would be better than it had been under Labor. It has not worked out that way. For almost 16 months there has been a campaign of continuous cutbacks and those cutbacks in many instances showed no consideration for people, so personal suffering was often one of the consequences. There has been a history of manipulation of figures. We were told in 1976 how generous the Government was in its Budget in relation to Aborigines and Torres Strait islanders. But the Budget when analysed shows that there were severe cutbacks. I propose to refer to this in more detail shortly.
The subsequent uproar- and there was a loud protest from the community generally as well as from Aboriginal communities- persuaded the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) to produce some additional money. However, that additional money has been further manipulated and in fact has not gone in toto to Aboriginal people as we were told in the beginning that it would. The telegram from Mr Ellicott caused a lot of consternation in many parts of Australia and within the ranks of the Liberal Party. I will quote it again because it cannot be repeated too often to show the sham in relation to Aboriginal affairs by the Liberal Party both in Opposition and as a campaigning organisation. The telegram stated:
Mr Bob Ellicott, Liberal and Country Party spokesman for Aboriginal Affairs said today there would be no cuts in Aboriginal Affairs budget or in Aboriginal Affairs programs. Funds will continue to be made available for housing, education, employment, health, legal aid etc. Pensions payable to Aboriginal people will not be cut and will rise automatically twice a year with cost of living increases. All available funds will be shared among Aboriginal communities on a fair and impartial basis. A Liberal-National Country Party Government will support Aboriginal organisations such as the Aboriginal medical and legal services. It will hold an urgent inquiry into the role of the NACC to determine whether it can be given a more important role in Aboriginal affairs.
To divert slightly, an inquiry was held into the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. It took many months to get off the ground; it took many months to settle back to earth again; and it appears that it will be many months before the Government makes any decision as a result of the inquiry. Members of the NACC throughout Australia are concerned, as are Aboriginal communities, about what will be the result of the Government’s consideration. The telegram continues:
Efforts will be made to increase the number of Aboriginal people involved in Aboriginal Affairs.
The result of that is that there has been a serious cutback in Aboriginal staff. It continues:
Employment and training schemes will be urgently investigated with aim of increasing job opportunities for Aborigines throughout Australia.
Aborigines throughout Australia are now the most deprived group of people in this country in terms of the unemployment benefit. In some areas and in some communities up to 80 per cent of employable breadwinners who are unemployed are not in receipt of the unemployment benefit because drastic work tests have been applied and they have not been able to qualify for payment of the unemployment benefit. Mr Ellicott went on to say:
Spread the word that there is absolutely no truth in Labor Party rumours about cuts in Aboriginal Affairs budget. Under a Liberal-Country Party Government Aborigines will be better not worse off. Urge Aborigines to vote LiberalCountry Party on 13 December.
That is the end of that infamous telegram. It was a very hollow worded telegram.
I refer now in detail to some of the fiddling of figures which took place within the first 2 months of the Government’s term in office. The sum of $7m was pared from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs appropriation in February 1 976, less than 8 weeks after the Government was elected. That amount was taken off the original Hayden Budget allocation of $ 1 86m. Since that time the cuts have followed thick and fast. The only change that one sees from time to time is when the Government comes up with a new excuse. It does not come up with any extra money.
The 1976-77 Budget brought down by this Government, which Mr Ellicott said during the pre-election period would not impose any cuts at all, only served to highlight the callousness or the general thinking of the administrators. In the area of welfare, the 1 976-77 Budget for Aboriginal affairs was $ 1 53m in toto. That was $40m less than the Budget for the previous financial year. We were told that it was only $33m less. Then, we were told that it was only a $30m cut. In fact, there was a fiddling of figures. It is no use saying that the cuts are not as substantial as they appeared if we analysed the position. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the Treasurer at that time attempted to gloss over the subject and to convince the people generally that the matter was not as serious as it appeared to be. On 17 August, the Treasurer, Mr Lynch, announced that the Government had set aside $153m for programs giving direct help to Aborigines. He went on to cite the figures I mentioned a moment ago, namely, that this amount represented $33m less than the spending for last financial year. Mr Lynch said:
The Government is mindful of its election undertakings and is committed to promoting the welfare and well-being of Aboriginals.
He went on to state that this was not simply a matter of injecting ever-increasing amounts of money into an ever-increasing complexity of insufficiently considered programs. He further said:
An increasing body of evidence has demonstrated the need to re-assess the efficacy of some of the approaches of the past.
Contained in that statement is implied criticism of the previous Labor Administration. It is inferred that the Australian Labor Party would solve everything by additional sums of money. It is not true. But, of course, it is true that there were some minor deficiencies in some areas. But the Aboriginal people proved themselves to be just as capable or more capable of handling money and of doing so far better than many of their white counterparts. I will make further reference to that later in my contribution to this debate when I speak about the Hay report. In the Aboriginal News of October 1976, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Viner, said:
Aboriginal housing and enterprises would get additional funds after the Government had considered the recommendations of an interdepartmental committee reviewing these and other programs.
That has not happened. Tens of thousands of dollars worth of building material lie wasting in communities around Australia because housing programs have not been resumed. Mr Viner went on to say:
Aboriginal communities and individuals could be assured that jobs would not be lost because of the presently reduced level of funds in these vital key areas.
Let me say again that the unemployment position in Aboriginal communities has never been worse. In some parts of Australia in the so-called fringe areas and in the Aboriginal reserves and communities generally, there is in excess of an 80 per cent unemployment rate. Because of the fiddling in which the Government has engaged which has prevented people from qualifying to collect unemployment benefits, kids and families are hungry. People are not allowed to collect the social security entitlements which every other section of the community is entitled to collect. Of course, Mr Viner added in the last paragraph of the article:
It is time for optimism in Aboriginal affairs and not for gloom. We are not in the business of imposing hardship on a disadvantaged people already so hard-pressed. While the level of funding in the areas mentioned has been held pending the review we have made money available to the crucial areas of unemployment and welfare.
Of course, that is a fiddling with words in addition to being a fiddling with figures. We do not know what will happen in the future. The position looks extremely serious. I noted during question time this morning that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) appeared to be most uncomfortable when my colleague Senator Grimes, the Labor Party spokesman on social security, was asking some leading questions about what will happen in the Budget in relation to social security payments. Can we believe the rumours that have been started, not by anybody on this side of the chamber, but by none other than that august person himself, the Treasurer? He is the man who has set the ball rolling. He is the man who is getting even more testy with the Minister for Social Security. He is the man who will decide how much money will be spent in that area. I hope that when the allocation for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs is being sorted out in that quiet period leading up to the Budget this year Aborigines will not come in for further cutbacks in the very essentials that they need.
This Government has decided that the unemployment story is a myth. It would do the whole Cabinet good- if its members had the time to spare- to go into some of the more remote areas of Australia and see the suffering that exists because of these cutbacks. I have 2 short tables which I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard. They give a comparison on spending for housing, health, education, employment, welfare, enterprises, town management, public utilities, recreation, legal aid and in some general areas for the years 1972-73 to 1976-77, the current financial year.
-Is leave granted for the incorporation of the tables in Hansard? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The tables read as follows-
-The tables will make interesting reading for those who want to go through and examine them. We recall, of course, that a journalist named Samuels had something to say in the weekly publication the Bulletin regarding the alleged waste of money on housing programs, etc. The Hay report came out some considerable time afterwards. It appeared to be a fairly full inquiry. Rather than criticising Aboriginal people the main criticism was levelled at some sections of the bureaucracy. Many recommendations were made. I hope that the Government will take note of them and that services such as housing associations and supplementary meal programs in the areas where they are badly needed will be restored.
Mr Ellicott was very good at sending telegrams at a cost of many thousands of dollars to the Australian taxpayer during the time when he was a member of the caretaker government or the caretaker Cabinet or whatever it was supposed to be; I do not think he ever made the caretaker Cabinet. The way he is going he will not be in the present Cabinet for much longer. I want to quote a couple of relevant words from a telegram that he sent. I have sheafs of them here; I shall not use them all. He said:
There will be no cuts in Aboriginal Affairs budget or in programs.
He then said:
Funds would continue to be made available for housing, education, employment, health.
I will read some other documents shortly that give the lie to that statement. He then said:
We will grant land rights over all Aboriginal reserves in the Northern Territory and we will help Aborigines to buy land off the reserves. Land rights legislation have top priority immediately after election.
We know what happened with the land rights legislation. First of all, there were wide differences of opinion in the Government Parties at the Federal level. Great pressures were applied by the Country-Liberal Party of the Northern Territory and by the Country National Party or whatever it is called in Queensland. Did the land rights legislation apply to the Northern Territory, the only area in which the Commonwealth has jurisdiction? We debated the Bill in here for about 2Vi days. The Labor Party wanted to restore some of the contents of its old Bill which was introduced on 5 November, I think from memory, before the Whitlam Government was dismissed. There were people on the other side of the chamber who said: ‘It’s all right. They are a nice bunch of people up there in the Northern Territory and they will bring in complementary legislation which will be just what the doctor ordered.’ The doctor did not order it, of course. The doctor has now repudiated all the promises he made to the Prime Minister and all the promises he made to members of the Federal Government Parties.
– That is incorrect.
– It is not incorrect. The honourable senator can defend Dr Letts as much as he likes, but Dr Letts damns himself with his own words, and in a moment I will read some extracts from a couple of his more recent statements. The legislation had a very stormy passage and the Bill was altered. I think the Government brought in something like 40 amendments to its own Bill because the National Country Party did not like certain things in it. The Bills were taken away, and one story which was circulated- I believe to be true- was that while the moon was down one night somebody actually got at the draft of the Bill and had it printed with a couple of paragraphs which should not have been there. I suppose that did not cost the taxpayer very much except for the pulping of a few Bills and the reprinting. Returning to what the famous Dr Letts has had to say, in a Press statement which he issued on 17 March 1977-1 do not know whether the day had anything to do with the releasing of the statement- it was stated:
The Majority Leader, Dr Letts, said this morning that a campaign was being mounted against the Assembly over the complementary Aboriginal Land Rights legislation. He said the Northern Land Council was preparing thousands of leaflets to be sent to Aborigines doubtless without any consultation with the Majority Party, although this would be in the best interests of co-operation and harmony. He said that in addition advisers and others were sending hundreds of protest type telegrams to the Prime Minister and to Federal Ministers. Dr Letts said an attempt bordering on hysteria was being made to engender widespread emotional reaction amongst the Aborigines
He went on in the same vein for the next three or four paragraphs. He then supported Mr Withnall, the member for Port Darwin, who came in and attacked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Viner. Mr Withnall said that Mr Viner could not dictate to the Assembly over complementary legislation. The statement continued:
After the introduction of the Bills ten days ago Mr Viner had issued a Press release which indicated that the legislation did not have his final agreement. Mr Withnall said the Minister should use more temperate language because the Assembly was no longer a puppet Parliament, it was a fully elected Assembly, fully responsible to Territory people to make laws.
There is one final sentence, but I will not read the whole statement. If that is the way that certain people in the Legislative Assembly in the Northern Territory feel, quite obviously they are going about things in the wrong way. Not only will they create a general feeling that they are not entitled to statehood but also they will create an impression in the minds of the Australian public that the Assembly is not a fit and proper body to have State-like powers passed to it. The famous Dr Letts, who is now becoming popularly known as the horse doctor, said to the Ranger inquiry in Sydney yesterday -
– I rise on a point of order. I take the words ‘horse doctor’ as a reflection on a parliamentarian in another place.
– I will withdraw them, Mr President. Actually, I said it affectionately. 1 will refer to Dr Letts as the veterinary surgeon, which I think is quite in order because it is technical. A newspaper article refers to the statement made by Dr Letts to the Ranger inquiry.
Dr Letts’ statement said: ‘I believe that the success of this type of claim would destroy bridges of understanding being built between ethnic groups in the Territory and invite massive demonstrations of civil disobedience, which would bring the law into contempt.
Mr Justice Fox, I believe quite rightly, suggested that Dr Letts should not use those words because it could cause general disturbances in Australia. If anybody is being irresponsible and emotional about this matter it is Dr Letts. But I do not have to go that far, because there is another very interesting thing I wish to point out, and I wonder if this indicates collaboration with Mr Ken Day, the Progress Party Chairman. Honourable senators will remember that this used to be known as the Workers Party in the Northern Territory. He accused other political parties of using smokescreen tactics to hide from the public the horrendous effects of the Aboriginal land rights legislation. Let me quote just two or three paragraphs to show the paranoia from which some of these people suffer. Mr Day said:
All people care about is that the Bill is not passed.
Mr Day predicted that if the Bill was passed in its present form there would be civil warfare in the Territory within five years.
I appeal for some common sense from our politicians no matter what party they belong to.
Otherwise we will end up with black power and guerrilla movements and Klu Klux Klan activities brought about by well-meaning but incredibly stupid people practising apartheid and racial discrimination . . .
If Mr Day wants to include me in that group I am happy to be part of it. The only way that these people are going to get their land rights legislation is through the activities of governments who care and through the campaigns which can be conducted by Aboriginal groups and friendly white people in the community.
I am disturbed about what is happening to the complementary Aboriginal land rights legislation, and I have asked the Prime Minister to bring back to this Parliament all of the sensitive matters for which the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly was given responsibility. It has proved to be irresponsible, if Dr Lett’s first draft Bills are any example. But in my own home State of Queensland things are even worse. There, if you are black you cannot buy land which is subject to a Government lease. I will not seek the incorporation of this material, but recently the Sunday Mail, and I think it was a little bit irresponsible, published a map of Australia showing the location of Aboriginal reserves across the north of Australia. The famous Premier, of course, has said that this will create apartheid. As honourable senators know, in that State we are subject to two very discriminatory Acts. The end result has been that over a long period of years the Premier has refused even to hand over the reserves to the Aboriginal tribes who live on them. He once made a now famous statement to a Federal Government officer: ‘You cannot have my land and you cannot have my blacks. ‘ He has lived up to that reputation ever since, but more will be said in this chamber about Queensland at a later time in this session. 1 propose now to refer to some of the other areas in which there have been cuts. I have received a telegram from Ms Val Mackay, who is a representative of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. This relates to a question which probably should more properly be directed to and answered by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick). The telegram states in part:
Since January this year one hundred and four Aboriginals in New South Wales have been refused Aboriginal study grants to assist them financially with fulltime and part time courses at technical colleges and other institutions. I understand this situation is worse in every other State in Australia. On 17 February Hansard Senate page 124 the Minister acknowledged that a substantial increase in applications for Aboriginal study grants was causing pressure on existing funds.
I hope that a statement will be made in this Parliament about what is happening in that direction. I received today a letter signed by 2 people which states:
We have been employed for the past year as tutors to Aboriginal children in the three Armidale High Schools. We have worked during school hours and in co-operation with the teachers. This scheme has been successful in that the children have improved in basic skills in reading and writing to the extent that they are able to cope with normal class work. Moreover relationships with teachers and other students (which have in the past been very poor) have improved and the students are beginning to participate in school activities for the first time. There have been very few drop outs from the students receiving this help and most arc planning to go into technical college or specific trades instead of assuming that they will go on the dole. The headmasters have been enthusiastic about the scheme and had requested that it be continued this year. 1 understand that this scheme was a pilot scheme.
On 23 February we were told to terminate employment in 2 days time, the reason given being lack of funds. However we were later told that money was available for tutoring after school hours, although it was admitted that this would be less successful. We have been funded under the Secondary Grant Scheme which is under the Federal Education Department, yet it now appears that no department is willing to take the responsibility of providing this service.
The letter continues:
Without it the majority of these children will leave school at 15 years and most probably go on the dole . . .
The letter goes on to state:
The Remedial teaching of aborigines is relatively inexpensive as a tutor receives $8.50 an hour, is not paid during holidays, and works a maximum of thirteen hours a week.
I hope that those responsible for the Government of this country will assume some responsibility for restoring this service. As if all these things were not enough, there appears to be an attempt to keep Aboriginal people from participating in elections. I quote from a letter I received from a voter at Fitzroy Crossing in relation to the recent State election campaign in Western Australia. It reads:
It was the most vicious intimidatory action I have yet seen any party apply to Aborigines in an election. Its application within the booth used pre-planned tactics which went back as far as the amendment to the Electoral Act, Section 129, in the budget sitting of Parliament . . . The inclusion of Rees as an ‘Independent’ set the stage. The hired bunch of solicitors used as scrutineers completed the program to deprive illiterate Aborigines of their right to cast a valid vote.
I have a number of statements from Aborigines in the Kimberley electorate. I seek their incorporation in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman)- The President has seen these papers. Is it the wish of the Senate that they be incorporated? There being no objection, it is so ordered.
The documents read as follows-
Attention Phil Bodeker From Peter Ross Urgent
The Liberal Party used discriminatory tactics against illiterate Aborigines in the Kimberley electorate to intimidate, confuse and deprive of the right to register a valid vote for the candidate they had selected. The Aboriginal electors were humiliated by the onslaught.
The discriminatory tactics were used against both Labor and Liberal voters. (The vast majority were Labor voters). Lawyers were flown from Perth to act as scrutineers in the major Kimberley booths for Alan Ridge.
They demanded that all statutory requirements of the Electoral Act be applied by the presiding officers in ascertaining the illiterate persons identity and right to vote.
This subjected each person who asked for help to a series of questions not applied to them in any previous election nor to European electors in this one. e.g. are you a British subject?
Are you over 1 8?- This to grey haired pensioners as well as youthful people.
Are you a loyal subject of the Queen?
Have you voted before? etc. etc.- ref. Electoral Act for other questions.
If the elector managed to provide satisfactory answerssome of which may have been challenged by the visiting scrutineer- he/she then moved to the voting cabinet with the presiding officer and a jury of up to 5 scrutineers to listen to their secret ballot. In the presence of all witnesses they were required to name the person they wished to vote for and then name the other candidates and the preferences to be allocated. They were not permitted to refer the presiding officer to the voting card after they had nominated the candidate they wished to vote for. No other elector was deprived of their how to vote card.
Early Aboriginal electors took up to 20 minutes to cast their vote once they had asked for assistance.
The addition of the independent candidate Rees to the poll permitted the discriminatory and intimidatory tactics to be applied. N.B. Rees did little if any campaigning. His scrutineers were generally Libera) members or Liberal supporters. His how to vote cards were distributed in some areas by persons handing out the Liberal how to vote card.
Mr and Mrs Rees and presumably his scrutineer voted at Fitzroy Crossing booth but only I vote was registered at the booth.
No interpreter was permitted to assist Aboriginal electors in the above situation.
During the election campaign both the party candidates had been given a hearing by all Aboriginal communities at Fitzroy. A few chose to vote Liberal. The vast majority had decided to vote for Ernie Bridge.
It is likely that no electors in Australian history have been subjected to such inquisitorial treatment to cast a democratic vote. Undoubtedly Aborigines will hesitate before subjecting themselves to such humiliating circumstances in the future. Will they be required to memorise all Senate preferences?
Statements by Mr Crighton-Browne and Mr Alan Ridge to justify the Liberal Party’s assault on, and intimidation of. Aboriginal electors seek to blame the ALP and discredit the intelligence of the Aborigines.
All Aboriginal communities in the Fitzroy area listened to both Liberal and Labor speakers. People voted for both Liberal and Labor in the Fitzroy booths, showing they made a choice. Crighton-Browne showed he had never met the Kimberley people when he attempts to discredit them by calling them ‘illiterate bush Aborigines’. The Aborigines have been living on the fringes of towns since 1968. and know governments look after white people while they are left in humpies and tents. They know Ernie Bridge and that he will speak for their people. Many were not able to read the how to vote cards, but they could tell which card they wanted to follow by the photos. Only a person who was ignorant of the people ‘s development or who is a racist could claim the cards may ‘well have been tram tickets. ‘
Alan Ridge should be the last to complain about Aborigines being ‘ marshalled ‘ or ‘exploited ‘.
STATEMENTS BY FITZROY CROSSING ABORIGINAL LEADERS
From Go Go Station leaders
We all were voting for Labor because when we were voting for Liberal all the time before we have been pushed around all the time because we had no help.
We would have voted with our own will. All the old people didn’t know how to vote. We try to help them but they didn’t let us help all the old people and show them how to vote the right way.
Jerry Mutt- Go Go Station
Well I never vote for Liberal any other time from the time I started voting.
I wanted to vote for Labor last election but they muck me about for the first voting that was on 1 975.
This time I voted for Labor, but we had our old people pushed around. They had nobody to stand by, not even young person to help with their cards. Few of them got mixed up.
Why we did not vote for Liberal Party, because they have never done anything for us.
I have been on the voting roll since I was at Xmas Creek and right down hereon Middle Reserve.
This time I could not find my name for me or my wife.
When Alan Ridge visited our reserve I asked if I could change the voting, to vote Labor.
Alan Ridge did not answer.
Later on he asked why change the Party I ‘ve been helping lot people, La Grange, One Arm Point, Looma, Pandanus Park, Fitzroy Crossing.
But I didn’t believe.
May be somebody helping us, not him.
When we ‘ve been voting for him 9 years we been sitting down under a tree.
We have been foot walking all the time.
Dr Bealey was trying to help that’s the only man trying to help us.
We had a meeting with all Councillors and we had the Hospital changed to Minda Radii Hill through Dr Bealey nobody else. Labor good help- we got to change the Party.
Community Health Dr 1973-74
From Wadgi Thirkell
When they asked questions of the old people they could not understand, and we could not speak for old people themselves.
When Stan Webb (Presiding Officer) helping old people two blokes came to listen if he talked right or wrong.
They would not let us Aborigines take in somebody to help. We have been voting on other times but this time many people can’t find names on the roll book.
From Billy Bryant
I have voted 9 years for Mr Ridge. From time we were at Jubilee, then when we shifted to Fitzroy bottom reserve. We changed over this time. Everybody we voted for Labor. We are not getting anything out of Liberal Government We use our own money. We want to vote for Labor and twist the Government around. Some people, men and women miss out of voting. When Ernie Bridge came round we were on roll. Kurknanki Reserve people missed out. Didn’t see any vote on roll book. My missus missed out, also Alec Rogers, Molly Rogers, Polly Poobary, Kim Rogers, old Potatoe and Rub (Potatoe’s wife).
– I fear the redistribution that is to take place in the Northern Territory because I think it, too, will be aimed at the Aborigines. We have to remember that the Northern Territory has a number of rural electorates, such as Arnhem, Barkly, Elsey, MacDonnell, Nhulunbuy, Stuart and Tiwi. Of course, there are others that have rural sections. I asked the responsible Minister yesterday whether there was going to be a redistribution. He admitted there would be one but he was unable to give a great deal of detailed information about it. I finalise my contribution to this debate by saying that, unless the Government mends its ways, this winter throughout this country there will be people in the Aboriginal communities and in the fringe areas of many country towns who will be deprived. Almost 1000 people in the fringe areas of Alice Springs will be cold and hungry this winter and will not have the sort of accommodation they require. I quote finally from a statement made by the one and only Roger Ryan, the notorious member of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. The Northern Territory Hansard record states:
Travelling back to Darwin on Sunday, I was standing in the terminal in Alice Springs talking to some people and I overheard a conversation near me that caused me to prick up my ears because I heard the word ‘Letts’ and ‘lack of information’. I listened. I do not consider I was eavesdropping.
He went on to tell of the people he chatted to and to whom he was able to give copies of the relevant legislation. In his final statement he intimated that unless the complementary legislation went through and unless the land rights legislation was pared down it would not be fit for Australia. He gave the following as a reason:
I submit that it is less than the best of intentions, but no one other than the one and only Roger Ryan would have been able to spell that out so clearly. I hope the motion before the chamber will be carried.
– The Government welcomes the opportunity to debate matters concerning Aboriginal Affairs. It is regrettable that this matter was brought forward in the manner in which it was, that is, by talking of broken promises to Aborigines rather than by looking constructively at what is being done for Aborigines in the various areas of Government responsibility and acknowledging that much of the plan of the Opposition and of the Government has been put into effect in this past year. The speaker leading for the Opposition spoke of the commitment given by the Attorney-General, Mr Ellicott. who was the spokesman on Aboriginal Affairs when the present Government was in Opposition. The telegram that was sent by Mr Ellicott has been used in another place and has been used again here today as a basis for talking of promises that have been broken. I do think that what was said in the telegram should be put into perspective. It should be acknowledged that some of the things that have been asserted have not been substantiated. The telegram stated that funds would continue to be made available for housing.
– Do you disown the telegram?
– No. I am just asking the honourable senator to listen to the commitments made in the telegram and to hear what has been achieved in response to those commitments. The telegram stated that funds would continue to be made available for housing, education, employment, health, legal aid and so on. It stated that pensions would be payable to Aboriginal people and would not be cut but would rise automatically twice a year. All of these things have been achieved, which were not achieved prior to this Government coming into office late in December 1975. It was said that all available funds would be shared amongst the Aboriginal communities on a fair and impartial basis and that a Liberal-National Country Party Government would support Aboriginal organisations such as the Aboriginal Medical and Legal Service. It was said also that an urgent inquiry would be held into the role of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee to determine whether it could be given a more significant role in Aboriginal Affairs. These things have been done and achievements are ready to be announced with regard to many of them. We stress also the necessity for employment and training schemes. I believe that this is a very important part of the work that needs to be acknowledged by government. I believe that it needs to be solved by government. We said that we intended to increase job opportunities for Aborigines, and that we would support Aboriginal land rights legislation.
The honourable senator who has just spoken on this subject said that we all know what happened with regard to the land rights legislation. We know what happened: We know that the Bill was passed through both Houses of Parliament in the last session; we know that it was welcomed by the Aborigines and by the Australian community as a whole. We had a lengthy debate of 2V2 days on that legislation. I think that in that 2 Vi days we found much common ground where we acknowledged the need for Aboriginal land rights legislation. I believe that we all welcomed the fact that we had a Bill and subsequently had an Act that would be able to represent what we believed to be the rights of Aborigines. We said at that time that in the light of experience the legislation could be looked at again to see whether any amendments were required. We said also that the Federal Minister would retain control of this legislation and that consultation with the Northern Territory would be part of the agreement with the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. Of course, these things are a matter of record.
I think we should put into perspective the expenditure on Aboriginal affairs this year, because it is always loosely asserted that there were savage cuts in that expenditure. It is asserted in a way that there has been a disregard for the needs of Aborigines. In order to put the funds for Aborigines into perspective, let me state that in the Budget Speech the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) announced that $153m would be allocated for Aboriginal affairs. He announced also that this amount which was in the Budget had been allocated pending review of the effectiveness of spending on other Aboriginal programs and that further funds would be made available. This $153m certainly was a reduction of $33m on the expenditure in the previous year. But in October, following the analysis that had been carried out of many of the programs and following the receipt by the Government of a report it was t announced that an additional $25m would be made available, thus making a total of some $178m for this year’s expenditure on Aboriginal affairs. We have been monitoring carefully expenditure on the programs and the indications are that with the exception of portion of the $6.5m which was to be spent on capital works for health and education in the Northern Territory but which has not at this stage been able to be committed fully, the actual expenditure will be very close to the allocations that we have made. In other words, this year through the Department of Aboriginal Affairs approximately $178m will be spent. If we add to this expenditure by other departments, such as my Department, the Department of Health, the Department of Education and others, we realise that a great deal is to be expended to improve the life and opportunities of the Aborigines in Australia. I do believe that we need constructively to look at programs for Aborigines. Of course, one of the most essential programs is the program of housing. This is being facilitated through grants to State governments- grants in aid, grants for Aboriginal housing and personal loan funds for Aboriginal hostels, for missions in the Northern Territory, and assistance for other projects in the Northern Territory which have been developed. Some $41m will be spent on Aboriginal housing this year. We believe that will assist greatly in providing the standard of housing that we believe the Australian Aborigine should have. We know that in many cases these grants to the States and grants in aid will be the means of achieving the objectives which we seek.
With regard to health matters there are grants to the States, grants-in-aid and the Aboriginal health services in the Northern Territory. Approximately $20m will be spent on Aboriginal health programs this year. I believe a great deal of sensitivity and responsibility needs to be shown with regard to the health standards of Aborigines, particularly Aboriginal children. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs, through the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), has recognised that it has a particular role to play in the health of Aborigines. It recognises that for historical, social, cultural and economic reasons levels of morbidity and mortality for Aborigines far exceed those of the other ethnic groups in this country. While we recognise that other existing government authorities provide health services, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs accepts responsibility in ensuring that Aboriginals have access to acceptable health services capable of meeting and overcoming the particular health handicaps which they may suffer.
This is not a matter of partisan politics. It is able to be shown that in the Northern Territory infant mortality rates per 1000 births have changed since 1971. In 1971 the rate was 149.9 per 1000; in 1973 it was 79.7 per 1000; in 1974 it was 55.6 per 1000; and in 1975 it was 50.1 per 1000. We hope that there has been a marked improvement since then. In considering the figure in 1975 of 50.1 per 1000 we must recognise that the rate for the rest of the Australian population is close to 17 per 1000. We have a responsibility to improve the standards of health and housing for Aborigines. We have a special responsibility with regard to leprosy. We believe that this is now under control in this country. We acknowledge that many people, particularly Aborigines, suffer from leprosy. Research is still required on the specifics of contact infection. It is now known that some forms are not directly infectious, and an education program of the Australian community at large is required to show these patterns and the understanding which has now been reached.
We have a special responsibility to overcome alcoholism amongst Aborigines. I believe that the Aborigines themselves and their communities have expressed great concern over the problems associated with the misuse and abuse of alcohol. It is easy to point to increased income in the hands of Aborigines as the cause, yet I believe that many thoughtful people recognise that sometimes increased spending power simply leads to increasing the money that can be used for the abuse of alcohol to the detriment of Aborigines and their families. I believe that more will be achieved in this area as we understand the problem better and the way in which it can be overcome. I accept that we have a great responsibility for the education of Aborigines. Every person should have equal opportunity for education in this country. I assert that the Aborigines need more opportunities in order to make them equal. The Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) has advised me of the formation of the National Aboriginal Education Committee. I understand that he is delighted that the chairman of that committee is a fully tribalised Aborigine. There are 19 people on the committee from various parts of Australia including the Torres Strait Islands, the Northern Territory and Redfern in New South Wales. The formation of a committee of this nature will be of great assistance to the Minister for Education. He will be able to advise and provide Aboriginal education programs and services so that we can stimulate, co-ordinate and, if necessary, support the extension of existing services to Aboriginals. He can ensure that special measures are taken to enable Aboriginals to overcome any educational disadvantages they may suffer.
We support Aboriginal organisations which seek to develop ways of meeting their own education needs. In the area of program responsibility the Minister for Education will be guided by his new committee and the education authorities in the Northern Territory. I believe that there will be an increase in the participation in education programs by Aboriginal children. I hope that this will ultimately be one of the keys with which we are able to unlock the cycle of poverty and deprivation which for so long has been the way of life of many of our Aborigines. A sum of $36 million is to be spent on education this year. As I have said, I hope that this is one way of giving an opportunity to Aborigines to move away from many of the difficulties which have been prevalent for far too long. The fact that a great percentage of Aborigines are unemployed was mentioned. We all accept that this is a very real problem. I accept that I have a responsibility to the large numbers of Aborigines who receive unemployment benefits. I am also aware, through direct representation by Aborigines and their elders, that some Aboriginal communities find difficulty in filling in the application forms to enable them to receive the benefits for which they are eligible. In some cases I have been able to send an officer into those communities to facilitate the applications and the payment of benefits. However, I think we should all like to go one step further than simply facilitating the payment of unemployment benefits to Aborigines by looking to constructive ways of providing employment opportunities. We acknowledge that the situation is poor at present.
– I rise to take a point of order. Is the Minister reading from a prepared policy statement on Aboriginal Affairs or is she replying to the accusations I made?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) The Minister is using notes.
– I shall be happy to table all the information from which I am reading. It has been provided by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. If the honourable senator would like to have further information than that which I am selecting from some prepared notes which have been given to me, I am happy to offer it to him. I think it would allow him to see that much of what he said in the previous half hour was misstated and ill-founded. It would be to his advantage if some of the information I have were used by him the next time he wishes to draw our attention to Aboriginal Affairs. Contrary to what was said by the honourable senator with regard to Aboriginal unemployment, we accept that over one-third of the Aboriginal work force is registered as unemployed. We believe that many Aboriginals do not register for employment and have not received unemployment benefits.
– They are not allowed to register.
– We estimate that some 55 per cent of the Aboriginal work force is currently unemployed. I agree with the honourable senator that some are eligible for unemployment benefits because they are able to work and no work is available but I should like to hear specific instances of any resistance to their registration for employment or any resistance by my Department or its regional offices to facilitating the benefits to which they are entitled. It is regrettable that wild assertions are made. We acknowledge that we would be prepared to facilitate benefits when people are eligible and I should be pleased to receive more specific information from the honourable senator.
– There are about 100 at Yuendumu who are not registered. Allegedly, they do not qualify.
-If there is a particular community where there is a degree of difficulty with regard to registration, or whatever the difficulty is, and it is drawn to the attention of the appropriate Minister or myself, he or I will be prepared to do what was done recently, that is, send an officer of the Department to the area concerned to facilitate the application and registration and whatever else might be required.
Recently we have been attempting to provide ways and means of providing employment opportunities. We have the National Employment and Training Scheme which is operated by the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations and at the end of November last year this scheme was providing on the job training for about 850 Aborigines. This was at the end of the academic year and numbers will expand with the commencement of the new academic year. As we have seen from enrolments for this year, numbers of Aborigines have now joined the NEAT scheme and this will give them training which will lead to employment opportunity. Special work projects also are operated by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and these have provided employment opportunities for about 600 Aborigines throughout the past year. In addition, there is the vocational training service which increasingly is being used by Aborigines. There are other discussions being held by Ministers, including myself, about an alternative to the unemployment benefit with a view to finding some means of providing employment opportunities. This has been the concern of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. It also has been the concern of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) and I have had an interest in it, too. As a result of some initiatives from the communities themselves we have been working with the aim of providing alternatives for Aboriginal employment.
Suggestions have been made that benefits could be paid direct to the communities and that it would be then for them to devise programs. As a result of a lot of detailed discussion the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs hopes to put before the Government a proposal that would be an alternative simply to paying unemployment benefits. This is expected to be achieved some time in the near future. We believe it represents a better way of providing ways and means of employment for Aborigines than simply to accept that for people living in remote areas there is no alternative to unemployment benefits. It is also part of the Minister’s proposals that we look at a pilot program of community development. He considered that this program could provide community determined employment as a means of reducing unemployment benefits. This is something that we hope will be successful and will be dealt with in the near future.
In the Budget we have provided about $6m for grants to the States or grants in aid for employment training. This money will be fully utilised this year in providing better opportunities for employment. In relation to the welfare of Aborigines, there have been grants to the States and grants in aid totalling some $3m just as there have been grants to Aboriginal enterprises for employment opportunities totalling $4m. In these ways we have been seeking employment and occupation for Aborigines, particularly for those who had devised programs in which they had special interests. These are all constructive ways in which Aboriginal advancement is pursued and we hope that through them many Aborigines will find fulfilment and occupation. We have provided $33m for town management and public utilities and $3m for cultural, recreational and sporting activities. There have been grants in aid for legal aid amounting to almost $4m and $18m for general administration. A total of about $178m has been made available this year.
Some reference was made to education study grants. I shall refer to the Minister for Education the matter that was raised to see whether some more specific information can be given about the 104 Aborigines in New South Wales who were refused study grants. I hope that we shall be able to facilitate these if there are young people who are eligible and willing to pursue education under the grants scheme. I have no information about the voting matter in Western Australia about which one constituent wrote to the honourable senator. That is a matter which I could refer to the responsible Minister or was the honourable senator referring to a State election?
In respect of all matters raised about Aboriginal affairs we believe that the Opposition has not sustained a case to show that promises have been broken. Rather, I think, the Opposition has shown that it has no understanding of what is happening in respect of Aboriginal programs and what undoubtedly has been achieved this year under this Government’s programs. Not all these programs were started by this Government and acknowledgement can be given to the former Government for what it commenced in some areas of Aboriginal advancement. As for this Government, it has a priority and a responsibility which it accepts. I can assure the honourable senator that this area of Aboriginal affairs will have priority in consideration of the Budget for the forthcoming year.
The honourable senator mentioned cuts expected in the Budget that will be prepared by the Government for presentation to the Australian people in August. As far as this Government is concerned programs relating to the welfare of Aborigines will have priority. Where experience has shown that programs are beneficial and where it is shown that we should heed new advice coming to us on ways to assist Aborigines, I am quite sure that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will be in the forefront in an endeavour to see that these things are achieved on behalf of Australian Aborigines in next year’s Budget. The Opposition brought forward this motion and it has given us an opportunity of setting out what we believe is a matter of grave importance to the Government. I hope that subsequent speakers from the Opposition side show a greater knowledge of what is being done in this area.
– I rise to support the motion because of the appalling conditions imposed on Aboriginal people in Victoria. In 1971 the census showed that there were 6371 Aboriginal people in Victoria as against 31 932 in Queensland. The Aboriginals in Victoria now estimate that they have about 10 000 people in that State. That still is a small number of people when compared with a State like Queensland which now has over 40 000 Aboriginal citizens. Because there is only a small number in Victoria one would think that the problems there would have been solved but let us look at the expertise and lack of supervision by this Federal Government.
The Department of Aboriginal Affairs handed money to the Victorian Housing Commission for it to administer Aboriginal housing. The Aboriginal section is run by 4 white men. No Aboriginals are employed. Their expertise in this field is such that money is wasted week after week. I would like to cite 2 instances. At 4 Moramy Street, Bairnsdale, the Housing Commission in 1975 bought a house for $19,000 for Aboriginal people and then spent $16,000 making it habitable. It bought a house at 12 Moramy Street, Bairnsdale, for $27,000 and then took out the floor, the bath, the stove and some of the internal walls at a cost of about $8,000 and made the house all electric despite the plea by the Aboriginal family to leave a slow combustion stove in it. It pulled out that stove and made the house all electric because it knew better. It had no idea of the capacity of the people who were going to go into the houses. It had no idea of the needs. It never occurred to it that so many of the people going into these houses are unemployed or are on sickness benefits or on pensions. In other words, these people are on very low incomes. The authorities put heat banks into many of the
Aboriginal houses and the bills that the tenants are now receiving range from $105 to $115 and $120 per quarter. These bills have to be paid by people who are pensioners. In one instance the lady concerned decided that she could not possibly afford this sort of heating and she turned off the bank. Her bill had been $80 and then it went down to $29. So much for their expertise.
When the former Aboriginal homes were transferred to the Federal Department and so to the Housing Commission in December 1974, $ 1 50,000 was handed over for maintenance. In Bairnsdale, for instance, 4 houses are untouched, as far as maintenance is concerned- this is 3 years later- but car ports have been built for most of the houses. Many of these people do not have a car. Many of them do not have a driver’s licence. But their houses now have car ports whilst no meaningful maintenance has been done on the houses. The houses which are being bought for Aboriginal families are not big enough. In many areas bungalows are being built in the back yards to cope with the extra children. But these people do not like having their families divided up. Who would? Money could have been spent on building houses big enough for the families instead of spending it on the houses that were built.
At Cummeragunja on the Murray River, not far from Shepparton, I saw a house which was literally sitting in a sea of sewage. The septic tank had broken down and it had been like that for months. Complaint after complaint has been made but nothing has been done about the matter. The residue from 5 neighbouring houses drains into the one septic tank and it has drained about 100 yards away from the house. It comes out of the pipe and lies on top of the ground. The ground is saturated. In the height of summer mosquitoes breed there, as do flies, as honourable senators can well imagine. The Senate will not be surprised to know that the local doctor says that the children and adults suffer from rather irritating rashes as a result of the constant mosquito and fly bites. The water supply at Cummeragunja is heavily chlorinated because it is taken from the river downstream from the nearby town of Barmah. The children at Cum.meragunja are taken by bus to a school which is miles away. They leave home at 8 o’clock in the morning and do not return until 5 o’clock that night. There is a school less than a mile away from their homes. Naturally, their parents want them to go to that school. The Department sends them to the other school. It is not surprising that the children are not keen on school and that they leave as early as possible.
Aboriginal housing societies in Victoria are unfunded. They receive administrative grants only. This means that soon the story will be that the societies are doing nothing useful and, therefore, there is no point in keeping them going. So they too will vanish. It is relevant that in Victoria there is a housing society, namely, the Narrogal Co-operative Housing Society offering loans to Aboriginals all over Victoria. They go there and take out a loan but they are told that they must take the balance between the cost of the house they want to buy and the amount of the loan which they receive from the Co-operative Housing Society from the Aboriginal Loans Commission as a loan. If they cannot front up with sufficient money to cover the balance they are told that they must take all the money, apart from a 5 per cent equity, from the Aboriginal Loans Commission. Why should this be? How are they different from anybody else who wants to buy a house? They do not know and nobody will tell them. Many Aborigines have been kept hanging for weeks paying high rents and high interest while awaiting the finalisation of their loan.
There are no houses at all for many people. Many have been waiting two, three, five or seven years for a house to be built. Huts built of canvas and galvanised iron on the river banks are what Aborigines live in in many places. There is no sewerage, no power and the water comes from the river, or three or four families are jammed into a small house which was built for one small family. Down at Morwell in Victoria an old lady was put out of her house because 5 neighbours took up a petition. There was a court order and she was ejected. No other house was provided for her. She lives in the Lionel Rose Hostel at the moment. The hostel was built for young workers and transient workers. It is not suitable for constant living. It is not suitable for an old lady. It is not suitable when we think of the privacy and comfort to which somebody in the later years of her life is entitled. There are very few hostels for transients in Victoria. In the fruit picking areas there is no housing, or the worst of the pickers’ houses are left for them. No Aborigines are allowed in caravan parks in many places so they move in with relations, as we would do. But then the relations are ejected from their houses because of overcrowding and because their resources are stretched to the limit. Aborigines cannot get rooms at boarding houses, hotels or motels.
If the honourable senators doubt that, I draw their attention to a letter which appeared in the Swan Hill Guardian of 1 8 March 1 977. A man took his wife and sister to a hotel for a counter tea. They were stopped at the door by an employee of the hotel and asked to leave. The man asked why. He was told that there had been some trouble some weeks previously in the lounge with ‘some of your people’. These people went to another hotel for tea and then they went back to ‘black corner’ in the first hotel for a drink. It does not take much imagination to work out that that is the only place in which they are allowed to drink. Later in the night they thought they might attend a disco which was going on in another part of the hotel. They were stopped at the door by another employee and told to get out. The next day this man, who is a teachers’ aide at one of the schools in the town, went to see the manager. He realised when he met the manager that the manager was the first employee he had seen in the hotel. He asked the manager how long the ban would be in force. The answer was: I do not know. We might relax it soon.’ When pressed the manager agreed that it was not fair but said: ‘You all look the same. Do not get me wrong, I am not prejudiced’. It might be suggested that Aborigines could get justice from the courts. Recently a magistrate in Mildura told Aboriginal people assembled in the court after a hearing: ‘If you do not carry out supervision of these people as suggested and carry out my orders, I will be prejudiced for the rest of my life. And I have 25 years to serve on the bench. ‘
We talk about unemployment. Unemployment for Aborigines is off the planet; it is not just high. A woman who does not look very coloured was working picking pears. She was told the property needed 12 pickers next day. She told this to 3 men that evening. They went out the next day but they were told that no pickers were required. Their skin colour is very brown. An article in the Herald recently stated in reference to an Aboriginal:
He left high school as the top in his class. ‘I was really keen to get a job as a bank teller. But what really cut me up was the fact that the guy who came tenth in my class got the job.
We all know why. The Aboriginal Health Service in Victoria maintains that 80 per cent of Aboriginal children have hearing difficulties. Other respiratory tract infections occur in childhood. They are untreated and so the conditions continue for life. The Health Service maintains that all Victorian Aboriginal children suffer from malnutrition, vitamin deficiency, skin conditions and lack of resistance. If we could stand up and say that about the white community anywhere in Australia, all hell would break loose. Every effort would be made to remedy the situation then and there. David Anderson, a delegate to the
National Aboriginal Consultative Committee, resigned some weeks ago. No election has been held in Victoria to fill the vacancy.
Nobody will give the Aboriginal people information. They do not know what the rent from Aboriginal housing over all the years has been applied to. They do not know how much money is available for houses. They are bamboozled over rents. They are told they owe money which they are sure they have paid. They are refused evidence and information on the matter. They do not know how much of the funds of the Aboriginal Loans Commission have been spent in Victoria or on what those funds have been spent. They are treated like idiot children. They are told that they are prevented from wasting money. How could they possibly waste more money than we have wasted in this area? How could they make more mistakes than we have made in this area? It is not just the amount of money which is spent. We do not need more research or more inquiries. We need some action to settle the problems. Why should Aborigines be treated differently? They are not ethnics. They are not merely deprived. They and their ancestors have been here for 70 000 years. The Senate Select Committee on Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in its report stated:
That was not said in 1977; that was said in 1 837 in a report of the House of Commons Select Committee on Aborigines (British Settlements). As Victorian Aborigines say: ‘Being black means saying you are sorry’. This Federal Government has done nothing to rectify this shameful situation.
-The Senate is debating the following motion moved by Senator Keeffe.
That the following is a matter of urgency:
That the Federal Government has failed to honour its election promises to Aborigines.
I listened closely to Senator Keeffe. I do not believe that he has proved a case to show that the present Government has failed to keep its promises. He certainly has not proved it to me nor have I found proof of it in my dealings and travelling not only in my State of Queensland but also throughout Australia generally. I am indebted to Senator Melzer for many of the matters which she has brought to light. There are many problems in Victoria and in every other State. This is because it has been only in recent years that governments of any political persuasion have done anything towards really assisting us, the Aboriginal people. However, I do not believe that Senator Melzer either has proved that this Government has failed to honour its election promises to the Aboriginal people.
When the Government did reduce the allocation to Aboriginal affairs in the 1975-76 Budget by some $33m, I was probably the first person to raise my voice at what I thought was its callousness. However, I then had discussions with the Treasurer, Mr Lynch, and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Ian Viner, and was told that that was not the case and that the money would be restored after the Hay inquiry and other inquiries into the delivery of services to the Aborigine people had concluded. I was told that the money would certainly then be made available to carry out the programs of the Government. As we know, the Government did restore $25m to expenditure on Aboriginal affairs.
– But not the total amount.
– It restored $25m. As I understand it, expenditure this financial year stands at some $178m while in 1975-76 $186m was spent. So, on my calculations, current expenditure is certainly less than was expended in 1975-76. The point I am making, however, is that I do not believe that money in itself is the answer to the problems which we, the Aboriginal people, are facing at this time or have faced for almost the last 200 years. Money alone is not the answer. The answer is to spend money for the benefits of the people and that it what this Government has endeavoured to do in the last 1 8 months by having inquiries into the delivery of services to the Aboriginal community. To me that is using common sense. If money is to be made available to the Aboriginal community it must be spent for the benefit of the Aboriginal community and not wasted in rip-offs here and rip-offs somewhere else. There have been rip-offs not only by non-Aboriginal people but also- and I say this with a great deal of sadness- by some of my fellow Aborigines. That is not assisting the Aboriginal community at all.
The delivery of health services, legal aid, employment opportunities and better education so that Aborigines can go into better jobs are the areas on which money has to be expended, and it must be expended wisely. Because of the emphasis placed by the previous Government and this
Government on aboriginalisation and giving Aborigines responsibility, I believe that we, the Aboriginal people, must accept that responsibility and ensure that when money is made available we spend it to the benefit of our people.
To my knowledge there has been no cutback in the delivery of services to the Aboriginal community in the very important fields of health, education, legal services and housing. There have been no cutbacks in those 4 major areas. Many Aboriginal housing societies have been set up in the States and money has been made available to Aboriginal housing societies in my State of Queensland. I seem to have mislaid the figures relating to housing co-operatives -
– They probably were not the correct figures.
-Senator Keeffe, unfortunately -
– How many houses are they going to build?
– In New South Wales there are 30 housing associations; in Victoria there are 6; in Queensland there are 44; in South Australia there are 16; in Western Australia there are 14; in Tasmania there are 2 and in the Northern Territory there are 45 housing associations. In New South Wales there were 80 houses constructed or purchased by housing cooperatives; in Victoria there were 12; in Queensland there were 190; in South Australia there were 74; in Western Australia there were 53; in Tasmania there were 3 and in the Northern Territory there were 174. 1 would like to see 3 times that amount being purchased and built for my own people. But, unfortunately, we as well as other people in Australia are subject to the economic situation as it is at the moment. We as well as other sections of the community certainly have suffered because of the economic situation but I am sure- and I say this without fear or favourthat the present Government will continue with the programs that operate already and will continue to support them.
I am sure that when we see the forthcoming Budget the Aboriginal people will be as happy as I will be to find that the Government will carry on with its programs and keep funds flowing into the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and to Aboriginal people as a whole. The services that are needed will be funded by the Government. I have the assurance of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and of the Treasurer that the Government will keep funds flowing. All I am saying is that whilst there has been some cutback and the money made available may not be all that the
Department budgeted for, providing the money is used wisely and sensibly for the benefit of the Aboriginal people, the Government has met its responsibility. The Government must act responsibly and ensure that when public funds are used they are used wisely and sensibly.
– I am very pleased to be following Senator Bonner in this debate because I was interested to hear what an Aboriginal senator would have to say about this urgency motion which has been moved against the Government for its failure to honour the election promises made to the Aboriginal people prior to the December 1975 election. We know of the telegram that was sent out by the then Opposition spokesman on Aboriginal affairs, Mr Ellicott, and his avowal that there would be no cuts in programs for Aborigines. Senator Bonner was able to establish for us that not only were there cuts but also there was no provision for inflation and increasing costs. Then he said a very interesting thing. He said: ‘We are spending the money in the form of inquiries’. The Aboriginal people who are without housing, without adequate health facilities, without proper employment opportunities and without proper education facilities will be very pleased to know that the Government is concerned enough to hold inquiries. We have had too many inquiries into Aboriginal affairs already. The only people who are not being involved in those inquiries are the Aborigines themselves.
Senator Bonner said that, of course, the Aboriginal people- ‘my people’, I think he called them- must be subjected to the same financial restrictions to which the rest of the country is subjected. Of course they must. We must all acknowledge that Australia is among a number of countries which are going through severe financial and economic stresses and strains at this time. But is that any reason for us simply to say that one section of the community should suffer? Senator Bonner, if you really must leave the Senate chamber, I will excuse you, but I think that I will have some interesting things to say which you might like to hear, even if it is only from your office. We are all subject to financial restrictions. But there is no reason why honourable senators sitting in the Parliament and Government supporters in particular should say Your skin is black; you will take second place to the people whose skin happens to be white’.
Last week I raised a question in the Senate about the funding for an organisation known as NACALDA-the National Aboriginal Campaign Against Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. In 1973-74, $20,000 was made available for an Aboriginal health workshop. It was determined by Aborigines and for Aborigines that this money would be spent on getting together for a meeting people who were concernd about Aboriginal alcoholism and Aboriginal drug abuse. The meeting eventually took place in May 1974 and was opened by the honourable Mr. Viner, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. He said then that he gave support for this concept of setting up a coordinating body getting all the Aboriginal programs in one big basket. He was pleased that it had been organised and planned entirely by the Aborigines for the Aborigines. Then a little later he said:
The experts will find solutions without consideration for the Aboriginal ethnic cultures. So it is good that in actual fact that you people are doing it for you people.
What has happened since then? In May 1976 the workshop was held and Aboriginal people from all over Australia concerned about Aboriginal alcoholism and drug abuse met. It was determined that there certain actions should take place and that money was required for them to be able to continue their program. I know a number of people in this field who work with alcoholics in the Aboriginal area. They are generally reformed alcoholic Aborigines themselves. For instance, Arnold Franks from Western Australia is working in an entirely voluntary capacity. He travels all over the State of Western Australia talking to Aborigines about the problems of alcoholism. Where possible, he endeavours to dry them out. He has them with him in his own home. He is not paid for this work. He gets no money from the Government for doing it. He receives no assistance from the Government either because I understand that his name is still on the waiting list for a State Housing Commission home. I refer also to people like Harold Hunt who works with the Aboriginal medical service in New South Wales and Chicka Dixon. They are both reformed Aboriginal alcoholics who do a tremendous amount of work in the Aboriginal communities working amongst Aboriginal alcoholics. Their only problem is that they do not have any money because this Government has not seen fit to continue the funding- the $20,000- that was given for a workshop in 1973-74. NACALDA was formed at that workshop meeting and no further finance has become available since. Mr Acting Deputy President, I beg your pardon. I tell a slight lie there. An amount of $5,500 was expended to hold an executive meeting in Canberra. Will someone tell me why the executive meeting has to be held in Canberra? Where are the greatest number of Aborigines situated? They are not in Canberra.
But where is the greatest bureaucracy? That is in Canberra. So, of course, if we are to set up an executive of this type it will have to be set up in Canberra without communication with the people who need it most- the Aboriginal people in New South Wales, Queensland, the Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania- everywhere but in the Australian Capital Territory. But this is where the executive will be established. It is because here in Canberra we have the European bureaucracy who can dictate to the Aborigines working in the alcoholism field what they should do, what their priorities should be and where they should be heading. That is one area in which the Government has failed to follow through on a project that was already established in the 1973-74 Budget. What has happened since then? Senator Bonner should know because he has been in touch with representatives of the Aboriginal medical service on odd occasions.
– He has gone home.
– I think that probably he has gone home. Aborigines have been listening to the debate this afternoon. Let me assure you, Mr Acting Deputy President, that there are a number of Aborigines who have been advised that Senator Bonner would be speaking in the debate today. They would not be very happy about the performance of the only Aboriginal representative in the Federal Parliament. Following the workshop, a report was forwarded to Mr Viner and on 27 September 1976 there was an acknowledgement of a letter forwarded by Mr Hunt on 15 September. On 14 October Mr Hunt still had not heard anything more. Then, on 2 November, he received an acknowledgement of the receipt of the submission and constitution and on 2 1 January this year he received a reply from the Minister, Mr Viner, in which he expressed his concern and said that he would make sure there was an inquiry to see which Department should be involved. He stated also that all of the communities- the Aboriginal and European communities- which were working in the alcohol and drug abuse area should establish State advisory committees. He said that if further assessment was needed, finance would be available. He did not say that if further assistance was needed the funds would be available. He said further assessment’. Once again, we are back to this business of having an inquiry into an inquiry into an inquiry and still nothing gets done for the Aboriginal people themselves.
On 7 May 1 976 Senator Bonner sent an urgent telegram to the people who had convened this meeting saying that he urgently required documentation and copies of resolutions. He wanted to know what the activities would be in the future because he intended keeping a very strict eye on what was happening. The information was forwarded to him. On 3 November Mr Hunt wrote to him and mentioned the lack of finance. On 4 February this year he spoke to Senator Bonner who promised that he would communicate with Mr Hunt within 2 weeks. It is now a long time since 4 February or 18 February and still Mr Hunt has not heard from Senator Bonner. This is because Senator Bonner has nothing to communicate to the Aborigines. He has forgotten what it is like to be in the community. He has forgotten what it is like to be an alcoholic or a drug abuser or to be a member of the family of those people. He has forgotten what it is like to be unemployed. He has forgotten what it is like to be without health facility services. I am very pleased that Senator Bonner has seen fit to come back into the Senate chamber. He has forgotten what it is like to be uneducated when everybody else around him is educated. He has forgotten a great number of these things. He has probably forgotten that on 4 February this year he promised to communicate with one Mr Harold Hunt of the Aboriginal medical service in Sydney within 2 weeks and still has not done so.
Out of the $5,500 that was allocated for the executive conference, I understand that there is still a balance of some $109 that the working party is permitted to use at its discretion. Research teams have been coming up with solutions that have been known to the Aborigines for the last 30 years. All they want is the opportunity to put them into practice. They will not be able to do that under this Government. This is the Government which said that there will be no cutbacks in Aboriginal welfare programs, employment, housing or health and which immediately sliced $33m off the Budget. As Senator Bonner said earlier, it gave back $25m leaving a deficit of $8m. But it did so without any allowance whatsoever for inflation or increased costs. Thirty to forty Aborigines who meet together in Sydney at this time need immediate hospitalisation because of the effects of alcoholism. There are others who are dying in empty houses. Aborigines are dying under trees and on the banks of rivers not only in New South Wales but also in Western Australia because of the effects of alcoholism. Honourable senators will remember that only this morning I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether consideration would be given to the application of an emetic chemical to methylated spirits in an endeavour to stop not only black people but also white people from consuming this terrible product. The Minister said that she would pass the matter on to her colleague and trust that something would be done. I hope that something will be done. There are areas where work should already be taking place. Aborigines know what they want. They know how to put what they want into effect for the greatest benefit of their people. Yet these people are not even being asked. These people are being sidestepped because the Europeans have the knowledge; the Europeans know how to set up an inquiry and they know how to inquire into further inquiries.
As an example of how this Government has failed to recognise the needs of the Aborigines, perhaps the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will provide an answer to a question that has been bothering me for some time. Until 3 months ago an office of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs was located at Narrogin in Western Australia. For some reason which is inexplicable to me- I can only assume that the people who are managing the Department of Aboriginal Affairs want as little communication with the Aborigines as possiblethe office has been moved from Narrogin, which has a high concentration of Aborigines and part-Aborigines in the immediate vicinity and many more in the outer vicinity, to Bunbury which has relatively few Aborigines. Aborigines tend to stay away from the cities because they recognise that people will not allow them to forget that they are uneducated and will not allow them to move freely without insult. We are still a very racist country. We suddenly find that the office of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs which was set up in Narrogin and which was doing a tremendous volume of work has been moved to an isolated area where the Aborigines themselves will have no further communication.
As time is moving on, I want finally to refer briefly to Oombulgurri- the Forrest River Reserve in the north of Western Australiawhere diamonds have been located. I have mentioned this before. The Liberal State Government in Western Australia has opened up a section of the Mining Act and called tenders for the mining of the diamonds. The fact that the Aborigines have entered into a contract with the mining organisation which would have provided them with royalties from the sale and mining of the diamonds, would have allowed them to determine which roads and how many roads would be put on their property and other things of this sort was of no consequence to the State Liberal Government. The Government said: Oh, no. We have section 276 of the Mining Act here and we will now open up the area to anybody who has a miner’s right’. This is exactly what has been done. The Aborigines at the Forest River Reserve will get nothing out of the diamonds that have been found at Oombulgurri because the State Government has determined that the large organisation can have the benefit of the diamonds and the Aborigines once again can go without.
We hear the common cries from the Government about financial restrictions and the economic situation in Australia and throughout the world. The Government is not moving in any positive area to allow the Aborigines to determine for themselves what should be done in their best interests. The Europeans are sitting back and saying to the Aboriginal people: ‘This is what should be done. We know how to set up an inquiry. We know how to provide the answers. We are the ones who will make determinations on behalf of you people’. The Aborigines will not stand for it any longer. They will remember it. They fully support as I do the motion that has been moved this afternoon by my Deputy Leader, Senator Keeffe.
Senator BONNER ( Queensland )-I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Young)- Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented
– I do, Sir.
– I rise to a point of order.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Under the Standing Orders Senator Bonner has the right to make a personal explanation.
– At the end of the debate.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- An honourable senator has the right to make a personal explanation after the previous speaker has concluded his remarks.
-Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I am glad to see that Senator Keeffe wants to bar me from making a personal explanation.
– I rise to a point of order. That is an insult and I ask for a withdrawal.
– I rise to make a personal explanation because I believe -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTSenator Bonner, Senator Keeffe asked you to retract the remarks which could be regarded as derogatory. Will you withdraw the remark that Senator Keeffe tried to prevent you from making a personal explanation?
-Mr Acting Deputy President, as you have asked me to withdraw I bow to your request. I claim to have been misrepresented by Senator Coleman. She is either completely misinformed or she is deliberately distorting the truth. I leave it to her to make up her mind. The gentleman that she mentions, Mr Hunt, approached me at a meeting in Sydney some months ago concerning a matter that he felt was very important. He was seeking my assistance. I told him at the time that I could not absorb all that he was telling me. I asked him whether he would be kind enough to put what he was telling me on paper and to send it to my office. I make this request to people because when one is at a meeting or travelling around it is almost impossible to absorb all the things that one is told. I said to him: ‘Put it on paper, send it to my office and I will certainly take up the case with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs’. He again saw me some weeks later in Sydney and said: ‘I have not heard from you on that submission I sent you’. I said: ‘I have not seen it. If it came to my office I certainly did not see it. ‘ On arriving back at my office I checked with my secretary. The submission had not arrived. I wrote to Mr Hunt explaining that I had not received the submission and asked him, if the submission had gone astray, to be kind enough to send another. I still have not heard from Mr Hunt. Senator Coleman is either misinformed or is deliberately distorting the truth.
Senator COLEMAN (Western Australia)-I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I have not deliberately distorted the truth as has been claimed by Senator Bonner. At a quarter past four this afternoon I received information on my telephone from Mr Harold Hunt. He stated that on 7 May 1976 he received a telegram from Senator Bonner stating that he urgently required documents and resolutions from the meeting. Mr Harold Hunt also stated that on 4 February he spoke to Senator Bonner and that Senator Bonner at that time promised to communicate within 2 weeks- that would be by 18 February. He has not heard from Senator Bonner since. I made that statement during my speech. The information was given to me on the telephone at quarter past four this afternoon.
– Mr Acting Deputy President-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- On what point do you rise?
– I rise on 2 points.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Are you rising on a point of order?
– Yes. It has just been drawn to my attention that while I was out of the chamber, Senator-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- If you are to continue-
– I am coming to where I believe I was misrepresented.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator Bonner, you will have to seek leave.
- Senator Coleman claimed in her speech that I had forgotten what it is like to be an alcoholic.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator Bonner, you will have to seek leave of the Senate to make a personal explanation. Do you seek leave?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted?
– I rise to a point of order. I think that there is some misunderstanding about standing order 410.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator Georges, I take it you are raising a point of order and not opposing leave?
– No. I am raising a point of order before we consider whether leave should be given to Senator Bonner. I do this so that we may have an explanation and so that we do not create a precedent. Standing order 4 1 0 states:
A Senator who has spoken to a Question may again be heard, to explain himself in regard to some material part of his speech which has been misquoted or misunderstood, but shall not introduce any new matter, or interrupt any Senator in possession of the Chair . . .
The point of order I am raising is that a senator can rise to make an explanation only concerning some part of his speech which has been misquoted by a subsequent senator. It is not a matter of a senator rising to his feet to say that another senator has misrepresented him on some material which he himself has not presented to the Senate. I would like a ruling on this because otherwise we shall get ourselves into a bind with speakers rising quickly to their feet to say that they have been misrepresented by the previous speaker. If that device is available to the Senate we on this side will most certainly use it, but I do not think it is available to the Senate. A personal explanation must concern a speech, or some misquoting of it, made by the honourable senator claiming to have been misrepresented.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator Bonner rose and said that he had been misrepresented. Under standing order 410 he was entitled to rise. Following that, Senator Coleman sought leave and made a personal explanation in regard to a statement she made to the chamber this afternoon. Senator Bonner is in the process of seeking leave to make a personal explanation following the remarks of Senator Coleman. Could I say to the chamber that I do not want to see a regurgitation of the debate that has taken place. I will accept points of order for personal explanations but I will not have the debate brought up a second time. Senator Bonner, I ask you, if you seek leave and if leave is granted, to confine yourself to the personal explanation. Is leave granted to Senator Bonner? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– My personal explanation relates to the comment made by Senator Coleman during her speech that I had forgotten what it was like to be an alcoholic. I maintain that I have never been an alcoholic, and I should like that remark to be withdrawn.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator Bonner, I cannot recall from the chair that that implication was made about you. I say that in fairness to the honourable senator on the other side of the chamber.
Senator GUILFOYLE (Victoria-Minister for Social Security)-I seek leave to make a statement on this matter.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I believe that Senator Coleman made an unintentional remark, but a remark was made along the lines that Senator Bonner has forgotten what it is like to be an alcoholic, he has forgotten what it is like to be a drug addict, he has forgotten what it is like to be unemployed, uneducated and so on. I do not think that the implication was intended to apply to Senator Bonner personally. I think that will probably clarify the situation for the record.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator Coleman, there is some concern that there may have been an implication which I am sure you did not intend. Would you be prepared to withdraw the remark in case that implication could be read in such a way?
– It was never my intention to imply that any of those things applied to Senator Bonner. The remark was made in the context that Senator Guilfoyle has described.
– I consider the remarks that we heard from the previous speaker to be particularly mean in their reference to Senator Bonner. Honourable senators on both sides of the chamber recognise the many courageous stands made by Senator Bonner over the past 12 months, whether they believe in them or not. I have been in this Senate for only a year and Senator Bonner has been here for a much longer period, but I believe that he has been a most suitable representative of the Aboriginal race of Australia and I think that they are very fortunate to have him. I have only 15 minutes in which to speak, but I will devote some of my time to Senator Bonner. During the hearings of the various select committees on which I have accompanied Senator Bonner, as Chairman of the Joint Committee on Aboriginal Land Rights in the Northern Territory or on other matters relating to the Aboriginal people he was received most cordially and recognised as a man of distinction amongst Aboriginal people. I believe that the attack just made on him was quite unnecessary. The motion before the Senate states:
That the Federal Government has failed to honour its election promises to Aborigines.
In dealing with this matter one should go back to the debate which took place in the House of Representatives on 14 September 1976, when the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) introduced a very similar motion, and a reply was made by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner). The point I make is that this debate took place some 5 months ago, and it has now arrived in the Senate. Why has it arrived in the Senate some 5 months after a similar debate has been answered? If one looks at page 974 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 1 4 September 1976 one will see that the motion was answered completely. I will not go through the matter now because I do not have time, but I refer anybody interested in the matter to that page. Why has this debate been brought forward now? I believe that it has been brought forward because it happens to be 1977 and there will be an election in the Northern Territory in the year 1977. Most of the matters brought up by the honourable senator who moved the motion had very little to do with whether the Federal Government had failed to honour its election promises to Aborigines, but I will come to that in a moment.
Most of the honourable senator’s speech was directed to the Country Liberal Party Majority Leader, Dr Goff Letts, in a most derogatory manner. Senator Keeffe attacked him time and again and, as I have said before in this Senate, he has very little opportunity to answer the charges that are brought against him. I suspect that the reason for this debate today has little to do with Aboriginal people, and I think it is a pity that the debate has been used as a vehicle to deplore the Aboriginal people. I can assure the Senate that the Aboriginal people, and I speak of the Northern Territory, are absolutely fed up with the publicity and the tripe that is brought up in parliaments and in the media throughout Australia. They say to me: ‘Will you please tell those people down south that our heads are going “boom, boom”. Will they please leave us alone for a year, say, so that we can think what this is all about.’ They cannot think because they have been pounded and pounded by motions such as this. I say that it is not a fair go for the Aboriginal people of Australia.
Returning to the situation of Dr Goff Letts, I believe that this whole debate is for the purpose of making derogatory remarks about a very honourable man, a man who is sincere, genuine, and doing his best for the Aboriginal and other people of the Northern Territory. He has responsibilities, but I think a lot of people are afraid and are not prepared to recognise him as a most honourable man. I have indicated to Senator Keeffe that I would seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a statement which appeared in the Northern Territory News on Monday, 14 March which would give Dr Letts some opportunity to answer the charge. I seek leave to have that statement incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
LETTS DENIES ALP’S LAND RIGHTS CLAIMS
The Majority Leader, Dr Goff Letts, has denied accusations by Senator Ted Robertson and MHR Mr Les Johnson over the NT complementary legislation on Aboriginal Land Rights.
Last week Senator Robertson (ALP) a member of the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on land rights, said ‘ It would have been much better if, before introducing the legislation, Dr Letts had discussed it with the committee and Minister’.
Mr Johnson is reported to have said that Dr Letts had tried to circumvent the work of the committee by introducing land rights legislation in the NT Legislative Assembly.
At a press conference today Dr Letts denied claims and said they were misleading to the public, the Aboriginal people and possibly to the Federal Parliament.
He produced minutes of a meeting of the Joint Committee on February 7 which stated ‘In conclusion Dr Letts undertook to provide members of the committee, through the secretary, copies of the proposed NT Legislation as soon as it was presented in the NT Assembly ‘.
Dr Letts said the chairman Senator Bonner had asked whether draft legislation would be available in advance and he (Dr Letts) had said he was not sure.
However, if members wished, he would be prepared to provide them with a draft provided these were not used to initiate public debate before members of the NT Legislative Assembly had access to it.
They said they would be happy to receive it as soon as it was introduced in the Legislative Assembly,’ Dr Letts said.
They received the legislation last week.
This attempt to say I acted wrongfully is quite wrong.
In fact Senator Robertson was present at the time and heard all this.’
Dr Letts said the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Viner also had a copy of the minutes and he was surprised at his attitude in Federal Parliament.
Dr Letts said he had a lengthy discussion with Mr Viner in Canberra last week.
He had agreed to meet Mr Viner for more discussions and comments.
– The question of the funds that are being spent on Aboriginal people in the Territory has been brought up time and again in this chamber. Senator Bonner made the very good point that money in itself is not the main thing. First of all, I should like to go back to the situation of the housing associations in the Northern Territory prior to the election of this Government. We know full well that the Aboriginal housing trust system got completely out of control because the previous Government did not take the opportunity to oversight payments made and actions taken within the associations. What is the situation at this time? Senator Keeffe has said quite correctly that tens of thousands of dollars worth of building materials for Aboriginal housing associations in the Northern Territory are lying on the ground. That is quite correct. I can take Senator Keeffe and any other honourable senator who wishes to accompany me to the Northern Territory and show them these tens of thousands of dollars worth of materials which have been on the ground for years and are going to waste. It has been on the ground since it was purchased from money allocated by the Labor Government. What happened? An immense amount of money was spent on aboriginal housing. The people themselves had very little to say in the matter. The housing associations were ignored. There was a great rip off during this period when practically everybody under the sun except the Aboriginal people themselves made money. The Aboriginal people did not get money out of it in 2 ways. Firstly, they did not get houses. The houses that were built cost ridiculous amounts like $70 000 and more. In many places those houses were of a poor standard and not complete. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were wasted.
I mention next the ‘rip-off’ people. I refer to the consultants and so on- not all of them were con’ people- who came in and took the money. Many people did that. The money that was made available was not controlled by the Government and so these people went in and ripped it off. The Aboriginal people were not employed in the construction of the houses. Construction companies were engaged to build the houses on behalf of the Aboriginal people. The whole situation was very farcial. What brought it about? It was brought about because the Labor Government at that time was more concerned with waving the flag and saying: ‘We spent $20m, $30m, $40m on Aboriginals’. But it did not take responsible action to ensure that the Aboriginal people derived some benefit from that money. That is what the Hay report is all about. Since its presentation, many things have been done. Money is flowing through now and it is being used to the benefit of the Aboriginal people. The housing associations have been overhauled. The members of some of the housing associations have now been attached to the councils in the various settlements. That means that the Aboriginal people themselves are having some say in matters that affect them. The house designs are such that the homes can easily be erected by Aboriginal people. But, as I have said, some of the houses were absolute mansions and of no use to the Aboriginal people whatsoever.
– You are letting your fancy run away with you now.
– The honourable senator says that I am letting my fancy run away. The honourable senator can see in many places in the Northern Territory houses whose construction cost as much as I mentioned previously. All I am saying in that 4 houses could have been built for the price that was paid to build one house. Organisations such as the Bathurst Island Housing Association did a very good job during that period and survived. Unfortunately, because of the lack of control, the lack of help and the lack of assistance to the Aboriginal people at that time the system of housing associations broke down.
– You said there were too many consultants. Make up your mind.
– The honourable senator is getting a little touchy. Many consultants were engaged. The point I am making is that the
Government had no control over those consultants and hundreds of thousands of dollars were wasted. The Aboriginal people are suffering because of that.
– There was no more waste than occurred with the previous LiberalNational Country Party Government when stuff was allowed to lay on the ground.
– The honourable senator does not like being faced with home truths regarding all the hocus-pocus about the Labor Party supposedly being of benefit to the Aboriginal people. I am indicating that there is another side to the story. Because this is an election year in the Northern Territory, the Labor Party, through a motion such as this, is endeavouring to pull the wool over the eyes of the people in the Northern Territory.
– You are the only one who is electioneering. We did not even think about it.
– We need to have a little laugh at times. I direct the attention of the Senate to the amounts of money which have been expended over the years on Aboriginal assistance in such areas as housing, health, education, employment, welfare, enterprises, town management and public utilities, cultural recreation, sporting activities, legal aid and so on. In 1974-75, $158,443,000 was spent in those areas and in 1 975-76 the figure was $ 1 85,798,000. It is estimated that in 1976-77 the figure will be $177m.
Before concluding I wish to speak very briefly about the unemployment situation of the Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. It is correct that unemployment does exist. If it is the case that Aboriginal people require unemployment benefits, the solution, as Senator Guilfoyle has said, can be found simply by bringing that fact to the attention of the authorities. Some Aboriginal people, like some European people, do not wish to work. There is a type of Aboriginal person in the Northern Territory who will not accept the unemployment benefit. I refer to people such as those on Bathurst Island who say that they will take a moral stand. What they mean by that is that they believe that the unemployment benefit is destroying their people and they will not have that. So discussions have taken place with the Department of Social Security, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the Department of the Northern Territory and so on with a view to creating employment for the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory. I am sure that as a result of those moves many initiatives will result to the betterment of the Aboriginal people.
Senator Keeffe made a rather derogatory remark about the Electoral Committee in the Northern Territory. The Committee comprises 3 members, two of whom have been on the body for years. The third person, I understand, is a new member. I do not think it is right and fitting that the honourable senator should reflect on that committee which, over the years, has reviewed electoral boundaries. No adverse comments whatsoever have been made on its work previously. In fact, I hasten to say that the review displays much sympathy for Aboriginal and other people in the outback. An examination of the population figures reveals that there are fewer people registered on the electoral roll living in the rural areas than in the urban areas. So, I think that the review does not disadvantage the Aboriginal people; it is to their benefit.
I do not support the matter of urgency. I move:
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Senator Keeffe’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– For the information of honourable senators I table letters sent by the Prime Minister to the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Canada both dated 4 February 1977, relating to nuclear safeguards. I also table the reply received by the Prime Minister from President Carter.
Senator KILGARIFF (Northern Territory) In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969 I present the fortieth general report of the Joint Committee on Public Works. Mr President, I seek leave to make a brief statement relating to the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– In tabling this general report on the activities of the Public Works Committee, I point out that for the first time the report includes a summary of the progress made on the construction of works proposals after they have been reported on by the Committee. The summary covers the period 1972 to 1975. When reviewing this summary, there is a noticeable time gap between the Department of Construction ‘s estimated date for the completion of the work and the date the work was actually completed. The average delay was nearly 2 years and was applicable to works both in the Northern Territory and elsewhere. It would be useful to have some response from the Government on the cause of these delays. It will also be noted that there has been escalation in costs. However, as the note at the end of the summary points out, the Department of Construction has made no provision for the escalation of building costs, in accordance with Treasury policy.
Senator ROBERTSON (Northern Territory) By leave- I move:
Mr President, I seek leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– On behalf of Senator Withers- I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Grimes) agreed to:
That the order of the day standing on the notice paper for 25 February 1977 relating to the motion that the Senate is of the opinion that the Government should introduce legislation to provide for the statutory establishment and funding of the Australian Assistance Plan be restored to the notice paper and be an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
-On behalf of Senator Bonner, I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 5.48 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 16 March, on motion by Senator Withers:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Senate is debating a Bill designed to modify the application of section 16 of the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act of 1 906. In short, it is a machinery Bill to enable the ballot boxes and polling booths to be used in connection with the taking of the referendum on Saturday, 2 1 May, to be used also in connection with a poll concerning the recommendation of the Australian people to the Australian Government on the choice of Australia’s national song. Section 16 of the Act provides that when a referendum is held on the same day as an election the same ballot boxes and polling booths may be used for the purposes of the referendum and the election. The Government has decided that on the occasion of the holding of this referendum on 2 1 May it will hold a ballot concerning Australia’s national song and it is provided by this Bill that the same ballot boxes and the same polling booths may be used. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill.
This is the first time that a national poll will be conducted throughout Australia for a national song. The choice of the people has been limited to 4 songs or 4 anthems. They are God Save the Queen, Advance Australia Fair, Waltzing Matilda and Carl Linger’s Song of Australia.
– Would you sing that last song?
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDSenator Missen suggests that I sing the last song I mentioned. If my colleague Senator Melzer were here she and I might be prepared to perform, for a fee of course, a Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald duet. There is some concern on the part of a number of people because the choice has been restricted to 4 songs. My colleague Senator Cavanagh suggested that a fifth, the Internationale, perhaps should be added to the choice and someone else suggested that Rose Marie be added. However it is not for me, in answer to Senator Missen ‘s interjection, to sing my speech this evening. I will be supporting the voting for the tune composed by a Scottish migrant from Glasgow, one Peter McCornick, who came to Australia at about the age of 12 and who, at the age of 35, wrote the words and music for Advance Australia Fair. He died at Waverley in Sydney in 1916 and in good Scottish fashion assigned the rights to Advance Australia Fair to the trustees of the Presbyterian Church of Australia. I mention those matters not because I am of Scottish descent or because I might be a Presbyterian by religion but because I am Australian and I think Advance Australia Fair is more Australian than any of the other songs to be put to the Australian people for their choice.
The Parliamentary Library has provided me with a chronological history of competitions for a national anthem for Australia. Because of the historical significance that might be attached to such a reference I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the details provided to me on national anthem competitions by the Parliamentary Library.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
NATIONAL ANTHEM COMPETITION
Listed below are details of various competitions which have been conducted in the course of the quest for an Australian national anthem/song. None but the last has been directly sponsored by the Federal Government. 1 840- Sydney Council of the Australian League.
Result: The Judges’ decision was publicly attacked and the choice did not live long’. 1908-Sydney Bulletin.
Result: 74 entries were received. First prize was shared by J. A. Allen who wrote ‘Battle Hymn’ and a writer under the pseudonym ‘Gumtree’ who wrote ‘The Cross and the Great White Star’. A special prize was awarded to C. J. Dennis for his ‘Real Australian Australaise ‘. With exception of the latter which gained some currency during World War 1, none of these competitions gained much recognition. 1 9 1 3- Musical Association of New South Wales.
Conducted a competition for an anthem, verse and music, with £200 in prizes. Arthur H. Adams was awarded the first prize of f 100 in the verse section in which there were 722 entries. A £100 prize was also offered for the best musical setting and was won by Theodore Tourrier Adams ‘ verses were much criticised. 1934- A competition was held for a ‘National Song’ on the occasion of the Melbourne Centenary. The first and second prizes were shared by two entries: ‘Australia Happy Isle’- words by Jessie Street and music by Lindley Evans: and ‘Land of Ours’- words and music by Margaret Sutherland. 1943- The Australian Broadcasting Commission conducted a National Song Competition and offered 3 prizes totalling £105, with 3 special prizes worth a total of £35 for the writers of the lyrics of the winning songs. 800 entries were received, and were judged by Committees formed by the Guild of Composers. 22 of the songs were submitted to the final judges, who decided that none of the songs submitted was such as could be put to the world as Australia’s national song. The Commission decided, therefore, that rather than give three major prizes, it would increase the prize money to 1 lOAns and award 52ns to each of the 22 best entries. 1945- The Australian Broadcasting Commission conducted a lyrics competition with a view to finding a set of verses worthy to be set to music as an Australian National Song. 3 prizes totalling £100 were offered:
First Prize: ‘Ave Australia’ by Mrs M. E. Pitt, of Victoria.
Second Prize: ‘Bride of the South’ by Mr J. K. Ewers. Western Australia.
Third Prize: ‘Namoi River’ by Mr E. L. Hudson, New South Wales. 1279 lyrics were received, and the judges were unanimous in their choice of the three best, the first of which they considered outstanding. 1951 -Australian Broadcasting Commission conducted a National Song Competition in honour of the Commonwealth’s Jubilee. The competition was intended not only to mark the Jubilee but to provide a stimulus to Austraiian composers and authors to produce a song suitable for adoption as Australia’s National Song. The cost of the Competition was met by the Australian Performing Right Association, with four prizes worth a total of £200.
First Prize: ‘Land of Mine’; Music Henry Krips; WordsJohn Wheeler.
Second Prize: ‘Australia’; Music- Miss Dulcie Holland; Words- Miss Dorothea Mackellar.
Third Prize: ‘Song of Australia’; Music- Werner Baer: Words- John Wheeler.
Special Prize for best lyrics in winning entry: John Wheeler. 1957- Woman’s Day Competition. No details are available. 1 970- Fellowship of the First Fleeters. 400 entries were submitted. The President, Mr T. J. Everingham said that not one of the 400 entries met the judges’ minimum criteria, and that the words were ‘tremendously patriotic, an eye-opener to those who knock our country ‘ but not ‘ with it to suit modern times. ‘ 1972- The Australia Day Committee conducted an ‘Australian National Anthem and Flag Quest’. About 500 anthem entries were received. The judges were to submit the best 10 entries in each part of the quest to the public, through press, radio and television media for final judging purposes, following which the result was to be conveyed to the Commonwealth Government on Australia Day 1973 for consideration. 1973- In his Australia Day address Mr Whitlam launched a competition for a new national anthem. The competition was in two stages- words, with’ a prize of $5,000 for the writer of the words chosen for the national anthem, and music, with a prize of $5,000 for the composer of the music of the Anthem. Prizes of $500 were to be made for the words and for the music of any entry selected for public consideration. In the lyrics section of the contest, the judges selected six from a possible 60 from the 2500 entries. Five of these were printed in a booklet and the second step of the quest was announced, inviting composers to set music either to those words or other words. In this section 1400 entries were received of which only 1 7 were considered individually as possibilities. The music and lyric judges concluded that not one of the entries submitted justified inclusion in the musical work to be submitted to the public on which they would record their vote. The judges recommended that a choice be made from one of the traditional familiar songs, namely:
Advance Australia Fair’ Song of Australia’ Waltzing Matilda’
Accordingly, the Bureau of Census and Statistics conducted a survey of 60 000 persons in February 1 974.
Question asked: Firstly, have you heard the tune of Song of Australia, Advance Australia Fair, Waltzing Matilda? Which of these three tunes do you prefer for a National Anthem: Song of Australia, Advance Australia Fair, Waltzing Matilda, other response?
As a consequence of the poll, the then Prime Minister announced that ‘Advance Australia Fair’ would be played as the Australian National Anthem at the coming Anzac Day Ceremony in Canberra, and that it would, henceforth, be played on all appropriate occasions as Australia’s National Anthem.
-As I said, the Opposition does not oppose the measure now before the Senate. We support the holding of the referendum and support the 4 referendum proposals that will be put to the people on 2 1 May. We do not object to the Australian people being given the opportunity to express their choice of a national song by means of the ballot box. The eventual determination, of course, will be made by the Australian Government but the Opposition does not oppose the proposal before the Senate.
– I understand that the Bill before the Senate introduces a little music into the rather jarring tones of a 4-pronged referendum. It is one of the ironies of political life in the Senate that when those political proposals were presented to the Parliament time was such a precious commodity that they had to be gagged through in such a manner as to prevent any discussion on 2 proposals, a limited discussion on the proposal relating to casual vacancies and a compressed discussion on what were called erroneously- and some of my colleagues on a former occasion most emphatically said ‘deceptively’- simultaneous elections. The bandwagon relating to that proposal has been got under way. The campaign in Tasmania had the honour of being opened by none other than Mr Gough Whitlam. Much wonder that Senator Douglas McClelland is going to support those 4 proposals! This Bill introduces a modification to the legislation to enable a song to enter the minds of the electors and for them to determine at the same time as they determine the constitutional proposals which of the 4 songs or tunes is acceptable to the people.
I would think it would be appropriate to reflect how consonant that is with a discussion on a Bill relating to the method of selection of senators to fill casual vacancies. There has been such great disquiet arising out of 2 disappointments of the Whitlam Government in regard to casual vacancies in the past three or four years that anything said by the Whitlam Government in reaction to appointments by the Queensland Government and the New South Wales Government of temporary senators in this place has been distinctly unmusical.
– They were very temporary, too.
– I ask honourable senators, before they allow the discordance that has arisen from that disgruntled experience to override the matter we are dealing with, which is predominantly the national song or national tune, before they allow any disharmony to come into the debate arising out of sourness and disappointment, to reflect how consonant it is for serious constitutional questions to have to be discussed along with a national tune. The fact is transparently clear that an egregious mistake has been made on the part of the present Government in following into the vortex of the Whitlam proposal on so-called- misleadingly socalledsimultaneous elections. Having got into that stall it is thought that instead of munching oats, and musty oats, all the time we should have a hee haw or two and consider the song. Mr Acting Deputy President, what do you think of bringing together one’s thoughts upon casual vacancies and the national song? Just think what is involved in casual vacancies. Since 1949 when proportional representation was introduced we have had an understanding between the major political parties that if a casual vacancy occurred in the Senate, a replacement senator would be selected by the State Parliament from the political party of which the deceased or retiring senator was a member.
– Is that in this Bill or are you putting the No case?
– No, I am not. I am trying to examine how consonant it is that constitutional issues such as this should be considered at the same time as the selection of Waltzing Matilda, Advance Australia Fair or God Save the King. The filling of casual vacancies was settled by agreement. All State Parliaments accept that agreement as a principle. The 2 Houses of this Parliament and both parties accept it as a principle. In 1959 the Constitutional Review Committee accepted it as a principle and the Hobart meeting last October endorsed it as a principle. That Committee denied that the matter was appropriate for a constitutional amendment. The only debate in Hobart was whether, in the case of a casual vacancy in the Senate caused by a resignation, which God does not determine but which politicians sometimes manoeuvre, the principle should be applied without variation except in the case of a resignation on account of bona fide illness or incapacity.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. It is quite obvious that Senator Wright is in no way addressing his remarks to the Bill. The subject matter on which he speaks was the subject of debate in this chamber some time ago. I believe he ought to address his remarks specifically to this legislation and not use his time to air again the views which he expressed in this place two or three weeks ago.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- I have considered the point of order raised by the Leader of the Opposition. If Senator Wright is on the Bill he must be standing on it because he is not talking to it. I ask him, in all good faith, to address himself to the Bill which is before the Senate.
-Mr Acting Deputy President, when you have had as much experience in the chair as I have had on the floor you will not reflect upon the member speaking from the floor by referring to him as standing on a matter and not talking to it. I say that with great respect.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! I suggest that you talk to the Bill instead of standing on it.
– A point of order was taken and the impatience of Senator Wriedt interrupted me to prevent me bringing to the subject matter of the Bill a matter which I would have taken 3 minutes to explain to you, Mr Acting Deputy President- not that you needed it, but people like Senator Withers, who is proposing the matter now for the first time, does need it. The point is that this matter is so disconsonant. It is so discordant. It is so incongruous. It is so inappropriate. Does Senator Wriedt understand these things? A song is to be determined at the same time as a high matter of constitutional import relating to casual vacancies. Against all the opinion to which I have referred this proposal is to be imported into the Constitution. In relation to casual vacancies a provision has been carefully designed by which State Parliaments are to appoint as a senator a member of the deceased ‘s Party. But if the member chosen ceases to be a member of that Party before he takes his seat the Parliament’s decision is null and void.
– You are talking in the wrong key.
– No. I am showing how incongruous it is that with such high principles of constitutional practice and provision we are to vote for a song and a put that question in as a pretext for saying that it is an egregious mistake to have a constitutional referendum costing $5m to $7m in this time of stringent economic hardship. At this time we come in- I see Senator McLaren waves to the music- with the idea that we put a song forward as a pretext for that constitutional referendum. As I was saying, there is a provision under which the State Parliaments are to select a member of the political party of which the deceased was a member, but if that selected member ceases to be a member before he takes his seat- the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) has suggested, for example, by expulsion- it is only necessary for that political party, and I have no doubt it will do this, to introduce -
– That is not in this Bill.
-I am showing how incongruous it is to have a national tune as a fifth question when people are debating serious matters which will prevail for all times in relation to the operations of this chamber. Mr Acting Deputy President, you see the interruptions are designed to create a basis for intolerance. If I were not interrupted I could conclude quite clearly with a brief statement showing my point. The point I endeavour to make now for the third time- despite 2 interruptions- is that the political party in question will simply introduce a rule that any member who accepts selection from a State Parliament shall be expelled unless it is with that party’s approval. Therefore State Parliaments will be completely overridden by political appointments in regard to this matter. That matter is entirely discordant with the Constitution. It makes a harsh impact on the Constitution and shows how inappropriate it is to introduce this fifth question of a national song or tune on which people are to vote at the same time as they vote on the Constitution questions.
-The cacophony of sound which we have heard from our colleague Senator Wright does not have very much to do with the legislation which is before the Senate. The Senate is debating the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Modification Bill 1977. That is a mouthful which simply means that machinery measures are being introduced to alter an Act of the Parliament so that ballot papers indicating a choice for a national song can be placed in the same ballot box as the ballot papers for the referenda which are to take place on 21 May. If Senator Wright’s point was that there may be some confusion and that the national song might come out as No, No, No, No and the answer to some of the referenda as Advance Australia Fair, that would be a good point. But I did not apprehend that he actually made that point. There may have been confusion in his speech but that was not a confusion to which he drew attention. The purpose of this legislation is explained quite clearly in a statement made by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) although, in my view, it is not made clear in the legislation. The Minister stated:
Concurrently with the referendums all electors are to have the opportunity to express on a voluntary basis their wishes as to the tune of the national song. The poll will be conducted on the basis that God Save the Queen is the national anthem to be played on regal and vice-regal occasions, but that on other occasions it will be appropriate for a national song to be played.
I might interpolate there that the choice which is offered to the electors is, of course, Buckley’s choice, because it is assumed that the national song for all regal and vice-regal occasions should be God Save The Queen. There is no choice offered in that respect. The statement goes on:
For this purpose electors will be asked to express their preferences for the following tunes:
God Save the Queen Advance Australia Fair Song of Australia Waltzing Matilda.
The Government believes that it is desirable that all electors should be able to indicate their wishes as to which of these tunes should be adopted for our national song and the holding of the referendums to alter the Constitution on 2 1 May will provide an ideal opportunity for this purpose.
It states further that electors in the Territories will have the opportunity to vote on the issue of the choice of a national song but on nothing else, which is a strange irony of the Australian Constitution as it stands at present. The expression which somewhat puzzles me in the Minister’s statement and in the Bill itself -
– It is the Attorney-General ‘s statement.
-The Attorney-General’s statement- I do not want to do Senator Withers any injustice. I look forward to giving him his just desserts in due course. However, the words which bemuse me in the Bill itself and in the Minister’s statement are ‘for the purpose of choosing the tune for a national song’. I would have thought that there was some difference between the word ‘tune’ and the word ‘song’ and I hope that that is not going to be a problem which confuses the electors who vote on this issue on 2 1 May. The definition of tune’, for example, is ‘the giving forth of a musical sound ‘. There are other definitions of the expression ‘the giving forth of a musical sound’. One of the definitions refers to the giving forth of a musical sound which has no relationship with normal speech. Thus we might have a statement from the Clerk of the Senate which could be described as a tune but not a song, or a statement from the President of the Senate which could likewise be described as a tune but not a song.
The definition of ‘song’ is quite a different matter altogether. It is described as ‘the act or art of singing, the result or effect of this being vocal music’ and so on. It is also defined as ‘the musical utterances of certain birds’. So, for example, Senator Walters when making a speech in this place, might give forth a song whereas the Clerk of the Senate would give forth a tune. This confusion should be of concern to the Senate because the confusion is there in the legislation and may be there for the electors when they vote on this issue on 21 May. It is my own pious hope that the Government’s intention is that we have for an Australian national song, as it is called, a tune- that is to say, a song without words- and if we do that we will be the first country to have a national tune without words and without all the cant, hypocrisy and chauvinism which goes with the words of most national songs.
– Birds would not be allowed to sing it.
– Of course, Senator. I say with some regret, because it involves on my part a recognition that singing as a popular art form in public and in crowds is in decline. For example, we no longer live in the age of great Welsh choirs leading mass singing. We no longer live in the age, fortunately, of people at Numemburg singing in crowds Deutschland Uber A lles. We no longer live in the age realistically of people in Albert Hall in London singing Elgar’s great song Land of Hope and Glory. That is a reality we have to face up to. There is a great danger in a country like ours singing a song which involves some form of respect to a mythical and unreal tradition or to some distant monarch in whom we have no particular interest.
I refer now to the songs which we are asked to consider in this ballot that is to take place on 2 1 May. I venture the suggestion that few Australians know the words of Song of Australia; very few Australians know the words of Advance Australia Fair, quite a lot of Australians do not know the words of Waltzing Matilda; and quite a lot of Australians, a fact for which I am personally glad, do not know all the words of God Save The Queen. This is just as well when one looks at the words of those songs because they are all chauvinistic, pompous, inappropriate for a modern world and crassly vulgar in many verses. Look at the trouble which songs such as Rule Britannia brought the British Empire to and songs such as Deutschland Uber Alles brought the German people to, because of the emotive connotations which they carried and the sorts of things they represented in terms of national chauvinism. For those reasons I believe that we should come down very strongly in favour of a tune, as I have called it, rather than a song with words. This is an issue which should unite us as Australians rather than divide us. I make an appeal to Senator Young, who is laughing. I appeal to him as a semi-intelligent Liberal senator from South Australia to unite with me on this issue so that we might be the first country to have a national song without words.
Let us look at the words of some of the songs in respect of which we are invited to make a choice. First of all, I turn to Song of Australia. I do not suppose that many honourable senators know the second verse of Song of Australia. It is:
There is a land where honey flows, Where laughing corn luxuriant grows
The Senate obviously-
Land of myrtle and the rose, land of the rose, On hill and plain the clustering vine, Is gushing out with purple wine, Andcups arequaffed to thee and thine.
Australia! Australia! Australia!
That is a verse of a proposed national song which would divide this country right down the middle. I wonder what the Carlton United Brewery would have to say about excise duties on beer and wine when it heard played as our national song:
On hill and plain the clustering vine, Is gushing out with purple wine, And cups are quaffed to thee and thine.
That is the sort of thing which is right through Song of A ustralia. It goes on:
There is a land where treasures shine, Deep in the dark unfathom ‘d mine, For worshippers at Mammon’s shrine, at Mammon’s shrine Where gold lies hid, and rubies gleam, And fabled wealth no more doth seem The idle fancy of a dream. Australia! Australia! Australia!
Just think about the implications of the expression ‘Mammon’s shrine’. Are we in the Senate who say prayers every day before we commence our deliberations to have a national song where we talk about worshipping at Mammon ‘s shrine. Of course, there is also reference to the mining industry but I do not want to get involved in that subject because it would be described as political and, as I said at the beginning, I want to make a non-political and uniting speech on this issue. The last verse says:
And Freedom’s sons the banner bear, No shackled slave can breathe the air
That is a pretty poor outlook for prisoners in Australian Government prisons. I repeat:
No shackled slave can breathe the air Fairest of Britain’s daughters fair, Australia! Australia! Australia!
That is an insult to the other nations of the Commonwealth. It is an insult to Canada, New Zealand and all the nations of the British Commonwealth when we describe ourselves as the fairest of Britain’s daughters fair’. So much for Song of Australia. I believe that very few senators knew the words of that song. Let us look at the other suggested song, Advance Australia Fair.
– Cut that out; that is my song.
-That is Senator O’Byrne ‘s song. It is interesting to note, as he interjects, that that song was first published in a publication called The School Magazine on 1 September 1928. That was about when Senator O’Byrne was doing his matriculation for the fifth time. The words to this song go on in much the same sort of way as the words to the last song I mentioned. It states:
When gallant Cook from Albion sail’d, To trace wide oceans o’er,
True British courage bore him on, Till he landed on our shore.
Then here he raised Old England ‘s flag, The standard of the brave,
With all her faults we love her still, Britannia rules the wave
In joyful strains then let us sing Advance Australia Fair.
Again, there is this sort of insult to the other nations of the British Commonwealth and again we have the implication that Britannia rules the waves. The song goes in the next verse to say:
Should foreign foe e’er sight our coast, Or dare a foot to land,
We’ll rouse to arms like sires of yore, To guard our native strand
Britannia then shall surely know, Beyond wide oceans roll, Her sons in Fair Australia ‘s land Still keep a British soul In joyful strains then let us sing, Advance Australia Fair.
To suggest in 1977 that all of us in Australia still keep a British soul is an insult to our ethnic communities which I hope Senator Lajovic will speak about in a moment. That is the second choice which we are offered as a national song.
The third choice is God Save the Queen. We all know the first verse of God Save the Queen, but for goodness sake, let us have a look at what the third verse says.
– The second is bad enough.
-I agree that the second verse is bad enough. But let us look at the third verse which I know appeals to many members of the Liberal Party of Australia and to this LiberalNational Country Party Government at this moment of history because it says:
O Lord our God, arise, Scatter Her enemies And make them fall Confound their politics Frustrate their knavish tricks On Thee our hope we fix God save us all.
I know that that is sung at the beginning of Liberal Party meetings every Wednesday morning and the singing is led by the present Treasurer, Mr Lynch. I repeat:
Confound their politics Frustrate their knavish tricks On Thee our hope we fix God save us all.
Of course, that appeals to certain sections of the community and particularly to the present Government. But we must ask ourselves in all reality in 1977 whether we can afford to have a song and words like that as a national song in a country with pretensions to being a modern political democracy.
The fourth song is Waltzing Matilda. It is a song about which I share some sentiment with the present Prime Minister. I suspect that it is the only sentiment which we have in common. Let me tell the Senate something of the origins of the song Waltzing Matilda. I quote from the Australian Encyclopaedia where it discusses the origins of the song Waltzing Matilda:
On the song copy of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ published by Allan & Co. Pty. Ltd, Melbourne, the tune is attributed to Marie Cowan. She appears to have been the wife of a Sydney tea-merchant, who arranged the setting for her husband to distribute in the late 1 890s as an advertisement for his tea.
Honourable senators will recall the words of the song indicate that once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong and he boiled his tea by the billabong -
– No, he boiled his billy.
-I am sorry. He boiled his billy by the billabong. Senator Maunsell is more familiar with this than I am. The Australian Encyclopaedia continues:
The words used in the song copy differ considerably from those published by Paterson. It is probably that the alterations came about gradually as the song was passed from singer to singer in the outback and, in the main, they have improved the lyric by making it more racy and easier to sing.
The lyrics given below are those of the song version and are reproduced here by arrangement with Allan & Co. Pty. Ltd:
The only point I make about this is that the references to Waltzing Matilda are not offensive in any way to any section of the community. Nobody has any violent opposition to tea drinkers. Nobody has any violent opposition to tea merchants and all honourable senators should have more confidence and more concern that we should be known internationally as a nation of tea drinkers rather than a nation of wine drinkers. We should be known as a nation with its own peculiar culture and certainly the words of Waltzing Matilda are peculiar to foreign visitors to this country. We should be known not as a people which has a national song filled with the sort of chauvinism of the other 3 songs which I have mentioned.
I think it is very important that we draw a distinction between the 4 songs in question and that in relation to all of them, when we go on the hustings on this vitally important matter- important compared with the other referenda questions on 21 May- we are advocating a national song without words. If I may indicate a personal preference at this stage, if it has not emerged earlier, that song should be Waltzing Matilda. Waltzing Matilda does have important historical connotations.
– The squatter on his thoroughbred -
-That is right. As Senator O’Byrne interjects, ‘The squatter on his thoroughbred’. In a sense, although this matter unites us and we are all concerned about it, we all come to the Senate representating different traditions in Australian political life- the swagman, whom Senator Douglas McClelland and Senator O’Byrne could represent, and the squatter mounted on his thoroughbred. There are not many of them in this chamber. But there are in the other place. They are represented in the 2 main political streams of Australian political life. I think it is important we reflect thatelement in the national song we have. The point I am trying to make is that none of these words really stands up in any of these songs.
There is one other matter to which I wish to refer. I think it is very important in deciding what Australia’s national song should be- there have been numerous attempts to do this- to consider some of the history of the matter. I refer briefly to the Australian Encyclopaedia on that question. It states:
Although the official national anthem of Australia has always been ‘God Save the King (or Queen)’, many efforts have been made to find a substitute, or a subsidiary, more directly expressive of Australian sentiment.
I hope that is the exercise we will be about on 2 1 May. I continue to read:
One of the earliest attempts seems to have been made in 1826 by JohnDunmore Lang(q.6.), who published an ‘Australian Anthem’ and an ‘Australian Hymn’ in his Aurora Australis. The first anthem produced complete with music was probably ‘Advance Australia’, described as ‘The Australian National Anthem ‘.
It was first performed in the Sydney Town Hall-
The poetic merit of the words is indicated by the following lines:
Hail to thee, Happy Queen, sweetest that earth has seen, Dear to thy country as chief to his clan.
They are the sort of words that could have been uttered by Sir Robert Menzies as long ago as 1955. It continues:
Although this song was given a cordial reception by the people of Sydney, apparently it was soon forgotten, for a few years later the Sydney council of the Australasian League decided to conduct a competition for a national anthem. The judges’ decision made in the following year, was attacked and their choice did not live long.
Nathaniel L. Kentish, who called himself ‘The Amateur Poet Laureate of Victoria’, also issued in 185 1 a national anthem, on a broadsheet without music as did W. S. Jenkins in 1858. In 1854 S. Nelson, a visiting English singer, composed a national anthem, but his effort, too, failed to gain popularity, In 1 860 Carl Linger of South Australia composed ‘The Song of Australia’ which had a more lasting success . . During the 1890s a wave of Australian nationalism developed; many patriotic poems were written, but no anthem set to music was very successful.
The article goes on to record further competitions and states that in 1908 a national competition was held for a national song. The prize was 2 guineas.
– C. J. Dennis was in that competition.
– I am reminded by Senator Douglas McClelland that C. J. Dennis took part in that competition. The article continues:
A special prize of one guinea was awarded to C. J. Dennis for his ‘Real Australian Australaise’, which he appears to have submitted as a joke. The Bulletin said his entry was the only satisfactory battle song submitted and was quite Australian.
– Recite it.
– I will recite it, senator. The song is to be sung to the tune of ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’. I gird my loins in anticipation of a point of order from Senator Walters. I think that the only way that the song can properly be recited is if I use the word ‘bloody’. It is said that the verse and chorus of the song are to have the blank spaces filled in according to taste. I do not know what the taste of the Senate is, but if honourable senators listen to the song as I read it, interpolating the word ‘bloody’, one might get the feeling that the taste of the author involved some other word than the word ‘bloody’ which more satisfactorily fits the gaps which are left. The song is this:
Fellers of Australier, Blokes an ‘ coves an ‘ coots, Shift yer bloody carcases, Move yer bloody boots, Gird yer bloody loins up, Git yer bloody gun, Set the bloody enermy, An ‘ watch the blighters run.
The chorus is:
Git a bloody move on, Have some bloody sense, Learn the bloody art of Self de-bloody- fence.
At the time that was seriously suggested as a national song for this country. I put it to the Senate that though those words seem funny, if one examines the words of ‘Song of Australia’ and Advance Australia Fair’ and so on in 1977 in a serious sense they are just as silly and just as funny. One other matter in the article to which I want to refer is this:
On 1 1 April 1 933 J. T. Lang, Leader of the Opposition in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, rebuked the people at a gathering at Lidcombe, New South Wales, for not removing their hats . . . when a band played ‘Advance Australia Fair’.
Lang claimed that ‘Advance Australia Fair’ was not a song or a hymn, but a national anthem, and should be respected as such; he did not say, however, who had made the song the national anthem of Australia.
So just as in 1977 and 1973, I think it was, the politicians tried to make the national anthem of Australia so J. T. Lang was doing it in 1 933.
The article goes on to say that there was another competition in 1951 and that the winning entry was ‘This Land of Mine’ written by John Wheeler. The photocopy from which I am reading is somewhat blurred. I am hoping to hear from Senator Wheeldon in a moment. I am surprised, if he wrote it, to see that it was written in 1951. 1 thought that ‘This Land of Mine’ was in fact written by Senator John Wheeldon when he was Minister for Social Security in 1975. The article states that the song by John Wheeler was set to music by Henry Krips but unfortunately no official sanction has been given for this work. The article continues:
The question of a national anthem was raised persistently prior to the holding of the Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956. The two songs most energetically advocated were Advance Australia Fair’ and ‘Waltzing Matilda’. However, in a speech in the House of Representatives in May 1955 the Prime Minister, R. G. Menzies, reviewed the whole matter of the Australian national anthem and stated quite definitely that there was only one, ‘God Save the Queen’, adding that his Government had no intention of substituting any other.
Just as Senator Wright pointed out that the Fraser Government changed its views about the referendums for 2 1 May, so Sir Robert Menzies and his successors in this Government changed their views about the national song for Australia and in 1977 recognised that the people of Australia should have a choice and not have that tribute to a distant monarch imposed on them as a national song as it has been in the past.
I again stress the importance and my own very firmly held view that we should advocate in the campaign which is to culminate on 21 May the introduction of a song without words for Australia and that the preferable music- I am in dispute with my leader, Senator Wriedt, about this- for such a song because of its evocation of a genuine Australian tradition is ‘Waltzing Matilda’. We should go forth from this place and campaign on that basis on this very important issue together with the other important issues which are to be decided on 2 1 May.
– I thank honourable senators for their support of this simple Bill which allows the ballot box to be used for the other puposes. I am starting to worry. I have always believed in Waltzing
Matilda but it seems terrible that I am on the same side as Senator Button. I agree with Senator Button that most of the words are inappropriate.
– The tune is a Marlborough war song.
-That is right. The origins of most tunes often are lost in antiquity. Tunes have all sorts of origins. As stated in the Bill the poll will be held for the purpose of choosing a tune for a national song. It is the music which is to be chosen, not the words. It was all very funny to hear Senator Button tonight. I enjoyed his speech and all the quaint words which were written with such great enthusiasm and fervour 50 years ago, maybe 100 year ago. I suppose the only thing Senator Button has to look forward to when he is the same age as Senator Wright and is performing as Senator Wright was performing tonight is to be looked upon as quaint, elderly, archaic and out of touch with modern society. That happens to us all. The words which Senator Button thought were so quaint and which were written by our ancestorsor our predecessors, if that is the better word- will seem lust as quaint to his successors in time. Tastes change from decade to decade. It is a matter of judgment. Each generation has its own views, its own tastes, but some things do endure, and they are tunes.
I was interested to hear Senator Button say that public singing has disappeared. My office happens to be above the Senate Records Office and I would hardly think that the custom has died out in this place after midnight at the end of each session. There is still a great deal to be said for people getting together and singing at the top of their voices.
– You have not heard Senator Douglas McClelland yet.
– Well, there are some things! It is well known around the Parliament that Senator Devitt, who is not here tonight, has one of the most pleasant singing voices in the Parliament. I think people still get a great deal of enjoyment out of singing in unison.
Senator Missen interjected at one stage that some of the songs to be presented are unknown. I suppose they are to some extent. Honourable senators will recall that on the day when this session of the Parliament was opened we saw the magnificent parade outside. If honourable senators are tone deaf like me and have no capacity at all for recognising music they will have noticed from reading through the program that the 3 Services used ‘Song of Australia’, ‘Advance
Australia Fair’ and ‘Waltzing Matilda’ as marching tunes. I think the combined Services band there on that day showed that the tunes can all be fitting marching tunes. I would think, with my non-existent knowledge of music, that there is a capacity for bands, orchestras arrangers or whoever to do all sorts of things with those tunes. One of the better things one sees occasionally on television is the Duntroon Band slow marching to Waltzing Matilda. I think they do it quite magnificently. I thank honourable senators for their warm, sincere, wholehearted support of this Bill, and again I thank them for giving it such a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 17 March, on motion by Senator Withers:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
– I rise to make a few remarks about a subject which the Senate was debating earlier today, that is, the circumstances in which Aboriginal communities find themselves as a result of the change from the Whitlam Government to the Fraser Government. In particular I want to make some remarks about the problem of Aboriginal health. I assert that the health of the Aboriginal community in Australia has deteriorated since the dismissal of the Whitlam Government, and I endorse the remarks made earlier by my colleagues on this side of the chamber that the Fraser Government has indeed failed to keep its election promises to the Australian Aboriginal people. It has taken some initiatives, mostly in the form of setting up committees. I noted with some interest that the issue of Aboriginal health has been referred to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, but in two very serious areas the Government has acted in a way which has undermined the programs set up during the period of the Labor Government to improve Aboriginal health. It has reduced funds and imposed staff ceilings which have made the appointment of staff at an appropriate level impossible in some areas, including the area of health.
I believe that the health of some Aboriginal people in Australia is worse than that of any other people in any other part of the world. I am aware that that is a very serious assertion. If it is true, and I believe it is, it is not only a national scandal but also an international scandal that a country as rich as Australia, which has such modern highly developed medical facilities and so many trained doctors and medical personnel, is still a country in which the health of some of its people can be worse than that of people in any other country in the world, including Third World countries, which lack all the things I have just enumerated. I think that the basic problem is racism. The health of the Aboriginal people has been allowed to deteriorate over generations. I would not suggest in the course of my remarks that it is only the present Government which has neglected or failed to cope adequately with the problems of Aboriginal health. The position has deteriorated because of racist attitudes over generations since the arrival of European settlers or conquerors in this country. Those attitudes assume basically that the Aboriginal people are different from and inferior to European people.
The second problem, one for which we do not need to feel so much guilt but about which we need to make a great deal more effort, is the problem of isolation. The Aboriginal communities to which I will refer are isolated from the rest of Australia. The vast majority of Australians live in cities. They are not aware in any personal way, they are not aware at all except through the media, of the extremities of the problems suffered by Aborigines in isolated communities. For example, I was almost completely unaware of the extent of the health problems of Aboriginal people until I came into this chamber and had an opportunity to visit Central Australia and some of the isolated settlements there. I think my position is typical of Australians of European descent. We are isolated from these serious problems. We are ignorant of them and therefore we neglect them.
However, I do not suggest that the present Government is ignorant of the problems. I know that the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) in another place on 3 November admitted the extent and complexity of the health problems of Aboriginal people. He referred to diseases such as yaws, leprosy, hookworm, respiratory tract infection, deafness, malnutrition, alcoholism, venereal disease, trachoma, diarrhoea, and of course the tragic rate of infant mortality amongst the Aboriginal community. The point I would like to make is that these diseases, which are the scourge of the Aboriginal people at this time, scarcely occur now, with the possible exception of alcoholism and venereal disease, amongst the white population, and when they do occur they are easily controlled and contained. Why is it that we have this complete double standard with regard to health in Australia and that the diseases which afflict the Aboriginal community to the point of causing one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world are diseases which are almost unknown in the white community? Why is there this apartheid on the matter of health and health services in the Australian community? Why is it the case that in 1977 the remaining 1 50 000 or so Aboriginal people are in danger of being destroyed by diseases which can be contained easily and cured by the techniques of medicine which we possess?
The medical profession and governments and administrators have been aware of these problems for a long time. I should like to quote a particularly significant article which appeared in the Medical Journal of Australia in 1970, an article on the syndrome of protein-calorie malnutrition in Australian Aboriginal children written by Jose and Welch. Although it was written in 1970, I quote it because I think the problem it indentified still exists and the cures which the article suggested have not yet been taken. This study looked at the growth and development of Aboriginal children on 6 Aboriginal settlements in Queensland and found that growth retardation, which included brain damage, affected up to 50 per cent of Aboriginal children aged between 6 months and 3 years. The study found that nutritional deficiency in pregnant mothers and infants, and inadequate early infant feeding were primary initiating factors, and of course environment did the rest. At the conclusion of this extremely interesting study the authors make the point that the question of Aboriginal health is not an isolated question but is integrated with the whole question of the status of the Aboriginal community. They say:
The syndrome of P-CM - that is protein-calorie malnutrition- described may have important sequelae in terms of mortality, education, chronic disability and employment. Evidence presented suggests that a high proportion of infants dead of gastro-enteritis or pneumonia, and of older children found to be deaf from chonic middle-ear infection, had histories of growth retardation in infancy. Children with infant growth retardation also showed poorer school performance than children in the same community with normal infant growth . . . These observations are further supported by surveys showing that Aboriginal employees most preferred by managers of Northern Queensland cattle stations come from settlements with the lowest incidence of P-CM. . . Although these associations do not prove a direct causal relationship, they certainly suggest that P-CM may be one important factor in determining the future of the Australian Aboriginal people.
I must agree with that conclusion that perhaps the basic problem and the one that is getting worse all the time instead of better as far as the Aboriginal people are concerned is health. The Aboriginal people are being destroyed by health problems. The causes of these problems are simple. There are three of them: Poor nutrition, inadequate water supply and the absence of sewage systems. These are the same 3 causes that gave rise to the dreadful and destructive plagues in the Middle Ages in Europe. Since that time these causes have been identified, recognised and wiped out within the whole of Western Europe, the United States and white Australia. But the same causes are allowed to persist with regard to the Aboriginal people. Against all rational expectation of what we might find in this country, we find that these same factors which caused widespread death and disease in the Middle Ages in Europe still persist among Aboriginal communities. Of course these factors were not indigenous to Aboriginal communities; they were inflicted upon them by European settlement. I shall just describe briefly how this happened.
I shall deal firstly with poor nutrition. The 2 main ways in which European settlement has given rise to the poor nutrition factor are the removal- in many cases the forced removal- of Aboriginal people from their native hunting grounds and therefore from their traditional diet which was adequate to places where their traditional diet was not available and, secondly, the introduction of inferior white or European style food and alcohol.
As far as the water problem is concerned, again we have in many cases the arbitary removal of Aboriginal tribes from areas where water was adequate or from a lifestyle where they were able to find adequate supplies of water to artificially established settlements where no proper water supply was provided by the white administrators. The third problem, that of hygiene and sewage, has come about because whereas there was a nomadic lifestyle amongst the Aboriginal people and it was unnecessary for them to have elaborate sewage systems, they have been taken to live in a static way in overcrowded conditions in settlements where appropriate sewage hygiene facilities have not been supplied. Treatment of the sorts of diseases that the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) admits exists widely amongst Aborigines in isolated communities is possible and could be effective if the present Government were prepared to spend money, to supply trained staff and, most importantly, to work with the Aboriginal people in finding solutions to these problems.
I mention the Central Aborigines Congress Medical Service as an example of an effective program of treatment of the health problems of Aboriginal people. In this Service the Aboriginal Congress employ the doctors and the nurses. The doctors and nurses work with the Aboriginal communities- with the traditional healers. They are having some effect. However, their effectiveness is severely limited by their limited resources. There are 2 doctors and, I think, 3 nurses for 8600 Aborigines who are on thenbooks. Of course, most of those 8600 Aborigines are in very poor health by our standards. So I think the example of the Aboriginal Medical Service in Central Australia demonstrates the sort of thing that can be done. It was an initiative of the Labor Government. But this must be done on a much wider scale and with much better resources. Again, it is the responsibility of the present Government to provide these. To date it has not accepted the Central Australian Aboriginal Medical Service and I am not aware of any initiatives it has taken along these lines in other parts of Australia.
With respect to the problem of nutrition and alcohol, surely it is not beyond any government of goodwill to make adequate protein and calorie diets available where Aborigines are living on settlements, especially to make it available to pregnant women, to babies and to growing children. I believe that such provision can be made in an integrated way- in a non-paternalistic way- by using existing facilities. I should like to give 1 example of how this was done during the period of the Labor Government. At Yuendumu settlement, some couple of hundred miles out of Alice Springs, a kitchen was established in conjunction with the school. Mothers of Aboriginal children attending the school were employed and paid- they were given proper jobs- to prepare hot lunches of sufficient protein calorie and mineral content for the children. It was a successful program as far as reports that I have received from teachers indicate. The children were happy to go to school under these circumstances. The mothers felt very constructive and useful and the health situation improved. Since the change of government that kitchen has been closed. I was at Yuendumu recently. The kitchen is standing idle. The mothers are unemployed. The children are not coming to school and hunger is one of the factors that keeps them away.
When I raised this matter in the chamber by way of a question directed to the Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, he gave a rather curious reply. He pointed out, without actually adopting the position, that some people might consider it to be paternalistic to use the school to provide school lunches. I am not accusing the Minister of actually saying that this was his belief, but he certainly raised it as a possible position and as one of the problems that led to the closing of the Yuendumu school canteen. I think it is entirely unrealistic to start talking about paternalism when the effect of such talk is to avoid responsibility. If the children of Yuendumu are malnourished, which indeed they are, and if they are living at the settlement as a result of European intrusion into their culture and into their lands, it is not paternalism to provide these facilities; it is simple, basic humanitarianism and responsibility to do as much as possible to rectify the nutrition situation. A scheme was operating quite successfully at Yuendumu. I hope that by raising the matter again in the Senate the attention of the Minister for Education might be drawn to the problem and some small funds might be found to re-open the kitchen.
The alcohol problem is being examined and has been examined by various committees. It is one about which the Aboriginal community is now very aware. But when talking about the alcohol problem amongst Aborigines we would do well to bear in mind that it is a problem that we have inflicted on the Aboriginal community and that European-Australians have actually created. These isolated settlements to which I have referred have no supply of their own of alcohol. White sellers or peddlers of alcohol go out to the camps and sell wine or other alcohol at scandalously inflated prices, thus contributing to the alcohol and health problem. I become very embarrassed and disgusted by discussions about Aboriginal alcoholism when they are couched in terms of alcoholism being something that the Aborigines have brought upon themselves.
– Who says that, senator?
– I have certainly heard it said by white people in Alice Springs. I cannot recall anyone saying it in this chamber but surely Senator Baume has heard comments to the effect that Aborigines cannot handle alcohol, that they are hopeless and that they are always on the booze. I think those comments are entirely misdirected since the problem was initiated by European settlers.
The Government should be looking at ways of taking health, education and social security services out to where the Aborigines are living. Of course there are facilities around Alice Springs, Darwin and other places to which Aborigines have access but away from these developed centres, in the isolated areas, the facilities are not there but the needs are there. I criticise the present Government for taking no steps that I am aware of to bring the necessary health and educational services out to where the Aboriginal people are living. The trachoma eradication program which is about to start is a very encouraging development.
– It is well under way. It started a long time ago.
– It was initiated by Dr Everingham when he was Minister for Health and an amount of $575 000 was made available. However, this kind of program, which Senator Baume seems to think has been in operation for many years, is an example of the sort of program which a conscientious Government should be developing in every area of Aboriginal health. As I have said, we have trained doctors and nurses. Traditional healers are prepared to work in conjunction with trained doctors and nurses. Food, antibiotics and vitamins are available to us in almost embarrassing abundance. Why is it that the present Government has not brought all these resources together in a national program to cope with the known, identified and easily curable problems of Aboriginal health?
The other 2 causes which I identified as being basic to the problem are the lack of water and sewerage. On both the settlements I visited recently, Papunya and Yuendumu, there were grossly inadequate water supplies and sewerage facilities for the Aboriginal people. However, the white administrators, teachers and other Europeans who were living and working on the settlements had adequate water supplies and sewerage facilities in their residences. The point need not be laboured. It is possible to provide the basic necessities for good health to Aborigines living away from developed areas. The cost involved would not be very great. Trained and skilled personnel are available. It appears that all that is lacking is the will, motivation or efficiency of the present Government in order to initiate a national program to eradicate health problems amongst Aboriginal people.
Earlier when these matters were being discussed in the Senate, Senator Guilfoyle, the Minister for Social Security, gave a detailed statement about the intentions of the present Government with regard to social security services to which Aboriginal people have access. I cite as an example the settlement at Papunya which has a population of 400 to 500 people. There is no social security officer to handle pension and family allowance matters. In fact I was told that there was no social security officer on any of the central Australian reserves. The absence of a person to handle this work leads to long delays in payments. Several instances have been reported of withdrawal of pensions without explanation. Instances have been reported of people having to wait up to 6 months for an invalid pension after certification by a Commonwealth Medical Officer. There have been reports of mothers having to wait up to 6 months after the birth of their child for child endowment to arrive. During this period the families which are waiting for a social security benefit often have no income at all and the problems of nutrition are greatly aggravated. I put a simple question to the Minister: In her new program for the coming financial year can she arrange to have a social security officer, if not on every central Australian reserve and similar reserves throughout Australia, at least to cover a realistic region so that there will not be delays in payments to which the Aboriginal people are certainly entitled? If she is able to do that it will be an important contribution to improving nutrition.
I refer briefly to education. The bilingual education program started during the period when Kim Beazley was Minister for Education is the first serious breakthrough into the real problem of educating Aboriginal people. I have read reports which suggest that it is successful where there are properly trained people. The present staff ceiling restriction imposed by the Fraser Government has meant that Aboriginal teacher aides have not been appointed in sufficient numbers to make the program really successful. I raise this matter in the hope that it will lead to some action. Many Aboriginal people who have been working in schools as translators and assistants have often been working in those positions for up to 20 years with no official recognition. I think the Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, should look to the possibility of giving formal accreditation to those teachers and the appropriate salary, study leave and other benefits which they would receive if they were recognised as teachers in their own tongue. In other words, Aboriginality should be a recognised teaching qualification in a bilingual program. I shall not continue with my remarks on this subject because I recognise that a lot of other speakers wish to speak on subjects other than the problems of Aboriginal health. I conclude by saying that it is the responsibility of the national Government to deal with this problem. It is perhaps our greatest national disgrace. I hope that the Government will not put off the day any longer when it will do something about this problem.
– I offer some defence for the integrity of 3 prominent and worthy South Australians whose character has been deliberately and systematically defamed in a speech by a member of the Ministry. I am sorry that this has happened and that I have to rise in this manner tonight. The people involved are Mr Justice Bright, of the Supreme Court of South Australia, Mr George Kennedy, the Surveyor-General in the South Australian Government and Mr Norman Douglas, the State Electoral Officer. Those 3 people comprise the State Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission. In a strange and yet deliberate speech the Minister for the Capital Territory, Mr Staley, last week utterly defamed those 3 gentlemen. He did so in a speech which he gave in the House of Representatives last Thursday. He did not make just a passing remark. Near the beginning of his speech he mentioned the situation in South Australia and said that he would return to it. He subsequently did so. I shall quote what he said to make clear to the Senate the basis of my protest in defence of these men. Mr Staley said:
I have mentioned the electoral system in South Australia. Let us go back and look at the ‘Donnymander’ that has taken place in that State. I have put the proposition, which has been carefully worked out, that with 46 per cent of the vote the Don Dunstan Government could be returned in South Australia. What the Dunstan Government has done in South Australia illustrates the real nature of gerrymander. There is the question of the definition of the word ‘gerrymander’. There are many ways that one can describe a gerrymander. But the traditional way is to explain that gerrymander is derived from the word ‘salamander’, Governor Gerry and all that. The original approach takes account of the fact that boundaries can be so drawn as to totally distort an electoral situation. That has nothing to do with criteria but relates to the precise way in which boundaries have been drawn. That is what has been done in South Australia.
In quite explicit terms the Minister said that the boundaries in the recent electoral redistribution in South Australia had been precisely drawn by the Electoral Commissioners to favour the Labor Party. He went on to say:
Boundaries had been drawn so as to bring about a result which is good for Labor, which enshrines that Party in office and which makes it extraordinarily difficult for non-Labor to defeat Labor in future elections.
I repeat that the kernel of that statement is: ‘That has nothing to do with criteria but relates to the precise way in which boundaries have been drawn.’ He used the term gerrymander. It is a well known term in electoral discussions and is defined in one of the major dictionaries in the library as follows: a method of arranging election districts so that the political party making the arrangement will be enabled to elect a greater number of representatives than they could on a fair system . . .
The Minister, therefore, made no pretence of his attack. It was deliberate and explicit and in terms that everyone could understand.
I took the trouble today to obtain a copy of the Constitution Act Amendment Act (No. 5) of 1975. This is the parent Bill establishing the Commission as a perpetual commission to be charged continually with the responsibility of electoral redistribution in South Australia. I quote from page 569 of the relevant statute the section which sets out the fairness of the system which has been established. Section 77(2), which appears in Part V, states: electoral quota’ means the nearest integral number obtained by dividing the total number of electors for the House of Assembly … by the number of electoral districts into which the State is to be divided as at the first polling day for which the order is to be effective: ‘permissible tolerance’ means a tolerance often per centum:
A subsequent passage sets out the responsibilities and the constitution of the Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission. Section 78(1) (a) states:
All 3 members of the Boundaries Commission are appointed by a provision of the State Constitution. They are not selected at random at any particular time by any particular politician or government. They have been selected as set out in the following section to be a continuous commission. That section states:
) shall be a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal; . . .
The Commission is charged with automatically ensuring that there is a redistribution at particular periods of time in the State electoral situation and the statute says: 82. (2) The Commission is required to commence proceedings for the purpose of making an electoral redistribution-
The Commission therefore is named by position in the State. It is a commission of perpetual succession and it has the duty to perform an electoral redistribution every 5 years. It has, as a matter of interest, the powers of a Royal Commission. I believe that the Minister should have thought seriously about this matter before he made his despicable statement reflecting so much against members of the Commission. Section 84 of the Act provides:
The Royal Commission ‘s Act, 1917, shall, so far as its provisions are applicable, apply to and in relation to the Commission, the secretary to the Commission, the members of the Commission and the proceedings of or conducted before the Commission. . .
That section goes on to outline some further conditions, but the Commission has the power and authority of a royal commission. Had the Minister for the Capital Territory made his statement outside the privilege of Parliament I believe he would be held in contempt of the Commission and would be called before it to explain his actions and words.
It is interesting to note that when this Bill passed the South Australian Parliament it represented the culmination of many years of argument about the electoral distribution in my State. It is interesting to note that in this Bill electoral distribution reached the apex of fairness of any distribution in the Commonwealth and the Bill passed both Houses of the State Parliament without a call for a division. On that basis one can expect this Act to be well and widely supported in the South Australian community. In fact it has been entrenched in the Constitution and cannot be altered in any matter of substance except by a referendum of the people to approve that alteration. It sets out a number of criteria and these are the only factors which are binding on the Commission when it makes its distribution according to the equality of votes with a 10 per cent tolerance. The criteria are these:
Those criteria are the only criteria which govern the deliberations of 3 honest men and they have produced a redistribution on that basis. The Minister has charged them with gerrymandering the boundaries in South Australia. In case I am wrong let me again quote his words. He said:
That has nothing to do with criteria but relates to the precise way in which boundaries have been drawn. This is what has been done in South Australia.
I repeat, that is a despicable charge and one which I refute. I, like every other South Australian, hold these 3 gentlemen who are members of the commission in the highest regard. They are honourable, hard working South Australian citizens. They would turn their back on every and any dishonest practice which would be suggested of them. They have drawn boundaries which are eminently fair according to everyone ‘s ability to have an equal say in his or her government. For their pains the Minister in his gratuitous remarks in the House has, I believe, offensively and dramatically offended and impugned their honour. I resent that. I telephoned the office of the Minister this afternoon to tell him so. He was not there. I passed that message on for when he arrives later this evening. I suggest that he should apologise. I could suggest that he do other things. This is not a ministerial standard. It is not what one would expect of any Minister of the Crown of any Party.
It is the back alley of politics for a Minister of the Crown to assault the honour of a judge, a surveyor general and a state electoral officer. It is beyond the dignity of Parliament to listen to that sort of offence. I can understand that the constrictions of the debate may have prevented the Minister from using examples from his own side of politics, such as Queensland, which would have given an example of improper electoral boundary drawing. But to use South Australia which has produced the fairest system that Australia has seen and which is only one short step better than the admirable legislation which was put through recently in this Parliament, to hold up the best as the worst in Australia, as the Minister has done, is great disservice, especially to himself. It is by this sort of remark that the Minister will be known. He stands unworthy of his position by that assault on these people. Without using wilder language or calling for other things, I call on the Minister to apologise unreservedly to those South Australian citizens whom I have mentioned in this protest.
There is little more one can offer. I mentioned some of the detail of the Bill this evening to assure the Senate that, in the Electoral Distribution Bill which appointed the commissioners, there is little which prevents them from giving the fairest results. No direction is given by Parliament in South Australia which would direct them to given any biased or unfair result. There is no result which is well published and which is the subject now of Court challenge which can prove one tittle of the Minister’s charges against these people. I would like to see the Minister rise in the House of Representatives as soon as he possibly can to offer his personal apologies for the fact that he has so insulted these people. In this long search for equality in voting rights in Australia we have reached an advanced stage with the admirable situation in the Federal scheme- we have just passed what I believe is a magnificent redistribution proposal- and we have reached that state in South Australia. Yet we should look beyond at several other States which need to come up to this standard. But if in the midst of this program we are to have a Minister set the matter back by saying that the best is the worst, we will prolong the day when all Australians will have an equal chance of say in their government. I say again that I rose in protest. I resist the back alley politics into which the Minister for the Capital Territory has entered. I ask that he apologise to the men whose character he has so impugned.
– Two weeks ago the annual conference of the Farmers’ Union of Western Australia (Inc.) carried a motion of no confidence in the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). In bringing the motion a sectional vice-president disputed Bob Hawke ‘s jocular comment that Australia was governed by 5 farmers and a sheep. The vice president said that the truth of the matter was that Australia was governed by 4 farmers, a sheep and a goat. He went on to identify the goat as the Minister for Primary Industry. Last week the president of the Graziers’ Association of New South Wales told the leader of the National Country Party of Australia, Mr Anthony, that he had better regulate the growth and expansion of the mining industry in order to protect farmers. The agricultural Press, which is normally little more than an adjunct of the Country Party’s public relations machine, has carried headlines like: ‘Sinclair get out’. The letter pages are bursting with criticisms of the Minister’s prevarication of wool marketing and meat marketing reform. Incidentally, that latter criticism of meat marketing reform has been implicitly endorsed by Mr
Sinclair’s own Country Party leader who, on 6 March, stated that buyers, that is cattle buyers, had the capacity to pay more than they had been paying recently. He asserted that benefits from devaluation had been largely appropriated by meat exporters and that the livestock market could well return prices $ 10 to $20 a head higher to the farmer. Given Mr Sinclair’s refusal to accept industry demands for a marketing corporation with sufficient market power to prevent that sort of expropriation of higher world prices by exporters, Mr Anthony’s statement has to be seen as a censure and as an expression of no confidence in the Minister for Primary Industry.
The reason for all these discordant noises within the Country Party and between the Country Party and assorted farmers’ organisations is quite simple. Farm income has fallen rapidly and consistently since its peak in 1973-74. It continues to fall in spite of devaluation and regardless of the fact that the Government of Australia has changed. Farmers who were seduced by the Country Party’s fraudulent claims in opposition that farm problems originated with the Australian Labor Party and with what it called the Whitlam caused inflation are justifiably angry at this Government’s failure to deliver the cargo when it promised that these problems would disappear once Labor was replaced. The farmers are angry and confused. Very few farmers understand the market forces which continue to erode farm income. Not only has this Government failed to produce a coherent agricultural policy but also it has exacerbated the problem by consistently and deliberately misleading farmers about the cause of their problems and about appropriate responses. Every major speech delivered in the last 3 months or 4 months by the present Minister for Primary Industry contains this fallacious passage:
The Whitlam-inspired high inflation rates hurt the people in the rural sectors more than anybody else, and crippled the farmers’ ability to compete against alternate suppliers in overseas markets.
This argument is fallacious on several grounds. Firstly, inflation was roaring away in 1973 under the stimulus of fiscal policies inherited from the McMahon Government and external influences. More important in this context is the fact that domestic inflation, at least when exchange rates are flexible, has played only a minor role in eroding the comparative and competitive position of Australian exporters. The crucial factor in recent years is structural change within the Australian economy. This Government has a vested electoral interest in perpetuating farmers’ ignorance of the structural change and its implications. For nearly all of the last 100 years there has been a global cost price squeeze on commercial agriculture. The squeeze can be modified or exacerbated by Government actions. It can be temporarily reversed by commodity shortages, droughts and seasonal factors. But it always reasserts itself in the longer term and it will almost certainly continue to do so. It is caused by many factors but principally by severe quantitative limits on the consumption of agricultural product in commercial markets and by productivity changes within the agricultural sector and in other sectors. It is an almost inevitable by-product of the process of economic growth and rising real incomes. It applies most severely to those agricultural sectors which do not or cannot develop technologies to increase productivity as distinct from production at the rate demanded by market forces. Principally those industries in Australia which cannot keep up are dairying and horticulture. Productivity gains which are a cause of the cost price squeeze also provide a means of overcoming it. Industries which cannot keep up must decline in terms of the volume of production and the labour force in agriculture as a whole must decline.
Until the last few years Australian agriculture on the whole coped with and adjusted to the cost-price squeeze. We maintained our competitive position vis-a-vis farmers overseas, especially in those areas such as grain growing, meat and wool production where Australia has significant comparative advantages. However, in recent years the pressures for change have intensified. The source of these new intensified pressures is the growth of the mining industry and its effect on the exchange rate of the Australian dollar, on prices in Australian dollars of agricultural exports and, in some respects, on domestic prices. This Government, and especially the National Country Party, has a vested interest in suppressing recognition of that fact because the National Country Party has peddled to farmers and miners the line that the economic interests of farmers and miners are identical, that their common enemies are city bludgers and greedy trade unionists and that the National Country Party will protect both of them. It is scarcely possible for any analysis to be further from the truth.
With a miniscule number of exceptions, which are usually related to what economists call externalities, every sector of a market economy and every producer in every sector is in perpetual competition, which is a euphemism for economic conflict, with every other sector. Recognition of that fact goes back at least as far as Adam Smith in 1 776. Anyone who has a basic comprehension of the principles of the market economy, a category which regrettably seems to exclude the most vociferous propagandists of the system, has always known that this is so. The conflict of interest between agriculture and mining in Australia is particularly sharp because both are export oriented. I make no claim to be especially prescient in this area but almost 2 years ago I published a document in which that was stated.
Recently Dr R. G. Gregory has appeared on the scene with an article which made him a celebrity. Gregory did not discover intersectoral competition. His article which was published last August was significant because in it he attempted for the first time to quantify the effects on agriculture ‘s terms of trade and manufacturers ‘ terms of trade of the 2 billion dollars a year increase in mineral exports which was recorded in the decade ending 1974. Gregory’s conclusion, startling to many but to my knowledge not seriously disputed, was that this mineral export growth had effects on agriculture equivalent to a doubling of the Australian tariff. Naturally the manufacturing sector was also adversely affected. Gregory was followed by Dr Geoff Miller, the deputy director of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics in an article which focused on Gregory’s conclusions with respect to agriculture and which was published in the Australian Economic Review at the end of last year.
Miller pointed out that some sectors of agriculture, and especially grain growing, had until then been insulated from the full effects of the new reality caused by mining industry growth by post 1972 commodity shortages which have now been largely overcome. Other sectors, particularly horticulture in respect of which the apple industry is a case in point, had felt the full brunt of the structural change and its financial penalties. So, in addition to the normal or long term stresses imposed on Australian agriculture by the global cost-price squeeze, the competitive position of Australian exporters vis-a-vis exporters in other countries has been seriously eroded by structural change within Australia and not by inflation although the latter has marginally aggravated the problem. If mining exports continue to grow at a rapid rate the pressures will intensify further. But it is essential to recognise that the changes which have already taken place have unleashed irresistible pressures for adjustment which means contraction in agriculture and in manufacturing.
Gregory’s article provoked considerable discussion in the quality Press and ultimately the Murdoch Press became involved in a manner which was consistent with the standards of accuracy and political objectivity which it had established in the latter half of 1975. In the Australian of 12 February an article written by John Hallows was published. It was introduced on the front page as ‘The Guru’s Message is Muddled’, which was a reference to a number of people in the Australian Labor Party who had commented on Gregory’s article. Hallows’ article in the Australian was introduced under the heading Labor’s money men embrace the Gregory thesis but John Hallows finds out that they don’t quite understand it’. I will not read the whole of this article but will take 3 extracts from the first 5 paragraphs, and it is important to note that they are from the first 5 paragraphs. The extracts read:
Labor Party critics of all-out mining development in Australia are jumping rapidly aboard a new bandwagon . . .
This weekend there may be tremendous embarrassment as a result- the driver of the bandwagon says he is not going in that direction at all . . .
For, according to Gregory- speaking by phone from the U.S.- the ‘Gregory Thesis’ means just about the opposite of what Hurford suggests.
Hallows’ article has been quoted with approval by Liberal senators in this chamber and by a scurrilous rag called News Weekly which is published by one B. A. Santamaria, that latterday sooler who arranged to have himself sprung from the Army when Australia was under attack in the 1940s to organise a fruit harvest in the Murray Valley, a job for which his city breeding and status as a law student no doubt qualified him. Hallows’ article has ironically been repudiated by Gregory himself and the Murdoch Press has been hoist on its own petard. On 21 February Gregory wrote to the shadow Treasurer, Mr Hurford. I have a copy of that letter and I seek leave to incorporate it.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Young)- Is leave granted?
– I have been given a copy of the letter which Senator Walsh wishes to incorporate. I see no reason why he should not incorporate it. It is interesting because it demonstrates that what he says is reasonably accurate. This is not a time for argument about bandwagons and people getting on a Gregory bandwagon for Gregory himself got on someone else’s bandwagon. That does not matter. We agree to the incorporation.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTLeave is granted.
NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES EVANSTON, ILLINOIS 60201
Department of Economics February21, 1977
Mr C. Hurford Member of Parliament Canberra, A.C.T. Australia Dear Chris:
I have just received Hallows article in the Australian. I must say that the area for confusion in the press appears to be very great. The first five paragraphs seem to be very unfair to you and me. After these paragraphs the article is not too bad although I can ‘t follow at all the last paragraph.
I hope my talking to Hallows on the phone has not caused you too much difficulty. It was good to hear an Australian voice, good to hear news from home, and I did ask him not to quote me. I was not dumbfounded to hear of the interpretation of my article but rather surprised at the publicity I was receiving. I seemed to have lost all round by Hallows piece. I lost a child (I have 4 not 3-I don’t know where he got the biographical details), I opposed Hurford and Uren and finally I accuse the government of contradictory policies. If this continues immigration may not let me return.
I read your letter in the Financial Review and our views seem to be very close. The Australian seems very intent to confuse the issues. Mr Uren seems fully aware that he is going much further than I would. As you know my article was written to:
I did not discuss where the adjustments to the mineral discoveries should fall and I referred to that as a separate question. I don’t see how Hallows could say that you don ‘t understand my piece or that you and I are going in opposite directions.
Whether we should in fact try to slow the mineral discoveries is a difficult question. My article is a part of the answer in that it focusses on some of the effects but there are a number of other issues, e.g. what is going to happen to the balance of payments, how much will the mineral discoveries increase the wealth of Australia, what are the real costs of adjustments (perhaps industries adjust easily) and finally what is ones moral view on uranium.
Best regards, Bob Gregory
– I thank the Minister and the Senate. I quote 3 extracts from the letter. It is addressed to Mr Hurford, and dated 2 1 February, on the letterhead of the Northwestern University at Evanston, Illinois, in the United States of America. It states:
I have just received Hallows’ article in the Australian. I must say that the area for confusion in the Press appears to be very great. The first 5 paragraphs seem to be very unfair -
They are the paragraphs from which I have quoted:
I hope my talking to Hallows on the phone has not caused you too much difficulty. It was good to hear an Australian voice, good to hear news from home, and I did ask him not to quote me.
Incidentally, he did-
I was not dumbfounded to hear of the interpretation of my article but rather surprised at the publicity I was receiving.
Further on in the letter, Mr Gregory continues:
I read your letter in the Financial Review and our views seem to be very close. The Australian seems very intent to confuse the issues … As you know my article was written to:
put tariff changes and past exchange rate changes in perspective and
point out the futility of trying to stop adjustments, i.e. all sectors of the economy could not be pleased simultaneously.
I did not discuss where the adjustments to the mineral discoveries should fall and I referred to that as a separate question. I don ‘t see how Hallows could say that you don ‘t understand my piece or that you and I are going in opposite directions.
In seeking to deny the ramifications of mining industry growth, this Government is not only in error, it is also in sin because it is wicked to mislead farmers in the manner that the Government is doing. To recognise the new reality is not to vilify the mining industry. Mining growth, although for various reasons we may question the optimum rate of growth, does provide a potential to increase the material welfare of all Australians provided the appropriate adjustments are made. Unless Australia becomes a major capital exporter, the only viable adjustment is to increase imports and /or decrease other exports. It entails either shrinkage of the agricultural and manufacturing sectors or growth of the tertiary sector. But such adjustments are unlikely to take place under this Government because its economic policy is dictated by the whims of one man whose economic views are based not on rational analysis but on political ideology.
The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) believes that farmers, manufacturers and minerspeople who grow things, make things or dig them up- are the only productive workers. Everyone else is a parasite or a bludger. In the Prime Minister’s view, productive workers deserve government encouragement and financial assistance. Mining companies get tax concessions. Farmers get subsidies but not too many because that represents government spending. Manufacturers get higher tariffs and other forms of hidden protection. Of course, they all get a handout from devaluation. That approach has failure built into it. Mining industry growth will build up overseas reserves unless more imports offset them. If the imports are excluded, reserves will accumulate and either generate domestic inflation or force a revaluation of the Australian dollar. Either way sections of the manufacturing and agricultural industries cannot maintain their competitive position unless ever increasing levels of government assistance are provided. At this stage, this seems to be what is happening.
Although it has not explicitly said so, this Government has embarked upon a policy of progressively providing higher tariff protection for manufacturing industry and in various ways. If that policy is continued it will intensify even more the adjustment burden which mining industry growth has imposed upon agriculture. This foolish attempt, manifested in the Government’s present policy to resist market forces which cannot be resisted, is certain to fail. As its failure becomes apparent, even to today’s misinterpreters of economic statistics and economic reality, I fear that this Government in desperation will again devalue the Australian dollar about the end of this year and push Australia into a vicious devaluation-inflation vortex.
– I wish to bring to the attention of the Senate this evening an article that appeared in the Bulletin of 19 March 1977. It was headed ‘Black wasn’t beautiful’. Be that as it may, many black people are beautiful as I am sure are many white people. The article to which I refer was written by a Brian Hoad. It was about the visit to Lagos, Nigeria, by a number of Aboriginal people to the World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture held in January this year. I do not intend to quote the whole article but there are a number of passages from it to which I wish to refer. The article commences by stating:
If only India had joined in, ‘ says Anthony Wallis, looking rather tired and worldly wise after more than a month in Lagos, Nigeria, trying to salvage something out of the general chaos which beset the Australian delegation to the second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture.
Hoad goes on to state:
Wallis is a project officer for the Aboriginal Arts Board of the Australia Council. He accompanied the delegation to control the purse strings. He is white, one of three such species of mankind who accompanied some 33 Aborigines and part-Aborigines on their voyage of discovery.
There are a couple of things in that passage of the article I wish to speak about but before doing so I will read from another part of the article. It states:
The Leader of the Australian delegation was John Moriarty, a part-Aborigine-
I stress the expression ‘part-Aborigine ‘- from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Canberra and a leading Aboriginal ‘activist’ for some years. As zonal vicepresident for Australia/Asia he made several visits to Lagos over the past couple of years to iron out problems and make arrangements for his delegation’s visit.
As the core of the delegation, Moriarty gathered round him six other activists. Their main interest was black politics. Other urban Aborigines and part-Aborigines include five dancers from the Aboriginal/Islander Dance Theatre set up in Sydney by Carole Johnson, a black American in 1975.
In the first place, Mr Brian Hoad, to my knowledge, did not visit Lagos, Nigeria at the time of the black and African festival. Consequently, in my opinion, the article can be written only on second-hand information from a person who did attend the festival. I intend to name this person during the course of my remarks. I, together with many other Aborigines, have become sick and tired of people, particularly non-Aboriginal people, using the derogatory and degrading terms ‘half caste’, ‘part-Aborigines’, ‘half breeds’ and so on. To strengthen my argument against such degrading terms, I quote from an answer given by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) to a question asked in the other place by Mr Donald Cameron. I will not read the question but I will read the answer given by Mr Viner. He said:
I thank my friend and honourable colleague for his question. This has been a matter to which governments of the past, both State and Federal, have directed their attention. Of course, it is rather invidious to look at the precentage of blood of one race or another in a person’s veins and say whether that person is of one particular race or another. I wonder what the Irishman would say if he had a percentage of good Scottish Cameron blood coursing through his veins. Is he an Irishman or a Scotsman? For the purpose of a great number of our Aboriginal affairs programs, the definition of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is that he or she be a person of Aboriginal or Islander descent who identifies as an Aboriginal or Islander and who is accepted as such by the community with which he or she is associated.
Having given that definition, I am reminded also of what is provided in the Queensland legislation, namely that an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is a descendant of an indigenous inhabitant, with no degree of blood as a matter of consideration.
This article is not only saying things about particular people- I will deal with that later- but also is using degrading terms, dividing Aborigines into part this, part that, quarter this and half that, and driving a wedge also between the tribal or the traditional Aborigine and the de-tribalised urban Aboriginal people. The writer has also made accusations against Mr Moriarty who is a very highly respected Aborigine working within the Department of Aboriginal Affairs whose integrity is unquestionable. He has never to my knowledge or to the knowledge, I believe, of all of the Aboriginal community been classified as an activist. He has always taken a very steady course. He has always walked down the middle of the road. He has worked within the system. He is still working within the system for the benefit of his own people. I believe that he can only be congratulated for the attitude he has adopted. To say that he surrounded himself by a number of other activists is degrading to the Aboriginal people referred to. One of the people the writer talks about is Mrs Kath Walker, a poetess. She has done a remarkable job. She has worked very hard in the cause of the Aboriginal people for many years. She was outspoken on many occasions. She probably had many shots at the previous Liberal-Country Party Government and she has probably had a few shots at the present Liberal-National Country Party Government. Surely part of living in a democracy is being able to criticise governments or criticise people in a constructive manner.
Some of the matters referred to relate to the problems that occurred in Nigeria to which I was a witness. I happened to be there myself at the invitation of the Nigerian Government to attend the festival. I saw some of the things that happened. I had meetings with the people there. If this gentleman- I use the word very generously in view of the way in which he has written this article- Mr Brian Hoad, had really wanted to write an article on the problems that occurredthere were problems; I will talk about those later- all he had to do was not to take the word of one man. Right through the article I see the name of a person whom I shall mention. All that the writer had to do was to get in touch with John Moriarty or Vince Copley, from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, who is now, I believe, with Aboriginal Hostels. The author could have got in touch with Mr Jack Davis in Sydney who is the editor of one of the Aboriginal publications. He could have got in touch with Roslyn Watson who is the first and only Aboriginal ballet dancer to my knowledge. He could have got in touch with Kath Walker. He could have got in touch with any one of those people or all of them. He could even have got in touch with me. But instead of that he took the word- as I see it; I am pretty certain I am right- of Lance Bennett who is, as I understand it, with the Aboriginal Arts Board and looks after the tribal Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory and the northern parts of Queensland, displaying their corroborees and much of their art. I would say that this man was responsible to a large extent, if not the full extent, for the problems that occurred in Lagos. I understand that this man has been with the Arts Board for some nine or ten years. The job is very lucrative. I understand he earns about $10,000 for $12,000 a year plus, plus, plus, plus. I am quite sure he is happy about that but while he is doing his work he is putting a wedge between the tribal and the non-tribal Aboriginal people.
The article states that the urban Aborigines were in Nigeria only for politics. I deny that very strongly. I happened to be there with them. I met them, saw what they were doing and what they were trying to achieve. The article states:
This general pre-occupation with politics seems to have interfered with the organisational abilities of the activists. Despite the previous visits of Moriarty to Lagos and the advance guard of activists he led there to prepare for the arrival of the main party, little was prepared. When the tribal Aborigines arrived after 52 hours of travelling they found they had nowhere to stay. It was discovered that accommodation in the new Festival Village would not be ready for another 4 days. They had arrived at six in the evening. By 1.00 a.m. the next morning Wallis, who was accompanying them had managed to arrange accommodation in an ‘incomplete’ hotel on the outskirts of town. Moriarty and his activists were staying at one of Lagos ‘s more established hotels.
I stayed at the same hotel as the traditional dancers. It was the Echo Hotel, a brand new hotel. Admittedly it was not quite completed. Work was still being done around the outside. The telephones were not working but the facilities were good enough for anyone to stay there.
It was John Moriarty, Vince Copley and Anthony Wallis who forced the issue when the Nigerian organisers of the festival wanted to take the Aboriginal people out to the village which was not completed. There was no water. The septic systems were not working. Water was lying all over the floors. John Moriarty, Vince Copley and Anthony Wallis all agreed that they would not allow the elderly people to go out there. They forced the issue and the Aborigines were put into the Echo Hotel. I stayed there. I found absolutely nothing wrong with the accommodation. It was first class. As a matter of fact, the tariff was about 60 era a day. I forget exactly the exchange rate but the nira was certainly worth a lot more than our dollar. As far as I can gather it would have cost $80 to stay in the Echo Hotel. For the man to say that John Moriarty and the activists, as he calls them, dumped the traditional people into this hotel was quite wrong.
Perhaps neither he nor Wallis understood one point. I hope the Government will take notice of it. When Aboriginal people are travelling away from Australia to attend something like this festival they should be fully briefed on what to expect in the countries to which they are travelling. I found that the protocol system in Nigera was certainly nothing like what we have in Australia. People, according to their station, were put into various types of accommodation. Let me give an example of what I mean. When I landed at the airport I was taken to one of the lounges. I learned later that there was a VVVIP lounge, a VVVIP lounge, a VVIP lounge, a VIP lounge and then a lounge for the ordinary people. That shows the levels of accommodation that were provided. Because John Moriarty was the leader of the delegation he was put into a certain class of hotel and the rest of the people were put in a different class of hotel again. I was invited to stay at one of the top hotels with the heads of state from the different black African countries because I was referred to by the organisers of the festival as the leader from Australia. When they first invited someone to come from Australia they invited the Governor of South Australia, Sir Douglas Nicholls. He was not able to go. They then invited the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), who, according to them, was another step down the protocol ladder. He was not able to go, so they came down to a lowly back bencher and invited me. Because I am the only Aborigine in Parliament, they offered me a different set of accommodation and different privileges from those that other people were getting. Unfortunately, I was not there long enough to accept their kindness and I stayed in the same hotel.
In the article there is a continual denigration of Aboriginal people by a man who did not even go to the festival. He claims that the urban Aboriginal people were not looking after the tribal or traditional people, but that is not true. Lance Bennett was continually driving a wedge between the urban Aborigines and the tribal Aborigines, and I believe that the whole of the wording of the article and the criticism contained within it is the work of Lance Bennett. As I said, Hoad did not attend the festival and he could have had no more idea than the man in the moon of what happened there. In the article he claimed:
The tribal dancers were scheduled to give their first performance of 18 January. The organisation was unfortunate They had to perform in a huge concrete parade ground, an enormous space guaranteed to overwhelm the intricate delicacies of 17 Aboriginal dancers and they were programmed to follow a colourful display by 150 dancers from Ghana who were schedulded to dance until 10 p.m. They danced on until midnight. By the time the tribal Aborigines put in an appearance the audience was already leaving.
The activists accused the tribal people of a poor performance; but finally settled the blame on Bennett and Haag.
I believe that that is correct and that that is where the blame should have been put. Stefan Haag and Lance Bennett were supposed to have set up the area with lighting and sound systems and everything else. Unfortunately, our tribal people did not give the best performance they could have given, not because of themselves but because of the conditions under which they had to perform. The lighting system was very bad. The microphones were behind the old people, who were sitting on the ground singing. The didgeridoo was down on the ground and the microphone was not able to pick up its sound. Consequently, all that could be seen was our people performing with no sound, and there was no understanding. Either Bennett or Haag should have been speaking on the microphone and telling the African people what the dance was all about. The Africans had no understanding of it and they were not told what it was all about. The lighting system was bad, and it was all the fault not of John Moriarty and the urban Aborigines who were there but of the 2 non-Aboriginal people who claimed that they were running the show and who continually took no notice of Moriarty or Vince Copley, who were the organisers of the whole show. They would not listen to them; they were the white men. They were the blokes who knew everything and were going to do everything in their own way.
They come back to Australia and give a story like this to someone. It is written up in the Bulletin, and in my opinion it could do a lot of harm, not only to the people who are mentioned in the article but also to the articulate urban Aborigine who in many instances is trying to improve the lot of his fellow Aborigines in the Northern Territory and other parts of Australia, who unfortunately are not so articulate. I do not believe that they should be denigrated in the way they have been in this article, and I believe that an apology should be given to all the people concerned with the organisation of the Aborigines going to the festival, and particularly Moriarty, who was the main organiser of the whole thing. I believe that he did a magnificent job. There were some unfortunate incidents as far as the tribal people were concerned. They left and came home, but certainly that was not the fault of Moriarty or his organisation. It was the fault of Lance Bennett and Stefan Haag, who drove a wedge between the tribal people and the nontribal people and continued to do so until they had the old people in such a state that they could no longer carry on and they came home. It was very unfortunate because what they had to offer to the festival I believe was tremendous and would have been appreciated by all the African people, all the black people who attended the festival. Because of the 2 men who caused all the trouble the exhibition by the tribal people surely was a failure.
– Tonight I intend to speak on a matter which I have previously raised in the chamber. Nevertheless, I consider that the matter needs to be aired once more in Parliament. As I proceed it will be seen that coincidentally the subject on which I am about to speak is somewhat related to that mentioned by the previous speaker, Senator Bonner. In early February this year Mr Donald Cameron, the Liberal member for Griffith, made the claim that ‘a group of Aborigines had formed a co-operative to steal pension and social security cheques from letter boxes’. His claim was made outside this Parliament. So that honourable senators can readily see that I am not taking Mr Cameron’s statement out of context, I shall quote the whole of an article which appeared in the Courier-Mail on 9 February 1977. The article reads as follows:
LETTER-BOX THEFT CLAIM
A Federal Parliamentarian claimed last night a group of aborigines had formed a co-operative to steal pension and social security cheques from letter boxes.
He said the group was moving into several Brisbane suburbs and using children to follow postmen and steal the cheques.
Mr Don Cameron, Liberal Member for Griffith, said cheques for thousands of dollars were being stolen each week.
He said information about the group had been given to him by an ‘extremely good source’. He said the group made their white criminal counterparts look like amateurs.
Mr Cameron warned business men that the Social Security Department would not take responsibility if they cashed stolen cheques.
Reserve Bank cheques are not as safe as a bar of gold, as many people believe, ‘ he said.
Quite naturally, Mr Cameron’s claims drew a justifiably angry response from the Brisbane Aboriginal community. The day following the publication of Mr Cameron’s statement the following article appeared in the Courier-Mail:
The Liberal Member for Griffith (Mr Don Cameron) will be asked to support his allegations about aborigines stealing pension and social security cheques from Brisbane letter boxes.
The demand will come from the Aboriginal and Islanders’ Legal Service.
About ISO aborigines from Brisbane areas attended a meeting yesterday to discuss Mr Cameron ‘s allegations.
Mr Cameron said on Tuesday that an organised group of aborigines was using children to follow postmen to steal Government cheques, which were then cashed.
The group was stealing cheques for ‘thousands of dollars’ each week, he claimed.
Mr L. Cooper, a spokesman for the aborigines at yesterday’s meeting said none of the aborigines believed Mr Cameron’s claims.
Mr Cooper, of the Black Community Housing Service, asked how many aborigines had the identification needed to get a Government cheque cashed across the counter.
That article appeared in the Courier-Mail. Some time later I received a letter on this matter from the Black Community Housing Service (Qld) Limited. The contents of the letter outlined the strong feeling of Aborigines in relation to Mr Cameron’s allegation. I believe it is pertinent to read the letter for the information of honourable senators. The letter reads:
With reference to your question to the Senate regarding Don Cameron’s statement published in the Courier Mail on 9 February.
The Brisbane Black Community views this as a tactic to create ill feeling towards blacks for two major reasons:
to enlist the support of the white community in his campaign to have the Admissibility of Confessions Bill thrown out of parliament.
to draw the public’s attention away from bigger issues such as Petersen directing the Queensland Registrar of Titles office not to transfer the title of land recently purchased by the Commonwealth Government for the Arukan blacks, the forthcoming review of both Aborigines and Torres Strait Islander Acts, etc. etc.
We have been trying to contact Mr Cameron re furnishing proof of his statement and to date he has proved most elusive. Here again we are being used as a political football and although statements like Don Cameron ‘s show how barbaric and irresponsible the Liberal and Country party politicians are, they more importantly discredit black people right across the board.
Yours faithfully, Les Collins, Administrator.
I believe there is sufficient bigotry, discrimination and prejudice in Australia without a member of this National Parliament going out of his way to make allegations which cast a slur on every member of a particular racial group. As far as I can ascertain, Mr Cameron had no evidence to support his wild claims that ‘a group of Aborigines had formed a co-operative to steal pension and social security cheques from letter boxes’. Whether he had evidence or not, however, it was inexcusable of him to single out for abuse a particular group in the community. His actions would have been just as inexcusable if he had mentioned any other ethnic or racial group in Brisbane, the city to which he was referring. Nonetheless, his sweeping accusations are even more inexcusable when he cannot back up his claims. It was obvious from Senator Guilfoyle ‘s replies to me on 16 February and 24 February that the Department of Social Security had no evidence which suggested that Mr Cameron’s allegation had any substance. The allegation to which I refer, of course, is his claim that a group of Aborigines had formed a co-operative to steal pension and social security cheques from letterboxes. I do not doubt that some stealing from letterboxes has occurred and is occurring. What I have objected to and will continue to object to is Mr Cameron’s attack on the Aboriginal community in Brisbane.
I repeat what I said outside this chamber on 2 March: Mr Cameron should apologise to the Brisbane Aboriginal community. The publicity surrounding his trumped up charges has done a grave disservice to the Aboriginal people of Brisbane. Predictably, Mr Cameron did not apologise following my suggestion that he should do so. In the Courier Mail of 3 March he was quoted as saying he had no intention of apologising. If Mr Cameron will not apologise for his allegations which have cast a slur upon a section of the Brisbane community the matter should not be allowed to rest. I am sure that the Commissioner for Community Relations would be interested in examining the accusations made by Mr Cameron. It is my hope, however, that the honourable member for Griffith will not make such a step necessary. A retraction and apology on his part will make it unnecessary to take the matter further. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that the Commissioner for Community Relations does view discrimination against Aborigines as a serious matter. In the Commissioner’s opening remarks at chapter 12 of his first annual report he said:
It is obvious from the work and experience of the Community Relations Office since its inception on that discriminaton against Aboriginal people forms the greatest volume of discrimination practised in the Australian community.
Because of this a major emphasis has been given to pursuing the various discriminations and prejudices against Aboriginal Australians and continuing efforts are being maintained in close and effective co-operation with officers of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. This co-operation has been fundamental to efforts to tackle problems that have been endemic in Australia for 1 88 years.
Later in his report the Commissioner for Community Relations stated:
Most Australians have never met an Aboriginal man, woman or child; they only comprise 1 per cent of the population. There is, however, an easy assumption by the nonAboriginal Australian that he knows all about them. The dominant element of this so-called knowledge is contempt -an attitude that offers insult and builds a deep and boiling resentment, particularly among young, urban Aborigines, which is completely understandable and with which I sympathise.
Therefore, it is my hope that Mr Cameron will reflect on what he has said outside the confines of Parliament and apologise to the Aboriginal community in Brisbane. If he does not do so the matter must be taken further. Mr Cameron ‘s position as a member of the national Parliament does not give him licence to roam at large, disregarding the spirit of the Racial Discrimination Act.
– I take the opportunity of speaking on the first reading of the Apple and Pear Stabilization Export Duty Amendment Bill 1977 to bring before the Parliament the situation of the administration of the Family Law Act. I wish to make some observations about it because I think it is important that this Parliament should continue to have an interest in the operation of that Act. As one who was a strong advocate of that Bill when it was put through the Parliament and as one who feels today that the Act is in every way an excellent piece of legislation, I think I can say that there are problems in regard to its administrationdelays, costs and other factors- that need to be examined by the Government and need to be solved if the legislation is to achieve the objectives which were sought by those who supported it. There are a number of things about which the Senate might be reminded. Honourable senators will remember that when the Bill was before the Senate it was investigated by the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. The report which that Committee presented set out items which, of course, could not be included in the detailed legislation but which indicated the type of court that we had in mind. I shall read from paragraph 34 of the report of the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee:
The concept of a ‘family court’ is well established in the United States of America, Canada and Japan though there are variations in the proceedings and powers. It generally involves the creation of a special court (or division of a larger court), the assimilation of all family matters into one court, with active pre-divorce and post-divorce counselling not merely to assist reconciliation, but also to provide for the reduciton of bitterness and distress and in alleviating ongoing post-divorce problems. It is the concept of the ‘helping court’.
In fact, some of those things have been achieved, more in some places than in others. We do have a special court and we now have brought most of the relevant jurisdiction into that court. Of course, the High Court has found some deficiencies and therefore there is some difficulty, particularly in regard to property and custody where some of the powers cannot be exercised at the present time. In regard to the judiciary, the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs stated in its report:
It is of the essence of our recommendation that the Judges appointed to this Court (men and women) should be chosen for their experience and understanding of family problems and should be drawn from existing Judges, members of the bar and solicitors, according to their particular suitability. They would need to recognise their responsibility in developing a new type of court, acting with a minimum of formality, co-ordinating the work of ancillary specialists attached to the court, encouraging conciliation and applying, only as a last resort, the judicial powers of the court.
Those appointments have been made. Approximately 30 judges have been appointed to the court- men and women, barristers and solicitors. I think one can say that in nearly all cases the most admirable choices have been made in the appointments to that court.
But still there are great difficulties and there are great disappointments when one looks at the delays which are developing in the courts; when one looks at the fact that the idea of reducing costs is not proceeding at the rate at which one would like; when one sees in relation to custody cases that come before the court the long process, the dozens of affidavits required, the litigious spirit, and the use of very expensive counsel in a way which I am afraid does not achieve the objective sought. Of particular concern at the present time- this has been recorded in a number of recently published articles- is the delay which is to be found particularly in Sydney and in Melbourne where I am more conversant with the problem. An article which appeared in the Sun of 23 March of this year dealt with the great delays, of the 800 cases which are waiting on the ordinary defended list in Melbourne. There is also a special list, an urgent list. None of the 800 cases has been dealt with for some considerable months. That article in the Sun was written by Mr Ian Kennedy who is president of the Family Law Association of Victoria. That Association has been formed only recently and family lawyers have been joining it at a very rapid rate. In his opinion at least 5 judges should be appointed. He goes on to say:
Do you know that not one non urgent case has been heard since August last year, and there are nearly 700 cases on the defended list?
That is a matter which concerned and caused some expressions of opinion by Mr Justice Emery the other day when he talked in the court of the back log of cases as being a tragedy. That sort of situation has also been referred to in the editorial of the Age newspaper of 23 March. That editorial commented:
Clearly, something is amiss- and gravely so. It is not difficult to pinpoint where the trouble is. More Family Court judges and court staff are needed. The two extra judges who were added to the list at Christmas, bringing the number of Family Court judges in Victoria to nine, are obviously not enough. Further additions to the judicial ranks are needed, and needed urgently, if the high hopes held of the Family Law Act are to be realised.
I do not think it is quite as simple as that and I do not think it is a matter only of more judges being needed. I can well see that with a referendum proposal which would change the nature of the appointment of judges from a period of life to a set term there would naturally be some reaction and some desire not to appoint at this stage too many judges under the system which presently prevails. But at the same time there is clearly a need for more judges than we have at the present time.
I would like to refer in a little more detail to something which I think would be of assistance to honourable senators. I refer to a statement prepared by Mr Ian Kennedy to whom I referred earlier and who is president of the advocates association in the Family Court in Melbourne. In his short statement he points out the difficulty of getting applications heard; he points out that there is not only a list of defended cases but also a supplementary list which has 132 cases on it, these being urgent cases requiring urgent attention and in relation to which orders as to their urgency have been made. The position was that that list was likewise not being cleared. I seek leave to incorporate that statement in Hansard because I think it will be useful to honourable senators in judging this problem.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The statement read as follows-
FAMILY COURT DELAYS
The following figures were extracted from the records of the Family Court at Melbourne as at the 1st day of March, 1977.
At present upon the filing of an application for dissolution of marriage, the first available date is the 8th day of August 1977.
Upon the filing of an application for ancillary relief on the 1st day of March, the first available date in the pre-trial list is the 1st day of July 1977, unless an Order has been made to abridge all times in urgent cases and in that situation, the first return date can be the date of filing the application. Orders to abridge all times to enable a matter to be heard speedily in this manner are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain.
At present there are 2 defended lists in the Family Court, one being a list entitled the “Defended List” in which there are now 700 cases.
The other list referred to as the “Suplementary List” has 1 32 cases. In order for a matter to be placed into the Supplementary List an Order must have been made for a speedy hearing by a Judge at a pre-trial hearing and such Orders are particularly difficult to obtain, and it has been said that such Orders can now only be obtained where there is real risk of physical or emotional injury to a child. It is almost impossible to obtain an Order for speedy hearing in matters relating to money or property.
In February 1977 there were three Judges engaged in hearing matters in the Supplementary List and 75 cases were fixed for hearing in that month. 31 were disposed of and the remaining 44 formed a Remnant List of which, 20 were listed for hearing in March and the remaining 24 comprised a further Remnant List for call over and hearing in April.
In this situation it appears that no matter from the Supplementary List will be dealt with in either March or April.
It is estimated that the matters which are listed in the Supplementary Defended List will be heard within 6 months of the first reference into that list.
It is also estimated that as the rate of cases going into the ordinary Defended List each week averages 20, and the cases going into the Supplementary List each week averages 12, that in realistic terms no case from the ordinary Defended List will be heard in the forseeable future.
A full call over of the entire Defended List took place in December before Mr Justice Emery and all matters then in the list which could be disposed of in half a day or had settled, were called out of that list and matters capable of being disposed of in half a day were given half day hearing dates and consent orders were made in the remaining settled matters. Consequently, the cases now in the ordinary Defended List are all on-going disputes capable of resolution only via the Court, and there is no possibility of any of those matters being dealt with probably in this year 1 977.
On average, it appears that each Judge hearing a Defended List is capable of disposing of 20 cases a month, given that some matters settle, but the majority of cases in that list, are estimated to take 2 days of hearing when and if they finally come before the Court.
The cases in the Supplementary List, because of the very urgency and the nature of the cases, are all difficult custody cases and virtually no settlements are effected from that list, and as a consequence the number of cases being heard on that list in any month averages 10 per Judge.
Various estimates have been made as to the numberof additional Judges required by the Family Court and the most conservative estimate appears to be 5 additional Judges appointed immediately would enable the total Court to just keep abreast of the business being carried out on a daytoday basis in that Court, without in effect reducing the delays
If these Judges are not appointed in the immediate future, the result must be that no case in the ordinary Defended List will ever be dealt with, as the Supplementary List obviously has priority, and bearing in mind that matters within the ordinary Defended List also include matters relating to property in excess of $1,000 and consequently, matters which cannot be heard in the Magistrates Court, parties in those matters have in fact been denied access to any Court whatever.
It must also be understood that of the 9 Victorian Judges, at least 1 Judge a month spends at least 3 weeks on the Appeal Court and at least 1 Judge a month is on circuit. Victoria also provides a Judge for 2 weeks a month to go to Tasmania. Each Judge is entitled to 8 weeks annual leave and leave is staggered throughout the year.
Prior to the commencment of the Family Law Act there were 48 Magistrates spending an average of 2 full days each week hearing family matters (maintenance, custody etc.): 2 county Court Judges in Melbourne each had a list of Maintenance Appeals and Marriage Act Summons per month, together with time spent on County Court Appeals on circuit, roughly 1/5 each circuit ( usually 4 circuits per month ). In the Supreme Court there were always 2 undefended divorce lists (one for marriages with children under 16 and the other without), at least 1 defended list (usually 2), a matrimonial miscellaneous causes list, a matrimonial Chamber Court together with 1 /3 of each of 2 circuits.
In summary, the foregoing means that prior to the Family Law Act 17-18 courts were at any one time engaged in hearing matters now dealt with by the Family Court. Only minimal work is now being done in the Magistrates Courts and in any event that work is of an interlocutory nature.
The Family Court Judges are now sitting from 10 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. daily and often longer, and if they adopted the Supreme Court hours, the lists would be immeasurably worse.
-I thank the Senate. The situation then is not one that concerns just judges; it is a situation at which we must look to see whether the court is operating as well as one might expect. With that in mind I made some inquiries along those lines. On Friday last Mr Philip Ruddock, the member for Parramatta, and I spent the day at the Family Court at Parramatta. It is a relatively new court building. It was opened in August of last year, and it seems to be operating in a very different manner to that in which some of the other courts are operating. That might be because it has advantages in the facilities provided which are not available to a sufficient degree in the other courts. As I understand it, the Parramatta Court has 2 judges at present, with one more to come. It services the whole of the western half of Sydney and some of the surrounding country. Apart from its 2 judges, . it has something like 5 people who are qualified as conciliators and therefore as people who can give specialist attention to those people whose marriages are in trouble. Included among those people are welfare officers. People at that court are trained in psychology, in educational areas, and in social work. So, those people have a variety of qualifications.
While we were at the court we saw the way in which cases and applications were dealt with speedily, the way in which they were sent out at an early stage, with the co-operation of the solicitors involved, for examination, discussion and report. We saw how matters which had been highly controversial were solved quite readily by getting to them at an early stage, not having to wait on the list for months and months before being sent out and being seen by the experts on the staff of the Court. They were solved by people going to the homes of the people involved to discuss questions of custody, to observe the home, to observe the living conditions of the children, and reporting to the court. It was done in such a way that there was not so much reliance on the evidence of long affidavits and in relation to disputes over the honesty or otherwise of the deponent of affidavits. It was a case of the court having specialist staff at its beck and call. There was one case of someone appearing on a custody matter that day without having any representation. Attached to the court is an office where legal aid can be given on the spot. During the day the competent officer who handles legal aid at the court was able to see the man concerned and, before the day was out, the matter was finalised, he having received sufficient advice and being then able to understand his rights. Orders were amicably made.
I formed the impression that what was happening in the Parramatta Family Court constituted the type of helping court, the type of unit operation, which was in accordance with the ideas which the Senate Committee had when it started its inquiry. I feel that that does not operate in the courts where there is a great deal of delay. Some of that delay is due to the fact that the number of back up staff is inadequate in those courts. I think the Sydney court has attached to it about six counsellors or welfare officers, which is about the same number attached to the Parramatta Court, but I think the Sydney court has seven or eight judges. The same situation arises in Melbourne. Not enough of that type of staff is provided. That is one area in which there has to be a great deal of effort and further appointments of qualified people made. The availability of those people not only prevents the anguish which occurs unnecessarily by long delays but also, of course, saves the cost of litigation in which people are involved. It saves a great deal of expense.
On the other hand, on many occasions I have received complaints about the way in which custody and access matters are handled in Melbourne. A number of people who are concerned about the matter, of course, have an axe to grind, perhaps because they are on the wrong side of some court order. Such people have expressed the view that they cannot really get justice. One of the problems is the lack of legal aid. I think that the matter of legal aid is one which particularly requires examination. I have had discussions on cases in which legal aid is granted to one party, the wife, and in which the husband is not entitled to it under the fairly strict terms in which legal aid is given or in which he has had no entitlement to it for some time. In some cases the legal aid authorities say: ‘This is a matter of custody’. Custody is usually granted to the wife and the husband therefore will not be granted legal aid because it is thought that he has little chance of winning. This can lead to great injustice. One party can go ahead and take whatever steps she- it is usually the wife- wants to take or is advised to take by her solicitor and the husband, who has no legal aid, has to bow to the jurisdiction of the court and take what comes to him.
I believe that the situation in regard to legal aid in these matters is not even at the moment and that it is not working out as well as it should do. Of course there is the problem that where legal aid is given to both parties there can be some inducement to the solicitors representing the parties to take all the elaborate steps that are needed. Therefore there are cases that are fought out at length. In Victoria in recent times there have been a number of occasions when custody cases have taken the time of the court for up to 1 1 days. Very often this happens not only where legal aid is involved but also where the parties have a wealthy relation who is prepared to fight the case at all costs. I am aware of cases in which tremendous expense has been incurred and where witnesses have been obtained from overseas. In these cases people seek to litigate a divorce case which is no longer based on fault. People endeavour to use the indiscretions of a party to a marriage out of all proportion in custody cases. This calls for the judges in these courts to intervene and take some steps to ensure that cases do not develop in that way.
Before leaving the Family Court at Parramatta I obtained some statistics as to the cases which have been held there and the extent to which counselling and conferences have occurred. I understand that in its 9 months of operation there have been 183 examples of counselling and 246 of conferences. I have not had the opportunity of checking these figures. That court has more examples of counselling and conferences than all the other courts in Australia. The court at Parramatta is unique. The judges assure me that they will probably save 2000 defended cases a year if they continue with this type of early application. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a statement of the statistics of the Parramatta Court.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
Total number of orders received and seen by Section: October 1976 to 1 1 March 1977-559, i.e. in excess of 100 per month.
Total number of interviews, same period- 909.
Total number of cases referred at point of inquiry or for follow-up-288.
– These are significant factors. We ought to find out what the trouble is in other courts. My attention has been drawn to the fact that there is some difference of opinion between the judges of the Family Courts. The cases of one of the judges at Parramatta have often been successfully appealed against because of the short time he takes to deal with them. There appears to be a different view in the courts. In a case involving the marriage of Wood, 3 judges on appeal upset the decisions of that judge. I think it is significant to quote the editor’s comment when this case was written up in the law reports. He said:
Once again we have an illustration of a conflict of approach between Watson J and the Full Court. The concept of Watson J of the ‘helping court’ i.e. a court which actively intervenes on its own motion to protect the interests of the parties and their children, is not supported by the Full Court which, more cautiously, takes the traditional approach that the Family Court acts as an arbitor between disputing adversary parties.
The former approach is clearly preferable in principle: even the Full Court in the passage cited concedes that the initiative cannot always be left to the parties. If the court under the existing provisions of the Act and Regulations lacks the power, consideration might be given to remedying that defect. But the ‘interventionist’ approach requires skilled and experienced personnel; there can be no room for individual hobby-horses and prejudices. It is doubtful whether the Family Court as yet possesses the necessary expertise. That day will come when it is acknowledged that even judges need training. In the meanwhile Watson J. will remain to the ahead of his time and suffer the usual consequences of being a prophet in the wilderness.
I do not think that he is a prophet in the wilderness. Whatever might have happened in some appeals I believe he is pursuing the type of approach which was intended in the Family Court. This type of approach will overcome much of the clogging that has gone on in the courts in Sydney and Melbourne. If these courts are to cope with the work which is necessary they must adopt different methods. Therefore it is up to us to examine the methods of operation in the Parliament. We have a constant duty to see that money is not wasted unnecessarily and that people can proceed with their cases so that animosities do not grow deeper.
I therefore felt it necessary to raise the matter at this stage. I know that it has been raised by a number of people in question in the Parliament. Of course there will need to be more judges. Today there are not nearly as many judges dealing with family matters as there were under the provisions of the old Act. We forget that magistrates and Supreme court judges dealt with these matters. Judges sitting in the supreme court in various jurisdictions dealt with practice matters. It is said that on any day 1 7 magistrates or judges in Victoria were handling family work. Now there are only 9 judges. Of course there will be a need for more judges but that alone must not be taken as the end of it all. There is also a need for specialists and trained people who can help to solve problems before they go too far. Likewise, there will need to be a recognition by the courts that this is the type of court that ought to operate. It is no good appointing people to a specialist operators in these courts and finding that they are not used. It is essential that the courts use these people.
I have already said that legal aid must be considered carefully so that it is usefully used and not unfairly directed against some parties who are not entitled to it and over-used by others who have no restraint imposed on them against the wastage of public moneys. This way we will develop the idea of the court being a unit operation where people can work together. In the court in Parramatta- in the front of the buildingthere is even a service for looking after children. This effectively takes the worry from the mother or father. Children are minded and observed by useful and valuable people who can talk to the child if necessary. The person at the reception desk in that court is able to direct people. Hundreds of applications and inquiries do not come before the court because people are directed to other places where they can get attention. The courts are bright and are conducted in a most desirable way. There is informality and speed in getting to the point. Sometimes speed can lead to mistakes but, on the whole, it seems to me that this is the right way in which these courts should operate.
Those of us in the Parliament who passed the Family Law Bill and who had an indea and, I hope, a vision of what it could involve must ensure that it does not become just another matrimonial course on the dreary pattern of the past. It must provide a new and proper scheme for dealing with matrimonial disharmony. I think that we in the Parliament must examine these things afresh. I believe that we have an excellent Act, excellent judges and excellent administration. I commend the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott) for the interest he has shown in the 1 5 months in which he has been in office. I think he has had a very difficult time in view of the financial position being what it is but he has shown enormous interest in the area. Having seen this legislation, having closely observed it in operation, I commend him very warmly for what he has done but there are problems, serious problems, and there should be no delay in getting them solved.
– As a South Australian senator I wish to congratulate Senator Hall and to give him my most wholehearted support for his remarks earlier this evening in defence of the South Australia Electoral Boundaries Commissioners against the unwarranted and despicable- to use
Senator Hall’s word; attack upon these 3 very well respected gentlemen in South Australia by the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) in the House of Representatives last Thursday when speaking on electoral matters. Senator Hall mentioned the names of the 3 gentlemen and I shall repeat them. They are Mr Justice Bright, a justice of the South Australian Supreme Court; Mr George Kennedy, the South Australian Surveyor-General; and Mr Norman Douglas, State Electoral Officer for South Australia. Of these 3 gentlemen, Mr Norman Douglas is known to me personally and I have the highest regard for hrs integrity. I cannot understand why a Minister of the Crown in the Federal Parliament would attempt to besmirch and blacken the names of those gentlemen and accuse them of some unfair practice in drawing up electoral boundaries in South Australia.
Mr Staley, in attempting to blacken the name of the South Australian Premier, Mr Don Dunstan, accused the commissioners of being partners in a ‘donnymander’ as he put it. I shall quote from Hansard later. He made his accusation against persons who are prevented from standing in public and defending themselves. As Senator Hall said, his was a despicable action and if those words had been uttered outside the Parliament they could well have been cause for legal action.
– And as Senator Hall said, he should resign.
– I, too, say that he should resign. Perhaps the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in his wisdom, may call upon Mr Staley to resign because he did call upon another Minister to resign for some other misdemeanour in the early life of his Government. That Minister had to resign but I doubt whether the Prime Minister would ask Mr Staley to resign because he owes Mr Staley a very great debt for the position in which he is at the present time.
Under the South Australian Electoral Act passed by the South Australian Parliament the commissioners have complete independence. In no way can their judgment or their decisions be influenced by politicians or by the Parliament. All other mainland State governments and, indeed, the Australian Parliament should hasten to ensure that similar legislation is enacted so that all Australian electors are able to elect the government of their choice by popular vote. We in South Australia are proud of this Act. Some people have, like Mr Staley, claimed that it is a gerrymander. Mr DeGaris is one who has been most hostile towards it. We have private individuals in South Australia who will not accept the decision of the Parliament in setting up this Act and making the Commission an independent body so that boundaries can be drawn up without any undue influence. They have so objected to this democratic system that at present they have an appeal before the Privy Council aimed at upsetting it.
I also agree with Senator Hall that South Australia now has the fairest electoral system in Australia. We are proud of that system. Although I do not agree with Senator Hall on many political matters I do publicly associate myself with the remarks he made this evening. I think he deserves a pat on the back from many people for having the courage to stand and say what he said tonight in defence of the South Australian Electoral Boundaries commissioners.
– I think Mr Staley is preparing his apology.
– I hope he does apologise. Mr Staley, in speaking on electoral matters in the House of Representatives on 17 March, had this to say:
The Don Dunstan Government has created a situation which is, on the face of it, democratic, but which, on close examination, turns out to be as undemocratic as one could get.
In saying that, he was denigrating the Boundaries Commission. He continued:
It will take the non-Labor parties as many votes to beat the Dunstan Government at future elections as it took Don Dunstan ‘s Party to defeat the Playford Government. The Labor Government in South Australia, as the boundaries have been drawn, could be returned to office with 46 per cent of the vote. There is nothing in any way democratic about that sort of proposition.
Let me look at the record in years gone by. I shall go right back to 1938. We find that never once did a Liberal government in South Australia receive 46 per cent of the vote, yet that Party was in office continuously from 19 March 1938 until 1965. 1 am certain of that, as I have a document here to prove what I am saying. It was provided for me by the legislative research section in the Parliamentary Library on 9 September last year.
-Will you have that document incorporated?
– I have done so. It already has been incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman)-Order! Senator McLaren does not need any assistance with his speech.
-I am going to read a few figures from this document and then I shall seek leave to have it incorporated again in Hansard. It will bear out the remarks I am making tonight, particularly for the information of Senator Messner who apparently does not agree with what I am saying. In 1938 Mr Playford became Premier after receiving 32.8 per cent of the vote. At the next election he received 37.49 per cent of the vote and at the next election he got 45.84 per cent. That is the nearest that the Liberals ever got to winning 46 per cent of the vote, yet we find Mr Staley complaining that under the boundaries drawn up by the present Electoral Commissioners in South Australia the Labor Party could win government with 46 per cent of the vote. The Liberals never received that kind of result in all the years they were in office. In 1 947 they received 40.38 per cent of the vote; in 1950 they received 40.51 per cent; in 1953 they received 36.45 per cent and in 1 956 they received 36.69 per cent.
– How many seats?
– They received enough seats to win the government and that is all that is necessary in any Parliament. If you have the numbers you win government. In spite of the very low percentage of votes that the Liberal Party got it still won the government in South Australia. In 1959 the Liberals received 36.95 per cent of the vote; in 1962 they received 34.5 1 per cent and in that year the Labor Party won 53.97 per cent of the vote and still could not win enough seats to become the Government.
– What year was that?
-That was in 1962. In 1965 the Labor Party had to poll 55.04 per cent of the vote to become the Government for the first time since 1938. Those figures are in the document that I have here. Although the Liberal Party increased its percentage of the vote in that year it could not win government. It got 35.93 per cent of the vote. These are very interesting figures. In the election conducted on 2 March 1 968 the Labor Party, as the Government having to go the people, received 51.98 per cent of the vote. The Party led by the then Mr Steele Hall, now Senator Hall, who so justly criticised Mr Staley tonight, won government with 43.82 per cent of the vote. I give Senator Hall credit for the fact that, because the contest was so close, when he had to go to the hustings because of a byelection he said that he would bring about electoral reform. I give him his due because that is what he did. At this stage I seek leave to have that document incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I take it that it is possible for Hansard to incorporate it in the record. Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
– It was incorporated in Hansard previously- I think in the report of my speech on the last Budget. In 1970 following the redistribution carried out by Mr Hall, the Labor Party won 52.14 per cent of the vote, a slight increase, and Mr Hall’s Party received 43.76 per cent. The Labor Party won the election with a majority of seven, with a very small increase in votes following the redistribution brought about by Mr Hall. On the other hand we failed to win government prior to that although we had a similar voting result. In 1973 Mr Dunstan was again returned to Government after winning 5 1.52 per cent of the vote and the Liberal Party lost the election after receiving 39.79 per cent of the vote.
Incorporation of Documents in Hansard- East Timor
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I do not wish to delay the Senate for more than one or two minutes. Honourable senators may recall that last Thursday evening on behalf of the Opposition I moved that the Senate appoint a select committee to look into the problems and the situation existing in East Timor. I intended to have incorporated in Hansard two of the reports which were available. The Senate agreed that I incorporate one of the reports. Unfortunately, when I was speaking about the second report, that is the report of Mr Dunn, I inadvertently asked to have it tabled. Leave was granted by the Senate for that to happen. I have discussed this with the President and he has suggested that during the adjournment debate this evening I might seek the permission of the Senate to have Mr Dunn’s report incorporated in Hansard. I do this because a number of Government senators have borrowed a copy of Mr Dunn’s report. It has some interest for members of the Senate. I now seek leave to incorporate the report in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Senator Gietzelt, I suggest that later you show the report to the Minister who is in charge of the Senate. Is leave granted for the incorporation? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The report read as follows-
My visit to Portugal, which took place between S and 23 January, was made at the initiative of non-government agencies, among them Australian Catholic Relief and Community Aid Abroad, who provided funds to meet the cost of my return fare to Lisbon. The sponsoring organizations asked me to obtain information on the plight of the Timorese refugee community in Portugal, and, if possible, some information about the humanitarian situation in East Timor itself. My own special interest was to obtain a clearer picture of what transpired in East Timor after the Indonesian invasion of Dili on 7 December 197S. The fact that nearly all of the refugees are supporters of UDT, and include some of that Party’s leaders, seemed to present an opportunity to construct a more balanced account of the events leading to the civil war which began in August 197S, of what happened in Indonesian Timor when the UDT remnants withdrew there in late September 1973, and of how and when the Indonesian military intervention began.
There are about 1500 Timorese refugees in Portugal, nearly all of whom were repatriated in several contingents between July and October of last year. The assembly point for the refugees was Atambua in Indonesian Timor where most of them had been concentrated in camps since September 197S. However, a small number of these refugees had managed last year to get to Atambua from various parts of East Timor, some of them just before the time of their repatriation. Thus a small number of Timorese in Portugalperhaps no more than 25- spent several months under Indonesian occupation. A few of them had worked in the administration in East Timor. One, for example, had been a district officer at Balibo for more than 6 months. A third had worked as a functionary in the Maliana area. Among the Timorese community in Portugal there are also a number of former UDT leaders.
Most of the Timorese refugees in Portugal, especially those in the Estadio Nacional, near Lisbon, are living in depressing conditions. They are crowded into simple nuts and tents, although the pre-fabricated dwellings now being constructed should improve their housing conditions. In view of the presence in Portugal of some 500000 refugees from other former Portuguese colonies, and of the depressed state of the economy in a country, which is experiencing about 20 per cent unemployment and an inflation rate of 26 per cent, the future holds little hope for the small Timorese community, whose members are seriously disadvantaged in the competition for jobs. Refugees from Angola and Mozambique are generally better qualified. About 95 per cent of the Timorese wish to come to Australia where more than a third of them are said to have relatives, most of whom came to Australia as refugees from Timor in August 1975. Apart from the family reunion aspect, the main reasons they gave for wanting to come to Australia were: better prospects for employment and resettlement; their desire to live in a climate more akin to that of Timor, and a general wish to live not very far from Timor, with a view to re-establishing contact with friends and relatives when access to the territory is eventually permitted by Indonesia. In Portugal, as in Australia, the Timorese community is inconspicuous and law-abiding. The High Commissioner for Refugees, LieutenantColonel Ribeiro, told me that unlike the Portuguese from Angola and Mozambique the Timorese never complain and seldom pressed for any improvements to their living conditions, which are probably the worst being experienced by refugees in that country.
The refugees, with a few of whom I was already acquainted, responded quite spontaneously to questions about conditions in East Timor and about their own experiences. Although they were not opposed to their experiences being made public, they were nevertheless concerned at possible reprisals in East Timor and asked that their names be withheld from publication. This I agreed to do, but most gave me to understand that they would be prepared to talk to any Australian officials, or members of an inquiry, who might wish to pursue further the matters we discussed, provided their names were protected. I made it clear to those with whom I spoke that I had gone to Portugal privately and did not represent the Australian Government. I also sought to make it clear to those who gave information that I was not searching for evidence to build up a case against Indonesia. I repeatedly told the Timorese that Australia enjoyed good relations with Indonesia and that, although many of us were disturbed at what had happened in East Timor, we were equally concerned that Indonesian actions should not be misrepresented. In the case of those Timorese who produced information of a sensational or sensitive kind, I repeatedly asked that they should not exaggerate their accounts, reminding them that the prospect of their being permitted to go to Australia would not be enhanced in any way by the information they gave me. A Timorese community leader whom I regard as a balanced observer, accompanied me on most of my visits to the refugee communities. I noted that he, too, repeatedly urged the Timorese not to exaggerate their accounts
During my stay in Portugal I visited camps containing about 900 Timorese, and talked to perhaps 200 of them. In only selected instances, however, did I record detailed notes of interviews. These concerned specific events of apparent significance. Although the fate of the Australian journalists was frequently raised, I should like to stress that I did not set out to investigate this matter in Portugal. But as information about this incident was volunteered I took note of it. It should be borne in mind that, with the limited time and means at my disposal, I was hardly in a position to take precise evidence and, although I believe my notes to be generally accurate, further and more detailed questioning of the refugees would seem to be desirable.
Refugee Accounts of the Situation in Timor
All accounts of the Indonesian military action against East Timor, and conditions under Indonesian occupation until as late as September 1976, portrayed a grim picture of the situation in the territory. Even in Indonesian Timor, the Timorese refugees virtually became prisoners in the camps set up by the Indonesians, as soon as they crossed into Indonesian Timor. There were many accounts of how UDT supporters were not only disarmed but stripped of any personal items of value within 48 hours of the signing of the petition in September 1975. Several of the refugees told me that they were forced to carry out hard labour and were given very little food, usually only 100 grams of rice a day. It was alleged that none of the aid which was reported to have been directed through the Indonesian Red Cross ever reached the refugees. On one occasion a Timorese community leader saw tents near the airfield and some supplies of powdered milk in Atambua Hospital, but the hospital facilities were not available to the refugees. On the other hand, according to this source, the actual refugee population in Indonesian Timor was grossly exaggerated by the authorities. He said that it never exceeded 20 000 and that he had actually witnessed the Indonesians deliberately doubling the figures.
Conditions in the refugee camp were described as grim. There were few medical facilities and the refugees were usually asked to pay for such services as injections from the meagre funds still available to them. Between September 1 973 and June 1 976 there were many deaths as a result of the treatment to which the refugees were subjected. Some of the Indonesian Timorese, I was told, sympathised with the plight of the refugees but only the military had effective authority. In Atambua the refugees were frequently humiliated. They were forced to stand to attention when they spoke to Indonesian soldiers and were sometimes ordered to bow and to address them as ‘bapak’. The refugee camps were under armed guard and the Timorese were not allowed to move freely. The detention of the refugees continued long after conditions in Dili and several other towns in East Timor were said to be secure. For some time the refugees had pleaded to be allowed to leave Timor and go to Portugal, but they claimed that if it had not been for the intervention of the commission led by General Morais-e-Silva and the Netherlands Embassy in Jakarta (which, as the representative of Portugal took a consular interest in the plight of the Timorese at Atambua), they would not have been allowed to leave Timor. The Timorese leaders showed me a long list of names- possibly more than 5000- of Timorese who had asked to go to Portugal. However, only those who happened to be at Atambua between June and October 1976 had apparently been permitted to leave the country. In the event, this included a small number of Timorese and Chinese who managed to get from Dili to the Atambua concentration area.
I was particularly interested to talk to those Timorese who had spent some time in East Timor after the Indonesian invasion. There are probably about 25 Timorese of this category among the refugees and I talked at some length to more than half of them. Because of the importance of what they had to say, I sought to ensure that their accounts were as accurate as possible. In each case I urged them not to exaggerate or distort their stories. Without exception, however, they related stories of excesses by Indonesian troops as the latter entered towns and villages. A number of these accounts were from people who claimed to have witnessed the incidents. Others that I took note of were from sources that seemed reliable- e.g. prominent Timorese who had not been involved in the politics of East Timor, and who had not initially been strongly opposed to ‘integration’. According to informants, many of the Indonesian troops killed indiscriminately from the beginning of their attack on Dili. However, several prominent Timorese said that the killing in the mountain areas was far more extensive than it was in Dili. In the mountain areas, they claimed, whole villages were wiped out as Indonesian troops advanced into the interior. I was given an account of how Indonesians shot an entire family simply because they heard that the family had given a chicken to Fretilin soldiers; of families being shot . when Indonesians discovered a Fretilin flag in their house. According to one source the entire Chinese population of Maubara and Liquica was shot by the Indonesian troops when they entered these villages. A Timorese who said he had accompained the Indonesians said that when the Indonesian troops captured Remexio and Aileu, all the Timorese in the village, except children under the age of three, were shot because ‘they were infected with the seeds of Fretilin’. An informant also told me that the Indonesians shot more than 150 men in the town of Suai (on the south coast) because they tried to prevent the Indonesian troops from interfering with their women folk.
There were few first hand accounts of the situation outside the Balibo/Maliana and Dili areas. One of these was from a Timorese who said that he was in Baucau when the
Indonesians attacked that town on 10 December 1975. He said there were few casualties at first, but that later, the troops shot many Chinese. There was, however, according to this informant a great deal of looting and raping of girls in Baucau. I was also told that fighting in the Baucau/Los Palos/Viqueque area had last year been very intense, because of effective operations by Fretilin.
A Timorese gave an account of an incident at Lamaknan (Lakmaras), a location in Indonesian Timor near the border. This informant said that in June last year he had been in this area where Fretilin troops were active. The Indonesians set fire to the dwellings of East Timorese refugees who were camped there. When the refugees protested the Indonesians turned their guns on them. According to this informant who said he was a witness to this episode, the troops shot, he thought, 2000 of the Timorese, some on their knees, others with their hands raised. The victims, he said, included women and children.
A number of refugees gave accounts of events in Dili at the time of the Indonesian invasion and in the aftermath. Several of the refugees who included both Chinese and Timorese, had been in Dili at the time of the invasion, and a few had been there, as recently as September/October last year. One had spent two weeks in Dili in April, while at least two of the refugees had been among those who were taken to Dili to participate in the ‘ act of free choice ‘.
A number of Timorese gave their accounts of how Indonesian troops behaved at the time of the invasion. According to several accounts, on 6 December, the eve of the invasion, there was a general feeling that an Indonesian attack was imminent. Fretilin forces withdrew behind Taibesse, towards the mountains. Many people confined themselves to their houses, but quite a few moved into the church of St Antonio which is near the lighthouse on the esplanade facing Dili harbour. The latter was therefore well placed to observe the Indonesian landing. According to the refugees account, warships shelled Dili before dawn and some aircraft straffed the town but little damage was sustained. Four persons, including two Timorese and two Chinese, gave accounts of indiscriminate killing by Indonesian troops. Two of those who had sought refuge in the Church told me that the Indonesian paratroops began shooting down people in the streets as soon as they landed, which was shortly after dawn. One said that several paratroopers drowned because they landed in the bay instead of on land. One refugee, who was in the Church gave the following account.
At 7.00 a.m. she said she saw Indonesian paratroops shoot a woman in the parish garage adjacent to the Church, and three others in from of the Church, although they had their hands raised. She gave the names of two of these people. The Indonesian troops then ordered all people near the Church to go inside. At 9.00 o’clock on the following morning, however, she and others were ordered by Indonesian soldiers to go to the wharf where some 27 women captives, some Chinese and some Timorese, were being held. She said some of the women had children and all of them were crying. The Indonesians, she said, tore the crying children from their mothers and passed them back to the crowd. The women were then shot one by one, with the onlookers being ordered by the Indonesians to count.
At 2.00 p.m. 59 men, both Chinese and Timorese, were brought onto the wharf. One was her brother-in-law, whose widow, my informant told me, is in Australia with her two children. These men were shot one by one, again with the crowd, which she believed amounted to some 500, being ordered to count. The victims were ordered to stand on the edge of the pier facing the sea, so that when they were shot their bodies fell into the water. Indonesian soldiers stood by and fired at the bodies in the water in the event that there was any further sign of life. Many of the men, and the women who had been executed earlier, had pleaded with the Indonesians, some of them on their knees, but none of the group was spared. Another informant told me that the next day the bodies were washed up on the beach opposite the Bishop’s house and Timorese were subsequently ordered to remove them. These informants said that they had heard that further executions had been carried out on the wharf.
Other persons who claimed to have first hand knowledge of similar indiscriminate killings included a Chinese who said he saw Indonesians shoot a group of Chinese leaders in the street near the Mimosa Hotel, and the driver of a Red Cross jeep which was clearly marked. Another gave an account of the shooting of 30 persons outside the former military police headquarters on the day after the invasion. There were several accounts of the killing of many Chinese men who were separated from their families and then shot. One of these was said to have taken place in the shop Toko Lay. My informant said that the Indonesians had become enraged at the sight of an Australian flag protruding from the third floor of this building. They went up and shot all of the Chinese men in the apartment which housed 20 refugees. On the day after the attack, there were dead bodies everywhere in the streets of Dili, including many women and some children. At least two of the refugees in Portugal said they were among those ordered by Indonesian troops to help remove the bodies.
According to one informant many Timorese were shot in the Taibesse area when the Indonesians shot the entire families of houses which displayed Fretilin flags. Others said that near the Airport the Indonesians had killed many people by simply throwing hand-grenades into houses. One source mentioned a figure of 60 persons who died this way.
According to several sources it was the Chinese who suffered during the first days after the invasion. On the first day alone, a prominent Timorese said that he had been told that as many as SOO Chinese had been killed by Indonesian troops. In addition to the wharf area and military police headquarters, groups of people were deliberately shot, according to informants, at Villaverde, near Sang Tai Hoo, Santa Cruz, near the shop of Lay Ju Man, near the former Australian Consulate (where some nurses were reported to have been shot), outside the house of Joao de Martires, a former Director of Customs, at Military Police Headquarters and near the former International Red Cross Headquarters.
The refugees all claimed that Indonesian soldiers looted extensively for the first days of the invasion. Shortly after the landing at Dili, according to several informants, most of the towns people were ordered by the soldiers to go to a location near the airport. When they returned their houses had been thoroughly ransacked, and in some cases they were completely empty. Cars, radios, items of furniture, cutlery, even windows were taken to ships in the harbour and later away from Timor. Most of the cars left in Dili were taken on board ships by Indonesian soldiers. Most of the tractors in the Dili area, according to informants, were taken away. According to a source, most Churches and the Seminary were also looted, and their books burnt.
According to the refugees some killing continued in the Dili area until the end of February. However, the place of execution was said to have been moved from the wharf to Tasitalo a location near the airport. According to one informant, as recently as 17 August last year a number of people were killed for refusing to participate in an Indonesian Independence Day demonstration. An informant said she knew at least three of the victims: they included a Chinese named Colina Lay, whom she knew well. According to an account between March and April 1976, a number of Indonesians, in particular several officers, attempted to improve relations with the local population, but, according to this informant, their efforts were always thwarted by the incessant looting and raping by Indonesian soldiers. I was told that it was common for Indonesian soldiers to round up young girls in trucks and rape them. It was also alleged that a special intelligence unit operating on the top floor of the Tropical Hotel regularly resorted to torture to obtain information about Fretilin. The officer in charge of this ‘interrogation unit’ was Major Yusman, who worked under the Senior Intelligence Officer in East Timor, Colonel Sinaga, a man who is reportedly disliked and feared. One woman informant said she knew two women who had been tortured in an effort to obtain information about Fretilin. She said she knew two women who had been stripped naked, and their breasts burnt with cigarettes. She said that electrical instruments were also used on their bodies.
I was told that after April Dili was relatively secure, although sometimes shots could be heard at night. A priest said that when he travelled from Dili to Dare (the location of the Seminary which is about 5 kilometres from the town) in April 1976 his jeep was accompanied by three armoured vehicles and a truckload of soldiers. They were fired on during their journey and the Indonesian soldiers insisted that they would need to return before nightfall. Although Dili was relatively calm after April, refugees spoke of a growing food shortage. A woman who left Dili in September, said that relations between the Indonesians and the Chinese and Timorese community in Dili continued to be very bad, right up until the time of her departure. She said that little food was available to the people m Dili and virtually nothing was made available to the people outside the city. She said that it was possible to obtain a ration of three small condensed milk cans of rice each week but that no meat could be obtained by the ordinary people. She said that dog meat was being eaten when it couta be procured. The Timorese could buy no clothing. Several of the shops had reopened under the management of Indonesians or Arabs (a small Moslem community near Dili which supported Apodeti) but the ordinary people had no money to purchase the goods offered by these shops.
The refugees all said that most Indonesians maintained an attitude of arrogant hostility to the local population. The Timorese were usually forced to stand to attention when talking to ordinary Indonesian soldiers. A refusal to do so could lead to a beating. When houses were exhausted of loot the Indonesian soldiers turned to the graves of Europeans and the more wealthy Timorese. I was informed by a source that the Indonesians dug up the grave of Father Martins in Maliana (I spent a night in his Mission some 12 years ago) and removed his gold tooth. The graves of chiefs were also exhumed by soldiers in search of loot (Timorese chiefs are sometimes buried with some of their jewels).
The refugees said that the senior Indonesian officer in Dili was Brigadier General Dading, who was described as Panglima’ or Commander of the Military Forces in East Timor. However the overall Commander was Major General Moerdani, who, I was told, usually lived at Kupang. Other senior officers in Dili were Colonel Sinaga and Major Anton Papilaya, who was a senior intelligence officer. General Dading lived in a house in the Farol area, which was formerly used by the Mayor. All the houses in the Farol area which had previously been occupied by officials, were said now to be occupied by troops. On the occasions when U.N. or foreign delegations visited Dili, the troops were sent out of the capital or dressed in civilian clothes. Both the Military Commander and the Provincial Government of Araujo had their offices in the Administrative Palace. The Timorese provisional officials, however, had little power, for Timor was dominated by the military at every level of administration.
Several refugees told me that the Indonesians had established a war cemetery in a square opposite the wharf. One said that there were more than 600 graves in the cemetery, but that there were other cemeteries at Maliana, Ainaro
Baucau and Batugade. In Maliana he saw the grave of a Brigadier-General. Another Timorese said that in Dili there were almost 1000 Indonesian graves and that one of the dead was a Lieutenant Colonel. According to these accounts, more than 3000, perhaps more than S000, Indonesian soldiers have died in the fighting in East Timor. I was told that Fretilin resistance (and many former UDT and even Apodeti members were said to have joined Fretilin ranks after the invasion) was so effective that Indonesian control did not extend more than a few miles beyond the main towns. The extensive and indiscriminate killing had alienated the population, giving Fretilin wide popular support.
I asked the leaders of the refugee community whether it was conceivable that 100 000 people have been killed in East Timor. All said that this figure was credible, because of the widespread killing in the mountains, and because of the extensive bombing (I was told that in recent months napalm was used). Many people had left the main towns and villages and were now in the mountains, in areas more or less under Fretilin control. A Timorese said that there were, in September, about 30 000 Indonesian soldiers in East Timor. The latest information related to the situation in Timor in November. A Chinese, who had left Dili at that time (he went to Portugal via Jakarta) said that with the coming of the wet season the security situation had deteriorated. Food in Dili was very scarce because supplies could not be obtained from the producing areas.
Information Concerning Australian Journalists Killed or Missing in East Timor
A number of Timorese offered information about the Balibo incident and the fate of Roger East. They included several Timorese who claimed that they had been in Balibo on the day of the attack, during which the five Australian journalists were killed, that is, on Thursday 16 October, I97S. Others had spent some time there after the incident and offered second-hand information about how the journalists were killed. I should emphasise again that it was not my intention to undertake an independent enquiry into the Balibo incident but because I knew something of the background to it, it seemed appropriate that I should collect this information.
I was told by a well-placed Timorese that the attack on Balibo and Maliana on 16 October 1975 was the first major Indonesian military intervention in Timor, although, earlier, on 6 October, they had attacked Batugade and forced Fretilin troops to retire to Balibo. He said that the attack on Balibo and Maliana was entirely an Indonesian operation under the command of Colonel Dading (later promoted Brigadier-General). The attack on Balibo itself was under the command of a Major Leo or Leos. A few Timorese- between 50 and 100- went along with the Indonesians, but their role was confined to bearers and guides. These were led by Tomas Goncalves, who for several months previously had been an Apodeti leader in Indonesian Timor. This informant said that he himself did not go to Balibo at that time, but that according to information he received from Timorese who had accompanied the Indonesians, the account given by Martins was generally accurate. He said that at least two of the journalists were deliberately shot by Indonesian troops. He also said that the Indonesians had propped two of the bodies behind a machine-gun and had photographed it, with the aim of using the photograph as evidence that the journalists had been fighting on the side of Fretilin. He said that although he was not a witness to this he had subsequently seen the photograph; he had been told later that Bakin (the Indonesian intelligence coordinating body) had decided against making use of it. This informant and two other refugees separately told me that Joao Tavares, a former UDT leader who threw in his lot with the Indonesians and is now Bupati of Maliana was in Balibo at about the time the journalists were killed and took a watch from one of the dead journalists and a camera from another body. A Timorese, who had been at Balibo until some time last year said that he was in the village some time after the killing. He said he saw the bodies of persons he believed to be the journalists in the house of Lay Fah Nhang. Afterwards the bodies were carried to another house and burnt. He also said that a friend had gone into Balibo with the Indonesians and saw one journalist killed by an Indonesian soldier. This person had said that two of the journalists were killed inside the house and others outside.
A Timorese who said he had been at Balibo until September 1976 offered some information about the killing of the journalists. He said that although he was not there at the time of the attack on Balibo it was common knowledge that the journalists were killed in the house of Lay Fah Nhang He said he was at Balibo when some Australian diplomats visited the town to investigate the killing of the journalists. He said that Indonesians ordered himself and other Timorese from Balibo away from the centre of the village. Indonesian troops were dressed in civilian clothes, according to this account, and it was they who met the Australian diplomats. He said that he himself was instructed by the Indonesians not to approach or speak to the Australians. The only Timorese from that district to talk to the Australians, he said, was Joao Tavares now bupati of the Maliana district. He said that the diplomats were taken not to the house where the journalists were killed but to another house, the house of Lay Cam Nhang. This informant also mentioned that Joao Tavares had at the time of the incident taken some items, including a watch and a camera from the bodies of the journalists.
Another Timorese informed me that a close friend had accompanied the Indonesians during their attack on Balibo. He said that his friend had told him that he had seen one journalist on the ground outside the house and two others with their hands raised. According to this Timorese, his friend told him that he saw these two journalists shot by RPKAD troops. A further account came from a Timorese who said a relative went into Balibo at the time of the Indonesian attack on the morning of 16 October. He entered the village shortly after the troops had moved in. The relative had said that he entered the house of Lay Fat (also Lay Fah Nhang) and saw several bodies on the noor. One Australian, however was not dead. Blood was coming from a wound on his head but he was sitting down and speaking into a taperecorder or radio. While he was in the room an Indonesian soldier shot the wounded Australian.
I was told by yet another Timorese that two of the bodies were photographed near a machine gun before they were taken away and burned.
A further scrap of information came from a Timorese who said that he went to Balibo with Tomas Goncalves and saw the bodies of the journalists, which, by that time, were in front of the house of Lay Fah Nhang. He said he was not allowed to approach the bodies.
There was only one reference to Roger East who is believed to have been in Dili on 7 December 1975. A source told me that although he had no first hand information about what had happened to East, he had seen his passport, together with some sheets of paper with notes about a paratroop landing. My informant said that he had been told by the person in possession of these documents that Indonesian troops had shot East and some Timorese in an apartment in Dili between the Sporting Club and the BNU (The Overseas National Bank) on 7 or 8 December 1975.
An analysis of the information I collected from the Timorese refugees in Portugal adds considerable substance to the sketchy reports, which had been received in Australia during the past twelve months from Indonesian, TimoreseChinese and Fretilin sources, that the Indonesian military seizure of East Timor has been a bloody operation, in which atrocities of a disturbing nature, have been committed against the civilian population. Indeed, these accounts of Indonesia’s behaviour in East Timor, suggest that the plight of these people might well constitute, relatively speaking, the most serious case of contravention of human rights facing the world at this time. Reports that one sixth of the population may have been killed are impossible to assess, let alone authenticate, but the fact that such reports persist serves to highlight the magnitude of the tragedy of Timor.
The refugee accounts of what happened at Balibo suggest that at least some of the journalists may have been killed deliberately by Indonesian soldiers. These accounts, though by no means conclusive, are on the whole consistent and they seem to open up new avenues of inquiry. The refugees’ accounts seem conclusive in one respect: it is surely inconceivable that the attack on Balibo was other than an Indonesian military operation, in which Timorese participation was small and of the non-combatant kind. That the responsibility for the consequences of this operation rests with the Indonesian military command in Timor would thus seem beyond doubt.
This report is by no means an exhaustive study of the information available from among the Timorese refugee community in Portugal. Factors of time and distance prevented me from meeting many Timorese who may be able to contribute to our knowledge of important aspects of this tragic situation. Indeed, in the interests of accuracy, I have omitted from this report a number of the accounts I collected during my visit to Portugal. Names have also usually been omitted, but these can be produced on request provided conditions of confidentiality are established.
– I want to answer one or two points Senator McLaren mentioned during his speech on electoral matters. I do wish to get into the basis of the discussion.
- Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator Cavanagh, I take it that your point of order is about a contravention of Standing Orders.
– Yes. Senator McLaren was speaking on the first reading of a money Bill. The debate is in continuation. Senator McLaren has not finished his remarks. Senator Messner is seeking to use the adjournment debate to reply to remarks made during a current debate. I suggest that as Senator McLaren has not finished an opportunity is presented to Senator Messner to apply during the debate on the same Bill tomorrow, but not on the adjournment debate tonight.
- Mr Deputy President, I suggest that that is not a proper point of order. In fact, the debate on the Bill which is before us is not the continuation of a debate. We are debating a wide-ranging first reading of a Bill on all kinds of miscellaneous subjects. If it was suggested that on the adjournment debate one could not deal with any matter an honourable senator had raised we would be greatly restricted in what we would say during the adjournment debate. Indeed, an honourable senator could be caught by some passing reference which another honourable senator had made. I suggest that Senator Messner is quite in order in dealing with a matter which has already been raised tonight.
– I support what Senator Cavanagh has said because I think there is a precedent. I am not sure, but I think, Mr Deputy President, you gave a ruling some three or four years ago. Even though this is the first reading of a money Bill I think we should still observe the same code of ethics as applies in any discussion which takes place. Obviously Senator McLaren still has much to say in his contribution to the debate. If someone wants to make a contribution referring to the subject which is still under discussion in this chamber, with great respect I suggest that the honourable senator on the Government side of the Senate will have the opportunity tomorrow, after Senator McLaren has finished his speech, to make his contribution on the same subject. With respect to you, I suggest that this is the way in which this matter should be handled.
- Mr Deputy President, I wish to speak to the point of order. I was going to take the same point of order which Senator Cavanagh has taken, namely, that when you indicated at 1 1 o’clock that the time to put the question for the adjournment of the Senate had come, Senator McLaren had not concluded his remarks.
– On what standing order are you raising this point?
– I am raising the point of order that a debate is ensuing in the Senate at the present time. I suggest that if the Deputy President allows Senator Messner to reply at this stage to remarks which Senator McLaren has partly made during his contribution to the first reading of a money Bill, it would be in order for Senator McLaren during the adjournment debate to reply to Senator Messner and then tomorrow to resume his remarks on the first reading of the money Bill. I suggest that the point of order taken by my colleague Senator Cavanagh should be upheld.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I uphold Senator Cavanagh ‘s point of order. If honourable senators look at standing order 63 they will see that Senator Messner may take the opportunity to reply to Senator McLaren’s remarks tomorrow should the first reading debate be brought on.
-The matter I wish to raise this evening- I shall not delay the Senate for very long- concerns the problem of East Timorese refugees in Portugal. The matter came to my mind during question time this afternoon when there appeared to be something of a discrepancy between the numbers and attitudes I perceived in questions and answers during that time. My concern is heightened by the activities of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence which, not very long ago, had a very close look at the question of refugees and in particular refugees from South Vietnam. It is something of a pity, but it appears to me that our collective departments and the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) have not taken the time to study the Committee’s report. I believe it is an excellant report. It lays down what the Committee believes should be the guidelinees for a country such as Australia to adopt if we are sincere in our claim that we will do something about refugees.
From reports there appear to be in excess of 1500 East Timorese refugees in Portugal all of whom, as far as I can assess, are living in rather extreme conditions of poverty and deprivation in some 5 refugee camps. There appears to be little prospect of assistance for them from any other nation. In fact, a letter from the Portuguese Council of Churches to aid organisations in Australia has stated:
All Timorese refugees wish to come to Australia.
That could be a very natural circumstance because these are indigenous people who have lived all their lives very close to Australia’s shores. There is little doubt that those old enough to recall the Second World War would have a knowledge of Australia and the younger ones I believe would have knowledge of Australia because of stories told on their parents’ knees. The Minister for Social Security, Senator Guilfoyle, said today that many of the refugees had been refused visas on medical and occupational grounds.
If we are talking about refugees as distinct from migrants, I think we have to have another look at the question of medical and occuptional grounds. Refugees who have been forced to flee from their countries in recent years are not the sort of people who have all the best educational and medical facilities available to them. One of the reasons why refugees leave their country is turmoil or wars where factions in the country seek to change the economic system. It has been largely because of the dire economic conditions in those countries that these people are without occupational qualifications and in need of medical care. I believe that any Government which demands of refugees medical and occupational grounds is not acting in a humanitarian way. We were told today that there would a review of 20 cases in which the applicant had a brother or a sister in Australia. Again this is talking about a migrant situation rather than about refugees. The Government obviously is pursuing a migrant attitude rather than a refugee attitude. In his review of foreign policy the Foreign Minister, Mr Peacock, said:
The Government recognises that refugee-type situations will continue to arise and that Australia . . . will continue to be seen as a major refugee resettlement country.
If the Minister is prepared to say that, surely he and the Government are obliged to follow it up. In reality the Government is pursuing a calculated heartless approach to refugees. It refuses to recognise the refugees. It treats refugees as normal migrants and, again proving the Government’s attitude, it chooses the most highly qualified- the leaders- and leaves the rest, a type of brain drain situation, rather than taking refugees en masse as any other country with a refugee policy would do. In the case of East Timorese refugees the Government has chosen to delay and to frustrate the processing of applications. It places most emphasis on ordinary migrant criteria.
Until quite recently the 1500 or so refugees in Portugal were serviced by one officer who went from Lisbon to Madrid once a month. This indicates a great lack of concern by the Government for those refugees. This is rather strange because the evidence seems to indicate that the great bulk of refugees from East Timor in Portugal are or were supporters of the moderate right wing UDT. The Government cannot use the excuse as i has done so often in the past that they may be left wing radicals or insurgents or people who have a political philosophy which is alien to the Government’s philosophy.
To compound this situation further I understaid that the East Timorese refugees have been circularised with one of the most thoughtless departnental forms I can recall. They have been asked to fill out a form listing relatives in East Timor. Ostensibly it is for the purpose of bringing out relatives from East Timor. However, they are requested to sign a statement allowing the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to provide the compiled list of names to the Indonesian Government. One can well imagine the situation that will prevail as a result. Once the Indonesian Government obtains that information and passes it on to its militarists, its generals, its intelligence officers in the field in East Timor, perhaps with the use of loud hailers or by some other method the Indonesian Army would call these people out on the pretext that it wants them to contact relatives in Portugal, Australia or wherever. As soon as the poor person shows his or her head above the horizon his or her goose is cooked. This is a shocking attitude to adopt in view of the situation that prevails in East Timor at present. With all the reports of atrocities it is no wonder that many of the refugees are extremely upset and very perturbed.
I have had contact in the last few days with many people who feel that the reverse approach should be followed. The Australian Government should ask the Indonesians to supply a list of East Timorese who want to come to Australia. Surely that would be a much more humanitarian attitude to adopt to refugees. This list could then be circulated to refugees here and checked with them to ascertain who their relatives are. To me, however the situation is worse than this. I believe that all East Timorese refugees should be able to come to Australia without having the normal migrant criteria applied. Surely in this way we may be able to act responsibly for once, given the previous and current abdication of principle in Australia’s policy towards East Timor. I make a plea for the Government to act to bring forward a full refugee policy. A great deal more has to be done to assist these people in the name of humanity, in the name of neighbourliness and in the name of everything for which human beings are supposed to stand. I believe that to act in this manner will in some small way redress our sins of omission in recent times and may well reprieve Australians in the eyes of those luckless and hapless individuals.
-Minister for Social Security) (11.16)- I want to respond to Senator Primmer’s remarks with regard to refugees from Timor. I think some of the information which I may be stating now has already been given in answers to questions over the past 2 days. The figure that Senator Primmer has used with regard to the numbers in East Timor vas quoted by me yesterday. There are approximately 1400 East Timor evacuees in Portugal. But we do disagree on the numbers that may wish to come to Australia. I can accept that Senator Primmer understands that almost all that number of people wish to come but I want to restate that we have had fewer than 600 applications for entry to this country at this tine. Of those who have applied, the number with close relatives would be very limited. Our advice is that something between 5 per cent and 10 per cent have claimed relationships with Australian residents, and these are distant relationships such as cousins, nieces and nephews. I do not want to make any real point about this. I do not think there are real grounds for discussion on this. It is just the information that I have.
We have an immigration officer stationed in Portugal. We have added to his staff a locally engaged staff member. I think it is understood that we have progressively been issuing visas to East Timorese to come to Australia. The figures that I mentioned today with regard to those who are at present rejected on medical grounds and as a result of occupational criteria are being reviewed and are subject to flexibility in regard to occupational criteria. I believe it was yesterday that I answered a question in which I said the main difficulty in regard to medical grounds is that some of these people are suffering from malaria and it would not be wise to bring them in at this stage as they may wish to live in Darwin. There is a difficulty of malaria being introduced into the Northern Territory. That is a very real ground for discussion and concern. It is not one that is dealt with harshly, but one which we believe is in the interests of all those who are concerned about this matter.
It was suggested that we should be acting on the report of the Senate Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee on refugees from South Vietnam. My office is issuing today to all honourable members and senators a statement on refugee resettlement. It is a 7-page document which I believe will be of interest to all honourable members and senators because it indicates that since the tabling of the Committee ‘s report on this matter I have indicated that every effort would be made to implement the recommendations within my area of responsibility. Action which has been taken to date is outlined in this statement. It is one that I would not propose to read in detail. All honourable members and senators will have the statement in their hands tomorrow. But I do think there is sufficiently wide interest in this matter for me to seek leave to incorporate the statement in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
To All Members and Senators
There has been a substantial increase in the numbers of refugees or people with refugee type status arriving in Australia in recent years as a result of crises around the world. Arrivals in 1975 and 1976 have included some 6000 Lebanese, 2552 Vietnamese, 2581 Timorese, 6500 Cypriots, 1021 Chileans, 600 Laotians, 400 Cambodians as well as 600 Russian Jews, White Russians and other groups.
The world situation is such that international crises may well continue and, if they do, other refugee groups will no doubt arrive in the future. As pan of the responsibility of the Department of Social Security for the settlement of migrants, special programs have been developed to facilitate the resettlement of refugees. This statement has been prepared to outline to Members and Senators the steps that have been taken to this end.
It should be stressed at the outset that unlike migrants who are selected to meet particular criteria including the demand for their special skills, refugees, as a result of the crisis they have recently experienced need special assistance with their settlement. The Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence which recently inquired into and reported on the plight and circumstances of the Vietnamese refugees and whose report was tabled in Parliament on 1 December 1976, made extensive recommendations on the need for closer co-operation and co-ordination of the various government and voluntary organisations active in the field of refugee welfare.
When the report was tabled I indicated that every effort would be made to implement those recommendations falling within my area of responsibility. Action which has been taken to date is outlined below.
Where there have been planned intakes of refugees as in recent months from Indo-China, detailed pre-arrival preparations are made on the basis of the age, sex, status, cultural background and English speaking ability of impending arrivals.
Refugee Re-settlement Co-ordination Committees
As recommended by the Senate Committee, Refugee Resettlement Co-ordination Committees have been established in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland and have been operating effectively in those States for some months. A committee was recently established in South Australia and one is being planned for Western Australia in the near future.
The objective of the Committees is to co-ordinate the local efforts of Commonwealth and State Government Departments and instrumentalities and voluntary agencies in developing and delivering programs and services to assist in the orientation and settlement of refugees; to overcome postarrival settlement problems they may experience, and to ensure that available resources are effectively and efficiently utilised.
The Refugee Resettlement Co-ordination Committees include representatives from Commonwealth Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Education, Health and Employment and Industrial Relations; from State Departments of Health, Education and Welfare and the Depart.ments responsible for Ethnic Affairs; from voluntary organisations such as Red Cross, St Vincent de Paul, and Salvation Army, and from many other organisations including ethnic and religious associations and from refugee groups.
The successful operation of these Committees has proved that it is possible for numerous and diverse interests to work together towards a common cause in a spirit of co-operation. The contribution of State Governments and voluntary and other agencies has been vital in ensuring that the objectives of these Committees have been attained and I am sure that this support will continue in the future to maintain an effective service for refugees and similar groups. In addition the Depanment of Social Security as Convenor of these Committees has been able to use its extensive understanding of the welfare system in each State to facilitate the work of the Committees.
Sub-committees have been formed to cover such areas as Education, Health and Welfare. Their primary task is to develop programs, counsel and inform the refugees on aspects of the way of life in Australia as well as co-ordinating these specialised services provided to the refugees after arrival.
SERVICES ON ARRIVAL
Upon arrival in Australia, customs and other reception formalities are co-ordinated by the Depanment of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs who also arrange movement of the refugees to migrant hostels or similar accommodation. The Depanment of Social Security is actively involved in this stage through the provision of interpreting and translating resources to service each ethnic group involved. Interpreters providing this and subsequent services for refugees are usually community interpreters whose services are utilised by the Telephone Interpreter Service. Where Asian students have provided interpreting assistance detailed pre-arrival briefing is undertaken by the Department to insure they are familiar with all aspects of the re-settlement program. In some States Departmental welfare officers with the same ethnic background as the refugee groups are used to assist also.
Following the movement of refugees to migrant hostel or other accommodation, a detailed program of medical examinations and tests is undertaken by State Health authorities. This program includes testing for tuberculosis, parasites and tropical conditions such as malaria, and any persons suffering from particular conditions receive appropriate treatment under close supervision. The refugees are also immunised against diphtheria, tetanus and polio. Dental and optometric services are also provided and counselling on family planning and nutrition. This has involved participation by voluntary and community organisations.
Arrangements are made to obtain claims and pay appropriate benefits including family allowances and special benefit as soon as practicable after arrival. A refugee child who arrives in Australia not accompanied or intending to join close relatives in Australia is regarded as an isolated child. At present in respect of isolated refugee children from South Vietnam and Cambodia, a special benefit is made at the same rate as a double orphans pension, and is paid to the person caring for the child.
Special benefit at the same rate as unemployment benefit is paid to adult refugees and benefit is continued until a refugee becomes employed. (In the meantime they are assisted to integrate into the Australian community and are prepared for entry into the workforce.)
The refugees are entitled to the basic Medibank entitlement however, in cases where serious medical problems are found on arrival, these are presently met by State authorities.
Long term assistance including the payment of benefits, counselling, information, interpreting and welfare services, has been provided by my Department to isolated children and single parent families from Timor who have been separated from their families or bread winner parents as a result of the disorder in that area in 1975. There are about 570 Timorese who arrived in 1975 who are still resident in migrant hostels.
In accordance with the Senate Committee’s recommendation and in co-operation with Commonwealth Hostels Ltd., officers from my Department have been located as Settlement Officers in migrant hostels where there are significant numbers of refugees in residence.
The Settlement Officers have had long experience and close involvement with the settlement problems faced by migrants and refugees and in providing advice and assistance to overcome these difficulties.
The primary task of the Settlement officer is to supervise, co-ordinate and implement orientation programs for refugees, to assist the Welfare Officer from Commonwealth Hostels Ltd, as required where particular settlement difficulties are being experienced by individual refugees and to assist with queries and problems with Social Security Benefits.
The Settlement Officers maintain close contact with the Refugee Resettlement Co-ordination Committees whose sub-committees and members are closely involved in activities such as those listed above to enable the smooth resettlement of the refugees into the Australian community. The Settlement Officer is responsible for co-ordinating the resettlement program which usually involves the following aspects-
a ) Co-ordinated pre-planning by agencies.
An attempt to provide immediate linkages with similar ethnic groups and the broader community.
c ) Provision of basic information.
The resettlement activities commence after the refugees arrive in the hostels and include:
Immediate provision of benefits and an attempt to foresee and resolve future income maintenance problems.
Orientation to Australia by means of formal and informal meetings including:
Large group meetings covering introduction to hostels, educational opportunities and facilities, employment conditions, income maintenance.
Small group meetings concerning employment and transport, Australian life-style, family planning, housing, sponsorship, family reunions etc.
Film evenings to provide the new arrivals with an overview of Australia, its culture and customs.
Contact with smaller informal groups, usually extended family constellations to reinforce knowledge provided in the more formal setting.
Interpretation of refugee needs, cultures, customs to the various statutory, voluntary and community groups involved in the resettlement process. This occurs at both a formal and an informal level ranging from formal papers at seminars to informal discussions.
Personal Services are provided by government and voluntary agencies and community volunteers to meet the personal needs of refugees in a manner which facilitates their integration into the community. These include: providing transport for medical, dental and X-Ray appointments; visiting hospitals; supplying clothing and baby needs, such as pushers, cots, nappies, baths, etc. hosting refugees with Australian families; familiarization programmes, e.g. taking residents to see Housing Commission areas, use of public transport, local facilities; resettlement needs, supplying furniture, transport and follow-up visits to child clinics etc. ante-natal care, visiting and follow-up; voluntary help for teachers of refugee children; co-ordinating and channelling to the appropriate source all offers of help from local community groups and individuals; temporary fostering of children; casework; preparation of resource information.
Employment liaison with employers resulting in increased opportunity for learning English and more effective job placement. The Commonwealth Employment Service has made every effort, within the confines of their existing policies, to make appropriate work placements.
Voluntary agencies have assisted in providing direct service and in facilitating integration of the refugees. One very important contribution has been the atmosphere of genuine acceptance and friendliness shown by these agencies.
Community Involvement. Through the efforts of members of the Resettlement Committee, there has been growing involvement from service groups (Apex, Rotary) and other community bodies.
The Settlement Officer is also able to arrange for follow-up by welfare staff from my Department where the refugees move from hostels to private accommodation. This may be achieved through a Follow-up Sub-Committee of the Refugee Resettlement Co-ordination Committee which arranges for a welfare officer or social worker from the Department of Social Security to regularly visit the refugees shortly after they move from the hostel.
INFORMATION ON CULTURAL BACKGROUNDS
It has been the practice of the Department of Social Security for some years, to provide information on the cultural backgrounds of newly arrived ethnic groups to assist workers in the field gain an appreciation of the cultural values and aspirations of these people. Cultural background papers on refugee type groups such as Vietnamese, Laotians, Cambodians and Lebanese (as well as for migrants such as Turks, Finns and Italians) have been prepared by the Department of Social Security and have been widely distributed by the State Offices. Good Neighbour Councils, the Commonwealth Department of Education and Voluntary Agencies such as Austcare have also been invited to prepare information papers to assist volunteers and others involved with refugees. Special information kits have been prepared by Refugee Resettlement Co-ordination Committees in the languages of the refugee groups to inform them about Australia and aspects of its way of life. This cultural information is particularly important if the statutory and voluntary agencies dealing with refugee groups are to develop appropriate resettlement activities and provide effective welfare services. For this reason, efforts will be made to extend the information available and assist in the training of workers in the field of refugee re-settlement in the future.
DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SECURITY REFUGEE CO-ORDINATION COMMITTEE
A Standing Committee to Co-ordinate Refugee Resettlement activities within the Department of Social Security has also been established. Members include the chairmen of the State based co-ordination committees referred to above as well as officers from related policy areas within the Department. This Committee not only provides a mechanism for the State Refugee Resettlement Co-ordination Committees to exchange their experiences in developing orientation and other programs to assist refugee groups, but also provides a means whereby feedback from the State Committees may be brought to the attention of my Department and where appropriate, through me to the Government. The Committee has considered aspects of the resettlement of refugees where particular problems have arisen with respect to large single parent family groups, isolated aged and those refugees suffering physical or other handicaps. The Committee is enabling my Department to standardise practices regarding the payment of benefits to refugees.
With the anticipated continued arrival of refugee groups the Department of Social Security is giving consideration to several new approaches to settlement assistance which have not been tried previously in any organised way. These are in the areas of group resettlement and the fostering of self-help programs among the refugee groups. Such new concepts could appeal particularly to refugees with ethnic backgrounds involving a high group cohesiveness. It is expected that some of the Timorese refugees currently in hostels may be assisted to settle in the community in this way while my Department is currently considering ways self-help programs might be developed among the Lebanese who have recently arrived.
– I believe that when Senator Primmer, Senator Georges and others who have had a very close interest in this matter read this statement I would be pleased to discuss with them any of the programs that are involved in it.
The document shows our pre-arrival planning and gives details of our refugee resettlement coordination committees that have been set up in each State. It outlines the standing committee that has been set up in my Department of Social Security, the services that are available on arrival, the post-arrival services of medical examinations and benefits through the Department, settlement officers and those sorts of things that I think are our way of dealing in the most humane and constructive way that we can with the settlement of these people who come to Australia as refugees. At the beginning the document states that there has been a substantial increase in refugees in 1975 and 1976 and the numbers of Lebanese, Vietnamese, Timorese, Cypriots, Chileans, Laotians, Cambodians, Russian Jews and White Russians are given in it. I believe that this will be of interest to all honourable senators. I look forward to, and am certainly willing to hear, discussion from honourable senators on anything that we are able to do in the Department of Social Security or in the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs- the Department whose Minister I represent in the Senateto assist in the resettlement of these people whom we welcome to this country.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.21 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 March 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1977/19770323_senate_30_s72/>.