31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Peter Baume.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned members and ex-members of the Citizens Forces of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
Your Honourable House take appropriate action to resume the award of the several distinctive and historic Reserve Forces Decorations and Medals to members of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, Citizens Military Force (Army Reserve) and Citizens Air Force.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Carrick and Senator DrakeBrockman.
-I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer: Is it a fact that the Australian Taxation Office is currently surveying homes in Tasmania built by mining companies for their employees with a view to increasing the rating for taxation purposes and thus, in effect increasing the rents? Do the proposals envisage the equivalent of doubling rentals which are to be paid? If this is so, does the Government also intend to make these increased charges retrospective to 1 July 1977? Does the Minister not agree that if any such move is intended it will be a direct disincentive to persons living in remote areas such as the west coast of Tasmania?
– I understand that no new principle is involved in whatever action the Taxation Office is taking. I do not have specific information regarding the Tasmanian situation or about any retrospectivity. I shall seek the information today and let the honourable senator have it.
– Is the Minister representing the Prime Minister aware that on Tuesday, 4 April, I placed on notice 34 questions directed to the appropriate Ministers relating to the recent denial of public access by Ministers to a wide variety of reports, submissions and other documents which are of public interest and significance? Does the Minister agree that the continued practice of maintaining government secrecy is alarming? Is not such a practice inconsistent with the Government’s declared policy on freedom of information and its intention to legislate effectively in this area?
– I must confess that I did not know that the honourable senator had put all those questions on the Notice Paper.
– Surely you read that.
-The last thing I read are notice papers and Hansard. I read the front page of the Notice Paper so that I will know what is happening. I do not know whether the honourable senator has put those questions on notice. I have not had a look at the questions. Therefore I am unable to come to a judgment of whether what he alleges is true.
-I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he is aware that in any inquiry directed to the Legal Aid Commission in Melbourne for applications for legal aid forms in the last week the applicant has received the response that no legal aid forms are available from the Commission and it is not known when they will be available. The consequences of this appear to be that applicants are not in a position to apply for legal aid in Victoria. Is the Minister aware of that situation? What is being done about it and what steps are being taken to rectify it? When will some information be available?
-I am not aware of the information Senator Button has raised. I am grateful to him for having raised it and I treat it as a matter of concern. I shall take steps to inquire into it and to see whether the situation can be rectified as soon as possible. I shall let the Senate know as soon as I have any further information on it.
– I ask a question of Senator Carrick, the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. It is about reduced charges for telex messages outside metropolitan areas. I ask whether Telecom Australia has recently announced reduced charges for telex messages outside metropolitan areas. Did the Managing Director of Telecom claim that the effect of the reductions would be to save customers up to 50 per cent on their present telex bills? Is this an acknowledgment that the transmission time of telex messages, not the distance over which they are sent, is the major cost factor? If so, will the Minister ask Telecom to apply the same principle to trunk telephone calls? If not, will the Minister advise whether the purpose of the reduction is to attract country subscribers to the Telex service in preference to the telephone service?
-I am well aware of the interest of Senator Lewis in the principle underlying this matter. Indeed, he has raised this matter of the cost of country telephone calls quite a number of times and I have brought it to the attention of my colleague in another place. I am not personally alerted to action that may have been taken by Telecom with regard to telex charges for country users. I have taken note of the points made by Senator Lewis and I shall seek information on them. In any case, I shall underline to my colleague in another place the principle which Senator Lewis seeks to assert.
-I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Did Justice Elizabeth Evatt hold talks in Brisbane with the six judges of the Family Court bench of Queensland last Friday? If so, what was the nature of the discussions and what was the outcome?
– I am not aware of the full reasons for a visit to Brisbane by Justice Evatt last week to which Senator Colston referred. I know that she conferred with judges of the Family Court in Brisbane on the discussions which have been taking place about an agreement between the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth concering the establishment of a State family court in Queensland. Whether that was the sole reason for her visit to Brisbane I do not know but that was certainly a matter which she would have discussed.
– Is the Attorney-General aware that there has been quite a deal of publicity in Queensland in recent days about claims made by the State Government that people would be better off if there were a Queensland divorce court? Did the Queensland Government reject an invitation to establish a State family court when the Family Law Act was first passed? When did the Queensland Government change its mind and make known its interest in a State family court? What is the current state of negotiations between the Queensland and Commonwealth governments regarding the establishment of a State family court in Queensland?
– As the Senate is awarethis really arises out of the matter on which Senator Colston asked me a question yesterday- the Family Law Act contains a provision which enables an agreement to be reached between any State government and the Commonwealth Government to establish State family courts on terms set out therein, and to exercise jurisdiction thereunder. When the Act was passed and the previous Government was moving towards the establishment of the court, I understand that the then Attorney-General, Mr Enderby, wrote to all Attorneys-General inviting them to have regard to the provisions of the Act. As is well known, the Western Australian Government decided that it would enter into negotiations, and subsequently arrived at an agreement for the establishment of a State family court. The then Attorney-General for Queensland, Mr Knox, informed the Commonwealth that the Queensland Government had considered the matter and had decided against the establishment of a State family court, adding as a rider that this was its position for the time being at least.
In January 1976, after the Family Court was set up, the present Prime Minister wrote to the Premiers of all States including, of course, Queensland and invited them to consider the establishment of State family courts. On 21 January 1976 Mr Knox, who was still AttorneyGeneral for Queensland, notified my predecessor that his Government had decided not to create a State family court at that stage. In March 1977 the present Queensland Attorney-General, Mr Lickiss, publicly announced that he favoured the establishment of a State family court but that there had been no government decision in that regard. As a result, during last year preliminary discussions took place between Mr Lickiss and my predecessor. When I became AttorneyGeneral Mr Lickiss got in touch with me about the matter and he and I have been having general discussions about the principles of such an agreement. It has gone no further than that.
I might say that the question of now establishing a family court in Queensland, after the Family Court of Australia has been functioning very satisfactorily in Queensland for more than two years, does present some major difficulties. These are, of course, the subject of the discussions that have been conducted between Mr Lickiss and myself. I should emphasise, however, that if a State family court were established in Queensland it would be exercising jurisdiction under the Family Law Act and, as happens in Western Australia, would be administering the family law as it applies throughout Australia generally. The State family court of Queensland would have that obligation. Also, as in Western Australia, appeal could be made from the State family court to the full court of the Family Court of Australia.
-I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether it will be necessary for Australia to change its recognition of Indonesia’s annexation of Timor from de facto to de jure recognition in order to facilitate the conclusion of negotiations over the exploitation of seabed resources in that area.
-I think I should get advice from my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, on the honourable senator’s question. It involves a matter of international law, on which I certainly would not be competent to give an opinion.
-Can the Minister for Education say whether it is a fact that Western Australia has already legislated to make student union fees voluntary with the students obliged to pay only service fees and that Victoria is also to follow this example in the next couple of weeks? If this is the case, can the Minister assure the chamber that the Government will consider backing these two States and passing similar legislation in the Australian Capital Territory? Many students do not wish any part of their union dues to be used for political activity and have neither the time nor the desire to take part in university union -
– I rise to order. The Opposition has been tolerant for too long. Senator Walters is now debating the question that she is asking.
– I ask Senator Walters not to debate the question. Please ask the question.
– It is because students -
– Order! You are still debating the question.
-. . . do not want this state of affairs to continue that I am asking the Minister this question.
-It is a fact that the Western Australian Government has passed amending legislation, the effect of which is to make the payment of student union fees voluntary. I do not know what the precise intention of the Victorian Government is. I am not aware when the Victorian Government might act. Honourable senators will be aware that there is I think an appeal before the court arising out of a decision regarding the Melbourne University and it is quite possible that the Victorian Government may wish to await the result of the appeal to see what the effective nature of the legislation should be.
I remind Senator Walters that throughout Australia there have been a number of court cases in which the validity of university actions have been tested. One case was heard recently in New South Wales. Once the results of the court cases or the appeals are known a number of States will have to take action themselves merely to assert the authority of universities, and presumably colleges of advanced education, to impose sporting and recreation fees as well as other fees. So the matter is not thoroughly clear at this moment. The Government has before it continually the emerging pattern of these court cases and other events. It is the Government’s view that two things ought to prevail: Firstly, that fees taken from students should not be used by anybody for other than essentially university student purposes, and that is a matter that must be looked at; secondly, that where students have paid fees and an attempt is made to use them for purposes which a student in conscience cannot tolerate there should be a provision within the institution to give the student relief from the application of those fees.
– We will apply that to the taxation laws as well.
-I take it from that interjection by Senator Georges that he is opposed to any kind of application of conscience by a student. Otherwise, he would not have interjected. I doubt whether many Australians would oppose the right of students to act in accordance with their consciences. The Australian National University recently made some amendments to its by-laws, the effect of which is to provide an opportunity for expression of conscience. This matter will be looked at by the Government. Of course, the Government has the Canberra College of Advanced Education as part of its responsibilities. I hope that in the reasonably early future the Government will announce its intentions in respect of the whole field.
– I preface my question, which I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, by referring to the guidelines for ethnic broadcasting which were issued by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications in August last year and particularly to the guideline which provides that ethnic broadcasting services should avoid political partisanship. I ask the Minister whether his attention has been drawn to a report in Nation Review of 30 March that there has been a breach of this guideline. The report claims that a certain ethnic group, which I prefer not to name, has on three successive occasions referred in highly favourable terms to an act of political terrorism, that is, the hi-jacking on 30 October 1 977 of a DC4 aircraft belonging to the Vietnamese civil airline. The four hi-jackers killed two members of the crew and seriously wounded a third. The hijackers were described by an ethnic broadcaster on station 2EA as ‘courageous seekers of freedom ‘. What steps is the Government prepared to take to ensure the implementation of the guidelines for ethnic broadcasting and in particular the guideline which requires broadcasters to avoid political partisanship.
– I am aware of the guidelines laid down for ethnic broadcasting, in particular the guideline that seeks to establish avoidance of political partisanship. I believe all honourable senators know that it is one thing to lay down a principle for ethnic, public, commercial or national broadcasting, and it is another thing to achieve the necessary balance. I had not had drawn to my attention the article in Nation Review to which Senator Ryan has referred. I will seek the article and refer it to my colleague and invite him to consider what steps, if any, arising out of the article are necessary to uphold the general principles of the guidelines.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for National Development a question about the report of the Atomic Energy Commission for the year ended June 1977. Does the report indicate that there will be a market for Australian uranium in the 1980s?
-Senator Thomas has asked whether the Atomic Energy Commission’s annual report for the year ended 30 June 1977 indicates that there will be a market for uranium in the 1980s. My information is that the annual report indicates that Australian sales to the mid-1980s might amount to between 33,000 tonnes and 55,000 tonnes of uranium. That is a very large amount. While there has been some weakening in the uranium market in recent years, this estimate still represents a very considerable level of possible sales of exports by Australia from new mines.
In his statement to Parliament on 25 August 1977 the Leader of the Government in the Senate pointed out that the Ranger Inquiry assumed that production and sales of Australian uranium would begin in 1981-82 at a rate of 2,000 short tons, increasing to 10,000 short tons by 1985-86. The Minister said that these estimates were broadly in line with the Government’s assessment of the world market in the first part of the 1980s, to which Senator Thomas referred and that after 1 985 the likely exports that Australia could make would increase substantially. The estimates and advice of the Atomic Energy Commission were, of course, available to the Government in the course of making a decision in relation to the development of Australian uranium resources. I think this was announced to Parliament on 25 August of last year. As the Minister said to the Parliament on that date, the Government believes that the market outlook provides a basis on which carefully regulated development of Australia’s uranium resources can proceed.
The Government’s uranium policy is being implemented accordingly. Of course, some variations will have to be allowed for if changing decisions are made in the techniques of the handling of uranium as an energy producing fuel.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry and is prompted by Mr Sinclair’s speech to the Agricultural Society Council of New South Wales a couple of weeks ago in which he criticised the export diversification scheme of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation and alleged that farmers were not receiving the benefit of higher export prices. In order to overcome the defects to which the Minister has drawn attention, is the Government considering, or will it consider, amending the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Act along the lines proposed by my colleague Mr Keating in the House of Representatives on 3 1 May last year.
-The honourable senator has asked a question which it is really for the Minister whom I represent in this chamber to answer. He asked whether the Government is considering amending an Act in line with a motion which was moved by the shadow Minister for primary industry in another place. I am unable to answer that question. I imagine that Mr Sinclair has definite ideas of his own which are in line with the best interests of the meat industry and that he will be putting those ideas to the Government. Sensible suggestions by members of the Opposition can be quite useful to the Government at any time so I will refer the honourable senator’s question to the Minister whom I represent.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory whether his attention has been drawn to Press statements concerning the alleged secret dumping of uranium ore at Snake Creek in the Northern Territory. Can the Minister say whether this operation was carried out in secret? Is it a fact that it was part of a departmental clean-up program to rehabilitate the old Rum Jungle mining site which is considered a disgrace by the Government, mining companies and all concerned with proper environmental management? Did this operation involve the removal to a more satisfactory site of 150 tonnes to 200 tonnes of mullock or mining residue which contained a relatively small amount of uranium ore? Can the Minister say whether radon tests were carried out at the new site after the material was deposited? If they were, what was the result? Is it a fact that samples of the material were sent to Adelaide for analysis? Can the Minister say whether the Department has received a report from Adelaide concerning this assay? If it has, can the Minister give the Senate details of the result? As I understand that the $300,000 allocated by the Federal Government for this clean-up program has been fully expended, will the Government give urgent consideration to providing extra funds to enable the total rehabilitation of the Rum Jungle area?
– I have not all the information on this matter which the honourable senator seeks. I am advised that about late October or early November last year when this ore body was found it was considered, after consultation with the Atomic Energy Commission, unwise to put the ore into open cuts which already are full of ore and which contain contaminants through leaching from the copper ore body and chemicals which were used in uranium processing. It was also considered by the Atomic Energy Commission that it could be well worth while processing the ore when the Alligator River uranium field was established and that, as Rum Jungle had become a popular tourist visitation area and was visited by interstate tourist buses, it would be preferable to remove the ore to another site which was under Commonwealth control, as the honourable senator indicated in his question. I understand that the ore was removed in early November to an area known as Snake Creek which is less than two miles north of the Adelaide River and approximately half a mile off the Stuart Highway and which during the last war apparently was a containing area for military explosives. The volume of ore which has been relocated there is about that which the honourable senator mentioned in his question, that is, between 100 tonnes and 200 tonnes. Apparently only a small proportion of that area would be uranium-bearing.
The entrance to Snake Creek is by a gravel road some half mile off the Stuart Highway. The entrance to the area is blocked by a locked gate across the road and there is a sign saying ‘Keep Out’. The perimeter is fenced off by stranded barbed wire and should be secure. The ore was deposited some 300 to 400 yards within the enclosure and is out of sight of the main entrance. In addition, the area containing the ore body carries a sign saying ‘Uranium Ore. Keep Clear’. It should be an indication to people that they should stay away.
The honourable senator mentioned a figure of $300,000 being available. I am unable to verify whether that figure is correct. My understanding is that if money is required to make the area more secure or to provide a better environment now that the ore has been removed from its rightful place, money would be forthcoming. But I shall attempt to verify that aspect with the Minister and get that information to the honourable senator.
-My question, which is directed to the Attorney-General, arises from information that has been provided to me by what could be described as ‘a usually reliable source’. The information is to the effect that the Government is keeping records of all overseas telephone calls to and from Australia and copies of all cables to and from Australia for the purpose of obtaining information which may be relevant to the improper activities of certain persons in regard to currency speculation and breaches of the exchange control regulations. I understand also from the information that was given to me that there is a further proviso that none of the information so obtained shall be used without the permission of the AttorneyGeneral. I would point out that this question does not relate to security within the normal sense of the word, but to other matters. I ask the Attorney-General whether the information which has been given to me is correct.
– This matter seems only incidentally to concern my portfolio. I really believe that the question should more appropriately have been addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. However, as the matter has been raised with me, I shall discuss it with the Minister for Post and Telecommunications to see whether any answer can be given to the honourable senator.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for National Development whether he is aware of recent Press reports describing a new process being developed by the Mobil Oil Corporation whereby methanol is converted directly to gasoline. Can the Minister inform the Senate as to what steps the Government has taken to examine this new process?
Will it necessitate a major re-assessment of Australian plans for a joint feasibility study with West Germany into synthetic fuel processes?
– I am aware of the publicity that was given recently to the development by an American oil company of a process which produces gasoline directly from methanol. This is significant because methanol can be produced from both natural gas and coal. Australia, prospectively, has very significant amounts of both those products. I am given to understand that this process is one of a number of processes being developed around the world in the search to produce synthetic liquid fuels.
The honourable senator would be aware that the Commonwealth Government, together with the governments of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, is currently examining a proposal from the Government of West Germany and German private companies to undertake a feasibility study into the production of liquid fuels from coal by a route which reportedly is already developed on a commercial scale, unlike, I understand, the one mentioned in recent newspaper reports. The Government has also had before it recommendations from the National Energy Advisory Committee concerning the need to investigate all methods of production of liquid fuels from coal which may be relevant to Australia’s future needs. The Australian Minerals and Energy Council is also strongly of the view that increased coal research should be pursued including research into the conversion of coal to gas or liquids.
Honourable senators know that the Government stated in its election platform that it would increase energy research and development in Australia and establish a high level body to advise on the special measures needed to administer an expanded program of energy research and development. All these matters, including the one mentioned by Senator Tehan, are of enormous interest both to Australia and to the world itself in this bridging period in which there is a mounting energy shortage and a seeking to find alternative methods of producing liquid fuels. Work by all these bodies is important to Australia and the world.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. It is a follow up to an earlier question. There is a Catch 22 situation in the rubber industry in New South Wales. To fill a gap in the number of available tyre builders the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations recommended the tapping of the pool of unemployed people in the Granville area and giving them a mini-National Employment and Training scheme for training as tyre builders. The rubber manufacturers favour the recruitment of overseas tyre builders. Since this matter has gone on for at least six weeks, when can we get it clarified? Quite apart from the union position, many of us have applications from Latin Americans who argue that there are tyre builders in Uruguay employed by a multinational company. In essence, there appears to be a lack of co-ordination between the Department of Immigration, the Department of Productivity and the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations.
– I do not have any up to date details about what is apparently a fairly long-standing problem. I shall refer the question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and endeavour to obtain an answer from him.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In January 1978 it was announced that the Department of Primary Industry and the Department of Industry and Commerce were examining whether the question of increasing cheese imports should be referred to the Industries Assistance Commission and that submissions were awaited from the cheese manufacturers to enable that decision to be made. Have submissions been received from the cheese industry? Have the departments mentioned considered the matter? Will the inquiry go ahead as the imports of cheese which are still increasing are causing real problems to what has been one of the few satisfactory areas of the dairy industry?
– I recognise the interest of Senator Archer from Tasmania in this matter. He has been a firm supporter of the industry over a number of years. I am able to advise him that the cheese manufacturers, supported by the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation, have asked for a reference to be made to the Industries Assistance Commission in regard to all cheese imports. My understanding is that the case is before the Department of Primary Industry and the Department of Industry and Commerce. The officers of those departments are looking at it with a view to making a recommendation to their Ministers. I shall refer the honourable senator’s question to the Minister whom I represent. If I can get any more conclusive information than that which I have given to him I shall do so.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Security because I believe that her Department has the carriage of this matter. I understand that an announcement has been made to the effect that the Federal Government has set up a Year of the Child Committee consisting of representatives from the National Council of Women, the County Women ‘s Association and the National Council of Jewish Women. As those three bodies represent specific groups of women- professional women, country women and women from one religious group -and in view of the fact that when last September the Union of Australian Women was told by the Government Office of Child Care in Canberra that it was one of only three organisations that had shown any interest in the Year of the Child, will the Minister increase the membership of the Committee to give wider representation, including representation of the Union of Australian Women which has done a deal of work on its own on this important matter?
– A committee of nongovernment organisations has been set up to assist in the observance of the International Year of the Child, but that committee does not consist only of representatives from the three organisations mentioned by Senator Melzer. Approximately 12 national organisations have been invited to be represented on the committee. This represents a wide cross-section of organisations throughout the Australian community. Those organisations are involved in the fields of medicine and child care; others are interested in the rehabilitation of disabled people. A whole series of organisations has been invited to be represented on the committee. We have attempted to invite onto the committee as national organisations co-ordinating organisations for particular groups of people.
The various State governments have also set up committees consisting of State government representatives and representatives from voluntary organisations. Many organisations, including the Union of Australian Women, which have made representations to be on a national committee or to work in connection with the observance of the International Year of the Child may find that they are invited by State governments to be on their committees. At the Federal Government level we attempted to have represented on the committee organisations which represent many thousands of people in
Australia and many hundreds of co-ordinating bodies in order to give the widest representation on the national level.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources whether he has seen reports to the effect that the New Zealand Government is proposing increases in tariffs applying to Australian goods from some 17 per cent to 25 per cent, while reducing the overall general rate of duty from 55 per cent to 40 per cent, which would mean that the preferential margin on Australian goods would be reduced from 38 per cent to 15 per cent. I ask the Minister: Do these proposed changes come within the New Zealand- Australia Free Trade Agreement? As such proposals could adversely affect many Australian exports to New Zealand, will the Government be having early discussions with the New Zealand Government in an endeavour to avoid Australian exports to New Zealand being so disadvantaged, particularly within the terms of the New Zealand -Australia Free Trade Agreement?
-I shall have to seek that technical information for the honourable senator.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs by reminding her that I have raised in this chamber on previous occasions the possibility of a takeover of the Herberton Aboriginal Reserve by the Queensland Government for mining or other purposes. I remind the Minister also that I have been assured by the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement that that is not true. There are continuing stories that in fact my original statements were true. I now ask the Minister whether she will cause an immediate inquiry to be instituted with a view to ensuring that the Aboriginal community land at Herberton is left intact for the use of Aborigines. Can the Minister inform the Parliament also whether it is the intention of the Queensland Government to take over the Aboriginal community reserve at Ravenshoe for State Government development purposes?
– I think this matter is the subject of legislation.
-No, it is not.
– The matter which has been raised by Senator Keeffe would come within the ambit of the legislation with which we will deal later today because that legislation could cover all Aboriginal reserves in the State of Queensland. However, I am not aware of any proposed move by the Queensland Government with regard to the Herberton Aboriginal Reserve. I shall draw the matter to the attention of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to see whether he can give any information to Senator Keeffe on this matter or whether he feels any action is necessary with regard to the matter that has been raised.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Science, relates to the tragic and devastating cyclone which caused at least five deaths and an enormous amount of damage in the south-west of Western Australia. The Bureau of Meteorology normally adopts an excellent system by which progress of a cyclone is reported by radio at short intervals in order to give those people who may be in danger time to take defensive action. However, in the case of this week’s cyclone reports were discontinued long before most of the damage had occurred. Will the Minister investigate this matter for the purpose of endeavouring to ensure that cyclone reports are continued until the period of danger has passed?
– I acknowledge the comments made by the honourable senator about the cyclone. It may be appropriate for me to bring to the Senate a statement regarding the meteorological aspects of it. I was warned of this matter during the day and I sent a communication to the Leader of the Government in the Senate about the devastation that was likely to be caused in Western Australia because of the unusual nature of that cyclone. My understanding is that the Bureau of Meteorology conducted itself well and this was acknowledged in the West. The honourable senator suggests that some arrangements should be made to provide forecasts of the protracted effect of a cyclone. I shall make an inquiry into whether the forecasts were confined in the instance referred to. I was not aware of the point made by the honourable senator but I will re-read his question to see whether I can bring a comment to the Senate.
-I preface my question which is directed to the Minister for Social Security by referring to a question asked by Senator Young on 7 March. His question related to a letter written to the editor of the
Adelaide Advertiser stating complaints by a woman who had to wait four hours to fill out an ordinary form and other complaints about the behaviour of staff at the office of the Department of Social Security. The Minister replied that she had asked for a report on the matters raised and that she would also ensure that any further information on the matter was given to Senator Young. Has the Minister now received the report from her Department on the matters raised? Will other honourable senators be supplied with a copy of the report together with any further information promised to Senator Young?
-I received a report from my Department on the matters raised. I recall signing a letter to be sent to Senator Young which gave him the information. I will be very happy to make a copy of that letter available to Senator Cameron, giving him the information about the incident in the Department. It is fair to say that some confused remarks were made in the allegations about disservice in the Department. There was some confusion as to who were members of staff in the Department and who were people waiting in the office for assistance. As I said, I will be happy to make that information available to Senator Cameron without any further delay.
-Is the Minister for Social Security aware of the increasing complaints of delays of several weeks in the payment of allowances under the National Employment and Training scheme, paticularly to many people who have previously been receiving unemployment benefit and have been transferred to the NEAT scheme on the advice of officers of her Department? Is she also aware that inquiries made into the reasons for these delays elicited the reply that the delay is due to difficulties in the Department of Social Security which is the paying agent and difficulties with the Department’s computer? Has the Minister made any investigations about this matter? Will she take actions to alleviate the hardships caused by some of these delays?
– I am aware of some difficulties with regard to payments of allowances under the National Employment and Training scheme. I will check the up-to-date position to see whether those difficulties have been overcome. I am not aware whether the difficulties were related entirely to computer operations or whether other factors were part of the problem. However, I will see that Senator Grimes is advised of the present position.
– My question which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development arises from a letter written to me by the Minister for National Development, Mr Newman, on 20 March as a result of my remarks during the debate on the National Water Resources (Financial Assistance) Bill 1978. Senator Carrick has a copy of that letter. In view of the statement by the Minister to the effect that the State Electricity Commission of Victoria was obliged to meet all costs associated with the construction of the hydroelectric power installations at Dartmouth I now ask the Minister: Is the SEC of Victoria also obliged to meet the full cost of any necessary work which may have to be carried out below the Dartmouth Dam on the Mitta Mitta River to control surge effects when the hydro-electricity plant is operating or will this cost be shared by all governments which are members of the River Murray Commission?
– I am aware of the letter that was sent by my colleague to Senator McLaren and the circumstances arising out of the debate on the National Water Resources (Financial Assistance) Bill. I am not aware of the details which would give rise to an answer with regard to the specifics that Senator McLaren has asked about regarding the liability for all costs of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria. I shall seek that information and let him have it.
-I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. On 30 March the Northern Territory News ran a story reporting the arrival of a boatload of Vietnamese refugees who had come from camps in Thailand. The report stated that at least two other boats had left the camps, headed for Australia. I ask the Minister: Is it a fact that more boats are on the way? Did a party of immigration officials go to Thailand to discourage refugees from coming illegally to Australia? What action does the Minister plan to take to prevent illegal immigrants from coming to Australia? How many Vietnamese have been brought to Australia as our contribution to the solution of the Vietnamese refugee problem?
– Whilst I have some knowledge of some of the matters raised by
Senator Robertson I am unable to give the accurate information he has requested. I shall refer the question to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate or the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. It refers to Press reports appearing today that the retiring ambassador to the Philippines had stated in a conference that there is a chance that there will be a uranium agreement between Australia and the Philippines at an early date. He could not give details then but he said that they had been completed. I ask the Minister: Are the statements reported in the Press correct? In regard to the agreement, is the Government satisfied that the reservations expressed by the United States of America Government agencies and Congress committees in respect to the technical experience of the Philippines in this area are such as to warrant any agreement? In addition, will he make available to Parliament a full report about this matter at the earliest opportunity?
– There is some doubt as to whether Senator Withers or I have the jurisdiction over this question. I think that both of us are unaware of either the newspaper report or the accuracy of that report. Because the subsequent questions raise specific and technical details I think they merit specific replies and I shall get them for Senator Bishop.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education although again the ministerial responsibility for a reply is blurred. Is the Minister aware of the invidious position in which the Adelaide Aboriginal College finds itself with regard to funding, accommodation and staffing? How does the Minister justify the Government’s apparent lack of positive action on the problem in view of the Governments avowed intentions with regard to improved Aboriginal status and selfmanagement and educational standards generally? Can the Minister say whether and how the Government intends to help the Adelaide Aboriginal College, thereby implementing the policies that it has stated?
- Senator Haines is correct in saying that there is something of a demarcation dispute between Ministers on this matter with regard to who should answer the question.
There is no dispute that the aim of the Government is to provide the best education we can for the Aborigine. I do not have information on the up to date situation at the Adelaide Aboriginal College immediately before me. I would not want to give that information off the top of my head. I shall seek that information and let the honourable senator know. Then, if there are other matters that she would like to develop, if she would indicate them to me I shall seek information on them for her. I shall also talk to my colleague in another place, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, about his knowledge of the subject.
– My question is addressed to Senator Durack, the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Does he recall his colleague, the Minister in another place, being quoted on an Australian Broadcasting Commission program on 3 March as saying that he had ordered a full inquiry into an incident involving a member of the Government attempting to have some goods brought into Australia illegally in a Foreign Affairs diplomatic bag?
Did the member concerned refuse to pay duty and were the goods confiscated after that refusal? Is the Minister able to indicate to the Senate the results of any inquiry that the Government conducted?
– I do not have information on that matter. I will refer the honourable senator’s question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and endeavour to obtain an early answer from him.
– Some time ago I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Construction a question regarding the moving of the Department of Construction to Canberra. I am wondering whether he has any more information on the matter.
-The original question which was raised by the honourable senator related to the decision that the Department of Construction basically would move from Melbourne to Canberra. On 16 November last the Prime Minister announced that the Government intended to transfer approximately 500 public servants and defence Service positions from Melbourne to Canberra in the 1 978-79 year and that further contingents, totalling about 500 positions, would move to Canberra in the subsequent two years. The units to be transferred in 1978-79, and the respective numbers of positions, are as follows: 195 positions from the Department of Defence; 164 positions from the Department of Transport; 50 positions from the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations; and 75 positions from the Department of Construction. The time-table endorsed by the Cabinet for the Department of Construction provides for a further 175 positions to be transferred in 1979-80, and for the remainderof the order of 150 to 200 positions- to be transferred in 1980-81. I have some additional information on the matter and perhaps it would be reasonable for me to provide a full letter on it to the honourable senator. I will do that this day.
-Has the Minister for Social Security given instructions to State Health Departments that municipal councils employing welfare officers under the States Grants (Home Care) Act must require them to devote 100 per cent of their working hours to the aged? As this would result in welfare officers ceasing their valuable community work for people in need, without isolating the aged, why has the change been made in the conditions of the subsidy?
– I will check on the matter that has been raised to see whether any change in instructions has been made. As the honourable senator would know, the States Grants (Home Care) Act is one under which we work with the States to enable such services to be provided, and whilst in recent years we have been unable to increase as much as we would like the number of grants that have been made to the States, it has been a very satisfactory way of working.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he is able to say whether the issue of an Australian passport can be denied to an Australian citizen living in a foreign country.
-As I understand it, nobody has a right to a passport. They are always issued at the discretion of the Minister for the time being. I cannot answer the particular question which the honourable senator asks but I will get what details I can. The honourable senator would also know that there is, I think, a Senate committee -
– An interdepartmental committee.
– An interdepartmental committee which looks at the whole range of passports. I will seek the details for the honourable senator from my ministerial colleague in another place.
-My question, which I direct to the Minister for Social Security, relates to the pension matter which has been the subject of a fair deal of Press exposure over the last few days. In view of the way in which some of Australia ‘s deficit has been shown to be due to payment of pensions to people who have allegedly obtained those pensions by dishonest means and in view of the difficulty of deciding whether pensions paid overseas should in fact continue to be paid, and remembering that it is difficult to extract tax from pensions sent overseas if the recipient happens to be working and therefore is obtaining extra money on which in Australia he would have to pay tax, will the Minister and the Government examine the whole matter of reciprocity of pensions?
– The basic question asked by the honourable senator was whether the Government would examine the matter of reciprocity of pensions. At present pensions are paid overseas on the basis of portability of pensions as distinct from reciprocity with particular governments. Australia has reciprocal agreements with New Zealand and Great Britain but these agreements are largely overtaken by the portability provisions which have existed since, I think, 1973 or 1974. The portability arrangements work in such a way that a person who is entitled to receive a pension while he is living in Australia may continue to receive that pension if he lives in another country.
Representations have been made to the Australian Government by several countries with a view to establishing reciprocal agreements. Germany, Greece and Italy have made representations, and I have had visits from ministers from other countries, with a view to arranging reciprocal agreements. Therefore it is quite accurate to say that the Government has under consideration the establishment of reciprocal agreements. Of course, if such a proposition were fully developed the matter of portability of pensions as it presently exists would be subject to the same review. I can assure the honourable senator that the matter of reciprocal agreements is under consideration between governments and the matter of portability of pensions would be reviewed at the time when any reciprocal agreement was finalised.
-Yesterday Senator Button asked me a question concerning the computer for the Weapons Research Establishment at Salisbury. I gave him an answer which I thought was correct. He then asked a supplementary question in which he said he thought that the matter was more complicated than was indicated by the answer I had given. He asked whether I would seek further information. I have, and the information is as follows: In October 1972 the Interdepartmental Committee on Automatic Data Processing gave approval for the acquisition of a digital computer for the WRE. In December 1972 the IDC on ADP approved the specifications and tenders were called by the South Australian regional office of the purchasing division. Tenders were called for following options: Outright purchase, rental, and rental with option to purchase. Tenders closed on 22 March 1973 and two bids were received for the complete system. In addition, a number of part tenders were received for printers, VDUs modems, paper tape units and maintenance.
In November 1974 the IDC agreed with the proposal to rent with option to buy. However, it indicated that any major enhancement of the tendered configuration should be through calling of open tenders. Instruction to proceed was issued to IBM Australia Ltd on 13 November 1974 and a formal contract- CAPO- was issued on 3 May 1975. The contract was for rental with option to buy. Cost of rental to date is as follows: To 30 June 1976, $1,224,351; 1 July 1976 to 30 June 1977, $2,048,000; 1 July 1977 to 30 June 1978, $2,335,000; making a total of $5,607,351. In July 1977, at the request of WRE, IBM was notified of a wish to change the configuration; the existing 3168 central processor to be replaced by a 3000 Series central processor. The processor would be 1.6 times more powerful and would cost some $192,000 per annum less to rent than did the old 3168 processor. The Government is considering going to open tender as a means of achieving a permanent solution to the upgrading of the WRE facility. It is estimated that it will take some 12 months to acquire the new machine. In the meantime it is proposed that the IBM equipment will continue to be rented.
– I refer to my answer to a question relating to cyclones in Western
Australia today by Senator Thomas. He inquired about the performance of the Bureau of Meteorology. I would like to read a telex which was received from the Acting Regional Director of Meteorology in Western Australia. It may be useful information for some honourable senators from the West: 1.1 A tropical cyclone watch was commenced for coastal areas Port Hedland to Exmouth Gulf on 27 March 1978 at 7 a.m. WST. This watch was maintained as tropical Cyclone Alby moved on a south west to south course and by 7 a.m. WST 3 April it covered the coastal area from Carnarvon to Kalbarri. At I p.m. 3 April the watch was cancelled when Alby was located 870 KM WNW or Kalbarri and weakening. 1.2 Satellite pictures from the Japanese Geostationary Meteorological Satellite were used to follow the track of Cyclone Alby and also to evaluate intensity. These evaluations showed that it reached a maximum intensity on 2 April with a central pressure of approximately 960 millibars. 1.3 Gale warnings for shipping associated with tropical Cyclone Alby were issued at 6 hourly intervals as from 1 AM WST 28 March until 7 AM WST 29 March but at 1 PM WST 29 March the warning was upgraded to a storm warning and these storm warnings to shipping are being maintained at 6 hourly intervals, the last warning having been issued by the Perth Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre at 7 AM VVST 5 April when its storm centre was located approximately 700 KM SE of Albany and maintaining a rapid south eastern movement. 1.4 As tropical Alby adopted a south to south east course strong wind warning was issued for coastal waters between Carnarvon and Jurien Bay at 2.30 PM WST 3 April and a gale warning for coastal waters Murchison River to Albany was issued at 9 AM WST 4 April.
– I refer to a question directed to me earlier today in Question Time by Senator Button. It concerned the availability of forms at the Australian Legal Aid Office in Victoria. I have had the matter checked and I assure the Senate that there has been no shortage of application forms for legal aid in that office. No person has been denied legal aid because of the unavailability of application forms. I am also informed that the Melbourne office of ALAO at present holds a stock of about 8,000 application forms which are available for distribution to clients and private practitioners.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Tertiary Education Commission for the 1979-8 1 triennium, Volume 1, Recommendations and Guidelines. I seek leave to make a short statement in relation to the document.
– This report by the Tertiary Education Commission makes recommendations on the allocation of resources for universities, colleges of advanced education and technical and further education institutions for the triennium 1979-81 and includes the separate advices of the councils for the three sectors. The report has been prepared under the procedures which I foreshadowed last October. Honourable senators will remember that the Government accepted the proposal by the Tertiary Education Commission that its advice to the Government for the 1979-81 triennium should be in two stages. This report is the first stage. It deals with the needs and priorities of the tertiary sectors and includes recommendations within the financial planning guidelines the Government has already indicated for 1979 and 1980. I said in October that the Government had accepted the Commission’s proposal in the belief that such advice would be valuable during the period of preparation of the financial guidelines for the next rolling triennium, 1979-81, to which the Commission will respond in the second stage of its report.
In chapter 2 of this report, the Commission suggests a number of modifications to the present triennial arrangements. The Government will consider them in the development of its overall budgetary policies. The Commission’s financial recommendations are on the basis that the Commonwealth fully funds universities and colleges of advanced education and tops up States’ funding of technical and further education.
The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said in his policy statement in November 1977 that the Government would add to the total technical and further education program an additional $50m for capital facilities in the States over the 1979-81 triennium. I subsequently wrote to the Commission and indicated that the Government would give consideration to some part of the additional funds being applied in 1982 if circumstances warranted this. The report’s financial recommendations are consistent with the indicative planning guidelines of 2 per cent per annum growth for 1979 and 1980, together with allocations for those years from the additional $50m for technical and further education. The Commission has recommended that the balance of the $50m for technical and further education be applied in 1981 and 1982 to ensure the most effective utilisation of the additional funds. For 1 98 1 , the third year of the new rolling triennium, the Commission has recommended a level of grants amounting to an increase of 1.3 per cent, which would include an allocation from the additional funds for technical and further education capital facilities.
Relevant State and institutional authorities have been consulted by the Commission in the preparation of this report, which is now being passed to the States for their consideration. The Government will consider the report in detail in formulating its guidelines for the 1 979-8 1 triennium and will announce its decisions as soon as possible. Once the guidelines have been issued, the Commission will prepare volume 2 of its report. This will involve recommendations on the detailed allocation of funds between programs and institutions in time for Government decisions on the allocations to be made and incorporated in legislation to appropriate the necessary funds during the forthcoming Budget session.
– Pursuant to section 44 of the Australian Institute of Marine Science Act 1972 I present the report of the council of the Institute of Marine Science for the year from 1 July 1 976 to 30 June 1977. I seek leave to make a short statement relating to this report.
– In spite of limitations during the year on staff members and facilities the Institute has made significant contributions to the study of tropical marine systems. AIMS research programs have been carefully selected to make optimum use of available resources, and for their current importance to tropical marine science as a whole.
Current programs fall into the following broad areas:
Tropical marine food webs.
Reef building organisms and the Great Barrier Reef.
Tropical Marine pollution.
I draw the attention of honourable senators to the reference on page 18 of the report to an error contained in a statement in the previous annual report of the Institute. I am advised that the error, which involves an understatement by $10,000 in the figure for plant, machinery, vehicles and vessels, occurred during the preparation of that report by AIMS for printing. I also draw attention to the Auditor-General ‘s report on page 22 which identifies a number of deficiencies in the financial statement of the Institute. I am advised that action has been taken by the Institute to correct these deficiencies.
-by leave-1 move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) read a first time.
– I move:
Mr President, when I use the personal pronoun I’ in this second reading speech, 1 mean the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner). This Bill will guarantee the right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities on Aboriginal and Island reserves in Queensland to manage their own affairs. Its provisions are all directed to ensuring that if the communities have chosen not to be administered by officials of the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement they will not have official management foisted upon them. If communities now managed and controlled by government officials consider that they are ready for selfmanagement and are prepared to take responsibility for community affairs as reserve communities elsewhere in Australia have done, they may apply to have the legislation cover their reserves.
This legislation responds directly and positively to the expressed wishes of the Aboriginal people at Aurukun and Mornington Island that the Commonwealth Government prevent the takeover by the Queensland Government from the Uniting Church of management of the two communities. It is carefully designed to achieve that result within the constitutional power of the Commonwealth, given by the 1967 referendum, to make special laws for the people of any race for whom it is deemed necessary.
Aurukun had been administered by the Church and its predecessors under Queensland legislation since 1904 and Mornington Island since 1914. The possibility of a Queensland Government takeover at Aurukun had been discussed with the Church last year and representatives of the Church had then discussed the matter at length with the Aboriginal community. The consensus view of the community was that the Church should remain at Aurukun. The Church accordingly informed the Queensland Minister at the end of December that it could enter into negotiations about the transfer of responsibility only on the basis that it would abide by the expressed will of the Aurukun community, and that it would need to be assured that the Queensland Government accepted responsibility to maintain essential services to those groups wishing to live and work in their tribal lands on the reserve and that the continuing role of the Church within the community would be defined to the satisfaction of the Church.
The Queensland Minister, on 13 March, handed to the Moderator of the Queensland Synod of the Uniting Church in Queensland, a letter informing him of the Cabinet’s decision to cease support for the Church’s administration on 3 1 March and have the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement assume complete responsibility for the management and wellbeing of the Aurukun and Mornington Island communities from that date. The Queensland Government had not discussed with the Church a possible takeover of responsibility for the Mornington Island community. There had been rumours that such a takeover was being considered and, because I was advised that the rumours were causing uncertainty within the community, I wrote to the Queensland Minister, Mr Porter, inquiring about these rumours on 10 February. He replied on 20 February but did not indicate whether or not a takeover was planned. Then, as I have said, on 13 March the Queensland Government acted. I was informed of the Queensland Government’s decisions by the Uniting Church and my Brisbane officers. I, at once, consulted with representatives of the Uniting Church and of the two communities. I was satisfied that the communities strongly opposed the Government decision and that there had been no prior consultation with the communities.
The Government considered my report on 22 March and decided that legislation should be prepared to ensure that the expressed wishes of the communities were not overridden. It also decided that attempts should be made to dissuade the Queensland Government from proceeding with its decision and to persuade it to amend its legislation applying to Aboriginals and Islanders. Accordingly, Mr Nixon and I went to Brisbane on 29 March to discuss the matter with Queensland Ministers. At that meeting, a conditional agreement was reached to explore with both the Church and the Aboriginal communities the possibility of a temporary joint management arrangement in the two communities between the State Department and the Church. This agreement was expressly subject to acceptance by the Church and the Aboriginal communities as stated in the joint statement issued by the Ministers who attended the meeting, including the Queensland Premier and the Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs.
When I visited Aurukun on 30 March and Mornington Island on 1 April to explain the position of the Commonwealth and to listen to their views, the Councils and the people of the two communities made it absolutely clear to me that they did not wish to have the Queensland Department manage their communities and believed that any joint management arrangement was undesirable and unworkable, and they were opposed to it. They are very conscious of the differences of policy approach between the Uniting Church and the Commonwealth on the one hand, and the Queensland Government on the other and considered that they could not serve two masters. They indicated that the Church staff understand and support their aspirations and in particular their wishes to manage community affairs themselves and to be free to live where they choose on the reserve and to develop their own outstation communities. They are well aware that the Queensland Government Ministers have expressed opposition to the movement of groups out of Aurukun over the past few years. Many have visited or lived on reserve communities managed by the Queensland Department or talked to residents of those communities and they expressed misgivings about the future of their communities under direct State departmental administration.
Speakers at meetings in both places expressed their appreciation of Commonwealth Government support for community initiatives and their strong wish that they be permitted to continue to develop their communities in their own style, with the advice and help of the Church and the financial support of the Commonwealth Government. My experience paralleled that of the honourable member for Leichhardt, Mr David Thomson, and a Government members group led by the honourable member for Petrie, Mr John Hodges, and comprising the honourable member for Bowman, Mr David Jull, and Senators Bonner, Martin and Knight, who had visited the two communities before me. Mr Hodges had suggested the visit to me and I was pleased to respond to what, together with Mr Thomson’s visit, proved to be an invaluable contribution to the Commonwealth’s efforts to stand by the communities.
The Queensland Premier is reported to have said recently:
The people on the missions in Queensland live their own lives. They make all the decisions. We, the Government, don’t.
If this were so, there would be no need for the State Department to take over the official management of the two communities, nor would there be any need to introduce this Bill. The Bill seeks to ensure that the Aboriginal people living on reserves in Queensland should be, to quote the 1 975 Aboriginal Affairs Policy Statement of the Liberal and National Country Parties, ‘as free as other Australians to determine their own varied futures. ‘
In introducing this legislation, the Government seeks only to extend Aboriginal management of their own community affairs. The Commonwealth is not enlarging its own powers; it is not in any sense taking over the reserves itself, but is only allowing the communities themselves to exercise local responsibility. The Commonwealth has not in any other State taken over the reserves established under State law but applies its policies of self-management to communities living on those reserves. Elsewhere in Australia, Aboriginal communities have for years been able to manage their local affairs if they wished. Only in Queensland is there legislation that gives Government officials power to control, manage and direct communities on reserves.
The Queensland legislation- the Aborigines Act and the Torres Strait Islanders Act and the regulations and by-laws made under themprovide that officials, as well as Aboriginal and Island Councils, manage the affairs of reserve communities and the officials have the overriding power and responsibility. Under the Acts, the Governor-in-Council may appoint a manager of a reserve and may establish a community on a reserve and appoint ‘such officers, resident or visiting, as he thinks necessary for the well-being of the persons within the community’. The manager and other officers who have control of reserves are responsible to and subject to the direction of the Director of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement. Managers appointed to reserves are responsible to the Minister and the Director of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement, not to the Aboriginal communities. Regulation 7 provides that a community on a reserve is ‘under the control of the Manager and Council of such a community’, but Regulation 19, in making councils responsible to managers, clearly established that the dual control system is not a partnership of equals; the manager is in charge.
The situation in the Torres Strait Islands is different from that on the larger Aboriginal reserves, although the law relating to Island reserves is very similar to the law applying to Aboriginal reserves. The management of Island reserves may be vested in managers and officers may be appointed to communities on Island reserves, but generally there are no resident managers on the island reserves. The island councils are hence not responsible to managers but to a district officer in Thursday Island. To this extent, the Island councils are more independent than Aboriginal councils, but they remain subject to the control and direction of the district officer and the Director and thereby remain under the direct administration of the Department.
The means by which the legislation achieves its purpose of ensuring that if communities wish it, their councils control community affairs without being subject to the overriding power of government officials is as follows:
The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs may declare that the legislation applies to a reserve or community on request by a council established under the Queensland law or if he is satisfied that a substantial majority of the adults resident on the reserve or community wish it; an existing council established under Queensland law or a body declared to be a council for the purposes of the Act, will have the function of managing community affairs and the necessary powers to carry out that function; any declared body established under the regulations will be an elected council or otherwise a properly incorporated body; councils will have power to make by-laws and to authorise entry to reserves; by express provision, councils and individual Aboriginals and Islanders will not be bound to obey directions given by officials under the Queensland legislation; councils will be responsible only to their communities; the Commonwealth may, if it becomes necessary in order to give effect to the purposes of the legislation, make available to councils land acquired by or otherwise vested in the Commonwealth; and in the case of acquisition, the provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act will apply.
The legislation will not apply to any community unless the community, through its council or directly, asks the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to make a declaration that the Act apply to the particular reserve or community. No such declaration will be made without full consultation with the community and without a clear expression of community opinion in favour of such a declaration. Thus it will be by an act of choice rather than imposition by the Commonwealth that the legislation applies to any particular community. As the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) stated in the inaugural meeting of the National Aboriginal Conference earlier this week:
It was never good enough for politicians or bureaucrats whether at the State or Federal level to impose on the Aboriginal people their conception of what was good for the Aboriginal people. Aboriginals have the same right as other Australian citizens to determine what is best for them.
At the national level, the establishment of the National Aboriginal Conference expresses the Government’s commitment to involving Aboriginals in setting goals and objectives which government should pursue, in setting priorities for expenditure and in evaluating programs, formulating new programs and taking responsibility for the success of programs. At the local community level, we have been seeking to encourage and help Aboriginal people throughout Australia to take full responsibility for decisionmaking in the management of community affairs. This policy of self-management has been implemented for a number of years in other States and territories and in Queensland outside the reserves. The Government is making it possible for Aboriginals as individuals and as communities to stand on their own feet.
Self-management does not mean abandoning Aboriginal communities to fend for themselves after years of dependence on governments and missions. The full resources of the Commonwealth are made available in support of community self-management. We provide not only financial assistance but advice and support, and enable communities to hire staff to help them. In many communities in the States and the Territory, where the churches, including the Uniting Church, have previously managed mission communities for many years, they continue to provide advice and support and especially help in the recruitment of resource staff and in the training of Aboriginals to perform administrative and technical duties as directed by the community councils. This is the policy which this legislation will enable us to implement in Queensland reserves. Communities will not be directed by officials but will have decision-making authority in their own hands.
State government departments in these situations continue to provide the ordinary community services available to other Australians. In all States, education, health and community welfare departments, for example, provide services to Aboriginal communities in the same way as they do to other citizens, There is no reason why these and other State Government services should be affected if reserve communities in Queensland choose self-management under this legislation.
In Queensland as in other States, the Commonwealth Government provides grants through the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to support the special programs of State education, health and other departments in Aboriginal and Island communities. We look forward to continuing co-operation with the Queensland authorities in the provision of services to all Aboriginal and Island communities. General Queensland law will, of course, continue to apply to people living on reserves and this legislation will not affect the maintenance of law and order in communities.
The Commonwealth Government is ready to discuss with the Queensland Government at any time arrangements that might be made to transfer responsibility for policy planning and coordination in Aboriginal affairs from the State to the Commonwealth. All the other States negotiated agreements for the transfer of responsibilities, following the enactment of the Aboriginal Affairs (Arrangements with the States) Act in 1973: These agreements do not mean that the States resign all responsibilities in Aboriginal affairs. In Western Australia, for example, the special State legislation- the Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority Act- remains in force. That legislation provides, among other things, for the establishment of an Aboriginal lands trust, with special responsibilities with regard to the use of Aboriginal reserve lands. Under the arrangement with the Western Australian Government, the Regional Director of my Department in Perth, who was the Commissioner for Aboriginal Planning before the transfer of responsibilities, retained this office under the State legislation. I have previously indicated to Queensland Ministers my interest in discussing possible arrangements for the transfer of responsibilities to the Commonwealth along the lines agreed with the other States and intend to renew the invitation to discuss this issue.
The Queensland Government is engaged in a review of its Aboriginal and Islander legislation. It has appointed an Aboriginal and Islander Commission to advise it. The legislation was due to expire last December but has been extended until next June so that the Government can consider the report of the Commission. The previous Queensland Minister, Mr Wharton, invited me to submit the views of the Commonwealth Government to this Commission and I will be responding to this invitation. I have already indicated in general terms the Commonwealth Government’s view that the Queensland legislation is in several important respects out of date and inappropriate, particularly in its provisions placing management and trusteeship of reserves in the hands of officials which effectively takes out of the hands of the Aboriginals and Islanders not only ownership of lands specially set aside for them but any meaningful authority to manage their own communities.
Similar legislation designed to supervise and control Aboriginal people and set them apart from others has long since been repealed in other States and in Commonwealth Territories. It is a relic of earlier policies directed to protecting Aboriginal people by limiting their freedoms and controlling their relations with other citizens. This Bill is designed to deal with a fundamental aspect of the Queensland legislation: Management of reserve communities by departmental officials. I believe it does this fully and effectively. It meets the needs of the special situation at Aurukun and Mornington Island and the widespread and increasing desire of Aboriginal and Islander communities for self-management.
Communities other than Aurukun and Mornington Island will no doubt want to study the legislation and consider carefully whether they too should seek a declaration that the legislation apply to them. When I visited the Torres Strait last week, the Island chairmen gathered at Yam Island expressed not only their sympathy and support for the Aurukun and Mornington Island communities, but also their keen interest in this legislation. They spoke to me of their wish to have their councils control expenditure on community services in the Islands which are at present provided by the Queensland Department, as one step towards independence in the management of their own affairs. I have no doubt that there are Aboriginal communities on the mainland which will be similarly interested in the legislation. Many may well choose to wait and see how the new arrangements work at Aurukun and Mornington Island. I stress that no community will be pressed to make a decision on these matters and no change will be forced upon any community.
I trust that the Queensland Government will similarly study the legislation with care and consider whether it does not in fact match its own declared policies. I trust that the Queensland Government will not seek to impede or frustrate those communities which may choose to manage their own affairs under this legislation but will rather help them and continue such services as they may now be providing to those communities.
I intend, upon the passage of the legislation, to proceed without delay to declare the Aurukun and Mornington Island reserves to be reserves to which the Act applies. As I announced on 22 March, the Commonwealth Government is ready to support the two communities and the Uniting Church with the funds necessary to ensure that existing services maintained by the Church are continued if the Queensland Government terminates its subsidy support to the Church as previously announced. My officers will be conferring with representatives of the Uniting Church and with the two communities about arrangements. Close liaison will be maintained with the communities through my Department’s area offices in North Queensland, and whatever advice, practical support and financial assistance that the communities require will be provided.
The Government will watch the situation in these two reserves closely. If further action is necessary it will be taken. As the Prime Minister stated on Monday before the National Aboriginal Conference:
These communities have turned to us. We will not fail them.
The Government would expect that good sense and a spirit of goodwill is shown by the Queensland Government towards the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island who by their stand have crystallised the simple human aspirations of the indigenous people in Queensland to be free to live their own lives, to make their own decisions and to shape their own future. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– I move:
-Is the amendment seconded?
– The reason the Australian Labor Party moves this amendment is -
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. May I inquire as to what procedure we are following? Usually, when a second reading speech has been delivered in this place an honourable senator is given the opportunity to move for the adjournment of debate until the next day of sitting so that the second reading speech may be considered. If the Australian Labor Party is not going to move that motion I desire the opportunity to do so now. At the moment I do not wish to elaborate on the very cogent reasons I have for taking that course. However, I thought that the Opposition would take the usual course of adjourning the debate. I suggest that I am entitled to put that motion before any other motion is submitted. Of course, to the submission of that motion in due course I will have no objection.
– It is within the capacity of any honourable senator to move for the adjournment of debate. But Senator Gietzelt had the call on this matter and proposed to speak immediately. It is within the rights of an honourable senator to move for the adjournment of the debate at that stage. He did not seek an adjournment and therefore he may carry on with his speech.
– I rise on this point of order but not in the usual spirit. The matter substantially refers to the order of business. I simply rise again to suggest to the Opposition that instead of proceeding with the amendment it test the feeling of the Senate as to whether an adjournment until tomorrow, to give opportunity for consideration of this Bill both to the chamber and other people, is not appropriate.
– The point raised by Senator Wright is one that agitated our minds when considering how best to handle this piece of legislation. The Government has sought to deal with the Bill as a matter of urgency and to have it passed this day. In moving our amendment we had in mind that we may attract sufficient support from Government senators to have the legislation deferred not just for one day, which I think is probably what is in the mind of Senator Wright, but to enable a proper examination of it. It is a very important and complex piece of legislation. It poses a number of questions, such as whether it is sufficiently firm to deal with the problems relating to the attitude that has been taken by the Queensland Government. In those circumstances we wish to seek legal advice as well as to refer the legislation to the National Aboriginal Conference and afford it the same opportunity. We agreed to debate the matter today and to move an amendment which would achieve the purposes that perhaps Senator Wright wanted to achieve. It is difficult to decide whether in a few hours- that is what it would amount to, between today and tomorrow morningwe would achieve the objectives that we all want in regard to this matter; that is, to have adequate time to consider the legislation. We must bear in mind that it was only at a very late hour on Tuesday night that the Opposition in the other place was given the first chance to look at the Bill. In point of fact, Party committees with which I am associated were still considering amendments to the Bill at 10.50 p.m. yesterday. The Government is proceeding with a great deal of haste on a matter of concern, one on which we have varying opinions.
– Would you seek leave to withdraw your motion in order to give me the opportunity to move for the adjournment of the debate and test that feeling at the threshhold?
– Yes. I seek leave of the Senate to withdraw my amendment so that the Senate may discuss the suggestion that has been made by Senator Wright.
– I will not have the business of the Government taken out of the hands of the Government by a backbencher.
– I think it is a matter for the leaders to discuss. In order to give them an opportunity to discuss it without the business of the chamber coming to a complete halt I state that I can see the purpose of Senator Wright’s intervention. He merely wants to go through the form of moving for the debate to be adjourned. I take it that on this occasion the Government would oppose such an adjournment so that it could proceed to deal with the Bill. Despite some reservations that we have, that is the Opposition’s intention also. So perhaps we should get to the point of having the adjournment of the debate moved and opposed and then we can proceed with the Bill.
– If the Senate is discussing a point of order, I shall use that device to speak. As
I understand it, after Senator Guilfoyle resumed her seat Senator Gietzelt sought and obtained the call, and he is entitled to speak and to move his amendment. If Senator Wright had sought and obtained the call, which he may not have, at that stage he would have been able to move for the adjournment of the debate. If Senator Gietzelt likes to surrender his call and Senator Wright likes to seek it and to move for the adjournment of the debate that is another matter. Senator Wright is attempting to use another device to upset the normal procedures. I put it to Senator Wright that if he wants this debate adjourned he should wait until he seeks and obtains the call and at that stage he may move for it. If Senator Gietzelt likes to say that he no longer wishes to speak but seeks leave to continue his remarks at a later hour this day, and Senator Wright seeks and obtains the call, that is another matter. But I think we would get into some procedural muckups if we followed the other suggested procedure. I have suggested what I think is the right way of doing it.
– We are all aware that this rather complex Bill is being put through the Parliament fairly hastily. I shall not criticise whether it is correct that it should be put through hastily. Nevertheless, I think the majority of members of this Federal Parliament see the need to have the legislation enacted as soon as possible, within reason. We have all been aware of the fact that it was the intention of the Government that the legislation go through this week. I can understand the reservations of any member of this chamber or the House of Representatives about wanting to have adequate time to study the Bill. As Senator Gietzelt has indicated already, long hours have been spent studying the Bill in the last couple of nights, probably by both sides. We came here today on the assumption that the Bill would be debated. I suggest that Senator Gietzelt should not accept the invitation to forgo his right to speak. Any other honourable senator may move that the debate be adjourned when he is enabled to do so. That is a matter for the individual to decide. So far as we are concerned, we believe the debate should proceed. As Senator Withers has pointed out, we could get ourselves into an awful bind if we start trying to alter the normal procedures now.
– I call on Senator Gietzelt.
– In moving the amendment the Opposition has in mind that there has been undue haste. I want to recapitulate the circumstances that led the Australian Labor Party to take the stand that it did in the House of Representatives yesterday so that the Senate may see that there is no inconsistency in the attitude that we have adopted. When we debated this question in the Senate several weeks ago the Labor Party members and the Government supporters who spoke showed some affinity with the view that we ought to be taking legislative actions to rectify the difficulties in Queensland as they related particularly to Aurukun and Mornington Island. Then the Senate went into recess. Since then certain events took place which prompted the Leader of my Party, Mr Hayden, supported by Dr Everingham, our spokesman on this matter, to suggest that the Parliament be recalled for the purpose of dealing with the new situation that had developed as a result of the intransigent position that was being taken by the Queensland Government, in the absence of the Premier, and then subsequently by the Premier when he returned.
Those circumstances have changed to some extent because the contemplated action of the Queensland Government did not take place on 31 March, the deadline upon which the Queensland Government said that it would act. I think it was because the Federal Government then saw that there was a need to act quickly that the legislation was prepared. We were told through the newspapers that the legislation was to go before Cabinet on Monday. We believed that there would be some chance for the parliamentary processes to come into play. It has to be said that there has been scant regard for the due parliamentary processes. In that respect I agree entirely with Senator Wright, because his complaint is the complaint that we have had also. We have found, after making certain decisions pursuant to a brief consideration of the Bill, that there was need for another look at our proposed amendments, that there were legal difficulties involved in regard to our relationships with and obligations to the blacks in Queensland.
Because we are concerned about parliamentary processes not being respected and the lack of time to examine the Bill properly, because we do not believe that the Aboriginal people themselves have been able properly to evaluate it, because the resolution that was carried at the consultative conference unanimously requested the Government to act- and that the Government’s determination to act should be sufficient deterrent to the Queensland Government- we believe that sufficient time should be allowed for the Parliament and the black communities to examine the implications and clauses of the Bill.
We would hope that Government supporters would respect our views; that the Government’s intentions are known; that the intentions of the
Parliament are known; that there is in this place a very substantial consensus about our obligations; that there is a subtantial body of opinion amongst the black communities; and that in the light thereof we would expect the Queensland Government really to honour its obligations in respect to a cooling-off period. What it amounts to, of course, is the passage of this Bill being determined today or, if Senator Wright succeeds, tomorrow, or if our proposed amendment is carried, our having also the weekend, which would give us sufficient time to consider it more seriously. We would then be back here on Monday with perhaps a much more informed position in respect of the legislation.
This is an historic Bill governing the way in which we intend to respect our obligations to the Aboriginals, and in respect of the obligations of this Parliament. It has been 190 years since white civilisation came to Australia and took by force the land that had been owned for hundreds of centuries by the indigenous people. If I may borrow a phrase that was used at another time and in another place, we have here an opportunity for the national Parliament to right the wrong. We have to accept responsibility for the fact that the Aboriginal people of this country have been wronged in the 190 years since white civilisation came to the eastern coast of Australia. There has rarely been an occasion on which such an important matter has been dealt with by this Parliament, one which concerns giving legislative effect to the very strongly held and expressed view of the people of Australia, including the overwhelming majority of the people of Queensland in the 1 967 referenda.
To the credit of all political parties, those referenda were supported. Now, only 1 1 years after, we have to consider one of the most important aspects of the rights of Aborigines. We do not believe- it is the considered view of the Opposition- that we can fulfil our obligations in that regard unless the Bill is considerably strengthened. Only then will the desires of the Aboriginal people and of the people of Australia be realised in the Bill. That will not happen unless the Senate is prepared, and able, to comprehend the very important amendments that we seek to move at the committee stage.
Whilst I can understand the historic nature of the legislation before us, I am of the opinion that it fails to attain the objectives which the Government has so clearly announced to the Australian people both previously and in the Minister’s second reading speech. The proposed legislation fails to live up to the expectations that we all had two weeks ago when the Government in the person of Senator Guilfoyle, and as a result of the debate which had taken place here, gave me a firm commitment that it would take legislative action if the position in Queensland were not adequately resolved. It is precisely that failure which has prompted both the amendment that I have moved on behalf of the Opposition and the further amendments that I and my colleagues will move at the Committee stage.
This Bill arises solely out of the attitude of the Queensland Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, towards the Aborigines and the Uniting Church at Aurukun and Mornington Island. It arises precisely because, over the last two years in particular, the Premier has arrogantly assumed a far greater degree of authority in Queensland than is normally accorded even a medieval king. We will have more to say about the Premier later. Suffice it to say that he is determined to ensure that all reserves in Queensland shall come under his control. He has stated that on many occasions and is still stating it. He does this not only because of the philosophy behind the Uniting Church’s efforts at Aurukun and Mornington Island- to develop self-management and encourage the outstation movement- but because of the minerals which he and his Government clearly see as the overriding factor in relationships between them and the Aboriginal people, at Aurukun especially. That process, that attitude, cannot be sustained. That is why this Parliament must speak.
As a consequence of the Premier’s attitude, his determination to take over the reserves, the complete lack of good faith and trust he has displayed in discussion with the Government, his arrogant, senile, gloating over his so-called victory during the compromise discussions with two Federal Ministers- whom one would assume are fairly reasonable and responsible Ministers of this Government- have surely endowed him with the mantle of the most arrogant political figure to walk the stage of Australian political life since World War II. It is clear that on several occasions the Government has attempted to manoeuvre around the central issue; that it hoped that Mr Bjelke-Petersen would just go away; that he would not persist in his attitude; but as we well know, a person of his nature does not respond to reasonable behaviour.
The central issue is fundamental to the maintenance and development of democratic decision making for all Australians, and especially the Aboriginal population of this country. It is an unfortunate aspect of this particular legislation that it follows what Mr Bjelke-Petersen has chosen to do in relation to Aurukun and Mornington Island. It has not followed a change of heart by the Premier at all. He has backed the Federal Government and the Parliament into a corner and wants to keep them there. His Government has become nothing less than a corrupt, undemocratic, power-hungry Government which is pursuing in a wide range of areas policies which show a general distaste for the democratic rights of Queenslanders, many of which were won over a long period of years. It is tragic to realise that what is occurring in Aboriginal affairs in Queensland is only the tip of the iceberg, only part of a whole series of events which demonstrates clearly that, after 20 years in government, power has certainly corrupted. One does not need to reflect upon the correctness of those words -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order ! I have been listening to you very carefully, senator. Whilst I know how you feel I think you must abide by the Standing Orders. You must not tend to disparage a Premier. I suggest that sometimes you should rephrase your sentences.
– I respect your wishes, Mr Deputy President. I know it is one of the customs in this place to follow the course you have suggested. But I do not think my words come anywhere within the purview of the words used by Government supporters yesterday in the House of Representatives when this legislation was discussed.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The honourable senator will not canvass the matter.
– As far as practicable I will endeavour to meet with your wishes, Mr Deputy President. After all, we have seen an arrogance and a determination to flout the normal democratic processes and traditions over a considerable period. We witnessed what must be regarded as one of the most outrageous political acts of a government of any State in Australia. Through the use of threat that Premier was able to cajole a member of his own Cabinet into reversing a decision taken in the Queensland Electricity Commission to place the new powerstation at Millmerran, and to place it in the Premier’s own electorate at Tarong. One can become only very cynical when one realises that near to the Tarong powerstation Mr BjelkePetersen has interests in six mining leases. Mr Deputy President, I believe that the behaviour of the Premier is relevant. After all, he has behaved consistently over the last half dozen years. Honourable senators opposite perhaps applauded this behaviour pattern during the early stages of the Whitlam Government because the Premier took on the Whitlam Government, to some extent, with some success. But the fact is that he has now continued that process.
I think it is worth reminding honourable senators that some 50 years ago a certain figure of fun strutted around Austria and Germany. People did not take Adolf Schicklgruber very seriously. However that man finally caused more suffering, death, murder and plunder than anyone else in living memory. I do not think we can sit by idly and allow, as we have tended to do, the irresponsible behaviour of the Premier of Queensland to continue. We should not continue to talk in private about his behaviour and not put the finger on it in Parliament.
We can only become somewhat cynical when we see the way in which the Premier is able to manipulate his own Government and to attempt to manipulate Ministers of the Federal Government. I guess that when one remembers his interests in the coal and construction industries and his part in the scandalous Comalco affair one can only become rather cynical about the misuse of ministerial authority in Queensland. There is no clear example of the depths to which that has taken place in Queensland. I do not say that lightly Mr Deputy President. It does not give me any pleasure whatsoever to come to the conclusion that the misuse of power in Queensland that we have seen in relation to Aborigines is no more than a symptom of a malaise in government generally within that State. This is what the Federal Parliament has to recognise.
We have recently seen activities by the Premier in respect of the Japanese multi-millionaire, Mr Iwasaki. I make no further mention of that matter. Of course, we could add very easily to this list. I guess many people have become very tired of the senile ravings of the Premier. They have become very tired of his prejudices, his biases, his basic lack of democracy, his irrascible behaviour, his irresponsible utterings, his extraordinary behaviour pattern, his ban on street marches which has created concern in this Parliament and in Queensland generally and his very unreasonable attitude in respect to Mr Milan Brych.
It is clear to me and I am sure to many honourable senators on both sides of the chamber that something has gone very wrong in Queensland. It is precisely because of the attitude of the Premier that there is developing in that State the same sort of prejudices and biases which we hear expressed by this man. Aborigines are not important to this man. To him they represent a problem at election time but because of his outrageous gerrymander he is able conveniently to ignore them otherwise. It is not his love of Aborigines that hurls him headlong into battles with the Federal Government; it is because he wishes to retain and exercise power arrogantly across a wide range of social issues. This posturing by the Queensland Premier, the taking on of everybody including the members of the Liberal Party in his own State, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Australian Labor Party, the Federal Government and Federal Ministers, is deliberately designed to turn the attention of the Queensland people away from some of the basic problems facing that State. Queensland is the State with the highest rate of inflation, the highest level of unemployment, the lowest level of consumer spending, the lowest sales of cars and the lowest percentage of housing construction. The Premier behaves in the way he does in an endeavour to take the attention of the Queensland people away from these issues. He tries to develop an attitude that everyone south of the border has to be regarded as sinister and socialistic. They are the words he used against members of this Parliament and in fact against supporters of the Government. He has accused them of being sinister socialist southerners. He has said that his own party is full of ‘pinkoes’. These are the sorts of attitudes and expressions that flow so glibly from the mouth of the Premier of Queensland.
Mr Fraser happens to be the current target. Of course, the Premier is endeavouring to tell the Australian people that it is we- and honourable senators have to accept the fact that we have common ground in respect of our attitude to apartheid- who are creating apartheid when in fact in practice it is the Premier who espouses that very principle. It is that Premier who has been associated with all of the extreme regimes that exist throughout the world.
There are no excuses for us not to take up Mr Bjelke-Petersen’s challenge. He has drawn the sword and there is no turning back. The Parliament should make sure that every clause in the legislation that the Senate is debating today closes the door to his deviousness, his dogmatism and the deceitful ways in which he has conducted himself in government to government relationships. It is the declared intention in the Queensland Government to take over the two missions at Aurukun and Mornington Island run by the Uniting Church in Australia. This has forced the Federal Government to challenge directly the operation of the Queensland Acts which are themselves discriminatory and racial in objective and content. For several years now successive Federal governments of both political persuasions have run straight into a brick wall in relation to Queensland Aborigines. I am sure the time has arrived when we are unable to countenance this obstruction any more. We must take on the Premier of Queensland. The Premier is reported in today’s Press as even talking about troops being used. After he hit the headlines in the national Press over his remarks about confrontation of a military nature he said he had been talking about this matter in an offhanded and lighthearted way.
Canberra bashing, whether it is from Western Australia or Queensland, has to stop. This is not the way in which we deal with the problems that face our people in those States and it is not the way in which we respond to our obligations. I hope that the Government will consider the Opposition’s amendment, and those which will be moved in the Committee stage. The amendment is designed to strengthen the Bill by closing the escape hatch so that Mr Bjelke-Petersen cannot take advantage of any of the weaknesses that we genuinely believe exist in the legislation. The Queensland Premier, unlike all other Premiers, has refused to enable the Federal Government to assume responsibility for the Aboriginal people under the 1967 referendum which, as I have already said, was carried overwhelmingly throughout Australia. At the time, Mr Holt, the Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Party said:
The purposes of these proposed amendments to the Commonwealth Constitution are to remove any ground for the belief that, as at present worded, the Constitution discriminates in some ways against people of the Aboriginal race, and at the same time, to make it possible for the Commonwealth Parliament to make special laws for the people of the Aboriginal race, wherever they may live, if the Commonwealth Parliament considers this desirable or necessary.
The Federal Government has no course available other than to legislate to take over the reserves in Queensland. I am sure that Government senators accept the fact that we will otherwise be confronted with procrastination, legal challenges and division within the Queensland community. The Premier has been beating his breast recently describing Federal legislation as it operates in the Northern Territory as apartheid. Is that the statement of a responsible parliamentary leader, the Premier of an important State? He is endeavouring to influence Queensland public opinion in that direction. He has already ranted and raved about the creation of a black State in Queensland if Federal policies on land rights are implemented there. He has failed even to consider the effects of the Queensland Act in relation to Aborigines on reserves. His mind is closed. It is not possible to reason with an unreasonable man and the Premier must be regarded in that way. Any rational observer could only admit that the operation of the Queensland Aboriginal Act is nothing but a breach of the United Nations Convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Labour Organisation conventions.
Several of the key legislative powers conferred by the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Act are racist. One of the more blatant examples of racism in this Act is the nonpayment of award wages on reserves. The wages range from $57 to $75 a week- about half the wages that should be paid. The power to remove people from their tribal areas was most clearly demonstrated by the case at Mapoon in 1963 when Aborigines were removed at gunpoint by police and exiled to Bamaga and Weipa. They have been denied the right to a fair trial. The Premier has ignored the provisions of the discriminatory laws legislation passed unanimously by his Parliament in 1975. Unlawful imprisonment continues and council decisions can be vetoed by managers of reserves and by public servants. This Queensland Act is apartheid in principle and the ill-considered outbursts of the Premier cannot conceal that his Government’s legislation is a blight on race relations in this country.
Federal legislation in the Northern Territory has established one simple but fundamental principle- the law of the land. It is accepted that the Aboriginal people of this country were dispossessed of their land with the arrival of European migrants in 1788. This Parliament has taken steps to remedy that. The Land Rights Act of 1976- almost 200 years later- recognised that the European occupation of this country took place and that we have an obligation to the Aboriginal people to grant them the areas upon which they have traditionally lived. What does the Premier of Queensland say to that? He says that the Federal Government wants to give away lands to the blacks. Well, we took it from them, in a bloody and vicious way. It was their land. In the manner of white people we took what belonged to somebody else. We now want to repay- I doubt that we will ever repay it allsome small part of that debt by establishing land rights for the people who own this continent. For that we are accused of being party to apartheid.
There is no doubt that many honourable senators would agree with the policy of the Liberal and National Country Parties on Aboriginal affairs with respect to the principle of selfmanagement, land rights, additional funds and self-sufficiency. I agree with the policy of the Government on Aboriginal land rights in as much as we recognise that fundamental to the Aborigines’ sense of aboriginality is their affinity with one another and their affinity with the land. We want this Parliament, through this legislation, to enable the Aborigines to maintain thenown culture if they so wish. It is accepted by us as a white community that we took their land, which is very precious to them in terms of Aboriginal culture, customs, and economic and social life, and utilised it for our own profit. It is recognised that in several areas of Australia the Aborigines’ claims to these lands are undeniable and must be accepted in law. I remember what Senator Bonner said: The land is theirs until it becomes valuable and then we want to take it back. When I say ‘we’ I am talking about white people and in particular about the Premier of Queensland. Many of the provisions of the Land Rights Act provide nothing more than a type of condition which pertains to ordinary ownership of property that any person may have. Many people have said that the operation of a permit system on reserves is a type of apartheid. We cannot and will not accept that proposition. The permit system enables Aborigines to determine who enters their house because they regard their land as their house.
Of course, this legislation will not exclude normal operation of government activities on reserves. It merely covers what one might term the unwelcome visitor’. Whoever resides on reserves should be given that protection. So when the Premier of Queensland attacks the Federal Government claiming that it has established apartheid in northern areas of Australia he must be clearly and forcibly answered, not only by the Government but also by every Australian. We of the Labor Party join in the rejection of that absurd proposition. I have today had my attention drawn to the kind of legal oppression provided for by the Queensland Act. It ensures total control by the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Islander Advancement. He has the power over the Aboriginal people which denies them as a people to make decisions relating to their lives. The Act also fails to make clear to people the fact that the Federal Government has made special laws and provided special treatment to many groups within our community, particularly disadvantaged groups such as migrants and women, in an attempt to develop greater equality within the Australian community. It is the need for special laws and special treatment that has led to a whole series of Acts and the establishment of various organisations and services provided by the Federal Government in order to assist those groups. In this case we have in Queensland an Aboriginal community which is disadvantaged socially and economically within the framework of what any reasonable Australian would judge to be a reasonable standard of living. Over the years the Federal Government has been frustrated in its attempts to provide a greater range of facilities to Aboriginal communities based on what it sees as their needs. We all recall when the trachoma team was unashamedly kicked out of Queensland by the Premier. What justification was there for that action? There was none.
I have no doubt about the type of action pursued by the Queensland Government, such as the ludicrous and disgusting Aurukun Associates Act which greedily undermines the rights of the Aurukun Aborigines to share in the decisionmaking in relation to rnining in that area or to receive just compensation for the mining in their tribal area. There cannot be any reversal once the Aurukun Associates Act is put into effect by Queensland. A bulldozer leaves land permanently scarred and no matter how much window dressing is done after mining has been completed the land will never be the same and the people will never be the same. The Aurukun Associates Act was rushed through the Queensland Parliament in a manner not too dissimilar to the way in which we are dealing with this Bill to which, rightly, some back benchers have raised objections.
The continual frustration of the Federal Government’s initiatives in Aboriginal affairs in Queensland and the full and open hostility to the Federal initiatives have finally forced this Government to legislate just as the Labor Government was forced to legislate in 1975. The Government asks us to accept that this legislation must be rushed through the Parliament as a matter of urgency. However, I think Mr BjelkePetersen has the message. He knows that we are determined to rectify the wrong and to accept our legal, moral, political and economic responsibilities. So I do not believe the Government is justified in expecting the Parliament within a matter of 2Vt days to debate the legislation. There must be adequate consideration of the parliamentary and public debate and obviously this cannot be given if there is undue haste. The reason which the Government advances is that the Queensland Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, cannot be trusted to honour his undertaking not to take over the Aurukun and Mornington Island areas during his proposed three-week cooling off period. However, the legislation before us requires the active co-operation of the Queensland Government.
If the Government feels that it has to rush the legislation through because we cannot trust the Queensland Premier, how can it say that only with the co-operation of the Queensland Government will the legislation be successful and will there be any benefit to Aborigines and Islanders resident in settlements in that State? This is a contradiction which the Government suggests does not exist. This view is totally inconsistent with the Government’s claim that Mr Bjelke-Petersen cannot be trusted to keep his hands off the Aurukun and Mornington Island settlements for another fortnight, a week or even a day. Nevertheless, it proposes legislation which will be unworkable without the co-operation of Mr Bjelke-Petersen. Senator Guilfoyle made the point when making her second reading speech today that the legislation requires the cooperation of the Queensland Government. It is a confidence trick, or so it is being seen by many people in the black community, which is being perpetrated on the Australian public in view of the Government’s attitude to the National Aboriginal Conference which asked for a stay of proceedings when it met for the first time in Canberra this week and was confronted with all the platitudes of and commitments made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) when on Monday morning he spoke of the importance of the Conference in its consultative capacity and the value which the Government would place on its recommendations. Yet the first decision of any substance that the Conference made, a decision which is the substance of the Opposition’s amendment, the Government says it cannot accede to.
That Conference unanimously called on the Government to postpone consideration of the Bill for a week so that people of Aurukun and the churches- surely they are entitled to be consulted because they have carried a very heavy burden in looking after the needs of the people in that region for 90 years or so- could have an opportunity to seek independent legal advice, as we do, concerning the provisions of this legislation which they find objectionable and which we find a little untenable. We have a maverick Premier who is seeking and will continue to seek a legal justification to nullify the decisions of this Parliament. The Federal Government has chosen to ride roughshod over the wishes of its own consultative body and to allow consideration of the legislation for only a few hours. It seems to us that the Prime Minister has demonstrated to the Australian public and to the Aborigines the insincerity of the position in which he says he holds the Aborigines ‘own elected body.
The legislation is defective. It purports to offer to the Queensland and Islander Aboriginal communities the choice of electing for selfmanagement under the protection of either the Commonwealth Government or what are alleged to be the paternalistic policies of the Queensland Government. Instead, what it offers is a choice between Brisbane’s paternalism and Canberra’s paternalism. That is how we see the Bill and that is how Aborigines see the Bill. Queensland Aboriginal leaders have described this legilsation as a hollow sham, a legal stratagem. They see it as an exercise in public relations by this Government. They may be wrong but it is a view that we have to accept. They legitimately hold and express that view and are entitled to do so when they look at the haste with which this legislation is being rushed through the Parliament, so continuing a program of rushed legislation. Time and again we have been denied an effective opportunity to consider properly the legislative program of the Government. Whether the general public or Aboriginal Australians will be deceived by this flimsy rhetoric and stratagem remains to be seen.
I do not doubt that the Government believes that the legislation is a big step forward in the evolutionary processes affecting Aboriginal communities in Queensland, but we are entitled to say that we have misgivings about some of the provisions and that those provisions will be exploited by a person who has shown himself to be unable to comprehend the views of his own Party and the national Government. Since it came to office 2% years ago the Fraser Government has concluded a series of arrangements with the Queensland Premier which have had the effect of denying Queensland Aborigines and Islanders the basic rights which are enjoyed by Aborigines resident in other States. The Prime Minister himself must accept some responsibility for condoning by his silence the racist policies which the Queensland Government has implemented for 2Y2 years. The only government instrumentality which has attempted to implement the Government’s stated policies on
Aboriginal rights in Queensland is the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission, but the Government now proposes, it is suggested, to abolish the Commission simply because it is implementing Government policies. Perhaps the mistake which the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission made was to take seriously the electoral platforms on Aboriginal affairs of the Liberal and National Country Parties and its own charter, its own policy and its own commitment given at the last national elections.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– The objections that the Opposition has to the Government’s legislation can be summarised in one essential point. The Government’s avowed intention, as stated several times in the last few weeks, is to pass legislation which provides Queensland reserves and communities with the principles of selfmanagement. We support that overall thrust. In fact today we are debating proposals that state those principles very clearly. However, the proposals contained in the Bill will not facilitate federal takeover of Aboriginal lands in Queensland for the purpose of providing land rights. The Bill fails in its basic objective to provide selfmanagement for Aboriginal communities in Queensland. We suggest that it is not enough for the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) to speak about the possibility of acquiring parts of reserves and to believe that this somehow will elicit from the Queensland Premier and the Queensland Government some degree of humane response.
Specifically, the legislation fails on a number of major points. In the Committee stage, whenever that is, we will be moving a series of amendments to the Bill. The thrust of our objections is as follows: Firstly, in the definition there needs to be a specification of a date to prevent the Queensland Government de-gazetting the current reserves. Secondly, Aborigines must have control over who enters the reserves and the communities in Queensland. The current Bill will provide Aborigines in Queensland with the powers of exclusion in relation to who enters their reserves, but it fails fundamentally- and this is one of our points of contention- in that it does not provide them with the power to exclude individuals. Last night, for example, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs stated quite clearly on the television program This Day Tonight that this was the case. Miners and others could enter reserves without the permission of the council or indeed of the Minister, but with the permission of the State Government. The point I make here is nothing new. For instance, section 70 ( 1 ) of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 states:
Except in the performance of functions under this Act or otherwise in accordance with this Act or a law of the Northern Territory, a person shall not enter or remain on Aboriginal land. Penalty: $1,000.
The amendments we will be moving in the Committee stage are addressed to the major inadequacies of the Bill. The legislation needs further tightening in respect of many of the provisions set aside for by-laws on the reserves. The legislation requires further consideration so far as its operation in respect of non-Aboriginal people on reserves is concerned.
These fundamental points in this legislationthe failure to explicitly set aside land for Aborigines; the abject failure to give Aborigines and Islanders full rights to exclude from entering the community individuals and groups whom they may feel to be detrimental to the community; the failure of the by-laws to cover Europeans generally or adequately and the rather complicated procedure in relation to the enactment of by-laws -are similar to many of the more paternalistic overtones of the Queensland legislation. To my mind it is clear that the Government needs to act- and in this it has the support of the Oppositionto protect the Aboriginal and Islander communities in Queensland. It is a sad reflection on Australia that we have not accomplished before this the means by which to assume federal responsibility for Aborigines in Queensland.
My concern is not dictated by motives to frustrate Federal Government intervention in Queensland. In fact we want to assist the Government. My concern today is to ensure that legislation which we pass can and will be effective in obtaining the objectives that have been so eloquently outlined by honourable senators on both sides of the chamber, particularly during the debate on 15 March 1978. Already the Queensland Premier has stated that the Federal Government is like a fly with one foot on a sticky paper. He says that he will allow the Federal Government to put both feet on that sticky paper and then close the trap. This most serious use of the English language and the defiance of the expressed will of the Parliament and the Australian people must not be taken lightly. The fight that must be fought in the days and months ahead to provide the means whereby Aborigines and Islanders can have self-management in Queensland must be commenced forthwith with the strongest possible legislation we can enact. Otherwise, the Federal Governnent will surely end up with both feet on that sticky paper.
The amendments that we propose to move provide for consultation with the National Aboriginal Conference with the intention of getting effective strength into the Bill. This Bill is bound to confront the arrogance of a person who has ungracefully haunted the halls of government in Australia for the last 20 or 30 years. It is Utopian beyond belief to think that someone like Mr Bjelke-Petersen will accede to this legislation.
We are being asked to consider adjourning this debate. We on the Opposition side are prepared to support that proposal for a few very simple reasons: Firstly, it will enable us and Government senators to consult with the National Aboriginal Conference. Secondly, it will enable suitable amendments to be discussed freely in the party room and by the public generally over the next few days. Thirdly, it will enable us, the Senate, to make the Government’s promises and legislation effective. We support the overall thrust of the Government’s legislation. We do not want our support for the proposed temporary adjournment, which perhaps would be for a duration of two sitting days, to be construed as our opposing the general direction and the general objectives of the Government. In fact our whole motivation is aimed at bringing about the enactment of legislation which will be beyond challenge, which will effectively plug the holes which we believe exist in the legislation. To this extent we would be prepared to support a short adjournment of this debate to enable the Parliament to carry out its proper parliamentary function.
– I move:
I understand that I am not permitted to debate the motion.
Question put. The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I welcome the opportunity to continue this debate because it is important to all Queenslanders, not just to those who are of Aboriginal descent. I find it extraordinary that the Opposition should have pursued the sort of tactics it has pursued today and those it pursued in the other place. A couple of weeks ago, I along with some other Government supporters was required to explain to people why we were not complying with the demand of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Hayden, for a recall of Parliament so that we could rush some legislation through by 31 March. We were being asked to rush legislation through three or four days after the demand was made. The Government was supposed to have drafted its legislation, recalled Parliament and put the legislation through this place in three or four days.
Some people find it difficult to understand why that is not a very easy exercise. Given the time we have, the facts are these: It is now some years since the Uniting Church indicated in Queensland its concern about the State Government’s intentions in relation to Aurukun and Mornington Island. It is some months since the State Government indicated that it would probably take over the Aurukun and Mornington Island reserves. It is some weeks since the Federal spokesmen, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), indicated that if the State Government pursued that course the Federal Government would step in and legislate as it is doing in the case of this Bill. To talk now about being unaware or of a lack of indication is nonsense. Those who say that this Bill ought to go to other bodies have had time to say that but have not done so. Now that the Bill is before the Parliament they say it ought to go to other places. I deny that that is a valid claim. The intentions of the Government have been spelt out for some dme.
I cannot remember for some time an issue raising the sort of public comment and debate and detailed media attention that this particular issue has raised. It has received enormous media publicity. Millions of words have been written in the newspapers about the issue and about the Bill and what it contains. Even before Government supporters knew what was in the Bill we could read about it in the newspapers in the same way as members of the Opposition could. The intention of the Government has been clear. Government supporters and members of the Opposition have had the Bill for long enough to decide how they feel towards it. The Opposition has to make clear what it really believes ought to be done and not try to shuffle the Bill sideways to some other group, using that as the next step in the political process.
The whole issue in this debate both within the Parliament and outside it is what will happen to the people concerned. I have the duty of representing the views of the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island. Their views are something of which I must take serious note. I have done so. My overall conclusion, as someone who has looked at the situation and has been involved in it, is that we must do everything we can with the maximum amount of goodwill to make sure that the Aboriginal people do not suffer through the inevitable political consequences of what we are forced to do here. It is easy for Senator Gietzelt to talk about Canberra bashing. I remind him that when his Party was in government there was a fair amount of Queensland bashing. Under any guise the Whitlam Government believed that it could pursue policies detrimental to Queensland and other States as long as it dressed them up in the rhetoric of anti Bjelke-Petersen.
That is not good enough on this issue. The issue is about people who certainly understand what is going on in terms of the difference between having their missions run by the church with the assistance of the Federal Government and having them run by the State Government. They understand that. They are articulate about it. They can spell it out. What they do not understand are some of the finer- that is a misnomer, let us say some of the more sophisticated- and sometimes more objectionable attitudes of politics. These people understand truth and they understand lies. They understand right and wrong. They do not understand how the white man carries on the business of government through political machinations.
– Nor do we.
– Please speak for yourself. They know what they want. We have said that we would introduce this legislation for them. They expect it to be done. The ins and outs of the manoeuvring on the public stage is something which they are not even interested in trying to understand. For them it is only a matter of what is their will, what they want and how they will be affected. The great tragedy about Canberra bashing or Queensland bashing or whatever is, of course, that these people who are not participants in that little political manoeuvre are the very ones who stand to lose or gain. We stand to lose or gain very little compared with what is at stake for them in relation to their welfare. It is a matter of urgency that we should proceed with the Bill and that we should take unto ourselves the responsibilities we have as members of parliament. Senator Gietzelt indicated that we were trying to treat it as a matter of urgency for some nefarious reason. I point out to Senator Gietzelt that it is not only a matter of urgency but also a matter of good faith, of keeping faith with the Aboriginal people in relation to what we have said repeatedly over recent weeks we would do and what we have promised we would do. We have informed them of the timetable. We have said that we would move quickly because they feel an urgency in relation to funding and their legal position. We must keep faith with what we have said.
On Wednesday of last week a number of Aboriginal people on the Aurukun and Mornington Island reserves believed that the Government had breached faith. They did not hold that belief on good grounds because they were misinformed, as many of us were misinformed, about the actual agreement between the Queensland and Federal Governments. They had believed an undertaking which had been given to them by a Federal Minister, a Prime Minister and other members of the Government. They had believed that we would move immediately to attempt to protect them from a State Government takeover which they clearly did not want. When it looked as though a compromise situation was being reached they did not understand. The telegrams started to flow in to us very quickly expressing their alarm and dismay. They believed that we had broken faith. Fortunately, within 24 hours, that situation was clarified, and we must not now break the faith that we have given to them.
Yesterday in the Queensland Parliament the State Minister for Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement made a speech on the subject of the takeover. I do not intend to debate the whole of his speech, but I think some of the statements that have been made ought to be entered into the record of this debate. One thing that Queenslanders certainly are finding very confusing about the matter is that the State Government keeps on saying that it moved into the Aurukun and Mornington Island reserves only because the people there were requesting that it do that. In his speech yesterday Mr Porter made reference to that matter, and he made certain statements. I have here copies of some documents, including a copy of that speech made by Mr Porter, and a copy of some correspondence and other documents which relate, firstly, to this matter of whether the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island reserves wanted the State Government to take over their missions; secondly, whether the churches wanted the State Government to take over the missions; and, thirdly, just what it is that the State Government, the Aborigines and the churches have been saying to one another. I shall refer to a few of these documents in order to get their contents on the record. During his speech Mr Porter mentioned a series of dates. He said:
As far back as 1973 Cabinet had expressed its concern with an unsatisfactory management situation at Aurukun. Again in 1974 the church was informed of further Cabinet concern with the two communities in question, and that the position was so bad we -
That is the Queensland Government- were prepared to assume forthwith the management role. Church assurances were again given, and so our action was deferred. The situation had reached a crisis point where, in February, 1976, my predecessor -
That is, Mr Porter ‘s predecessor- the Hon. Claude Wharton, MLA, and his Director -
That is, The Director of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement- visited Aurukun accompanied by both the ModeratorGeneral of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, the Rev. P. Wood, and the Senior Secretary of Boemar, the Rev. John Brown.
At the pressing request of the church -
This is in February 1 976- it was at length agreed we would defer assuming management from the church for a further 12-months period, giving the church a final opportunity to provide effective management. But if there was not the promised improvement, we would then have to act. That period had to be further extended late last year owing to litigation concerning mining . . .
Mr Porter went on further to talk about the feelings of the Aboriginal people and said:
On 18 November, 1975, the Aurukun people’s elected council, five in number, personally requested the Department to assume management of the Aurukun community, and after full discussion and a verbal approach to the Director on that day they then confirmed their request by presentation of a formal letter.
I understand that there were circumstances at the time relating to the administration of the reserves which were causing some divisions within the community and which were making them unhappy. The church itself indicates that there was a period when it had some problems in terms of a turnover of management and that there were some difficulties between the managers or staff and the other people on the mission. Apparently the date of 18 November 1975 falls within that period when there was some unhappiness at Aurukun in relation to that matter. Further on in his speech Mr Porter said:
We had received a letter dated 13 November -
He does not indicate the year but I assume it was 1975- from the council and also a petition signed by more than 200 residents, asking for our action.
Mr Porter then quoted from that letter which states:
We need the strength of the DAIA to stand behind the manager and council, then the people will listen to us and do as they are told.
The next date that the Minister mentioned was February 1 976. Mr Porter said:
As a promise had been given to visit the people within a short period, the Director organised the full meeting in February, 1976 . . . However, continued verbal approaches both individually and in group were made by the Aurukun people at the time and after, asking that we take back administrative control of the area.
In mid- 1976 a State parliamentary group visited Aurukun. Referring to that visit Mr Porter makes this statement:
Members were shocked at the deplorable conditions prevailing, it was reported the people were ‘generally apathetic, listless and uncommunicative whilst basic rules of hygiene and decency had obviously been dumped for something euphemistically called self-determination .
Mr Porter gives no indication in his speech of the source from which he is quoting. He may be quoting from some report that that parliamentary group submitted to the Queensland Government; I do not know. He does not indicate the source from which that quote comes. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note the sentiment expressed in mid- 1976, on what one presumes to be the outstation movement- ‘something euphemistically called self-determination ‘.
The speech contains other quotes and references to reports made. Not all of them are dated, so I shall leave them alone. The next significant date Mr Porter mentions in his statement in relation to this dispute is 30 December 1977. He said:
On 30 December, 1977, we received a letter signed by five members of the Aboriginal Community Council reading:
We, the undersigned members of the Aurukun Community Council, have, after extensive talks with the members of the community of Aurukun, found that it is the people’s wish to remain under the administration of the Uniting Church of Australia.
Mr Porter went on to say:
That was the first statement ever received from or made on behalf of the Aurukun peoples expressing any sort of wish to retain the Uniting Church managements. I do not find it any coincidence that in the Courier-Mail of 8 December, the Reverend John Brown of Boemar, was quoted in a statement headed ‘No State Take-over of Aurukun- Aborigines’. The Reverend Brown was careful to say that ‘he was at Aurukun at the time of the meeting but did not attend it’.
That refers to the State Government’s attitude. That speech gives some dates and some indication that requests were made to the State Government that the State Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement should take over. However, there seems to be a fair gap in the communications which took place between mid- 1976 and 30 September 1977 when the State Government claims it got its first indication that the Aboriginal people did not want the State Government to take over. Without a doubt for some time there had been a bit of resistance from the Church to a State Government take-over. Mr Porter mentioned that. There was also a growing resistance on the part of the Aboriginal people to a take-over by the State Department. There are a number of letters relevant to this which I also wish to place on the record. I will not read some of them. I may ask for some to be incorporated in Hansard. Although I have not shown them to you, Mr Acting Deputy President, I think you can accept that the correspondence between the Uniting Church in Australia, the head of the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement and the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement is at least in a fit state to go into Hansard. For the benefit of honourable senators I will quote some of the letters so that they will know what is in them. One such letter is dated 30 December 1 977 and it was referred to by Mr Porter. It is from the Secretary of the Synod to the Minister and it states:
I write to advise that the Queensland Synod of the Uniting Church in Australia has given considerable thought and attention to its relationship to the people of Aurukun. The following decision was adopted by the Synod- Synod adopts as pre-conditions for any negotiations to return the administration of Aurukun to the Government that-
The Uniting Church in Australia would abide by the expressed will of the Aurukun Community, determined by a means yet to be devised, but which can be seen to guarantee free expression by the community.
The rights of those groups -
This is critical- desiring to live on and work their tribal lands within the boundaries of the reserve be recognised, and that the Government accepts the responsibility of maintaining essential services such as medical, educational, communication and supplies, in consultation with the groups.
That letter covers essentially what the dispute or difference of opinion between the Aurukun people, the Church and the State Department has been all about, that is, the will of the local people, how that is read and whether one can claim to have read it. Secondly, it is about tribal land rights which are, of course, significant in relation to the outstations. I will say something later in my speech on the subject of the philosophy of Aboriginal advancement and development because there is division of attitudes on philosophy between the State Department and the Uniting Church. Probably there is also a division of philosophy between the State Government and the Federal Government on this issue and central to it. At this stage I make the statement that I believe that the critical issue to the Aurukun people is whether they feel they can possibly live under State departmental control, although there are other issues too. The Uniting Church received a reply in a letter dated 27 January, one month later, from Mr Porter. He said:
I refer to your letter of 30th December 1 977, received during my recent absence from Brisbane concerning a decision adopted by your Synod in relation to the people of Aurukun. The views of your Synod as expressed in this decision have been noted and you can be assured that in all matters affecting the Aurukun community and indeed any Aboriginal Community in Queensland, the welfare and interests of community residents is and will continue to be of paramount consideration.
That letter did not answer in any way the specific points raised by the Church. Undoubtedly, in its own way, it contributed to the growing concern within the Church and on those two missions about the Queensland Government’s intentions. Another letter to the Uniting Church in Australia dated 18 November 1977 from the Aurukun Council stated: . . after extensive talks with the members of the Community of Aurukun, found that it is the people’s wish to remain under the administration of the Uniting Church of Australia. We would therefore appreciate it if you would pass this to the Synod of North Queensland, along with our thanks for their support. We look forward to working together in the future.
The letter was signed by the five members of the Council.
Some months ago there was a growing concern about the State Government’s intentions. I think there was almost a tacit acceptance that it may have been possible to work with the State Government providing certain basic undertakings were given in relation to the wishes of the Aboriginal people and how they wanted their community developed. One very serious stumbling block in this matter was the philosophy towards the development of the Aboriginal communities.
The future of the Aborigine in the Australian community is a question which exercises our minds very seriously. In recent years there has been a growing awareness on the part of Aborigines and of other Australians that it is important that we preserve as much of Aboriginal culture as we can at this point in our history. This is important to Aborigines and it is important to us. It is important to this country’s national development. The growing confidence and pride that the Aboriginal people feel about their culture, heritage and race is something which growing numbers of other Australians have indicated as something which is good and justified. I hope we can assist Aboriginals in the difficult task of finding how they can come to terms with what is left of their culture- I am afraid that at this stage it is a damaged culture- their race and their Australianism. This is something we should hope to do together.
Nobody has the magic blueprint as to how this is to be done. Even in terms of this country ‘s brief history the attempts to achieve it are very recent. Many experiments are under way. Many people of good will, both white and black, are attempting to find the answers as to how that situation can be reconciled. I think all of us agree that it is unlikely that there is one answer. The Aboriginal people in the first place, with us giving whatever support and assistance we can, will work towards a multiplicity of answers in different areas. At this stage many experiments are under way and there are many attempts to try to meet that very important cultural and historical need.
In that context, the people of Aurukun, with the assistance and support of the Uniting Church, have embarked on a particular experiment which is related to their culture and tribal land-that is, of course, what is referred to as the out station movement. They decided they wanted to have a particular sort of relationship with their tribal lands and to give all their people the opportunity to have that relationship if they so chose. They were supported in that direction by the Uniting Church. It did not indicate to them that they ought to do that but it certainly in no way attempted to prevent them from doing it. However, in that endeavour the Church, as manager of the reserves, came into direct conflict with the attitude of the Queensland Government. To give some indication of the respective attitudes, again I will quote from correspondence between the State Department, the Church and some other groups. In a letter dated 25 August 1975 addressed to the superintendent of the Board of Ecumenical Mission and Relations in Sydney the Director of the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement, Mr Killoran, stated:
I am also required to advise that Cabinet -
That is, the Queensland Cabinet- in the course of its considerations, has expressed concern at the apparent intent by BOEMAR in its capacity as a management authority to develop the communities under a philosophy inconsistent with Queensland ‘s established policies.
There in black and white is a statement from the State Director that the development of those missions was inconsistent with the Queensland Government’s established philosophy. In a reply from Mr Brown to Mr Killoran dated 12 September 1 975 there is this statement:
I am somewhat puzzled by your letter, especially the third paragraph. In this paragraph you indicate that the Cabinet is concerned at the apparent intent by BOEMAR to develop the communities under a philosophy inconsistent with Queensland’s established policies.
I am interested to know which particular policies of the Queensland Government our philosophy is inconsistent with.
That is a reasonable reply. In a reply on 31 October Mr Killoran indicated that he and Mr Brown had had discussions of a verbal nature. He stated:
I feel it was beneficial for us to have had the opportunity of general discussions when you visited Brisbane recently, and 1 write now to confirm that, as I conveyed you on that occasion, the philosophies you espouse as set out in the papers attached to your letter of 12 September do not have relevance to matters raised in my communication of 25 August, which refer to the responsibility devolving on the Presbyterian Church of Queensland with regard to its management of the reserves in terms of the appropriate Order in Council.
The promotion of policy issues of the Church is considered to be a totally separate issue from its responsibilities as a management authority, and I therefore seek confirmation of willingness to accept and in fact, exercise managerial responsibility in terms of the Order in Council and in accordance with Queensland ‘s policy.
That is a letter of October 1975. Mr Brown replied on 13 November 1975. Part of that letter stated:
I also reaffirm that the Presbyterian Church will continue to work by all means available to us for changes in the policies of the Government of Queensland and the Australian Government where those policies are in conflict with those adopted by our Church.
So the Church is on record as saying that it did not agree with the Queensland Government’s attitude and that it would work for the change of the Government’s policies. Anybody in the community is entitled to do that. A further letter from Mr Killoran in July 1976 starts to spell out just what are those differences in philosophy about which the Queensland Cabinet was feeling concerned. It states:
I write concerning some disquieting information conveyed to me recently in connection with what is described as an Aurukun decentralisation programme’ apparently being fostered and encouraged at Aurukun under which numbers of people would move to the Edward River reserve in an endeavour to settle certain areas of land with which some traditional affiliations would be claimed . . .
This strategy appears closely similar to the ‘Land Rights’ philosophies conceived through a commission given Mr Justice Woodward . . .
There are of course certain legal restraints governing access to and residence on Reserves but it seems that a remedy could best be achieved through counselling within the terms of your managerial responsibility at Aurukun. If, contrary to Queensland Government policy, such a programme is being developed, radiating from Aurukun the advocacy of traditional land settlement then immediate action should be taken to conform with Queensland policy and familiarise the Aboriginal Council and people as to the illegality and social inadvisability of the decentralisation proposals.
So by mid- 1976, nearly two years ago, that conflict was starting to become very explicit indeed. I should like to have incorporated in Hansard the reply to Mr Killoran by Mr Brown, a letter of 4 August 1 976. 1 ask for it to be incorporated because it is all important in this debate but it is a rather long letter- two pages- and it would take some time to read it out.
The document read as follows- 4th August 1976
Mr P. J. Killoran Director
Aboriginal and Islander Advancement 135-147 George Street, BRISBANE 4000
Dear Mr Killoran, 1 am writing in response to your letter of 1 6 July 1 976 concerning decentralisation.
I hope that this clarifies the issue and look forward to your action to have the boundaries of the Aurukun-Edward River Reserves regazetted in line with the agreement which existed up until 1968, i.e. that the boundary be based on Christmas Creek.
Because a request has been sent by some people from Aurukun to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs for financial support to enable them to decentralise, I am sending a copy of your letter and this reply to the Director, Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Brisbane.
Yours faithfully, JOHN P. BROWN Superintendent
– I thank the Senate. At this stage I indicate to members of the Senate who have not seen the letter that in it Mr Brown spelt out to Mr Killoran the details of the sort of activities that were taking place at Aurukun. He made a number of points which are very much relevant and which do not in any way skirt the issue. For the purpose of this debate at the moment I pick out the eighth point that is made in this letter. Mr Brown said:
You refer to the illegality of people decentralising. Is it illegal for people from Aurukun to live permanently or temporarily on other parts of the reserve besides the Aurukun township?
So far as anyone was concerned, it was not illegal. The next letter to which I should like to refer briefly is a letter of 4 November 1976, again to the Director of the Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement, this time written by Mr Wood, Chairman of the Board and Moderator-General of the then Presbyterian Church. He referred to a statement by the Minister in an annual report to Parliament and took issue with certain of the statements in it. He wrote:
I refer particularly to your statement:
It is unfortunate to note that the zeal for pastoral care has, in many instances, been replaced by a philosophy of materialism and political bias. The result is proof of the simple statement that ‘man does not live by bread alone ‘, and this is instanced by a marked decline in the moral and physical standards of some communities.
Community residents have been left without spiritual resorts and guidance that is a basic necessity for any human beings.
Those statements are just untrue. The contribution of the Presbyterian Church, in the first instance, and the Uniting Church, to those missions have been substantial. They have been funded at a level lower than the average funding for other State Government reserves in Queensland and the Uniting Church has had to put in quite a large amount of money to maintain basic standards. So to suggest that the Church has brought in a philosophy of materialism and political bias is grossly unfair. If there was a decline in standards then governments must take some responsibility for that because in the first instance they have a clear responsibility for standards in certain areas and, secondly, these communities were not being funded at the same rate as other State Government communities. I seek leave to have that letter incorporated in Hansard because there are other parts that are relevant to that contentious issue which I do not want to cover specifically at the moment.
The document read as follows- 4th November 1976
Aboriginal & Islanders Advancement, 135- 147 George Street BRISBANE 4000
Dear Mr Killoran,
When we read the report of Mr Wharton’s Annual Report to Parliament in the daily press, we thought that he may have been misrepresented and thought that the press may have been distorting the statements he made about ‘the churches’. We did not think that the Minister or his Director would make a statement that took no notice of facts but seemed interested only in distortion of the truth, apparently for political gain.
However, we have now received a copy of your letter to Mr Wharton introducing your Annual Report to State Parliament on Tuesday 19th October 1976. It is clear from this that the press has given an accurate report.
Sir, we are appalled at the innuendoes, the distortions and the obvious blatant attempts to discredit the Church apparently because we have stood strongly for truth and justice in Aboriginal affairs in your State.
You do not name the Presbyterian Church, but since we are the group with heaviest involvement in Aboriginal affairs in your State, it is obvious that it is to us that you are referring.
I refer particularly to your statement:
It is unfortunate to note that the zeal for pastoral care has, in many instances, been replaced by a philosophy of materialism and political bias. The result is proof of the simple statement that “man does not live by bread alone”, and this is instanced by a marked decline in the moral and physical standards of some communities.
Community residents have been left without spiritual resorts and guidance that is a basic necessity for any human beings.
At the same time the Aboriginal community is seen as a fertile field for social experimentation and investigation that would not be tolerated by any other sector of the population, and it is a pity that many of those involved do not consider they are dealing with people who are immensely sensitive and require the advantages of stability and time rather than the status of social “guinea pigs “. ‘
In case you are interested in the facts in spite of your preparedness to make such a generalised unfactual statement, please be advised that this Board has over the past two years spent a total of $245,880 on the pastoral care of Aboriginal communities. Of this, no less than $79,000 was spent on the training of Aboriginal ministers.
Furthermore, over the past three years we have relieved pastors in Aboriginal communities of all other responsibilities to enable them to concentrate wholly on the pastoral care of the people.
Your statements that we have neglected the pastoral care of the people do not stand up. Nor can we accept the allegations that support for groups of people returning to their land is a ‘white man’s experimentation’. No one is trying anything out. People want to return to their land and are doing so. It is not an attempt to have people return to the situation of 200 years ago. But people have a right to relate to the dominant white society as they will- and if they desire to do so from the security of their own land, with all its cultural associations and strengths, why should they be hindered in their desire to do so?
Yours faithfully, G.A.WOOD
Chairman of the Board and Moderator General
– I thank the Senate.
– What is in the letters?
– There is a quote from Mr Wharton’s report and then there is argument.
-I raise a point of order. The normal thing when correspondence is incorporated is that the President or Deputy President, the Minister in the chamber and the Opposition shadow minister should see it. With great respect to Senator Martin, she is pulling pieces of paper out of her files as though she is pulling rabbits out of a hat and just asking for them to be incorporated, we do not know what is in them.
– If I may explain them, I made an initial statement from a State department report which made certain allegations against the then Presbyterian Church. The letter just answers those allegations in relation to whether pastoral care was provided or whatever. I do not know whether it is in order for the Senate perhaps to have the document incorporated subject to Senator Keeffe’s consent. These are letters which have been made available days ago by the Uniting Church to a large number of people. This is correspondence with which many people are familiar.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Maunsell)- Senator Martin explained earlier in her speech what these documents contained. She said she had not shown them to anybody but explained what they were about and she has been granted leave to have them incorporated.
-I accept Senator Martin’s explanation but if rules are made for all people in this chamber they should apply to Senator Martin too.
- Senator Keeffe was not here when I explained what I intended to do.
– I was.
– I believe that, because certain accusations have been made in the Queensland State Parliament about the Uniting Church and about the Aborigines at Aurukun and Mornington Island, Hansard ought to contain the facts relating to those allegations. I explained that earlier in my speech and indicated that I did not want to read all the correspondence but that I would be seeking to have some incorporated in order to save time. I said I would pick out specific instances and the parts that I particularly wanted to cover in my speech; other honourable senators will want to cover other aspects of this correspondence in their speeches. At the moment I am selecting those parts which are relevant to the outstation movement. There are other allegations relating to the Aborigines and the Uniting Church which will be covered. It will save other honourable senators having to read through the same correspondence in the course of their speeches if this course is followed.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTCarry on with your speech Senator Martin. Leave was granted.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President. Many honourable senators are finding it difficult to follow this piece of legislation because of the way it is being rushed through. Thus we see the absence from the chamber of many honourable senators who are closeted in their cells obviously receiving legal advice. Pursuant to the Standing Orders I draw your attention to the lack of a quorum. ( Quorum formed)
– I have been indicating in my speech that over a period of a couple of years at least there had been some disputation between the Queensland State Government and the Presbyterian Church- later the Uniting Church-in relation to the philosphy for Aboriginal development, and specifically on the reserve of Aurukun. There had been quite some correspondence on the subject of the development of the outstation movement on tribal lands. Therefore, a letter dated 24 February 1978 from Mr Killoran to the manager of Aurukun Station is a mild surprise. It was in reply to an earlier letter of 14 February from the manager to the director, which read:
As you are already fully aware, there are a number of outstation communities at Aurukun. They are involved in getting normal community facilities established- housing, water supplies, airstrips, stores, etc. Some but not all are interested in cattle work.
Machinery such as water pumps, generating units, vehicles are necessary for outstations community maintenance.
That was in response to what appeared to be a routine request. In his reply Mr Killoran said:
Contrary to your letter of 14 February 1978, I am not aware that a number of outstation communities exist at Aurukun.
Please detail fully and urgently the number of such outstations being encouraged to develop, the population of each, their distance from the essential social facilities and services of school, hospital, water, hygiene disposal, etc. and any other relevant details.
The issue of whether or not there were outstations at Aurukun was already very clear. What is also clear from that letter is that the State department was gearing up for a propagands war on the subject of whether it ought to take over the church reserves so that it could stop the outstation movement. I also have a letter of 7 March 1978 from Mr Coutts, the community’s administrative officer of Boemar to the director detailing fully just what the facilities at the outstations were. I ask that that be incorporated. It is a reasonably long letter and is a statement of fact which shows exactly what the situation on those outstations was.
The document read as follows-
Dear Mr Killoran,
Aurukun Outstations Your References: 6A/22, 6A/3 1
I note your letter of 24 February, 1978, to the Manager, Aurukun. I cannot detail fully the information you require, as such information is not held in this office. As the Manager is on furlough at the moment, I will detail what I can.
Several families who have tribal relationships to the land are living at Peret, Ti-Tree and on the north and south banks of the Kendall River. The communities are being serviced from Aurukun by boat and by air. All communities are equipped with radio and have regular radio schedules with Aurukun. Nurses aides have been trained by the hospital for first aid for each centre. Water is available at each centre, and each has been responsible for its own sanitation.
There are two itinerant teachers who prepare school material for use of children on the outstations. These itinerant teachers keep these children abreast of what is happening within the Aurukun school, and the children are treated as pupils of that school. Some assistance has been given to these groups of people by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, who have provided a tractor for Tri-Tree and some working costs for each group. I believe there has been talk of further tractors for other groups, and perhaps a launch of a suitable nature for one group who would feel that it would be more suitable for their purposes.
I shall endeavour to get actual numbers of each group for you and let you have them in the near future.
One advantage that can be seen by some of these families of living out on their own land is that inter-family tensions at Aurukun seem to be much reduced.
– The reason I have spent so much time on that issue is because it has been claimed by certain Queensland members of Parliament that the Aborigines at those places will say to you what they believe you wish to hear. A few days ago a number of Federal back bench members from Queensland had the opportunity of going to Aurukun and Mornington Island. I was one of that group. We spoke to a large number of people at both missions. We spoke to the Community Councils, the groups of Aborigines elected by the Aborigines to run, in cooperation with the Uniting Church, the affairs of the Aboriginal community. We spoke at public meetings attended on each occasion by several hundred people, and once the people were gathered together we took the opportunity to speak to as many individuals, on a private basis, as we could. We got a completely unanimous view, from those that took advantage of access to us, that they wanted the Federal Government to step in so that the church could keep administering those missions.
It becomes difficult when one makes that statement to Queenslanders when there are also members of the State Parliament saying: ‘Yes, but when we go there they say something quite different. ‘ I have here a transcript of an address to the Aurukun community and staff by the Honourable C. R. Porter, Queensland ‘s Minister for Aboriginal and Islander Affairs, and Mr P. J. Killoran, director of the Department, on Wednesday, 15 March 1978. Apparently a tape recording was made of their speeches, and of a question and answer period which followed. I am not going to ask that it be incorporated. It is a rather lengthy document. I shall seek leave to table it and will then quote some sections of it.
– I will say yes if you want it incorporated.
– It is rather lengthy and I do not think there would be much purpose in incorporating it; there are a lot of other details there also. I merely seek leave to table it for the information of honourable senators.
- Mr Porter and Mr Killoran each made a speech. Then they conducted a question and answer session. Apparently the tape recorder did not satisfactorily pick up the question on outstations because there appears m brackets the word ‘inaudible’. Mr Porter replied:
I presume, of course, that you mean the people who have gone from the community here out into the back country to live; is that the idea, what do we feel about that? I have said to you that there will be no sudden changes when we take over. You will have to work out what you want to do. If you ask me if I think it is a good idea to do that, I must say, in all honesty, I do not. I think it presents special problems for children and I think the idea that peoples can go back to lands which can no longer be effectively hunted and lived on, and try and pretend that you’re living in some sort of- how shall I say it?- some son of hand-down from the old days, I think that this is a dream which may cost some people dearly. But that is my view, and I am saying to you that the management that takes over as from 1st April will not enforce any sudden changes on you. What we will hope is to see how you regard these things as time goes by. If then it is proven that lam wrong and others are right, then the system of course will continue. But if you wish to change it then it will be changed.
This happened after some years of correspondence in which the director, over and over again, had indicated that this particular situation of the outstations, to which the question was directed, was something which the Queensland Government had said specifically was contrary to government philosophy. The Aboriginal people knew that and it was their great fear that the Government’s philosophy would be enforced on the Aurukun mission; that they would lose their outstations. Whilst Mr Porter may have given some indication that if the people wanted to keep them, they would be able to do so, they genuinely feared that ‘as time went by ‘-as Mr Porter put it-they would be persuaded to take a different view. Further, in reply to another inaudible question concerning decentralisation and ‘you people going out’, Mr Porter said:
I say to you that it will not be prevented when the management is taken over. But I say to you again, that if you asked me about it, I do not believe that it is in your best long-term interests, but you’re going to have to work that out, not me. That’s your problem, and it will be a problem that you will resolve with the manager who will be here at the time. If you think that this is the best way to try and return somehow to the past, try it. Perhaps it will be best for you to learn by trial and error- I don’t know, but I can only say to you that there will be no abrupt changes in the way in which things are done.
The transcript of that meeting indicates, because of the continual reiteration of questions on this subject of ‘what is going to happen about our outstations’, that the people were in fact very unhappy. There are also other questions there relating to bauxite and mining generally. There is no indication at any stage in that transcript- which may not be complete but is I believe genuine; there was a breakdown of the tape at one stage- of support for the State Government’s attitude. So I do not believe that the State Government can claim that it has recently been given by the people of Mornington Island and Aurukun any indication of support for its takeover. The indications of support for that were given some three years ago when there were particular management difficulties. There is nothing recent in that regard.
The issue is clear. The Aborigines do not want the State Department to take over. They believe that the philosophy of that Department and the Government of Queensland is hostile to something that they are attempting to achieve in relation to their development and culture; and nobody is to say that they are wrong. We do not know. We shall not know if it is not tried. They are happy with it as it is working at the moment. The lands involved in the outstations are in many cases sacred as well as tribal. They believe that the connection between those lands and the significance of them to their culture is something that they must maintain. For many of them it is only a brief contact through the course of the year. For others it is something more substantial. But the fact that it is there is important enough. We can think of many parallels in our own culture be they monuments, memorials or even graveyards or crematoriums which are important to us, but with which we choose not to have constant contact. We choose our own form of contact. I think that is an experiment that at least ought to be tried. One can well understand the extreme alarm that the Aboriginal people of Aurukun felt when they believed that they would be prevented from doing that.
I am glad that the Government has indicated it will allow Aborigines on every mission in Queensland to indicate whether they want a Federal Government takeover. I have been acquainted with some concern on the part of Aborigines on government mission stations in Queensland about a Federal Government takeover. I am not happy about the basis for their concern. I have some evidence that the reason for their concern is that certain State department officials are telling them that if the Federal Government were to take over those State reserves they would lose their houses, stores, shops, farming facilities, machinery and so on.
– It is a disgraceful thing to do.
– It is totally disgraceful to manipulate those people in that way. It is also totally untrue. These people have assets on the missions which they have built up and of which they are proud, just as we are proud of our homes, assets and facilities. They are being terrorised in effect by certain individual members of the State Department into believing that if the Federal Government were to take over their reserves they would literally lose all. That clearly is not the Federal Government’s intention, and it will take time for the people on the reserves to realise that some people are lying to them in a most disgraceful way.
– How are those services to be provided if this Bill is enacted?
– I am not aware of the services to which the honourable senator is referring. I understand that the houses now are built with Federal funds although they are on State crown land. A pottery on one of the reserves which the Aborigines were told would be taken away from them was built with Federal funds although it is on State crown land. Quite a number of services and assets have been provided from Federal funds, but that is not the case in respect of all services. There has been a considerable State Government investment in the reserves over the years. There may be many profound and difficult questions to be answered in respect of services and assets and what will happen with the land. To tell these people that they will lose their land, their farms and their homes when there is absolutely no justification for it is just another attempt to terrify them into supporting the State Government and into appearing to be anti-Federal Government. Those people will make up their own minds. I do not quarrel with the decisions that they are making at the moment, not at all; time will tell. But it will be incumbent on this Government and all future governments to make sure that they keep faith with the Aborigines on those reserves where it is invited in.
One of the problems is that there has been a lower average expenditure on a per capita basis at Aurukun and Mornington Island by various governments, but notably the State Government, than on other reserves. I think that the Federal Government will have to face the fact that certain facilities on these two reserves are clearly of a lower standard than they are on some other State Government reserves and that the position will have to be rectified by the expenditure of funds.
I say now, as I said at the beginning of my speech, that it is deplorable that the Aboriginal people should be caught in the sort of unsavoury political tussle, huffing and puffing and propaganda exercise that is going on in public and apparently in private in State government missions at the moment. The people are confused and upset. It is disgraceful that those who are in a position of influence and power over their opinions would so blatantly use that position of power and influence to terrify them with statements which could not in any way be claimed to be based on truth. In fact, we all realise that in the coming days, weeks, months- probably years- we will see some difficulties between the Queensland State Government and the Federal Government over the provisions of this Bill. Although the State Government has not yet said anything specific about what action it will take it has certainly been posturing in a very aggressive way and we can expect it will take some sort of action contrary to what we are taking here today. If there is a confrontation between the governments the only people who stand to really lose are the Aborigines. It is incumbent on all of us to meet a test of goodwill on the part of both Federal and State governments, and all other interested groups and parties outside the Parliament who could influence the opinions of these people and the course of events. If we leap into a confrontation of the sort that appears to be building up surely the only result will be a disillusioned and saddened Aboriginal race. The Aborigines depend on us to assist them. Of course we cannot protect them from all things. We cannot protect them from the consequences of the sort of conflict about which I am talking, whatever those consequences might be. But we must try.
I would like to appeal to all Queenslanders, whether they be in the State Parliament or outside, to proceed with goodwill, to put division and rivalry aside and to realise that if they are genuine in their attempt to help the Aboriginal people they will aggravate the situation by taking aggressive public stands on issues which- in the total context of the Aborigines problem- are really not issues of consequence.
– Before I refer to the legislation I wish to pass some remarks about two or three statements made by Senator Martin. The honourable senator mentioned the fact that extra money would have to be spent in areas to improve the health and education of Aborigines. The latest statistics reveal that the health conditions in the two settlements of Aurukun and Mornington Island are probably better than those in other settlements. In any case, if there were problems in relation to either of these areas, they would have arisen because the Queensland Government had fallen down on its job and they would not necessarily be due to the Uniting Church which is responsible for the administration of these missions.
Senator Martin appealed to the masses not to have a confrontation. The honourable senator must live in the world of little Red Riding Hood if she believes that legislation of this sort, and the Queensland confrontation, will not lead to a great stirring among the Aboriginal people. There is a distinct trend in all Aboriginal and Island communities of Queensland which indicates that these people have had enough of the Queensland administration and that they are prepared to be much more active politically and physically than they have been for many years. They have had nothing but broken promises all along the line. As I develop my theme during my speech I will produce further facts and figures to prove that point.
The legislation is described as ‘a Bill for an Act to empower Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders who live on reserves in Queensland to manage and control their own affairs.’ An adjournment motion today precipitated by one or two supporters of the Government produced a very strange division in the chamber. One of the things about the legislation that shocks me is the fact that the Government is not prepared to consult with Aborigines. The National Aboriginal Conference currently meeting in Canberra has asked that this Bill be deferred for a sufficiently long period to enable the members of the Government to consult with it. The same request has been made by the North Queensland Land
Rights Council, which is a very active body of people close to the scene of dispute at Aurukun and Mornington Island. Members of the Council know the local people intimately. But the Government has not seen fit to accept the advice offered by its own advisers. It is intent on pushing this Bill through.
– They don’t even give us the chance to look at it.
-That is right. That interjection is very relevant. Members of the Opposition have not had a chance properly to study the Bill. There are some intricate legal points in the legislation that need legal advice. It has become almost the fashion of this Government when it is indulging in union bashing or black bashing to introduce Bills off the top of its head, and frequently the Bills have to be amended later because they are full of loopholes. The Government rushes such Bills through the other place and then introduces them into the Senate on a Friday which is normally a non-sitting day in order to jam them through this place in a hurry. This is becoming the fashion.
I wish to read a telegram that I received earlier today. It spells out in detail the feeling of the Aboriginal people in the areas to which I have referred:
We deplore speed of Federal legislation passed in House and Mr Viner’s stubbornness in refusing amendments recommended by Aborigines. It is a whitewash job to appease Bjelke-Petersen. Aborigines will lose heart in Federal Government if legislation does not include land rights and abolition of the Queensland Acts. Queensland Aboriginal and Island Commission is not voice of Queensland Aborigines but a rubber stamp for the Queensland Government policy.
The telegram concludes with this plea:
Please present our petition to the Senate.
That telegram was signed by Mick Miller on behalf of the North Queensland Land Council; Peter Noble of the Cairns Land Rights Committee; Eric Kooila of the Aurukun Land Rights Committee; Lawrence Gugong, Mornington Island Land Council Delegate; Esme Hudson, Woompra-Muralug Housing Society; Sandra Levers, the Wu Chopperen Medical Association; Clarry Grogan, Mona Mona Co-operative Society; Enoch Tranby, Far North Queensland All Blacks Sports Foundation; Marjorie Willmett Clump Point Co-operative; Rosina Tournese Mapoon Council; Joyce Hall, Weipa Land Rights Committee; Robert Smallwood, Yarrabah Land Rights Committee; Ted Bowen, Hopevale Reserve; Harry Daphne, Kowanyama Land Rights Committee and Mervyn Akee
Innisfail Aurukun Aid Committee. That is a very representative group of Aboriginal people.
The Bill in itself is a sell-out of the rights of Aborigines. It is nothing more and nothing less. I will have more to say about that later in this debate. It is true that the Opposition will not refuse passage to the Bill. Three or four clauses of it are of some value. Yesterday, Dr Everingham in another place on behalf of the Opposition moved an amendment in these terms:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: the Bill be withdrawn until it has been referred to the current meeting of the National Aboriginal Conference in Canberra and then redrafted to (a) take into account their suggestions; (b) make provision for acquisition of reserves existing at 3 1 March 1978 and vesting them in the relevant Aboriginal and Islander communities; and (c) give effective control of reserves to the Aboriginal and Islander communities living on those reserves ‘.
– That was moved in here too, today.
– It was moved in here today at the opening of the debate by Senator Gietzelt on behalf of the Opposition in the Senate. Of what is the Government afraid, Mr President? Why does it not want to hold this matter over, at the request of Aborigines, who are not sitting on this side of the House and are not in a position to make the same request to the Government? My colleagues and I are making that request. We are now conveying it publicly to the Government in the Parliament of this nation, yet still the Government backs away from it. Let us look at the Bill and take the events behind it in chronological order. Some weeks ago the Government of Queensland announced a takeover of Queensland Aboriginal reserves. This came after a Cabinet decision that had been taken secretly some weeks before. In turn the Federal Government announced that it would step in to protect the rights of the Aborigines. The Aborigines, of course, were delighted. At long last they felt that some of the decisions carried in the 1967 referendum would be put into effect. Two Ministers- Mr Viner, and Mr Nixon representing the Country Party- flew to Brisbane for that famous consultation. It was unbelievable, when the news announcement was made late that afternoon, to hear that a compromise had been reached and that the Uniting Church and the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement would administer the reserves and that the Commonwealth Government would supply the funds. It was equally unbelievable when listening to the 6.45 a.m. news the next morning to find out that that agreement had been repudiated by Mr Fraser and Mr Viner because our friend the Premier of Queensland had done his turn. It took about four hours to reverse the decision.
But the Bill that has been spawned effectively has less value than a roll of toilet paper. I referand I will quote them in a few moments-to some of the paragraphs in the Minister’s second reading speech. I refer to what happened a considerable time ago in this place when the Northern Territory (Land Rights) Bill was introduced after many traumas within the Government parties. In 1975 the Labor Party following upon its election promise introduced a land rights Bill for the Northern Territory. It was subsequently felt that this would become a pattern for land rights in each of the States. We all remember Mr Ellicott ‘s promise made in late November 1975 when he said that land rights would be given to the Aborigines and that their position would be much easier under a Liberal-Country Party Government than it was under the Labor Government. This, of course, was not put into effect. It was late in 1976 before a land rights Bill of any sort came before the Parliament.
– But this is about selfmanagement, not about land rights.
– I give Senator Baume credit for a bit of intelligence. To make an idiotic statement like that does not become him or his thinking on Aboriginal affairs. I refer again to the fact that 1 5 Liberal-Country Party members for the Northern Territory made a pilgrimage to Canberra. Tremendous pressures were exerted on the Government at that time. Those pressures caused the draft land rights legislation to be watered down several times before we finally saw it in either chamber of this Parliament. The final watering down left four or five of the most sensitive parts of the land rights legislation to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. The legislation had been before it for many months and the Assembly could not reach agreement on the form of the complementary legislation. Finally in August 1977 a substantial number of the Liberal-Country Party members of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly were defeated. A redrafting of the complementary legislation then took place but for all effective purposes the people of the Northern Territory still do not have the land rights to which they are entitled in spite of the muttering of the Premier of Queensland that 45 per cent of the land in the Northern Territory is owned by Aborigines.
– But that complementary legislation has now been introduced.
– It has not yet been passed. I thank Senator Missen for his legal advice, but the situation is that it should have been done many months ago. In fact, the matter should never have been handled by the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. It should have been handled by this Parliament. In other areas the Aboriginal people have suffered grievously. At 30 June last year about $20m remained untouched in Consolidated Revenue. The Government at the time explained that the Aborigines did not need these funds in any part of Australia. That situation resulted in a severe cutback in housing. On Palm Island alone the housing program has been cut back to such an extent that it will take 50 years to house all the people there if there is no increase in population. It meant a cutback in employment, a cutback in education and, worst of all, it meant a cutback in health services. It is the Aboriginal people who suffered most in this area. This Bill is a continuation of the policies being pursued by the Australian Government. There is a real need for a Bill to be introduced with teeth in it and the amendments proposed by the Opposition go a long way towards putting in at least a couple of eye teeth. The Bill itself is so weak that it is almost impossible to improve but the proposed amendment does something to that end. Only South Africa, Rhodesia and Queensland still have separate laws based on colour.
I want to quote some of the points made by the Minister in his second reading speech which indicate that at least he has a superficial knowledge of the problems. The Minister said:
They are very conscious of the differences of policy approach between the Uniting Church and the Commonwealth on the one hand, and the Queensland Government on the other, and considered that they could not serve two masters. They indicated that the Church staff understand and support their aspirations and in particular their wishes to manage community affairs themselves and to be free to live where they choose on the reserve and to develop their own outstation communities. They are well aware that the Queensland Government Ministers have expressed opposition to the movement of groups out of Aurukun over the past few years.
This is another point for us to consider. The Premier of Queensland- for all effective purposes the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs and the dictator of that Stateobjects strenuously to Aborigines moving to their homelands because he believes that this will enable them to retain their tribal cultures and will effectively prevent his policy of assimilation from coming into effect. Later in his second reading speech the Minister said:
The Queensland legislation- the Aborigines Act and the Torres Strait Islanders Act and the regulations and by-laws made under them- provide that officials, as well as Aboriginal and Island councils, manage the affairs of reserve communities and the officials have the overriding power and responsibility. Under the Acts, the Governor-in-Council may appoint a manager of a reserve and may establish a community on a reserve and appoint ‘such officers, resident or visiting, as he thinks necessary for the well being of the persons within the community’. The manager and other officers who have control of reserves are responsible to and subject to the direction of the Director of Aboriginal and Island Advancement.
Managers appointed to reserves are responsible to the Minister and the Director of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement, not to the Aboriginal communities. Regulation 7 provides that a community on a reserve is ‘under the control of the Manager and Council of such a community’, but regulation 19, in making councils responsible to managers, clearly established that the dual control system is not a partnership of equals: The manager is in charge. The situation in the Torres Strait Islands is different from that on the larger Aboriginal Reserves, though the law relating to Island reserves is very similar to the law applying to Aboriginal reserves. The management of Island reserves may be vested in managers and officers may be appointed to communities on Island reserves, but generally there are no resident managers on the Island reserves. The Island councils are hence not responsible to managers but to a district officer on Thursday Island. To this extent, the Island councils are more independent than Aboriginal councils . . .
That is nothing but a pipedream- but they remain subject to the control and direction of the district officer and the Director and thereby remain under the direct administration of the Department.
If the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) and the Government were able to take action against some provisions in those infamous Acts, it is a wonder they were not also prepared to take note of a few of the wishes of the Aboriginal people. This Bill through its lack of backbone will enable the Queensland Government to continue to play with the lives of at least 1,500 people who live in the two communities. This legislation if it were properly drafted would provide for several things. It would provide for selfdetermination so that the Aboriginal people and Islanders have the right to freedom of action, freedom of thought and freedom to go where they want. It would provide for the abolition of the two Acts which still permit under their bylaws and regulations the imprisonment of kiddies of school age in community gaols. It would provide also for land rights. In spite of what Mr Bjelke-Petersen says about Aborigines never getting their land, there are a lot of other people in Queensland who believe that these people are entitled to the land and ought to have it. Properly drafted legislation would provide also for the payment of award wages on reserves. It is a long time since the cash economy was established in the mid-1960s and one would have thought that the establishment of a training allowance was a passing phase and that ultimately people would be able to go onto the higher wage bracket. This has not happened. There would not be half a dozen members of communities in Queensland in receipt of award wages. The wages paid, particularly to younger people, range from $10 to $15 a week and average out at $50 to $60 a week which is far below the average weekly wage.
Aurukun has been a mission for some 75 years. Some years ago bauxite was found on the reserve. When the mineral explorers moved into the area looking for bauxite one of the first things they wanted to do was interfere with the community at Aurukun but the council of elders decided they would not be allowed to do this and told these people where they could do their exploring. The original plan envisaged that in the event of the Aborigines refusing to co-operate a series of barrages would be established on the local river and, if it were necessary, because the miners did not get their way, the mineral explorers would flood out the community. In December 1975 the State Government came to the miners’ rescue when it had passed through the State Parliament the Aurukun Associates Act. There was very little debating time given to the legislation and the legislation was passed in a hurry just before Christmas, Of course, the State Government had other worries. It was not sure at that time that the Federal Labor Government would not be returned. Of course, the Torres Strait Islanders Act and the Aborigines Act had been planned, drafted and were ready for implementation many months before they were introduced, but Mr Bjelke-Petersen was not sure at that time whether the McMahon Government would be returned on 2 December 1972. So the Bills were lying there waiting for the position to become clear.
There was a change in government at the national level in December 1972 and on Monday, 4 December 1972, both Acts were proclaimed. Very little debating time was allowed on the Aurukun Associates Act and it seems that the Federal Government is now copying what happened then. Even two earlier Bills relating to Aboriginal affairs were rushed through this House with about the same time being allocated for debate on them as was allocated for the debate on the Aurukun Associates Act. We are now being forced to pass this Bill without adequate time for study of the legislation or debate. There are other peculiar things that have happened at Aurukun. When bauxite was discovered there the Queensland Government silently extended the area of the reserve. In 1966, before the referendum was carried, the reserve consisted of 793,600 acres. In 1967, after the referendum, its area was increased to 1,670,400 acres and in 1972 was increased to 1,854,000 acres. The reason for this, of course, was to ensure that all the bauxite came within an area which was easily controlled by the Queensland Government. The bauxite field is so rich that there is the possibility that as it develops some of the treatment of the ore will be carried out there. Consequently it is necessary that there be no argument between Mr Bjelke-Petersen and the mining companies which he loves and which love him.
The mining leases are owned by a consortium of three companies which are totally owned by organisations outside this country. The Tipperary Corporation, which is based in the United States, owns 40 per cent; Billington Aluminium (Australia), which is owned by the Shell Co. of Australia Ltd, owns 40 per cent; and the Pechiney company owns the other 20 per cent. Pechiney is a French company. The initial lease that has been granted by the Queensland Government under the Aurukun Associates Act is for a very short period- only 84 years- which takes that consortium into the middle of the next century before it will have to start relinquishing any of the land. When this Act was passed I made approaches to the Queensland Trades and Labour Council suggesting that unless the Aborigines got a fair go, and unless mining was carried out with their consent and their general wishes, and in accordance with what they required in return, union labour ought not to be supplied to that mining development. The Queensland Trades and Labour Council agreed and subsequently carried a resolution to the effect that it would not supply union labour until such time as the Aborigines got a fair go. I understand that that recommendation also has been made to the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
The other reserve currently under dispute is Mornington Island- a very delightful place in the Gulf of Carpentaria. This Island also has been a mission for some 63 to 64 years. It has long been wanted for use as a commercial fishing base. It also has been looked upon as a base for an international tourist project. It is a piece of very valuable real estate which will increase in value with the development of the tourist industry and, hopefully, the Australian fishing industry, if it does not go down the drain in the interim. Obviously a place like Mornington Island would be an ideal spot for a fishing industry.
Some time ago a tentative fishing industry was established on Denham Island, close to Mornington Island but for some reason or other the firm involved folded up. At that time I made approaches to both the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement and the Australian Government Department of Aboriginal Affairs to have the plant taken over so that the Mornington Islanders could develop their own fishing industry. This project has a very sad history. It was many months before anybody did anything about it. By that time most of the plant had been removed to other places for sale. Subsequently, the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement made an announcement that it intended to buy two or three rowing boats in order to teach the Mornington Islanders how to fish. What utter rot! Both the Mornington Islanders and the Bentinck Islanders have been fishing for thousands of years. They could teach the Queensland Government and its Minister a thing or two about fishing.
But other things have happened at Mornington Island. For some reason or other the Premier of Queensland does not want to see the Island occupied by Aborigines. Some years ago- at about the beginning of this decade- timber and other building materials were supplied for the construction of new homes for the village. A hassle then developed between the Mornington Islanders and the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement as to where the village would be built. The timber lay there deteriorating for two or three years. It was the Queensland Government Department ‘s contention that it would pick the site for the construction of the homes and it finally overrode the wishes of the Islanders. That is exactly how it happened.
However, well over a year ago, the Island had a visit from Cyclone Ted, a very strong cyclone. Mr Bjelke-Petersen ‘s first reaction was to move the whole community to the mainland and abandon Mornington Island. He made his wishes plain in a public statement. This move was resisted by the Islanders and approaches were made to have the village re-built. Some 90-odd homes were totally destroyed in the cyclone and in the tidal surge that accompanied it many personal belongings were washed out to sea. I visited the area only a few days after the cyclone and people were still in a state of shock, just as people were after Cyclone Tracy in Darwin and Cyclone Althea in Townsville a few years before.
The building program never quite got off the ground but a number of repairs were carried out. I recall writing on several occasions to the Australian Government Minister for Aboriginal Affairs suggesting that naval vessels be used for the transportation of building materials. Allegedly the impossibility of getting building materials there was the reason for the delay in starting the re-building program. Of course Mr Bjelke-Petersen had a close personal interest in one or two shipping companies that transported goods to this place. Consequently he would have been reluctant to see naval vessels carrying any building materials to the Island. His contention was that all the materials must go by commercial vessels. But very little material was transported by commercial vessels because they were not large enough and did not travel to the area regularly enough.
It is now almost one and a half years after Cyclone Ted yet whole families are still living in tattered tents and in make-shift humpies. The situation does not look like improving very much at all this year, even though a minor building program is about to commence. One of the interesting things is that every time I wrote to Mr Viner he used to write back and say: ‘I am still looking into the matter’. It is no wonder that those less charitable than me now call him the Minister for the mirror’- he is always looking into it.
There are precedents for what is likely to happen if the State gets its way or if this Government is not prepared to introduce legislation with guts and teeth in it. I refer to Old Mapoon and the tragedies that took place there and the construction of the mining town of Weipa. The establishment of Weipa was as a result of an unholy deal made by an unholy trinity- the miners, the State Government and the church. The three groups combined to sell out the Aborigines. Today, the Aboriginal community at Weipa has lost much of its culture. It has found that its families have become divided. If people want to go back to Old Mapoon every obstacle is placed in their way. So they do not find it easy to try to resume their old ways. I am pleased to say though that today the Uniting Church has changed its views. In those days it was known as the Presbyterian Church. The Uniting Church has adopted an entirely different attitude, as have many other Christian churches, in relation to Aboriginal missions. Money was exchanged, allegedly, to implement a proper housing program. In a few moments I shall read a short statement which will give honourable senators the background to what happened at Weipa. Money was supposed to be available for the construction of homes, work was to be made available for the males of the tribes which remained >n the Weipa area; and sacred sites were to be protected. A whole host of other things, including the preservation of the environment, were to be looked after. But for many years nothing happened. Now some attempt is being made, belatedly, though in a small way, to do something about them.
I can remember many years ago, probably 10 years ago, when a lady on the opposite side of the chamber was the Minister for Housing. A school was built at south Weipa so that children could be segregated. That was the main reason for it being built. I complained about that and the Minister at that time said: ‘It is easier to keep them at south Weipa because it costs too much to transport them around to the other side of the town’. When I complained about the housing, the Minister at the time interjected: ‘It is obvious that you have not been there lately because nice frangipani trees are growing there now’. Senator Poyser, who was sitting beside me, interjected: Minister, you cannot live under frangipani trees’.
I shall read to the Senate a letter written bv Joyce Hall, an active member of the North Queensland Land Council and an associate of a tribe which has been based in this area for generations:
I am from Weipa and I feel that we are too tired of the way the State Government has been treating us as babies or prisoners. The by-laws are not good, its bad. No houses are built for the Aboriginals; more houses are built for the white people who are working in the mining area. Where is all the money the miners are making, taking minerals from our mother land which God has given us. We were known that the Aboriginals were the first people who were known in the North Gulf of Carpentaria. Since I was five or six years of age I did see our people get shot and whipped with stock whips. After, the bleeding wound was cured with coarse salt, chains round their legs and hands was led to the beach at Napranam (Jessica Point) on to the boat.
This happened in the lifetime of all of us here. Even though the lady who wrote this was a small girl at the time, it is still burned into her memory. The letter continued:
This we feel that we should be changed, as it is still today our black police are doing to the prisoners in jail bash them up because they must take the orders from the State Government. The people of Weipa do not know how or why we are not getting a better deal. Comalco is not fair to the Aboriginals. I see the unfairness too. Still in them the greedy way of feeling they have and do not think of the people of the community. This is why the Aurukun people feel and has fears in them because they seen a lot of things happening to the people of Weipa. The drinking was brought by the white people and did make the people and children suffer by drunkenness and broken homes, deserted homes, mothers left with children and fathers left with children, children wandering away from the love of their father and mother which we know our homes before was the best Christian community now its brought heartaches and pains, car accidents, fights and deaths.
Those words are from the hean of somebody who has seen things we have not seen. When the first visit was made to Aurukun by the
Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement, the famous Pat Killoran, the director of the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement cajoled the local people into trying to take it easy and to let the mining companies takeover. His appeal to the young women of Aurukun was that they would get nice white husbands. It does not happen that way. Everywhere a mining company goes where there is an Aboriginal community, invariably it leads to the destruction of the culture and happiness of that community.
Another big problem is that the opportunity of being able to convey information to communities has been seriously restricted ever since the establishment of the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement. I recall that in 1974 I wanted to send a message through the radio receiver on Thursday Island. My message was held up by the Department for two days until a communication could be conveyed to the Premier of the contents of my message- this was after it left the hands of the post office- so that Mr Petersen would be able to send his message in advance of mine. When the referendums were held last year a direction was sent to every island community regarding the way they had to vote. I am told by scrutineers who saw the ballot papers when they came back that nine-tenths of them had been filled in by only two or three people. Those people would, of course, have been officers of the DAIA or people under their control. This frequently happens in elections in those areas.
There has been no fair go at the Doomadgee Mission which, generally speaking, has been totally controlled by the National Party from 1967, when Aboriginals earned the right to vote by the carriage of the referendum, until the State election in 1977. In that election also the ballot papers were filled in on behalf of the Aborigines. These are not strange statements. They are truthful. One would not think this could happen in 1978 in a so-called democratic country. In late October 1975 approval was given for the establishment of a radio station on Thursday Island. The people of the Torres Strait, unless they have a very powerful receiver, do not hear the daily news broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. People living at Saibi Boigu and Duan and islands close to the New Guinea coast complain that their kids are able to receive the strong beams from Port Moresby. They are learning pidgin, Motu and other languages rather than their own. Torres Strait Island languages are very lovely languages. Most of the people can speak them.
Communications have been seriously restricted throughout the whole of Queensland. This is the way that the State Department has been able to carry on effectively its black bashing. I remember when Mr Wentworth was the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. He complained to me that communications which he had sent to communities in Queensland had not been received. I told him at the time that undoubtedly the Post Office would have delivered them to the community but that is as far as they would have gone. They would not have been handed to the person to whom they were addressed unless the white manager on the reserve thought he ought to receive them. The managers on the reserves censor telegrams from the Torres Strait. A telegram may be seeking advice as to whether a relative, probably an aged relative, is well or is recovering from an injury. They are all censored. I am not prepared to address my letters to a number of communities in Queensland. Instead I address them to other areas where community members wander from time to time and are able to pick up their mail.
I asked a question in this chamber this morning which concerned two tiny Aboriginal communities. The first is at Herberton. In this session I have asked questions about that community and I have mentioned it in debate. I am still not satisfied with the answers I have received. I received a message in late January advising that the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement had directed everybody to leave the Herberton Reserve. Not many people live there; one family and two or three old people live in three dwellings. The reserve has been there for many years. It is the area in which these people live. It is there that their ancestors are buried. Their ties with their own land are part of their life. I drove the long distance to Herberton that weekend to find out the true story.
I talked to local business people and was told that the real reason for shifting the Aboriginals off that reserve was that the price of tin being what it is a company was interested in exploring for tin and, in fact, it had already found a lode there. I understand that the lode of ore is very rich and the company wanted to exploit it. The official reason for moving the Aboriginals was that sewerage could not be installed in the Herberton area because of its hilly nature, that the local night soil collection was about to cease and that everybody would have to have septic systems attached to his home.
The people of Palm Island, the Gorge, Kowanyama and Bamaga, the people in the Torres Strait, with a couple of exceptions who are totally dominated by the Premier, and the people of many other centres of Queensland have followed this public debate with great interest. They hoped that this legislation would be of value with teeth in it. Unfortunately this is not so. In fact, the Government is so stubborn it will not even allow the Bill to be properly debated. It is refusing to allow the National Aboriginal Council, an Aboriginal group which is the official adviser to the Government, even to talk it over. Its members have asked that it be delayed so that they may talk further about it. But the Government has repudiated them in the same way that Mr Bjelke-Petersen repudiates Aborigines in Queensland. What manner of man are we dealing with, who has caused all this trouble amongst the Aboriginal people in Queensland and who has caused even the Government which honourable senators opposite support to bring on this very weak legislation? Some interesting statements appear in today’s edition of the Courier-Mail. I have not heard those statements repudiated, so I assume that they are the words of the Premier. The report in the Courier-Mail ‘states:
The Federal Government would have to recruit an Army if it wanted to take over Queensland Aboriginal reserves, the Premier ( Mr Bjelke-Petersen ) said last night.
A word from Canberra won’t mean their getting the reserves, ‘ he said.
The Premier said the 3,200,000 hectares of reserves were State Crown land.
Mr Bjelke-Petersen said the State Government was preparing to meet the challenge of the Federal legislation.
He will not have to put up a great fight; there is not much in it. The article goes on to state:
One proposal is understood to be to take the legislation to the High Court when it becomes law.
Mr Bjelke-Petersen told an Australian Coal Conference dinner at Surfers’ Paradise last night that Aurukun was really a dispute about mining royalties. ‘ “The church and the Aborigines want mining, but on the same system and royalties as the Northern Territory,’ he said.
We say it is entirely wrong to give a right- in this case mineral rights- to one section of the community when no other section has a similar right. ‘
We say the Commonwealth is pursuing a policy of apartheid in the Northern Territory- a policy of separate lands, separate development, separate funding, separate education, health and other programmes. ‘
In State Parliament yesterday, the Aboriginal and Island Affairs Minister (Mr Porter) said his Federal counterpart (Mr Viner) should ‘think again ‘about the legislation.
Another little story is appended to that which I have just read. It deals with what some of Mr Bjelke-Petersen ‘s colleagues are thinking about him. A few lines of this article ought also to be read into Hansard. The article reads:
Top members of the National Party will urge the Premier (Mr Bjelke-Petersen, 67) to take a holiday.
A senior member of the party organisation said last night: He is very tired. We think he needs a rest. ‘
The view that Mr Bjelke-Petersen should take a breakprobably after Parliament rises late this month or early next- is shared by some National Party parliamentarians.
Incidentally, the Queensland Parliament usually sits for two weeks in the first half of the year and for about four weeks in the second half of the year. There should be sufficient time for the Premier to rest in between those sittings. Apart from that, he has just been the guest of Mr Iwasaki in Japan when he would have had an opportunity to have a good rest. The article continues:
There is increasing concern about him, particularly since the Milan Brych affair- but no challenge to his leadership is seen at present.
That statement is qualified. The article continues:
A senior member of the National Party organisation said last night that the Party would ‘stick by the Premier’.
He said this included continuing to back him to run again as Premier at the next State election in 1 980.
He led us into two great election victories,’ the party member said.
We aren’t dropping him because of what appear to be problems.’
He does get too much involved in issues where he needn’t. Many of our members wonder why he got involved in the Brych affair.’
But there’s more concern in the National Party about the style of Government in Queensland than there is about the Premier. ‘
There ‘s too much Cabinet Government. ‘
There’s a lack of communication between Cabinet and the backbenchers, the party organisation and, in some cases, the public’
The article then goes on to deal further about the Premier. I think I have read enough of it to make my point before I summarise my remarks in this debate. First of all, the type of man we are dealing with is obvious. There is no such thing as parliamentary government in Queensland any more. Not even the members of the government parties are free in their thinking, free in their expression of opinion, or free in debate. There is this great obsession that Aborigines must never get their land. Halfway down the coast of Queensland in what is known as the central district, a Japanese man, Mr Iwasaki has been allowed to take over 20,000 acres of some of the best coastal land in Queensland to develop it as a tourist resort. He is putting through roads and doing the preliminary work. He is destroying the environment. When that project is fully established the local environment will probably not be recognisable.
So that Mr Bjelke-Petersen is able to get his friends into these positions he has introduced what he calls a franchise agreement. Such an agreement totally stifles local government. The Livingstone Shire Council, which is involved in this matter, can now say or do very little because it is subject to the franchise agreement. Less than 100 miles away, in the Mount Larcom area, 41 farms have effectively been destroyed in order to help another mining company enter the area. They have been destroyed because of another franchise agreement and because the police have been brought in to make reluctant farmers allow the mining companies in to develop and explore their land. A mining warden heard the case. I understand from the leaks at the time that he recommended against the development of the area for mining, but his report to the State Government has never been disclosed to the public. It is a secret document. Only the Premier and the mining company have seen it.
The situation has gone further than that. I mention these things because they are totally consistent with what is happening in relation to these two reserves and to many other reserves in Queensland. Demonstrations by minorities are no longer allowed. That includes the Aborigines, who are not allowed to march either. Some years ago when Don Chipp was the Minister for Customs and Excise and was relaxing the customs and censorship regulations, it appeared that the Little Red Schoolbook was likely to get into Queensland. The Premier announced that the emergency police service telephone number 000, which should be restricted to the reporting of serious accidents, burglaries, fires and what have you, could be used by anybody to report anyone who was seen with a copy of the Little Red Schoolbook. Two sets of education aids- the Social Education Materials Project and Man a Course of Study- have been banned. That was done on the advice of one lady who admits that she has read little of each. However, she is a great adviser to the Cabinet.
The Queensland Premier is the same man who sent a cablegram to the Government of Indonesia congratulating the Indonesians on their invasion of East Timor and their atrocities against the Fretilin organisation. He is the same man who called for the doubling of the number of troops who went to Vietnam during that time when this country was involved in that infamous war. I do not mind conscientious objectors; I have a great respect for them. I have had a great respect for Mr Bjelke-Petersen as a conscientious objector, which he was during World War II. He refused to have anything to do with World War II on the basis of conscience. He has since tried to water down that stand by saying that the troops needed peanuts and that he had to stay at home to grow them. But for him as a conscientious objector to achieve a public position in which he has been allowed to get away with these sorts of things is to brand him a double hypocrite.
– Order! Senator Keeffe, be careful of the language you use in respect to members of another parliament.
-Mr President, I have always tried to be careful with my language in this chamber. I thank you for your rebuke. As I say, I have always tried to be careful with my language in this chamber, but there are times when only a particular word suits the particular occasion. A few months ago, after the 1 977 election in Queensland, we had the public spectacle of the Queensland Government not being able to form a Cabinet. Bill Knox sat in the red corner with his handful of people and Mr BjelkePetersen sat in the blue corner with the majority, but finally Mr Bjelke-Petersen won out and left Bill Knox for dead. In any case, Mr Knox was flat out keeping up with what was going on. Mr Charles Porter, an undercover member of the National Party, was appointed to carry out the bidding of the Premier. He has been a very good front man for the Premier in the takeover of the Aurukun and Mornington Island reserves. But some truths ought to be told about Mr Porter’s visit to Mornington Island. He refused to speak to the people until it looked as though a good sized demonstration would result. He was able to be persuaded that it might be an idea if he talked with them too.
That ties in with the support being given to the Queensland Premier by Sir Charles Court, because Sir Charles Court is facing up to the same sort of situation. He does not want the Federal Government even to reprimand him. He is changing legislation in the Western Australian Parliament to enable three mining companies instead of one to move into the prospecting of the diamond fields. It is the Queensland Premier who banned the team involved in the trachoma program in Queensland, allegedly because two of the people concerned were taking political action during an election campaign. That is not true and it never was true. But, the Premier was prepared to sacrifice the eyesight and health of hundreds of Aborigines in order to get his way politically. This Government meekly said ‘yes sir’ and shifted the team out. One of the ironical things is that the team went to the electorate of the Federal Minister for Health (Mr Hunt). He had known earlier that the team was coming and he had drafted a letter to try to prevent them. After he saw what happened to Mr Petersen he sent a letter of welcome to the trachoma team.
Because of the demands made by the Queensland Premier Aborigines have been refused the use of land at Archer River, Cardwell, Ayr and other places. On occasions he has withheld moneys which were to be used for Aboriginal employment, housing and health. If money has not been withheld it has been diverted. I know of one local authority which, in the old days, had the special grants for the employment of Aborigines held up for many months because an election was imminent. The only thing the Premier forgot was the interest because when the authority finally got the grant, interest had been added to it. This is the Premier who does not intervene when police bash students. In fact the policeman involved on that occasion was promoted. He does not intervene -
– Order! Senator Keeffe, you cannot make imputations or reflections in that way. Will you rephrase those remarks immediately.
-Mr President, will you tell me how to rephrase them?
– You can express yourself in parliamentary language within the parameters of Standing Orders.
– He is not capable of doing it.
-Mr President, I am trying to phrase my remarks in the way in which they ought to be phrased and to use words that are adequate to describe the situation. The reason I am doing this is to prove to you, Mr President, and to your Government that the man we are dealing with in Queensland is quite out of this world.
– It shows what type of man you are!
-I trust that my remark will not be taken as unparliamentary.
– You are not advancing the cause of the amendment.
– He is not interested in Aborigines. He is interested in the politics of the matter.
– If someone wants to have a brawl in this place I am willing to take on anyone. The Minister for Science (Senator Webster) is not able to answer his own questions in this place unless he first gets a dummy to find out a question for him and then gets the praise somewhere else.
– Order! That is a reflection on the Minister. Senator Keeffe, you will withdraw that remark immediately.
-Mr President, what I am trying to do -
- Senator Keeffe, withdraw the reflection on the Minister.
-I want to explain the situation. Am I allowed to defend myself?
- Senator Keeffe, I have asked you to withdraw.
-I am not going to withdraw.
– You will not withdraw?
– On a point of order, Mr President, I suggest that you should take into consideration the fact that Senator Keeffe ‘s remarks may have been prompted by an interjection from the Minister. Perhaps in the circumstances -
– It matters not, I am sorry.
– Perhaps Senator Keeffe has had a chance to reflect.
- Senator Keeffe, it was a gross reflection on the Minister. Please withdraw.
-Mr President, am I allowed to defend myself?
– You cannot debate my ruling. I have requested you to withdraw those words which are offensive to the Minister.
-Can I ask you a question?
- Senator Keeffe, you must not debate the question. I ask you to withdraw.
-Mr President, I feel I have been forced into a situation and I have no alternative but to leave it remain as it is.
- Senator Keeffe, I have no pleasure in doing what I am forced to do in a situation such as this.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. We fully understand the situation which will follow your ruling if Senator Keeffe is not willing to accede to your request. I suggest to Senator Keeffe that it would be more competent for him to make some conciliatory remarks in this situation than to go against your wishes. I fully realise that from time to time various honourable senators make harsh remarks and that their comments are usually withdrawn if they are unparliamentary. In this instance, Senator Keeffe ‘s remark to me is certainly not as bad as a number of other remarks which he makes in this place from time to time. If it is your decision, Mr President, that he must be named if he does not comply with your request, I hope he will take some action which will prevent that situation being brought about.
- Mr President, I also rise on a point of order. I would prefer that Senator Keeffe would in fact withdraw out of deference to you, but, in view of the remarks just made by Senator Webster, certainly not for the sorts of reasons he has given. In fact, Senator Webster is responsible for some of the most provocative remarks in this place. In fact, when we were in government he was responsible for one of the worst personal interjections that anyone, on either side of the Senate, has ever heard.
-Mr President, may I speak to the point of order?
– No, Senator Keeffe. I have sought your retraction or a statement from you.
- Mr President, I would like to speak to what is still a point of order. I was listening to the comment made by Senator Keeffe but, of course, on the broadcasting system within the building I did not hear the interjection from Senator Webster. As Senator Grimes has stated anything might have been said, in view of Senator Webster’s record in this place of making interjections to which, obviously, people on this side of the chamber have every reason to take exception. The comment made by Senator Keeffe, as I recall it, was that Senator Webster is unable to answer dummy questions, or words to that effect. I find it unfortunate, with respect to you Mr President, that you would see fit to have in your mind such harsh treatment as naming Senator Keeffe on the basis of that remark. All of us know quite well that comments of a much more serious and personal nature are made in this chamber and very often they are left to pass. They pass over people’s shoulders. We accept them; that is the name of the game. I am sorry to think that we have reached this stage on the basis of what Senator Keeffe has said. I have probably said worse myself and probably all of us have. Mr President, we are not in a position to challenge your ruling. We do not do that. That is the end of the line, I suppose, and because you have that authority we naturally look to you to exercise the utmost discretion in taking any action. I would trust that before this matter reaches the stage that it appears to be reaching you might reconsider your ruling.
– I have sought from Senator Keeffe that he withdraw his remarks. He has refused to withdraw. I ask you, Senator Keeffe, now for the last time: Will you withdraw the remarks you made in respect to Senator Webster?
– Can I seek leave to make a personal explanation?
– No. We have had enough discussion on this matter?
- Mr President, my situation is still the same.
– You cannot withdraw?
-I am sorry, but that is it.
– Then I have no alternative but to name you.
- Mr President, surely the Senate would like to know the exact words that you seek to have withdrawn. I have some doubt about the phrase and perhaps Senator Keeffe has some doubt.
– There can be no discussion on this matter.
- Mr President, I ask that Senator Keeffe be called upon to stand in his place in accordance with Standing Order 440 and make any explanation or apology that he may think fit.
-Mr President, my explanation is that obviously Senator Webster was disturbed by some of the truthful things I was saying about the Premier of Queensland, who happens to be a member of Senator Webster’s party. He then made at least three racist interjections. I think that if I am called upon to apologise then Senator Webster should be called upon twice to apologise for his provocative statements to me. That is my explanation. I am sorry about it. I am sorry to do it to you, Mr President, and I am sorry that this debate should have been allowed to develop to this low tone because of the actions of one National Country Party Minister.
– You will not withdraw?
-Sir, I cannot. If Senator Webster is made to withdraw and apologise then I shall do it.
– I call on the Minister for Social Security, Senator Guilfoyle.
-Mr President, a regrettable situation has developed in the chamber. In view of all the circumstances I have no alternative but to move:
That Senator Keeffe be suspended from the sitting of the Senate.
-The question is that this motion be agreed to.
– Surely there must be debate on this motion.
– Order! Under the Standing Orders there can be no debate on this motion.
That Senator Keeffe be suspended from the sitting of the Senate.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senator Keeffe was thereupon escorted from
-The Senate today is debating a Bill for an Act to empower Aboriginals- I would prefer to use the word ‘Aborigines’- and Torres Strait Islanders who live on reserves in Queensland to manage and to control their own affairs. I should like in some way to bring back some sanity to this debate. Just what are we debating in this Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Reserves and Communities Self-management) Bill? What are we endeavouring to do in this chamber by supporting the Bill that was introduced by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) in the other place yesterday? We are not talking about States rights; we are not talking about the Commonwealth Government taking over the communities in Queensland. We are not talking about that at all. What we are talking about is human rights and human dignity. Because of the actions of the Queensland Government just recently the Federal Government, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) have seen fit to do something that to my knowledge has never been tried before. One recalls that some two weeks ago the Opposition had what is termed a matter of public importance debated in this chamber andin the other place. That was concerned with the very thing that we are talking about in relation to this Bill- the arbitrary and dictatorial acts of the Government of Queensland in interfering in the running of Aurukun and Mornington Island, two Aboriginal communities in that State. I, as did a number of my colleagues on this side of the chamber, joined in that debate, which was a very good one, marked by impartiality and an absence of politicking. We were all concerned for the rights of the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island. I hoped that the debate on this Bill, would be carried out along the same lines. What the Opposition was asking for at that time was immediate intervention by the Federal Government to prevent the Government of Queensland from taking over the administration of the communities concerned.
– On 1 April, Senator, don’t forget. It was to anticipate the takeover on 1 April, Why don ‘t you make that clear?
– I thank Senator Georges for giving me the exact date. He is merely supporting my statement that that debate did occur. I do not see how he could claim otherwise. What happened in Queensland was that the Government, through the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the Honourable Charles Porter, delivered to the Moderator of the Queensland
Uniting Church a certain document. Prior to the delivery of that document there was no consultation whatsoever between the State Government and either the Uniting Church or the Aboriginal people. Admittedly, there were rumours, which even reached Canberra- the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the Honourable Ian Viner, was aware of them- that the State Government was about to take or contemplated taking these steps. That document was handed to the Moderator without any to do. He was just told: ‘Here’s something; read that.’ I am not sure whether this document was read during the course of the previous debate on the matter of public importance, but perhaps I should do that now. The document read:
I have to advise that Cabinet has considered the overall position relative to Mornington Island and Aurukun Aboriginal communities and to inform you of the following decisions by Cabinet.
It was a Cabinet decision- an arbitrary decision by the Queensland Government. The document continues:
That document was handed to the Moderator of the Uniting Church. No discussion was allowed, or anything else. It was just a matter of taking over. When that message got through, a number of people became very concerned. I thank Opposition supporters for their action on that date when they moved as a matter of public importance, it be considered both in the other place and here. I thank them for the content of the debate at that time because they, as I am today, were concerned for the people and the rights of the people. That is what all this is about at the present moment. We are talking about people; we are talking about people being able to have the right to determine their own future, to be able to manage their own affairs, to be able to say what they want to do, to aspire to whatever they want to aspire to, not to be controlled by anyone else.
They have had a working relationship with the Presbyterian Church, prior to its becoming the Uniting Church, for some 74 years. They have worked together. They have lived together. They have played together and they have cried together. For all those years the Uniting Church has adopted a policy similar to that adopted by the Federal Government, a policy of selfmanagement and self-determination. In every way possible they have endeavoured to encourage those of my people living in those communities to accept responsibility, to be able to plan and manage their own affairs. But the State Government does not want that. It has ignored the facts. In this particular case, now that this Bill is before the Parliament, it has ignored the fact that the 1967 referendum empowered the Commonwealth under section 5 1 (xxvi) to legislate for Aborigines. Whilst the State retains its current power to legislate, any Commonwealth legislation must prevail.
In my own State of Queensland there was an almost 90 per cent yes vote in the 1967 referendum. The lowest yes vote in any of the 18 Queensland electoral divisions was 84 per cent. What we are doing through this Bill is exactly what the people of Queensland said in 1967 should happen- that the Commonwealth should have the power to legislate, to take control and make laws for Aboriginal people throughout Australia.
– No, no.
-If Senator Wright is saying no, in that regard he must agree with the statement of the Premier of Queensland that Queensland is another country, that it is not part of Australia. Queensland is indeed a part of the Commonwealth of Australia. In 1967, I repeat, almost 90 per cent of the people of Queensland voted yes. The lowest yes vote in any of the 1 8 electoral divisions was 84 per cent. What the Federal Government is doing is carrying out its responsibilities. Thank God it has. It has taken almost 1 1 years for any Government really to put this into practice.
I have received quite a few digs from various people about my stand on Queensland. There have been occasions when I have said that the Government of that State, in some regards, has done very well. The situation at the community of Cherbourg, which three of my Queensland colleagues visited the other day, is different from that at Mornington Island, Aurukun or some of the other church-run mission stations. A good job has been done at this mission. I suppose one of the reasons for this is that Cherbourg is less than 2½ hours by road from Brisbane. It is a showplace at which anybody can look. However, despite the beautiful buildings, the amenities and the facilities, the Aboriginal people do not have the right of self-management or selfdetermination. That is exactly what we are giving them by this legislation.
– Is Cherbourg in the Premier’s electorate?
-Yes, it is very close. As a matter of fact the Premier has a branch of the National Party on Cherbourg. It is certainly within striking distance of Kingaroy. Admittedly that could make some difference. But be that as it may, my task today is not just to denigrate the Premier as a person; it is also to point out some of the things that are happening in my State of Queensland and to explain why it has been necessary for the Federal Government and for the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to introduce this legislation. I think we need to listen to the voice of the Aboriginal people. The results of a survey carried out in Queensland only recently lend support to what this Government is doing. The results are contained in a document entitled Interim Report of Joint Research Project’ and dated 31 March 1978. The survey was carried out by the Aboriginal and Islanders Legal Service in co-operation with the Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action. I do not
Control of various matters
Who should control: want to go through the whole of the document. However, I have shown the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) a copy of the relevant page from which I intend to quote in part. I seek leave to have the page incorporated in Hansard.
Leave not granted.
-In that case I will read the table on that page to the Senate. It states:
DATE OF INTERVIEWS-January to March 1978.
Sex- Male 6 1 per cent; Female 39 per cent.
At present the Queensland Government is responsible for making laws about Aboriginal and Islander reserves in Queensland. Who do you think should be responsible for making laws about Aboriginal and Islander reserves in Queensland?
Queensland Government- 14.5 percent
At present the land of Aboriginal reserves is owned by the State Government. Who do you think should own the land of these reserves?
State Government- 2.6 per cent
Commonwealth Government- 6.4 per cent
Aboriginal people on reserves- 85.6 per cent
Someone Else- 2. 1 percent
– Even though a quorum has been formed I am disappointed to see the lack of interest shown by Senator Georges and his colleagues because there are only about five Labor Party senators in the chamber at the moment. This shows the extent of their interest in this debate. I do not mind a little bit of harassment while I am speaking on behalf of the indigenous people of this country because I have had plenty of that and I can put up with it. This sort of behaviour does not worry me greatly anyway. I would like to read the remainder of the table to which I was referring. It contains the results of a survey conducted among some 925 people in Aboriginal communities in Queensland. It continues, dealing with who should control various matters:
I would like to take just a moment to congratulate you, Mr Acting Deputy President, on your appointment as a Temporary Chairman of Committees. The information given in the table is an indication of the feelings of my people in these communities. We believe that we have now come of age’. We are ready, willing and able to start managing our own affairs in the communities in which we live in the various parts of Queensland. The Premier of Queensland and his Government are not prepared to accept that. I read from the transcript of an interview on the program AM conducted by Mr Peter Wrapp. He was asking a question of the Premier. He said:
Aboriginal leaders attending the National Aboriginal Conference in Canberra are highly critical of the legislation. They say it doesn’t go far enough. Do you see it as weak legislation?
The Premier answered:
Well, it is exactly what anybody could have told the Prime Minister and Mr Viner. They can never satisfy these people. They want the land, they want the mineral rights, they want everything. They want the whole country. They want to set up a northern state, they want to divide the nation. They want to annex part of Queensland with the Northern Territory and make a black state. Surely Canberra can wake up to this; that they’ll never satisfy them. They try to please- and they’ll listen to the Prime Minister. Stop trying to please people; do what you know is right.
That is what the Federal Government is doing. It is doing what is right.
The Premier uses scare tactics in saying that the Aboriginal people want to set up a black state. What a lot of nonsense. All we ask is to have the same rights as every other Australian citizen. The Premier is not saying that Mr Iwasaki will set up a Japanese state outside Yeppoon. Oh no, he welcomes him with open arms.
But when my people want to control their own land he says that they are setting up an apartheid state in Australia. Mr Iwasaki must be going to set up an apartheid state at Yeppoon for the Japanese people. I wonder what benefits the Australian people will derive from that. They can certainly derive some benefit by doing the right thing by the indigenous people of this country by making some recompense for what has happened in the past. All we are seeking is exactly that. We are asking through this BUI that the Queensland Government allow the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island to manage their own affairs. This Bill will ensure that. I know that many people including the Opposition, are saying that the Bill should be deferred. I will not agree to this Bill being deferred. It must go through. My colleagues and I who visited Aurukun and Mornington Island- the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) and the Cabinethave assured the people that it will go through. I have done this on a personal basis. My colleagues and I made a solemn promise to the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island that we would do everything in our power to ensure that the Federal Government introduced forthwith legislation to prevent the Queensland Government from taking over those communities. We said that we would do everything in our power to urge the Government to take steps to introduce legislation to give self-management and self-determination to those people.
I am pleased to say that the Minister has gone a little further than that in the drafting of this Bill. He has offered the same right to every other Aboriginal community in the State of Queensland. But we are not telling the Aboriginal communities that they have to manage their own affairs. We are not saying: ‘Here is a Bill; you must work in accordance with it’. The Government is saying to them: ‘Here is a Bill. The people of Aurukun and Mornington Island asked us for this opportunity and we are giving it to them. We are also giving that opportunity to each and every one of you. If you wish to take advantage of it you may do so; if you do not and you want to stay with the State Government, that is entirely your business. It is entirely up to you. ‘ The Minister is not forcing the views of the Federal Parliament on to the Aboriginal people in Queensland. It is saying to them for the first time: Here is your chance. ‘ The Minister said in his second reading speech:
This legislation responds directly and positively to the expressed wishes of the Aboriginal people at Aurukun and Mornington Island that the Commonwealth Government prevent the takeover by the Queensland Government from the Uniting Church of management of the two communities. It is carefully designed to achieve that result within the constitutional power of the Commonwealth, given by the 1967 referendum, to make special laws for the people of any race for whom it is deemed necessary.
That is exactly what this Bill is all about. It is giving the right to those people to choose for themselves and to say to the State Government: We do not want a part of you and we do not want your administration.’ But they can also say: Yes, we do. We believe that the State Government is doing more for us and we do not want any part of the Federal Government or the church. ‘ That is the choice they will have, and rightly so. Every other Australian citizen has that right. No one would dare to come into our homes and tell us how to lead our lives. No one tells us what motor car we can buy or what house we can live in. We are able to make that choice for ourselves. This Bill gives the Aboriginal people the right to choose, the right to manage their own affairs and to lead a life style according to their wishes. Mr Acting Deputy President, to support my statement that this Bill ought not be held up but should be pushed through this Parliament as expeditiously as is humanly possible, I will read a telegram that I received only this afternoon. It is from Professor Busch, Moderator of the Uniting Church in Queensland; Reverend Gordon Coutts, Administration Officer of the Uniting Church; and Mr W. McMillan, solicitor for the Community of Aurukun, acting on behalf at the Aurukun people. The telegram reads:
Imperative in the interests of the residents of Mornington Island and Aurukun Aboriginal Reserves that Government legislation be passed by Parliament today. Delay in passing legislation will precipitate State Government action in current situation.
That is from the three people who have been involved in this matter ever since it started.
– What sort of State Government action do they anticipate occurring?
-They have not stated that in the telegram. I suggest that Senator Harradine write to them and ask them. I received a second telegram this afternoon from the President of the Uniting Church. The message is:
Please feel free to quote me as saying that the Uniting Church regards it as a matter of great importance that legislation passes all stages today.
These are the people who were in the fight with the State Government for the takeover of those two communities. They are supporting what the Government is doing, at the moment, I too support what the Government is doing for the simple reason that I gave a promise to these people that I would do everything in my power to ensure that this legislation was introduced, following the promise of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs that it would be done. Now that it has passed through the other place the legislation is in this chamber. I want to see it passed and I will do everything I can to ensure that it is passed.
– Feeling in a generous or conciliatory mood this afternoon I do not desire to condemn anyone. I have no criticism of the speeches that have been made on either side and I look forward to reading in Hansard the good contribution of Senator Martin. When we read what has been incorporated in Hansard and the documents which have been tabled we will learn what has happened at Aurukun and Mornington Island. Nor do I intend, to the relief of the President, to condemn the Premier of Queensland. He has been condemned enough. I want only to show that this Bill does not have the significance which the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) and speakers from the other side of the chamber have indicated and will not achieve its purpose. The Bill is introduced not out of concern for the Aboriginal people in Queensland but because of a conflict between the two coalition political parties. In order to determine who succeeds in that conflict this action is taken by the Federal Government.
It is humourous to recall today the fight that my Government had in 1974 when it introduced the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Bill and the opposition which we received from the then Opposition which told us, the Federal Government to keep out of Queensland. The Opposition did not want Federal politics in Queensland. Its argument was supported by some 23 telegrams from Queensland community councils asking us to leave control under the Queensland Act and the State Government. Two telegrams were produced by Senator Rae, one from the chairman of the Aboriginal Council on Mornington Island and the other from the chairman of the Aboriginal Council at Aurukun, both saying that they did not want federal politics in those areas. That position has changed now and, fortunately, so has the attitude of honourable senators on the other side. In the debate on that earlier Bill, Senator Rae is recorded in Hansard as having said:
After all, if we look at the recent past history of performance by the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Canberra, there is really not much evidence to suggest that there has been greater efficiency, greater sympathy or greater empathy flowing from the Department in Canberra than there has been from the Department in Queensland.
Senator Sheil was more supportive of the Queensland position when he said:
The situation of Aborigines and islanders in Queensland is one of quite development which is both harmonious and progressive. The administration is enlightened, unlike the current Federal administration. There is co-operation and consultation all the time.
This is high praise of the Queensland Government. He added that, if anything, the Federal Government should be learning from Queensland rather than trying to dictate to it. I wonder whether Senator Sheil has changed his attitude.
-He says he has not. Obviously Senator Sheil is a dissenter from the action of the Minister in introducing this legislation. Senator Bonner, however, has changed his mind because he is recorded in Hansard of 78 November 1 974 as saying:
They sent these telegrams because they do not want interference from the Federal Government or the Australian Government, as it calls itself.
Later, on 5 December 1 974, he said:
I believe in some respects that both the Queensland Government and the Australian Government are adopting subconsciously a racist attitude on this whole issue because the Queensland Government is saying, ‘The Australian Government is not going to take over Aboriginal affairs ‘ and the Australian Government is saying, ‘We are going to take over Aboriginal affairs ‘.
To support his argument Senator Bonner produced a Press statement from the elected leader of the Queensland Aboriginal reserve residents, Mr Fisher, which stated:
However, being fully aware of this, Senator Cavanagh has insulted the Queensland Aboriginal representatives by threatening to introduce his own laws to override State legislation.
So the Federal Government was never wanted in Queensland.
– Who said that?
-Senator Bonner quoted what had been said by Mr Les Fisher. On page 3204 of Hansard of 5 December 1974 Senator Bonner is reported as having said:
I shall follow on by proving that the Queensland Government did listen to what the Aboriginal councillors recommended. I have a copy here of a Bill which is entitled ‘A Bill to amend the Aborigines Act 1971 and the Torres Strait Islanders Act 1971, each in certain particulars’. The Queensland Government has kept faith with the Aboriginal councils.
This is high praise but bis attitude is somewhat different today. Senator Bonner then said:
If the Minister would like to have a look at them I will be quite happy to show them to him. He might then be able to understand why I argue against what he is attempting to do at the moment . . .
At that time I was attempting to free the Queensland Aborigines on reserves from the tyranny of the Queensland Act. My actions were opposed. Senator Bonner concluded his remarks by saying:
I have no intention of standing in this place and painting the Queensland Government lily white because it has made mistakes in the past and I am sure it will make more mistakes. At least it has accepted its responsibilities.
His attitude is entirely different today, and I ask: Why is there this change of attitude? We have been told that the threat of a takeover of the Aboriginal community at Aurukun and Mornington Island has become important because there is a desire to mine bauxite deposits on the settlements. If there is a desire to mine bauxite deposits on the settlements, this Bill will not prevent it and the right which the Queensland Government will have to enter into arrangements with mining companies under this legislation is the same as the right it already has. A report in the Australian of Friday 31 March stated:
The State Mines and Energy Minister, Mr Camm, yesterday denied in Parliament that bauxite mining had anything to do with control of the two missions.
Mr Camm said misconceptions and confusion were being manufactured deliberately around the State Government’s actions.
He said the Government already exercised complete control over mining of bauxite deposits in the Aurukun area through the Aurukun Associates Agreement Act of 197S.
In a detailed ministerial statement, Mr Camm said the validity of the agreement between the director of Aboriginal and Island Affairs and the mining consortiums was upheld recently by the Privy Council.
What does the Minister have to say about that? What does the Government have to say about the decision of the Privy Council on whether there was a valid agreement? It can be argued that the Federal Government can control exports and that it is no use mining if the Federal Government will not permit exports from that area. Under this legislation the Queensland Government still can take the sort of action it has taken before. The position in relation to mining in Queensland will remain as it was even after this Bill comes into operation. So it is ridiculous to say that it is the question of mining in Queensland which has prompted the introduction of this legislation. Senator Bonner mentioned the bauxite deposits but in this respect the legislation achieves nothing and Senator Bonner is fooling himself if he thinks that this Bill is a victory for Aborigines.
– They still have not got power over exports.
-I say that we can refuse to export and then mining will not take place. We have always had this power to ban mining and this Bill does not alter the situation. In view of an agreement that has been ratified by the Privy Council, the Federal Government could allow mining if it so desired. So with this Bill we are in exactly the same position.
Let us therefore try to look at what this dispute is all about. Surprisingly, I find that my colleague, Senator Keeffe, was asked to leave this chamber, although we know that Senator Keeffe frequently makes some serious allegations for which he does not have much supporting evidence. But when Senator Keeffe can predict some three years in advance what is going to happen one starts to think that he is not relating fairy tales, and one begins to wonder whether he has clairvoyant powers. But the fact is that he knows the history of Queensland.
As recorded at page 2046 of the Senate Hansard of 29 May 1975, Senator Keeffe said:
Senator Sheil knows what is likely to happen at Aurukun. Some more friends of the National Party are taking up leases all through that area. They have the ultimate secret weapon to abolish that community when they are ready.
That is the very thing that has happened. We were told in 1975 what would happen and it did happen. Senator Keeffe knew what had happened at Mapoon and other places. What has happened is that there is interest in the area, whether that interest be mining or whatever, involving National Party members going to Aurukun.
In the Australian of 3 1 March 1 978, Mr Hugh Lunn wrote an article- I think this was referred to earlier today by Senator Martin- on Mr Pat Killoran, the Director of the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement. The article states:
It was, in fact, Mr Killoran who precipitated the whole Aurukun affair. This happened, not this week, but way back in October 1976 when, in his annual report to State Parliament, he accused some christian churches of replacing pastoral care ‘with a philosophy of materialism and political bias’.
In 1975 Senator Keeffe warned us that this would happen because of National Party interests. At that time the authorities there were teaching a philosophy of materialism and political bias. We saw the same political bias when the Premier of Queensland stopped the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program because it was alleged that some welfare officer had political bias and had enrolled someone. This man controls the State and no one may have a differing opinion. He says that if the Church, which has had long representation on the island, is going to teach materialism and political bias, it must go. So the State Government decided that it must go. As Hugh Lunn said in the newspaper article:
From the day of that report the days of the Uniting Church at Aurukun and Mornington Island were numbered.
I suppose the Uniting Church could be accused of giving the Aborigines the wrong education but it was caught in a political web.
Now we come to the question of the Premier of Queensland, Mr Bjelke-Petersen. He is not now on as firm ground within his own environmentand this was shown by the last State electionas he was previously. There are rumblings within his own Party and within the coalition parties. It is doubtful whether he is now the strongman within his Party that he always has been. We saw the start of his decline right after the last State election when there was a dispute over the number of Liberal Party members who should be in the Queensland cabinet. For the first time in the coalition’s history there was a dispute between the National Party and the Liberal Party over the plums of office, the pork chops. There has been a continual fight between these two parties and the Federal Government, seeing an opportunity to defeat the acknowledged leader of the National Party, decided to stop his encroachment upon Aurukun and Mornington Island.
The Federal Government sent the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Viner, to Brisbane to have a talk with the Premier. He was accompanied by Mr Nixon of the National Country Party. Why Mr Nixon should accompany Mr Viner to Brisbane on matters relating to Aboriginal Affairs, I do not know. He is the Minister for Transport and I cannot see how transport would come into the question at all. But he is a National Country Party member and went to Brisbane to protect National Country Party interests. Of course, during the confusion of the talks between the Premier, Mr Nixon and Mr Viner, poor old Mr Viner thought he was doing the right thing by reaching an agreement which justified the Premier saying to the Press that night: ‘We sent them back to Canberra; they got nothing’. He said. ‘If they got anything I am a Dutchman’. At that time Senator Bonner threatened to leave the Liberal Party. The agreement was a complete sellout. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was informed by telephone of what the Ministers and the Premier had decided and he saw red when he was informed that the Premier of Queensland said of this political issue: ‘We have won’. He sent the Minister to Aurukun and to Mornington Island and used the trip as an excuse to repudiate the agreement that had been entered into that afternoon.
Now, for the purpose of pure propaganda, we have before us a Bill which indicates the success of the Federal Government over the Queensland State Government, the Federal Liberal Party over the State National Party. But the Bill has no teeth and does nothing. It gives no land rights to the people of Aurukun. It applies only to Aboriginal communities on Aboriginal reserves. Aboriginal communities are defined as Aboriginal communities formed under the Queensland Aborigines Act of 1971 and Islander communities are defined under the Torres Strait Islanders Act of 1 97 1 . Therefore this Bill has application to the communities identified under those Acts of the State Parliament. This Bill also uses the definitions in those Acts and will do so if they are amended or substituted. Therefore reserves and communities will continue to be identified according to the Queensland Acts. This whole Bill could be defeated by the passage of legislation declaring that Aurukun and Mornington Island are not Aboriginal reserves.
– Do you mean an alteration on the part of the Queensland Parliament?
– Yes. That is not new. The Country Party has considered it. In the debate on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Discriminatory Laws)
Bill, former Senator Lawrie, a Queensland senator from the Country Party, when talking about settlements said:
Unless the Commonwealth is prepared to buy them from the State of Queensland- 7 million acres of them- they will remain State property . . . They are marked as reserves for the use of Aboriginal inhabitants of the State, and that can be varied by Act of Parliament from time to time. They are not in perpetuity; they do not go on for ever. They are still the property of the State of Queensland. Unless they are purchased they will remain the property of the State of Queensland.
We are told that the Federal Government can do what it likes- it may appeal to the Privy Council -but while the Queensland Government has the numbers, an Act relating to the Queensland Parliament can be made non-operative as soon as the Queensland Government decides to do so.
Other parts of the Bill give very little right to Aboriginals. This will be brought out at the Committee stage as we go through the clauses of the Bill. The Bill provides only those rights which the normal councils have. While the Council has the right to prevent an Aborigine entering the reserve, it has no right to stop a white man entering the reserve. Although we are leaving the control of the missions in the hands of the Uniting Church, the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement can set up its own administration whether the Aborigines take any notice of it or not. No one can stop it. The Aboriginal communities have no right to do things which a person can do on his own property. That right is not provided in the Bill.
– Do you ordinarily apply that concept to citizens of a city, the same right as the owner of a home?
– I should think so.
– You do?
-Yes, I do. These settlements are the Aborigines ‘ homes. I do not think that anyone should be pestered by undesirable intruders on his property. It does not matter whether the intruders are people from an unorthodox church, Christadelphians, politicians canvassing for votes or salesmen. A person should have the right to refuse them in his own home.
– Should the council have the right to refuse entry into a community reserve?
– The community is the family. The family is on its home land. Pastoralists who occupy areas bigger than some of the Aboriginal settlements may have Aboriginal communities employed as station hands living on their properties. Perhaps they are families. They have the right to refuse the entry of undesirable people not only to their homes but also to their properties. We should not extend this right to one section of the community and not to another.
I said that I did not disagree with any speech which has been made in this debate. Few statements have been made by Mr Viner since he has been Minister for Aboriginal Affairs with which I could find much fault. The only thing I can find fault with is that he does not mean what he says and he never does a thing for Aborigines. This week he has talked about the inauguration of the National Aboriginal Conference. It was formed three years ago. It has been reduced in numbers and it is not as representative today as it was. Its powers have been stripped. It has no powers today except the power to select five people to advise the Conference to sit in conjunction with five people whom the Minister appoints- his hand-picked crowd. He also appoints the chairman, who has the deciding vote. The advisory committee need not take notice of the decisions of the Conference. It has a right to advise the Minister. Through this belated exposure of what we are doing for Aboriginals, throughout Australia today people are praising Mr Fraser and Mr Viner for how they stood up to the Premier of Queensland when, in fact, they have done nothing for the Aboriginals. Senator Martin said that Aboriginals know the difference between truth and lies. I do not know how long it will take before they wake up to what this Government is doing.
There is not an Aboriginal organisation funded by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs which has not had a reduction in funding since this Government took power. There are provisions in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Act 1975 which, as other documentary evidence shows, are somewhat beneficial to Aborigines. Section 8 of the Act states:
Where premises situated on a Reserve are occupied by an Aboriginal or Islander, a person is not entitled, without the consent of the Aboriginal or Islander, to enter those premises unless, if the Reserve on which the premises are situated were not a Reserve, the entry would not be unlawful.
That section gives the right to Aboriginal communities to deny entry to certain individuals. I believe that certain proceedings have been taken under the Act to which I shall refer later. However, it authorises the entry of persons such as a policeman or a health inspector in the exercise of their duties which would not be unlawful if the area were not a reserve. Section 1 1 of the Act states:
A person shall not employ an Aboriginal or Islander in Queensland (whether on a Reserve or elsewhere) unless the terms and conditions of employment are not less favourable than they would be required to be if the employee were not an Aboriginal or Islander, and, in particular, the employee shall be entitled to be paid wages at a rate not less than the rate at which wages would be payable to him if he were not an Aboriginal or an Islander.
This is to stop the underpayment of Aboriginals on reserves. The section provides that an Aboriginal employed on a reserve should get the same wage as he would get if he were not on a reserve or if he were not an Aboriginal. An article appeared in the National Times of 9 to 14 January 1978. It referred to a gang of Aborigines who were employed in a road laboring gang. It stated:
After several weeks’ work a young Aboriginal, Conrad Murgha, on behalf of the gang, asked where their extra money was. They were told that the Brisbane office of the DAIA had decided against the increases. Murgha and the gang walked off the road site in disgust.
Conrad ‘s brother, Arnold, 23, was warned by the plumber that if the gang did not report for work the next morning they would all be sacked.
They did not report and were sacked. The new gang of workers was employed the next day.
They became really angry when their applications for Unemployment Benefits were refused by the Commonwealth Employment Service on the ground that they were ‘voluntarily unemployed ‘.
With the help of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’ Legal Service . . . they successfully appealed against the CES ruling. But the benefits were postponed six weeks- a loss of over $3,000 for the nine men. That injustice rankled.
The article stated further
Under this legislation, nine Aborigines were employed last July at Yarrabah Aboriginal Reserve, south of Cairns, in a road labouring gang.
They received for their toil, between $63 and $77.50 a week. The nominal normal rate for builders’ labourers or Australian unionists is $ 169.30 a week.
– How many hours a week did they work? Do you know?
– Yes. They worked the full working week of 40 hours, during which time they lit dynamite fuses, worked jack hammers, and swung picks and shovels to build a road through virgin bush in the intense tropical heat. Previously they worked on a plumbing gang. Although we have a Commonwealth Act whose provisions make that sort of activity illegal, and although it was known that that Act was being breached, no one would do anything about it. I wrote to the Federal Attorney-General (Senator Durack), accepting him as the first law officer of the Commonwealth. He had a responsibility to prosecute any breach of Commonwealth law. I asked him whether he would do so. Because I did not have much faith in him, I wrote to the Queensland Legal Aid Service asking it why it was not taking action. I wrote also to the Queensland branch of the Australian Workers Union asking it what it would do, as one individual involved was a member of that union.
I wrote also to the Minister for Social Security complaining of the fact that those people had to wait for six weeks to receive the unemployment benefit, that being the period which must lapse before someone who voluntarily leaves a job can receive the benefit. These men were working illegally. They were respected men whom we should admire. They were not prepared to continue in an illegal situation. Because they were not prepared to do so they were penalised to the extent of some $3,000 by the Department of Social Security. So the Department is encouraging people to take illegal action. We have been speaking in this chamber about threats, assassinations and so on. What I have just outlined represents the actual encouragement that this Government is giving to Aborigines. On 7 February the Minister replied to my letter and tried to justify the action. She said:
Where a person’s unemployment is due, either directly or indirectly, to his voluntary act which, in the opinion of the Director-General, was without good and sufficient reason . . .
The Minister concludes that statement by saying that he has to wait for six weeks. I am interested in the words ‘in the opinion’ and ‘good and sufficient reason’. It is not a good and sufficient reason if the applicant complies with the law and refuses to work under circumstances which are contrary to the law. That is what this Government has reduced these people to doing. Although I wrote to the Attorney-General on 12 January, on 23 January, the Attorney-General, who is full of activity, replied in these terms:
I acknowledge receipt of your letter of 12 January 1978 concerning a report in the National Times on the conditions of employment of Aboriginals at Yarrabah Reserve in Queensland.
I will write to you again on this matter.
As yet I have not received that further communication. The people involved might die of old age before the Attorney-General gets around to writing to me. I ask the Government not to dismiss him from the Ministry until I receive that reply.
The Australian Workers Union pointed out that the awards it polices cover only employees of the Main Roads Department and local government. Proper evidence would have to be provided to prove that the road work in question was at least being funded by the Main Roads Department or local government. Therefore the interest of the union ceased. That could not be proved because the money was supplied by way of grant, I presume, from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Nevertheless, if these people were employed on roadmaking off the reserve, they would get, whether or not they were Aborigines, the appropriate award wage, which they were not getting at Yarrabah. The interesting letter is that from the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders Legal Service (Qld) Ltd, which reads:
Generally speaking, the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement has made no voluntary attempt to comply with the provisions of the Commonwealth (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Act.
Therefore it can be seen that we can pass whatever laws we like because they will make no difference to that group of people in Queensland. They go ahead with their plans. The letter continues:
The absence of Penalty Provisions in the Commonwealth Act means that it operated as a shield rather than a sword. In addition no provisions are made in the Act for a standard method of proceeding. Therefore, the Act can only be utilised in conventional proceedings.
The Queensland Legal Service is pointing out the difficulties in that Act. Those difficulties are repeated in this legislation. It makes no provision for penalties and no provision in relation to methods of proceeding. In view of that statement made by a legal authority, I ask the Minister whether some consideration could not be given to this matter during the Committee stage so that it might be a little more possible to provide for a method of action under the Act. The letter continues:
In relation to entry and residency on Reserves the Commonwealth Act makes invalid the sections of the Queensland Act dealing with the Permit system of control of these matters by officers of the DAIA. We have acted for a few persons who have been proceeded against by reserve managers in this regard and in each case the Department has withdrawn. There has, therefore, been no opportunity to have the section of the Queensland Act declared invalid by a court.
The court will never get the opportunity to declare it invalid because the Queensland Government backs out. The letter goes on to say:
It appears that we have now put an end to the practice of reserve managers who proceed against Aborigines being on reserves without permits, but I am quite sure that they continue to exercise de facto control in this regard. The payment of Under Award wages has been of concern for some time, but we need to have the clients in order to take action against the Department. There appears to be a fear of reprisal.
So what is the use of an Act if it is not policed and if an applicant can be threatened if he takes action. The letter continues:
However, we now appear to have an excellent test case in hand and hope to strike a very hard blow during the present year.
It is true that restrictions on financing of the Service by the Commonwealth coupled with our on-going commitments in the Courts have prevented the Service from testing the
Queensland Act as quickly and extensively as possible. However, in 1 978 we hope to complete a major case on the under Award Wage issue.
The letter concludes by stating that some other material is enclosed for my information.
-Who wrote that?
-That was sent by the Aborigines and Tones Strait Islanders Legal Service (Qld) Ltd and it is signed by Peter White, the State Executive Officer. The AttorneyGeneral will not take action for breaches of the Act when an Aboriginal legal service which the Government finances is involved. Really it is under-financed. The legal service finds it impossible to take action. What is the use of pretending to Aboriginals in Queensland that we are doing something for them when, firstly, the Act does not do anything for them and, secondly, the Act is never policed. The Queensland Premier can enforce his Act either by bluff or by intimidation of employees without any restrictions. In keeping with my theme I mention that this Government is not concerned for Aboriginals. It is more concerned with its friends.
On 21 February I placed a question on the Notice Paper but received no reply. Last Tuesday night I referred to that fact during the adjournment debate. I warned the Minister for Social Security that I would take the first opportunity to raise the matter. So it was up to the Minister whether I got a reply. I have received no reply. Now the opportunity has come to show the duplicity of the Government. Last year a Mr John David Jess who was the Federal member for La Trobe, I think from 1960 to 1972, or it might have been 1969, wrote to the then Treasurer, Mr Lynch, suggesting that all Aboriginal property should be assessed and insured with the Bailleau Bowering company, insurance assessors in Victoria. The premiums involved would amount to some millions of dollars. Mr Lynch, as Treasurer, forwarded a copy of the letter to Mr Viner. The letter is on the files of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs with an instruction for the Department to arrange for all State officers to collate all the insurable property on Aboriginal settlements. The details required included the number of Aboriginals, for example the number on payrolls in Aboriginal settlements; the number of buildings and cars; town management services such as trucks, machinery, et cetera; and tractors, farm implements, livestock, et cetera.
The instruction was that after that information was collated by the State officers the details were to be sent to Bailleau Bowering, insurance brokers in Melbourne, for assessment prior to the
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) advertising for tenders. Mr Jess, who during his period in the Parliament showed no interest in Aboriginal affairs but who, during his period outside Parliament has shown an interest in an insurance company, made a proposal relating to an insurance company in which, it is suggested, both he and Mr Lynch have some vested interest. To make it appear above board, tenders would be called but the only insurance company with information which would make it possible to put forward a legitimate tender would be Bailleau Bowering in Melbourne.
– What was the Minister’s reply to that?
-The Minister will not reply. That is why I have raised this matter. A reply would be a confirmation. I have sufficient facts and I know it would be confirmation. The Minister sought to escape exposure by not answering. But there is no escape. This is a bigger scandal than the one involving IBM Australia Ltd. It is a blatant scandal to give a handout to supporters of the Liberal Party and possibly to Ministers in it. How can honourable senators on the other side of the chamber get up and talk about what this Government is doing for Aboriginals. Their propaganda is good. One cannot criticise it. But God help Aboriginals if we have much more of the present Fraser Administration.
– It seems unfortunate, but it is a fact of life in this chamber, that at any time when legislation such as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Reserves and Communities SelfManagement) Bill is discussed it is a chance for people to abuse the Premier of my State of Queensland, or, if the legislation concerns Western Australia, to abuse the Premier of that State. I choose to mention those two States because under the leadership of those Premiers those States have advanced remarkably. They make a tremendous contribution to the wellbeing of the Commonwealth.
One of the things mentioned about the Premier of my State was the fact that he was a conscientious objector throughout the last World War. This was mentioned quite a few times. I put it on record that the Premier was called up and the Army placed him into a reserve grade because he was a primary producer of essential goods. This happened to many people. Many men tried to get out of their jobs to go to the front line. I think of railway workers and so on. On top of that the Premier had polio as a child. The fact that he overcame that disability to a great extent stands to his credit. In this instance I put it on record that the Premier, whatever some people might think of him, has never in his whole life shirked what he considered to be his responsibilities.
At this point I state that my Party is supporting this Bill. Nobody should be under any illusion. Members of the Federal Party are probably at variance with some of our State colleagues on this matter. However, in any well organised family there are always differences of opinion. I well remember that when the Labor Government was in power calls of centralism came from South Australia and other places. That is just pan of political life. My Party supports the passage of a Bill that came about because the Queensland Government moved to take over the Mornington Island and Aurukun missions. This legislation does nothing more than give the Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders living on Queensland reserves the right to determine the management of their reserves- nothing more. It is on that basis that I support this legislation. It does nothing more than bring the reserves of Queensland into line with the rest of Australia. The legislation is constitutional because of the referendum that was carried in 1967. It has been alluded to often today.
The tragedy of the present situation is that it need never have occurred. The Uniting Church in Australia- on all occasions one must declare one’s interest, because of the eyes of the Press and my interest is that I am a member of the Uniting Church as well as being a State representative in a Federal House- has at all times been prepared to negotiate with the Queensland Government. Senator Martin tabled in the Senate today a letter sent from the Secretary of the Uniting Church Synod in Queensland to the Minister on 30 December 1977. That letter was acknowledged. But the only correspondence received by the Church after that date was the correspondence referred to by Senator Bonner, namely, that from Mr Porter detailing the six clauses under which the State Government would take over the missions. I repeat, the present situation should never have happened. The Uniting Church, in the process of debating the clauses which the Synod would discuss with the State Government in October last year, indicated that it was prepared to talk to the State Government and to negotiate.
I must pay a tribute to Professor the Reverend Rolland Busch, the Moderator of the Uniting Church in Queensland. At no time did he seek to play partisan politics. He sees his role as being a representative of the Uniting Church and that subverts any personal opinion which he may have. He can reflect only on the policy laid down by the Synod. He has laid it straight down the line at all times. Even after that letter from the Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs, the Hon. Charles Porter, was delivered to the Uniting Church; through intermediaries, the Reverend Rolland Busch sought to have discussions with the Queensland Cabinet to see whether the situation at which we have now arrived could have been averted. As I say, the tragedy is that his offer was not taken up and we are at this situation today. The Presbyterian Church has been at Aurukun since 1 904 and at Mornington Island since 1914. Previous to this date the Church also administered the mission stations at Mapoon and Weipa. The only help it got for many years until the conclusion of the Second World War was a £240 per annum grant from the State Government to cover that whole area. The Presbyterian Church, now the Uniting Church in Australia, bore the whole brunt of running those missions, until the conclusion of the Second World War. Financial support has increased from that time to the stage where 80 per cent or 90 per cent of the cost is now provided. But let nobody misunderstand the financial impositions that the Presbyterian and Uniting Church has met in running these mission stations. It has played a tremendous role all the way through.
As was said in regard to Cromwell, we accept him warts and all. The Uniting Church has played its role. It realises that there are blemishes on its record. It realises that management is not all that it would like it to be. The Church has problems at this time. It acknowledges that and is trying to overcome them. At the same time let it be said, without casting any aspersions, that the State-run reserves have had their problems previously. They have their problems now and undoubtedly they will have them in the future. Indeed, I have in my hand a report from a concerned person regarding one of the governmentrun stations. All the things that we have heard said about the Uniting Church missions at Aurukun and Mornington Island could be said about this government-run mission. It is not the Uniting Church’s role, nor mine, to enter into a slanging match at this stage but let it be said that these problems are not peculiar just to the Uniting Church; they are there amongst State missions, and they will also be there in the future as we seek to work among the Aboriginal people.
Over the national news today I believe there was a story that there has been a large discrepancy in the funds of the store at the Aurukun mission station. This is nothing new. I am surprised and dismayed that this method of seeking to disparage the Uniting Church has been used. The Uniting Church itself first suspected that there was something wrong in March 1977 and it sent its accountant to investigate. He agreed that something did not appear to be right so that Church got in an outside accountant. On 1 June the accountant reported that there was misappropriation of funds and immediately the man was dismissed and the Queensland Fraud Squad notified. It is not the Uniting Church ‘s fault or responsibility that no charges have been laid or arrests made to this time. That rests entirely with the Queensland Fraud Squad which, of course, is a section of the Queensland police. So the Uniting Church has done what any corporation or government department would do when it was suspected that there was misappropriation of funds. It checked it out, the suspicions were found to be correct, the person that it suspected to be concerned was dismissed and the Fraud Squad was notified. What else could the Uniting Church do? The case is now in the hands of the State authorities.
A few years ago we seemed to think in our paternalism that we would be doing the right thing if we gave the Aborigines the right to choose to drink alcohol. I suppose if one looks at the question from a human rights situation one realises that Aborigines are entitled to their rights but I think all sections of the community would realise that alcohol has been one of the destroyers of the Aboriginal race. We have to recognise that maybe we did the wrong thing. Maybe we have to be a bit paternal. But it must be said that where there is still a clan and tribal structure the tribal elders are fully aware of this problem. They seek to keep alcohol out of their reserves. At Aurukun the tribal council has resolved that the Aurukun reserve be dry and the canteen there does not sell alcoholic liquor. The people there are attempting to be responsible and to try and keep their young people, particularly, away from the problems of alcohol in Aboriginal communities that we see so frequently. Unfortunately, there are white people who seek to capitalise on the situation, to make money out of it, and alcohol gets in to the detriment of the Aboriginal people.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
General Business Taking Precedence over Government Business at 8 p. m.
Motion (by Senator Webster) proposed:
That general business be postponed until after further consideration of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Reserves and Communities Self-management) Bill 1978.
– Some remarks that have been made today in this chamber implied that the Opposition was endeavouring to obstruct the Bill, but we are not opposing this motion. We are, by arrangement, giving up General Business to allow the passage of this Bill to take place. Nevertheless, we have felt it necessary to scrutinise the Bill closely and to support strongly the amendment that we have before the Senate. I hope that we have heard the last of such implications; that they will not be repeated. I wish to make that clear.
-As honourable senators would appreciate, an item in my name concerning unemployment is one of those matters of General Business that were to have come before the Senate this evening, as evidenced by the paper that came to us earlier in the week from the office of the Leader of the Government (Senator Withers). Admittedly, it is not on the informal Order of Business sheet that was circulated today. It concerned the very grave problem of unemployment. I would simply, without wasting the time of the Senate, register my objection to the fact that nobody consulted me about the change. Perhaps an arrangement was made between the Opposition and Government Whips, but it was my item of general business that was to have come before the Senate this evening and no one consulted me about an agreement that Government Business should take precedence over General Business.
I would have expected the Government to extend me the courtesy of consulting me about it. When the vote on the Bill is taken, I shall have no option but to support the amendment proposed by the Opposition- not that I have even been able to understand fully its ramificationsfor the simple reason that at least if it is adopted it will give honourable senators a little more time to understand the Bill itself.
– I think it appropriate that I respond to what Senator Harradine has just said. The Government’s intention that the subject Bill should be considered this week by Parliament and, if thought appropriate, passed, was well known. One could have assumed that the Government would therefore give it some priority. Nevertheless, I believe Senator Harradine is correct in regard to the point that he makes. 1 acknowledge that it would have been better had I consulted him and advised him of the course of action that the Government proposed to take. I am perfectly happy to make that admission to the honourable Senator. I hope that the matter of General Business of which he has given notice will come on for discussion at some appropriate time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Before the sitting was suspended I mentioned the problems that alcohol had presented in the lives of the Aboriginal people and the fact that we, in our idealism, probably paternalism, had thought that by legislating their right to drink we would literally assist their entry into white man’s society. It is unfortunate, but I think true, that the courts, the gaols, the park benches and the gutters of this country are littered with the results of our attempt to skull-drag these people into the white man’s twentieth century. The problem is, of course, a very mixed one and I think that at some time in the future some government is going to have to be game enough to define a tribal Aboriginal as distinct from a full blood Aboriginal and from a mixed blood Aboriginal. It is a very complex problem that we should look at more fully.
The aim of the Uniting Church, in this whole struggle to help to assimilate these people, is to help them do so at their own speed. They must be allowed to retain their culture and ethnic affinity. The clans do have a spiritual affinity with the land and the church recognises it. That is one of the problems that have been highlighted at Aurukun with the founding of some of the outstations still within that reserve. I think it must be pointed out that there is an Aurukun clan and that other clans present on the Aurukun clan land are not altogether welcome. This has created its own problems internally, so we have seen the establishment of the outstations on the Kendall River, where the other clans have tried to get away and re-establish, a movement which the church has not prevented, understanding their problem and the spiritual affinity that the clans have with their own land.
The church believes that it is only when the Aboriginal people establish their own ethnic and cultural identity afresh that they can begin to relate to twentieth century white society. We probably do not understand the necessity for this. We are ourselves less than 200 years old. We have not established much of a heritage or culture and it is probably hard for us to understand, but when we are looking at a people with such a long history and such a close affinity with the land we would do well to try to understand their special problems.
The people of the reserves have indicated that at present they want the church to remain in a management role in their communities. It was said in the Queensland Parliament yesterday- it has been alluded to outside this chamber but within this building- that the vote for unity at Aurukun was not carried. In the minutes of the 1974 Assembly of the Presbyterian Church the vote at Mornington Island was recorded as 63 to 3 in favour of church union. At Aurukun there were 147 voting delegates but, because on the day on which the vote was taken many were away, perhaps fishing or hunting, only 12 voted. Nine of these were staff who are no longer there, and the vote was six to six. So it is a misnomer to say to the world at large that the vote in northern Australia amongst the Aboriginal was very definitely against the church union.
One of the reasons why I and the members of my party in Queensland support this measure is that it does not transgress States’ rights. States’ rights are being preserved. It is one of the strengths of this legislation that it does not go across the borders of what a State might assume to be its own internal rights. All it does, as I and many others have said, is to give the people on these reserves the right to determine their own management. The Queensland Government would still be responsible for the provision of health, education, law and order in the communities, as at present. It is the wish of the Commonwealth, and also that of the Uniting Church and of myself, that the State should maintain its responsibilities in those regards. So the Bill does not transgress any of the States ‘ own rights.
The Constitution provides that if the Commonwealth should acquire this land in one form or another it must do so from the party concerned in accordance with just terms and must pay just compensation. It is as simple as that. The figures that I have been quoted in relation to the cost of acquiring all the reserves in Queensland vary between $500m and $ 1,000m, which gives one an idea of the amount of money involved. But the Commonwealth is just not interested. Of course, we have heard much, especially from the Opposition, about this Bill not going far enough. I would not support it at all if it encompassed land rights. I think that we will have a problem in the long term with land rights in respect of the Northern Territory, as they are under the present Commonwealth legislation. But that is another subject for another day. This Bill does not concern land rights in Queensland. So this is not an issue. I wish that the people of Queensland would understand this position
As I have said, compensation has had to be paid. The Commonwealth is not legislating to take over any land, although stories of this kind have been bandied about in Queensland. Therefore on this basis I support the legislation. Of course, any royalties that may be derived from minerals go to the crown. Much mention has been made of bauxite. I believe that for the first time this morning, in a Queensland newspaper, it was mentioned that the real reason for the takeover was bauxite. I do not know why we should be worried about bauxite at the present time because there is so much bauxite being sold around the world at such low prices that I do not think anyone has much interest in getting it. In any case, this legislation does not affect the mining of bauxite. The Commonwealth, even if it wished to, could not take this mineral off the State without paying just compensation. Because it is Crown land, bauxite and other minerals that might be found beneath the surface belong to the Crown. The same situation applies under the land rights legislation in the Northern Territory. I wish everyone would understand that.
We heard mention from the other side of the chamber that the courts some years ago decided that equal pay should be given to Aborigines. At the risk of being misunderstood, I would say that giving Aborigines equal pay has been as detrimental as it has been beneficial. Nobody is denying that one man doing the same work as another man is entitled to receive equal pay. But a rather different situation existed on the larger cattle holdings. It is a myth that Aborigines are natural stockmen, just as it is a myth to say that white men are natural stockmen. Those men who were good stockmen- I know quite a few of them- were treated as such and paid accordingly. But we had a situation in which large families of Aborigines camped on station properties. The men were given jobs and the whole family or clan was tuckered by the properties. This was quite a reasonable arrangement. The men were given work in mustering and general ringing duties around the homestead and property. Of course as soon as the courts decided that these men had to be given equal pay, employment for them of necessity had to cease and many problems started from there. The properties could no longer afford to pay them full wages. They could no longer afford to pay some of the wages to some of the men and tucker the families at the same time. Some of our problems, especially on the larger properties in the Northern Territory and western Queensland, started to develop from that point. As there was no work and no tucker on the properties the Aborigines started to drift into the fringe society that we find around many of our country towns today. Of course, from then on they began to receive Commonwealth benefits, grog became cheaply available and so the story goes.
The treatment or the misunderstanding- that might be a better word- of the Aboriginal people in our white society today is a tragedy. They are our indigenous people. They are a simple people. At this point of time they are bewildered people. They are seeking to find their place in our society. They proudly- and rightly so- want to maintain and teach their youth their cultures, myths, legends and heritage. I believe, and the Uniting Church believes, that by doing this they will have an anchor to hold them steady while they seek to assimilate into our twentieth century society. The Uniting Church looks at the situation in no light other than it is a case of human rights, and the Aboriginal people should be treated as they deserve to be treated.
– It is with some sense of sorrow and disappointment that I rise to make a small contribution in this debate as one who has been interested for some years in Aboriginal advancement. I think there will be a number of my friends in the Northern Territory, Aboriginal or otherwise, who will be disappointed at the legislation that has been introduced. There seems little doubt to me- I think it will appear so today- that the legislation which has been introduced is a let down for the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island. I am very concerned about the effect the legislation might have on the Aboriginal people of Australia and the rest of the people of Australia.
If we cast our minds back to the AddressinReply debate we will recall speakers from both sides of the chamber mentioning the disenchantment that the general public had in politics generally and the disillusionment that some members of the public felt about politicians. One could almost feel that the Government is moving in some sort of conscious way and making some conscious effort to disillusion the Aboriginal people with the processes of parliament. Members of the Joint Parliamentary Committee who visited Angurugu during last year’s inquiry will remember that Nandjiwarra Amagula from that centre became quite excited at the end of one session. He got quite annoyed with us and said: ‘Why do you people keep asking us the same questions? Why do you keep asking us what we want? We have told you what we want. Do you not trust us?’ There was an implication in what he said of course that having known what the Aboriginal people wanted the Government would go ahead and do something about it; that we as parliamentarians having found out what the Aboriginal people wanted would then act upon the information which they had given to us.
I imagine that the Aurukun people will be saying at the present time: ‘Why bother asking us any questions since the questions that were asked were: What do you want? What sort of legislation would you like to see?’ People from the other side of the chamber have indicated that when they went there as a back bench committee they gave certain undertakings to the Aboriginal people. I am reminded of Burramurra who is one of the Mala leaders of Yirrkala, a man who has just been honoured by the Queen with an M.B.E. He said to the Law Reform Commission: ‘Politicians come here and say one thing and go back to the House and say something else’. Is this what we are trying to do? Is this what we want the Aboriginal people to think of Parliament? The traditional Aboriginal speaks the truth and expects other people to do the same. What a credibility we are building up for ourselves with this sort of legislation. The Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) in her second reading speech on this Bill said:
This Bill will guarantee the right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities on Aboriginal and Island reserves in Queensland to manage their own affairs.
I wonder whether it does? I wonder whether it simply shifts the choice of control from one area to another; it shifts the choice from State to Federal. If we read through the Bill we see that decisions made by the Aboriginal people will be subject to the Minister. Throughout the legislation they are asked to make certain decisions and then refer them to the Minister. If he likes these decisions he will allow them to be promulgated and to become laws. They must feel very much like boys and girls in school when a school council is set up and then a paternalistic school principal says: ‘Well, you make the decisions and those I agree with I will let stand ‘.
This attitude must have been reinforced by the address of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to the National Aboriginal Conference, the body set up specifically to advise the Government, the 35 members of which have been drawn from all over Australia. They are outstanding people in their own field. The first piece of advice which this advisory group gave to the Government was of course rejected because it did not happen to suit the political convenience of the Government.
It seems to me that three things are very necessary for any measure of self-management, and that is what this Bill is all about, although some honourable senators who spoke earlier in the debate seemed to lose contact with this. These three requirements I would suggest would be: control of entry to reserves, and we know what is meant by ‘reserves’ in this context; ownership of land; and control of finance. As far as I am concerned the first two requirements- that is the control of entry to reserves and the ownership of land- are absolutely vital. It is quite clear that the only weapon- if we want to use that word- that the Aboriginal has against mining, against interference and against the desecration of his land is the right to deny entry. It has been shown very clearly in the Northern Territory that this right of denying entry is a valuable weapon- I use the word again- because the Aboriginal has so little else. It might be worth mentioning at this stage that the Aboriginal has started to realise that his vote is also important and in future elections the vote may be used as some sort of weapon. I feel that it is unfortunate that the Aboriginal people at their meeting recently- not of the National Aboriginal Conference but of the Federal Council of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders- said that they were tired of both parties and that the only choice left to them was to have their own black politicians. This seems to me to be an unfortunate indictment of us as a Parliament.
What does this Bill provide in relation to entry to Aboriginal land or Aboriginal reserves? Firstly, it says that those people who are allowed to enter under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act- that is, the Act of the Queensland Government- would still be allowed to enter. Section 9 (2) of the present Act allows any person to come in to provide a service. The Act then states that the Council may authorise entry to other people if they are not allowed to do so under section 9(2) of the Queensland Act. In other words it is allowing people as some sort of strange right to invite others into what I regard as the Aboriginal’s home. The Bill makes no provision at all for the exclusion of people and no provision for putting people off a reserve. Not only does it make no provision for exclusion but there is a specific provision against exclusion. If the State Government gives people the right to enter, then the people who live on the reserve will have to accept this. They may not stop a person coming on and they may not put a person off if that person has done something with which the Aboriginal people do not agree. As I said before, the only choice seems to be between Federal control and State control. If that is not a case of Hobson’s choice at best, I do not know what it is.
The next suggestion that I made was that ownership of land- I am even prepared to accept at this stage control of land- be provided for. We have neither of those things. Where is the great vision we heard about when land rights were discussed in this place in the last session? Honourable senators will remember the speeches of the Ministers of how we in the Federal sphere were setting the pace for the rest of Australia to follow. Now what do we see? Clause 1 5 ( 1 ) of the Bill reads:
The Commonwealth may make available to the Council for a Reserve to which this Act applies, or for a Community to which the Act applies, for the purpose of enabling the Council to perform its functions, any land acquired by or otherwise vested in the Commonwealth.
Land may be made available, but only- here again, a further limitation- for the purpose of enabling the Council to carry out the functions which we as a Federal Government decide it ought to carry out. The functions of the Council are to be decided by this legislation. Again, we remove from the Aboriginal people the decisionmaking. Where is the self-management that the Bill speaks about if it specifies exactly what the Council should do?
At present in the Northern Territory the Aboriginal land rights complementary and consequential legislation is being presented. I will read the opening paragraph of the second reading speech presented in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. It reads:
The bid by Aboriginals for recognition of land rights probably first became public when the Yirrkala people presented a petition on bark to the Federal Parliament on 28 August, 1 963 in which they specified grievances against mining on their land and in which they sought recognition of their deep attachment to their land. In May 1970 they commenced an action in the Northern Territory Supreme Court against Nabalco and in April 1971 Mr Justice Blackburn gave his decision on the case. They lost the case, but established quite clearly in the minds of most people their desire for recognition of a right in the land upon which they lived and in which they had had interests for thousands of years.
So they established in the minds of most people their right to this land. At a conference of the Liberal and National Country Parties on 25 November 1975 this platform was spelt out. I quote from Mr Everingham ‘s speech:
In recognising land rights we will ensure:
That traditional Aboriginal owners gain inalienable title to their land,
That they also determine how their lands are to be used and preserved,
That they have the same rights as any other owner to determine who enters their land whether the person is Aborigine or non-Aborigine,
That sites significant according to Aboriginal tradition be preserved and protected.
That is from the platform of the Liberal and National Country Parties promulgated in 1975. 1 do not have to read the Labor Party platform; I think it is pretty clear. But where is evidence of any recognition of rights for Queensland Aboriginals in the Bill that is in front of us at the moment? ‘May make available ‘ is the only comment but, again, it is a suggestion that we may make available any bits that the Federal Government thinks the people ought to have. There is no suggestion- this must be very demoralising for the Aboriginal people- that land rights might come. There is nothing foreshadowed in this piece of legislation.
The third area I suggested as being important was that of finance. Although the Bill does not mention it, certainly in the second reading speech and in Press statements the Minister has made it quite clear that finance will be made available. But the important point is that it will be made available to the Uniting Church if the subsidy is withdrawn by the State. I can find no indication by the Minister that moneys will be allocated to the Council to conduct its affairs. I cannot find any indication in the Minister’s second reading speech or any statement that he has made publicly that the Council will make any decision on how the money will be spent. In other words where is the self-management that is spoken of in this Bill? One cannot help but say that one is disappointed with the Bill; one cannot help saying that one is disappointed with the Minister. I make no secret of the fact that as I have moved around the Territory in the last two years I have commented very favourable on the work being done by the Minister. I have spoken to Aboriginal groups and I have commended the work that he has been doing. What can I say when I go back? I will be told: ‘He has let our brothers in Queensland down ‘.
Perhaps many may see this as a naive and simplistic sort of statement from someone who is fairly new to the Parliament, but as one who was involved for quite some time in helping Aboriginals in a certain area to try to come forward and understand the way that we did things and to understand the parliamentary procedures, as one who helped them to set up their councils and their decision-making processes, I have been very disappointed. It is going to be very difficult to say to some of these people: ‘We have to legislate ‘-the Federal Government, that isbecause the Government does not trust the State Government. It has to make certain statements in an Act because it cannot rely upon the State Government.’ How can I tell the people again that we in the Opposition have to try to have amendments passed because we cannot rely on the Minister; we have to tie him tightly to make sure that he does not back down on any at the statements he has made? What a sorry situation it is for all of us on both sides of the chamber who have or claim to have the interests of the Aboriginal people at heart. I find that this is particularly so at the Federal level where there have been calls by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) and from the ordinary backbenchers like myself for a bipartisan approach to the Aboriginal situation. An example of this ‘enclosing’ legislation is the situation where the Federal Government should amend clause 3 to prevent the Government of Queensland from de-gazetting the reserves, if there is such a word. We have to make statements in the Bill and we in the Opposition have to try to amend the Bill so that the Queensland Government will not frustrate the intention of the legislation.I certainly will not join in making the sort of comments which have been made about the Premier of Queensland but the public outbursts that the gentleman has made about the Government having to use the Army to bring about the situation that it seeks make this sort of legislation necessary.
Even in relation to the Minister we have had to suggest numerous amendments to make sure that the Minister does not frustrate the wishes of the council. There is little point in the councils passing regulations if the Minister does not allow them to be processed. I understand it has happened that regulations which have come forward to be processed have been conveniently forgotten by the Minister so that they will not be implemented. So we have had to move an amendment to ensure that the by-laws made by the Aboriginal councils in pursuance of selfmanagement about which the Bill speaks will be adopted and that we will not have the paternalistic situation where the Minister says: ‘No. I do not agree with that so I will not put it up’.
On the matter of entry to land, which I regard as one of the key factors in any discussion of the situation at Aurukun, Mornington Island or any other place in Queensland, what could this legislation have done? I suggest that it could have followed the lead given by the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. Those of us who sat on the Joint Parliamentary Committee know that that legislation was based on the work of that Committee. At present in the Northern Territory- this is before the complementary and consequential legislation is passed- the Administrator, the Director of Aboriginal Affairs and welfare officers have the right and are authorised to issue permits. In this regard I read from the Chief Secretary’s second reading speech where he said:
Under the provisions of this Bill the major responsibility for the administration of the entry permit system will now be that of the land councils although the Federal Act and the provisions of this Bill will make it encumbent upon the land councils to ensure that wherever possible the traditional owners have been consulted before permits are issued or refused.
We on this side and, I have no doubt, our colleagues in the Legislative Assembly in the Northern Territory will be pushing for permits to be issued only by the traditional owners. Putting the matter in the hands of the Aboriginal council so that the Aboriginal people will make the decision after consultation with their fellows in the field is a great step forward. There was a recommendation in the Joint Parliamentary Committee’s report, and it has been reflected in this legislation, that the people who need to go on to reserves- the policeman, the medical officer and such others- will be able to do so, but I stress that the responsibility still should be with the Aboriginal people. In Queensland it is quite obvious what could happen. The councils should have this right to say who is entitled to go on to their land and I stress the point that I implied earlier, that they must also have the right to say who must leave their land if a person is offending any traditional culture of the Aboriginal people. The Bill does not give this right and because it does not it is fair to say that it has failed the people of Queensland.
I like the concept of the reserve as a home. It does not matter how big it is, it is the home of the Aboriginal people who should have the same rights that we have in our homes, such as the right to deny entry to people, be subject to the same obligation to allow certain people to come in. If this also is a difficult concept for honourable senators to accept let us think in terms of a large pastoral property. The Aurukun and Mornington Island settlements are like large pastoral properties. Let us have the same sort of rights that the owners of such properties have. I would not deny, and I have mentioned it in this place before when discussing land rights, that more is needed to be done in this regard because of the special situation of the Aboriginal people. If we could do that it would be a great step forward. I was very disturbed to find in the legislation that there is no provision for homeland centres or, as Senator Martin and one other honourable senator called them, outstations. As I understand it, the Bill is geared to the perpetuation of the old system that used to operate- the white dominated system- when what the white person thought was best is what happened. The decisions were made by the managers.
We know that councils are not always representative and the Minister accepted this when he said in his second reading speech, and it is commented upon in the Bill itself, that some provision needs to be built into the legislation to ensure recognition of councils. Let us face the fact that if the councils had something to do and real decisions to make we would have effective councils. There are effective councils in the Northern Territory and I refuse point blank to believe that the Aboriginal people at Aurukun and Mornington Island cannot also have effective and meaningful councils. It would be an insult to suggest that they could not. If we are to have the old system which this Bill seems to perpetuate we will once again have, say, an education system introduced from outside and rather than it being an education system to meet the needs of the community it would be white dominated, probably not bilingual and with very little appreciation of the special needs of the community. It is generally agreed on both sides of this chamber that the homeland centres are a great step forward. Those of us involved and interested in this subject who have been to see these places know what a wonderful step forward it is. I listened to the honourable member for Leichhardt in the other place last night stress the advantages of the homeland centres. He made the point that people appeared to be happier and healthier living in the homeland centres rather than in the major centres. Although these homeland centres exist, and I draw attention to the comments made by Senator Martin who was very critical of the Queensland Government, the needs of the people are noi recognised.
Clause 9 gives the Opposition cause for concern. The decision has been made that any authority or any person can go on to the reserve and make services available- any service- and one wonders just what sort of services are envisaged and what latitude this gives to people who move on to the reserves to provide services that perhaps are not wanted or which, in the words of those paternalists who have spoken already, are not in the best interests of the Aboriginal people. Of course, there will not be a challenge to the provision of some services. Obviously no one would challenge the fact that medical people need to enter whether they be doctors, nurses or health officers. There will be a need for them just as there will be a need for stock inspectors to enter when stock is running on the reserve. However, in respect of some services there will be a real challenge. I have mentioned already the provision of education.
Welfare services also might not be required; they may not be appropriate. It is not that many years ago that the Government in its paternalistic way moved on to settlements and removed children from their parents because it thought this was in the best interests of the children. The same stringent regulations did not apply to the removal of the children of those parents as would apply to the removal of the children of people who sit in this place. Housing might be another case for challenge. Perhaps the Government could seek to provide housing that was not wanted, particularly if it was the wrong sort of housing. We have seen plenty of examples of this in the Northern Territory. I could show honourable senators classic examples of housing that had been selected by the white man for the use of Aborigines but which was not used because it was not appropriate to the Aboriginal people. I use this only as an illustration to make the point that there has been no attempt that I can see to place decision making in the hands of the Aboriginal people where it belongs. If everyone was fair dinkum there would be no worry but this is challenged. It is said the State governments might not be dinkum and that even some members of Parliament might not be dinkum. So the Aboriginal people must be protected.
On a television program last evening the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs claimed that the Bill was not paternalistic. If this Bill is not paternalistic the Minister and I use vastly different definitions of paternalism. There would be a good deal of agreement on both sides of this chamber that the Bill is paternalistic. I am not denying that some people think that we ought to be paternalistic. The last speaker suggested that an element of paternalism was necessary. I do not believe in paternalism, and if we place the decision making in the hands of the Aboriginal people we will have far more effective self-management, which is what the Bill is all about.
One thing in particular that is puzzling me about the Bill is that it is not in keeping with the Northern Territory legislation. Obviously different areas are involved but I read this Bill and as I look at the Northern Territory legislation, there appears to be a different philosophy underlying each. I believe that the philosophy should be the same for the Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory as it is for the people in Queensland. Obviously this would be in keeping with the platforms of both parties. I have read out the platform of the Government and I have clearly indicated that the platform of the Labor Party is along the same lines of non-paternalism. This Bill could have done so much and yet it appears to me to have achieved so little
The result of a division this afternoon indicates that the Government is not prepared to let the Aboriginal people have a say. It is not prepared to allow the Aboriginal people to look at the Bill and make comments. I assume that the amendment we are proposing will not receive support since a motion proposed by an honourable senator on the Government side did not get support. This is unfortunate but I suppose that we have to accept the fact. So I appeal to honourable senators on both sides of the chamber to look very carefully at the amendments in the committee stage. Since we are asked to be bi-partisan, and I have mentioned this word before- both the Minister and the Prime Minister have asked this- can we for once forget the nonsense about losing face if we accept an amendment from the other side of the House?
There are three areas which are most important. I will not dwell on them because later speakers, when they present the amendments, will give full details. The first is, as I have indicated, the right to control entry. This control is absolutely essential. I have already mentioned the concept of the home, but it is much more than this. Speakers from the other side of the chamber have also mentioned this. There must be a right to disallow entry; a right to expel people if necessary. This will give the councils some clout against those who would destroy their culture. Most importantly, as a first step it provides some sort of decision-making on this matter of entry. If the Government is prepared to accept the amendment on the right of entry it will indicate that it has accepted the fact that the Aboriginal people have some sort of maturity, that it is prepared to recognise this and to give them some decisions to make.
We must pass amendments which will prevent the Queensland State Government from frustrating the legislation and to make sure that it will not take steps to make it redundant. The simple step that will be suggested in the amendment is to tie the Queensland legislation to 31 March. This is sensible and I cannot find any reason for disagreement from Government senators. However, Senator Gietzelt will elaborate on this later. We can strengthen decisions made by councils by requiring the by-laws to be tabled on the first day after receipt. Let the Parliament decide, not the Executive. I refer back to the AddressinReply debate and to those people who spoke strongly in criticism of the power of the Executive. Let them now come forward and say: ‘Let us take the power away from the Executive ‘-in this case the Minister- ‘and place it in the Parliament’.
Finally, as one who has been involved in Aboriginal work for many years, I make a plea to those who say they are interested, to those who say they are concerned, to support the amendments which we will be putting forward. We in the Northern Territory have often had cause to complain- I have certainly done so in this place- at the treatment we have received from the Federal Government. But the Aborigines in the Northern Territory would be horrified at this legislation. They would see it as an extremely retrograde step. Those honourable senators who believe that the Aboriginal people have a right to be involved in their own future, have a right to decision-making that affects them, and those who believe that the Aboriginal people are equal citizens, must consider these amendments and give them some support. This must be the case with at least the major amendments, those controlling the activities of the State Government in Queensland, and those giving right of entry to people.
The platforms of both parties call for this. Let us honour our platforms. Self-management is what the Bill is all about. Self-management means more than choosing which master one wishes to serve. I plead with the Government to give Aboriginals a real choice, to let them be involved, because after all, selfmanagementand that is what we are talking about- is involvement, and involvement is what we are all about with this Bill.
– I rise in this debate with some temerity because I claim no expertise with regard to Aboriginal affairs.
But I challenge anyone to deny me the same interest in their welfare as that claimed by others more vociferous. I rise because we have reached the stage in the national Parliament of exhibiting a deplorable predicament of the white man who holds the government of Australia, both at the Federal and State levels- the only two known jurisdictions of legislative authority in this country yet. We have this deplorable predicament of such unique contention between the State field and the federal field with regard to an issue that should provoke the utmost urge to get down to business, resolve differences and create the most productive system whereby the welfare of the Aboriginal race is advanced.
I will not accept from anyone in this chamber, great as I respect my colleague who sits next to me, Senator Neville Bonner, a unique representative of his race, accusations that impugn the white race with regard to the history of Aboriginal experience. Nor will I join with those who attribute to the Aboriginal race violence and deceit with regard to their experience with the European settlers.
– There was some history in Tasmania.
– Yes, there is history. But when you are ashamed of history and regret it, when you think that you live in an age that has outgrown it and have reached a stage of nobility where it is your job to make the present community of Australia one, how petty and pettyfogging it is for dissidents to revert to history for the purpose of creating dissension on the lowest level of” political divisiveness and destruction. Therefore, let us look to the society of which we are representatives and consider what our obligations are in granting opportunities to Aborigine citizens of Australia so that they can take their proper place in the Australian community.
Having said that, Mr President, let me remind you that there have been Queensland representatives prominently expressive in this debate who, through their special experience closer to the issue, have followed the various campaigns that have been waged over the last 10 years on this issue. It has been amply demonstrated by Senator Kathy Martin, who referred to Mr Porter’s speech in Queensland yesterday, that there have been at least three significant occasions over the last two years when the Aboriginal communities of the two areas in issue in this Bill have expressly petitioned the Queensland Government to resume and maintain control because of their dissatisfaction with church administration. I have seen also the speech of my colleague, Mr David Thomson, in the lower House. He said that if this Bill had come before him 18 months ago he would have been opposed to it but he is now in favour of it. He recounted the ups and downs of satisfaction of administration on the questions of hygiene, drunkenness and other aspects of these communities.
Until December, the Queensland Government had every reason to adjudge that it was being asked by the communities themselves to assume control for the improvement of conditions in their areas. Let us consider that the opinion has changed in that short time since. Let us consider that the change of opinion has been justified by a proper judgment of the Aboriginal people that they were mistaken in asking the Queensland Government to exercise its authority. I believe that a man would be a mere babe in the woods in political experience to take any of the evidence on one side or the other as persuasive, much less compelling a rational judgment of a member of this chamber to prefer one system or the other. I make that quite plain. I disclaim any responsibility for passing any judgment whatever on the ments or demerits either of the State administration or the Church administration.
Through unfortunate procedures involving an aspect of arbitrariness, the State announced the intention to discontinue the church subsidy and to assume responsibility direct by its Department. That arbitrary announcement, I think, emanated from a small understanding of the respect due to other interests in the situation. It was met by an equally small understanding in the response which is the product of this Bill. When we have the responsibility for evolving a system that will give the best opportunity for welfare for the Aboriginal community in the peculiar circumstances of these two areas, indirectly all the Aboriginal areas of Queensland and, of necessity, indirectly as a consequence of the development over the next five or ten years of the whole Aboriginal community of Australia, considering the definition of Aboriginal community- an Aboriginal being any person who pronounces himself to acknowledge Aboriginal descent, perhaps from Cape Barren Island- it behoves the Parliament in the threshold of a proposition of that sort first to undergo the discipline of saying: ‘We need time for gathering information, forming a judgment, debating the situation and then enacting more. ‘
The Senate today narrowly missed the opportunity to do so. I hope that in the later stages of the debate it will give itself the opportunity. At the end of the second reading debate, if everything else fails, I shall ask the Senate to accept a motion to refer the Bill to a select committee of the Senate to report within a month after hearing all the representations people wish to make within that time. With that enhanced knowledge we should produce a judgment worthy of the national Parliament. Today a Bill has been introduced and debated despite the protests of the Opposition which claims to be authorised by the Aboriginal community to request more time for consideration. It is that community for which the Government claimed to be acting in the matter. The Government said: ‘This community has turned to us and we will not fail it.’ Yet after hearing the Aboriginal community’s comments upon either the positive provisions of this Bill or its shortcomings that have been demonstrated or argued by the Opposition, this Government denies time for the Aboriginal people to put their views to this chamber which has the final say as to whether this Bill becomes law.
In the interests of Australian democracy let the Senate take a stand and again say, not that it will halt a budget to force an election but that it will halt a particular piece of legislation on a most sensitive matter of the highest significance in Australia’s national history beginning at the definition of race relations in this country for the next 50 years. Let the Senate take a fortnight. Give me 48 hours. But I am the sort of person who waits for the Minister to introduce the Bill and give her reasons and then expects a chance of consultation and obtaining knowledge which I sadly need and which the Government also needs. Its deficiency in this respect has been demonstrated by the very terms of this Bill without the slightest doubt.
I would be prepared to work seven days a week from breakfast time to midnight on a purposeful proposition of producing a measure that is best designed to succour the welfare of this community consistent with my overriding thought that we are one nation. We have a responsibility to hold the nation as a unity and an entity and to allow neither Croatians nor Aboriginals to erect themselves as one factor in our community which has an overriding power or authority solely for itself. I crave for the opportunity denied in the vote at 2.30 this afternoon. I hope to be granted the opportunity later in the prolonged Committee debate which must ensue if the Government insists upon this Bill being discussed in the inadequate knowledge we have at present. I hope that other opportunities will present themselves and that on reflection the
Senate will allow more consideration of this matter.
I do not rise to expound on the demerits or merits of church or State administration. I said that in my preliminary remarks. I then said that we need time in relation to the whole interweaving of the legislation that we have got to make for Aboriginals if we are to get them to advance as a section of the Australian polity. But I go on as my third proposition to demonstrate the pitiful political predicament that this measure exhibits from the point of view of government in the national Parliament of Australia. It is pitiful beyond expression that we white men, the elected representatives in the State field, on the one hand, and, with one exception- I refer to Senator Bonner, whose advent to this Parliament is a unique achievement; I have no need to flatter him because his abilities are self-evident- in the Federal Parliament of Australia, on the other hand, are exhibiting a contention between one another as to the proper reconciliation of the claims made by the Aboriginals to the two governments, State and Federal.
Senator Bonner said that he would not enter upon any question of State rights and Federal responsibilities. Having disclaimed that, he then allowed himself to give us his view that this measure would operate under section 109 of the Constitution and, being a Federal measure and being inconsistent with the State measure, would override to the extent of the inconsistencies the State law. So be it. I do not stand here to expound constitutional law. I stand here simply to call attention to the essential claims made by an Australian polity, community, including the Aboriginals, for the purpose of reconciling their welfare in the present set up of constituted Federal government and constituted State government. The position is that our territories are created and legislated for by the Federal Parliament. Subordinate bodies peculiar to the State functions, such as municipalities, marine boards or other special groups which have power to make by-laws, are directly responsible to the State parliaments. The two elected governments or parliaments constitute together the government of Australia. It is into that structure that we must mould any proper provision for Aboriginal advancement.
What do we have under the provisions of this Bill? I state these things without having had adequate time for consideration of either the facts or the law. But the doubts in my mind are so formidable that they daunt me and they drive me to the conclusion that I must oppose this Bill. That is the degree to which I entertain those doubts.
They are not positive conclusions of my own personal opinion, whatever respect might be accorded to that. What I am saying is that this Bill states that it is a Bill whose purpose is to use Commonwealth authority accorded to it by an amendment to the Constitution in 1967, which we all supported. At the same time some of us had the honour of opposing the cognate proposition that was put forward, namely to reduce the nexus between this place and another place and so reduce this place to insignificance at a joint meeting.
We all support Commonwealth authority, if need be, for the welfare of the Aboriginal race. It has been said over and over again in this debate that from that we have the first exercise of that authority. But will someone tell me why the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, which was introduced by the Whitlam Government, was not the first exercise of that authority? That Act was hammered out after long debate. Our side took a position, which has fairly to be stated as a matter of judgment, opposing the proposition on the ground that the Commonwealth authority would produce a better opportunity for the Aboriginal race than would the State authority. What I am saying is that in clause 5 the Bill states:
I stand here as one of the people who recalls the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. It proceeded on the basis that the Executive should have the right to declare a person a communist- a member of a class of communism to whom certain disadvantages should apply. In this case what is the Minister to declare? When he is satisfied, he is to declare that a substantial majority of the residents wish to control and manage their affairs. What a criterion for bringing a particular community under a particular jurisdiction! That criterion is an Executive direction that the Minister is satisfied that the majority of a particular section of people wish to have selfmanagement. Is that the way in which we proceed in an Australian democracy? No. We prescribe laws to ensure the integrity of election or the nomination of a point of view. Then it is not for the Minister to give effect to that; it is for that majority to do so. But it is not for any majorityCroatians or Aboriginals- in this polity to elect that it will constitute a community to manage its affairs.
– You manage your own affairs do you not? Why should not Aborigines manage their own affairs?
– If that expression is to be construed in the domestic sense- as it is being construed by some people today- then it is a question of whether their affairs involve the management of their homes. If they have proper possession of their homes then certainly that is so. That is one of the great glories of the English law. During the time of the conservative aristocracy the English courts under a parliament that was then purposeful, however corrupt, provided in respect of” a tenant- even a weekly tenant, the occupant of a tenement, however it was exposed to the elements, as Pitt said, that the wind or rain could enter but that the king of England could not enter without the consent of the humblest tenement holder in London. That principle assumes ownership or possession. Give that right to the individual Aborigine of course, on a proper basis, with respect to his home. But do I, the possessor of a humble tenement in Hobart, have the right to proscribe entry of any laudable ladies and gentlemen to the environs of Hobart? Of course not. It is absurd for Senator Robertson to say that he likes the analogy of the home. It is an absurd position.
– What about the existing regulations which provide precisely what you are objecting to?
- Senator Chaney wished to invite me into a judgmemt of the errors and shortcomings of State legislation and to base my judgment upon the errors and shortcomings of this proposal. He, a true disciple of the Government, would prefer to accept this proposal because it is the product of the Commonwealth Government.
– It is the product of choice.
-Be that as it may. I am saying that the analogy of the home is completely false. But when the home is establishedand established it ought to be- the Aborigine will have the same inviolability, so far as I can vote for it, as the Englishman has had for two centuries. He has enhanced his freedom and independence accordingly. But when one comes to a community under this Bill one finds that the proposal is that the Minister shall declare the reserve as a reserve to which this Act applies with the consequence that the Council of that reserve shall manage and control the affairs of the community. People have spoken of that expression today. We find that under clause 7 of the Bill this is the consequence of the declaration of a reserve.
Be it noted that the Minister, Mr Viner, has announced unequivocally that as soon as this Bill is passed he will declare two reserves as reserves to which this Bill applies without taking any more precautions to see that he has correctly and carefully got from the people, after proper argument, consideration and secrecy of expression of opinion, their individual judgment on the matter. No, that precaution is ignored. Under a palm tree he collected the Aborigines together and they all said yes. The Minister came home satisfied that he should declare that reserve. In my view, as a judgment of political experience, that is appalling. The result of that declaration would be that the Council for that reserve would manage and control the affairs of the community.
I have said that I am not putting this forward as a proposition, but nor am I putting it forward as a matter of humbug. That is my view, given the time I have had to consider this matter. I do not give opinions on the spur of the moment or from inadequate consideration. But when I am forced to a political judgment I use the materials available to me. This Council is to manage and control the affairs of the community. The Council of the reserve declared by the Minister is to have the functions set out and other functions that are conferred by regulation which are the product of the Executive Government of this Parliament.
It is said that the Council of the reserve shall have a responsibility to, but only to, the Aboriginal community and to no one else. What is that responsibility for? It is for the conduct, discipline and well-being of the community. I venture to say that those words are synonymous with the ordinary words which prescribe the ambit of government in both the Federal Parliament and the State parliaments. They have power to legislate for the peace, order and good government of the community. That is within the ambit of their powers. This Council is to be responsible to the community, exercising its functions for the conduct, discipline and well-being of the community. If there are honourable senators in this chamber who, during the Committee stage, can persuade me from thinking that that is substantially different from peace, order and good government I am prepared to listen. I have engaged in consultation and I have considered notes that the Minister has been pleased to supply, but they fail completely to persuade me that there is an adequate understanding on the part of the authors of this Bill as to its true ambit.
When one goes to find out what are the defined functions in relation to the responsibility of the Council one sees that they are to provide services such as housing, health, sewerage, water supply, electricity supply, education or training, roads and associated works and other matters. In the course of a council managing its own affairs, such as providing roads, do we deny it the right to say what shall be the proper conduct of traffic on that road and what shall constitute manslaughter or culpable driving? In regard to education, what are the rules of discipline and attendance? In supplying education services, what would be the level and content of education?
If this Council has that administrative authority as an executive body we then look at the Bill to see what it provides from the point of view of conferring upon the Council legislative authority which is couched in the modest terms appropriate to local government. Such terms as Acts, statutes, enactments or regulations, are not used. Instead one uses the term by-laws. But if through this Council there comes a by-law in relation to its function, such as in the judgment of the Council is proper, that has just as much legislative effect within that community as has any Act, which is passed here within the ambit of Federal power, on the Australian community. It is a legislative Act and would derive its force from Commonwealth authority.
Therefore, Senator Bonner’s observation is correct. It is so transparently correct that I draw attention to it in this way: If a by-law is inconsistent with a State law, it would override State law; and the prescription as to culpable driving, by by-law, by an Aboriginal council, would prevail against any Queensland law on that subject. So it appears to me that the by-law of the legislative instrument by which the Aboriginal community is to effectuate its policy in the management of its affairs is to prevail. But the community, I have no doubt, is concerned with this: That that by-law, under this Bill, will have operation only if it is approved. Approved by whom, Mr President? Not by this Parliament directly but by the Minister. So the Commonwealth Minister is substituted as the overseer and supervisor. He is to step into the shoes of the State Minister.
What is the virtue of that substitution from the point of view of the Aboriginal race? As to the demerits or merits of the particular administration, I abstain from any judgment, but I point out that we are told by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) that this Bill does not impose any system upon the communities, that it just gives them the opportunity to opt for their own control. That is true in a sense, but it is lamentably untrue in a significant sense. It is untrue because by-laws relating to self-management have operation only if they are approved by a Commonwealth Minister and are not disallowed by one House of the Federal Parliament. It is a completely delusive proposition to say that there will be self-management. I would not support uncontrolled self-management but I point out the deceptive nature of the proposition and why this Bill must go through the crucible of intense parliamentary examination. In a committee of this chamber we would see whether the exigencies bring up any proposal and give an opportunity for the warring divisions of the white man -State and Federal- to take a little time to add a cubit to their stature by taking thought.
These by-laws furthermore are to have no application to a person who is not an Aboriginal or Islander. I have heard arguments as to who is to have the right of entry to the reserves. As honourable senators know, that was a matter of great contention in the debates on the 1975 Aboriginal land rights legislation. Today I have not had the time to analyse the reconciliation between the provisions of that legislation as to rights of entry with the provision in this Bill. But suffice it to say that a by-law is not to apply to a person who is not an Aboriginal or Islander. What a situation we are getting to. How can an Aboriginal community manage its own affairs in the sense in which it is being expressed, a sense which I would never accept as a proposition of proper government in this country? I am pointing out the inconsistency between the main proposition of the Bill and the true contents of the Bill.
The Bill goes on to state that a permit to reside in or to visit an area can be given by a council for the reserve. As I read clause 12 (2), that is to be in addition to but not in derogation of a permit that emanates, say, from the present Queensland law. I may go to the council and say: ‘I want to enter’ and be told no. I may go to Brisbane and say: ‘I want to enter’ and be told yes. Another person may go to Brisbane and be told no. He may then go to the council and be told yes. What a system of permit where one authority is just outmatching the other. Let us get to a position whereby we have a proper view as to what we are in for and what management considers.
My fourth proposition is this: That this legislation is just the first step down the road, and I emphasise ‘down’. Anybody who has travelled along an unknown road knows that one has to make a judgment about getting as near as possible to the ultimate destination. Assume, contrary to my argument, that the Aboriginal council will have true management and control of its affairs. We are told blithely that that will not prevent the Queensland Government from continuing to make available health, educational, enforcement and police services. Just imagine what a predicament of complete irresponsibility this presupposes for the Queensland Government; that it is to spend money on an educational system in a reserve where it has no recognition as the authority responsible for general conduct and wellbeing.
– It is what the Commonwealth is doing today in the States.
-Of course it is, but that is one of the historical weaknesses of the Commonwealth, due to the fact that is it over-gorged with money and the States have a demand for services. As a political proposition 20 years ago, half way during my period here, it was recognised that the Commonwealth had to advance money to the States to discharge responsibilities for which there is no real accountability by the States to us. My dear colleague’s analogy to this proposition is hopeless. Imagine a reserve on which the Aborigines prescribe a particular level of conduct for drunken driving, to take one instance, or education, to take another, and that is frowned on by the State Government. The reserve has no accountability to the State Government. This legislation is careful to prescribe that the council is responsible to and only to, the Aboriginal community. What Alice in Wonderland thinking it is to suppose that a responsible State government will continue to allow its funds to be devoted to the fields of health, education and police control when it is to have no authority to seek responsibility and accountability for that expenditure.
– This power has been with the Director of Aboriginal Affairs for years and you didn’t object. Now the Government wants to give it to the Aborigines you object.
-The Director of Aboriginal Affairs is an officer of the Government, is subject to it and is responsible to his Minister.
– The Government agreed to it; you agreed to it.
-I just ask the honourable senator to take thought. Difficult as my presentation is, try to understand me and then the inescapable proposition will emerge that it is preposterous to do what is proposed. We are here promoting a unique constitutional contest between State and Federal governments on the question of the control of two Aboriginal communities.
– And the rest.
-And, ultimately, the rest of the communities also. I would have thought that nothing more damaging to the discharge of our responsibilities or to the discharge of the State’s responsibilities could be envisaged. And the damage to them must obviously operate to the damage of Aboriginal welfare.
– I ask the honourable senator why the people carried the referendum.
-I do not recall that it embraced a constitutional issue. I do not stand upon any legalistics in this regard. I present a constitutional principle, but do so on that basis and on that basis alone. I do not remember any constitutional issue between State and Commonwealth giving rise to such an acute crisis since the Depression days when Mr Lang refused to pay moneys to the Commonwealth Government and the Federal Parliament put through garnishee proceedings. This is a direct claim by the Commonwealth to supersede the authority of the State with regard to reserves, the land of which it owns, and as to which, to date, it has been responsible for operation.
– What was the purpose of the referendum if it was not to give to the national authority power to legislate?
– In case of need of course, but who would, upon the present evidence, say that there is need? As Senator Rae said in 1 974 the evidence does not persuade us. Senator Cavanagh recited the telegrams. Mr Porter’s speech indicates the visits and reports that he had up till December, all approving of the State control.
– That is not true.
– It is excellent to have a giant’s power but it is tyrannous to use it as a giant. We were given in 1967 power to use if need be, if the proper occasion arose. If that proper occasion arose I would not intervene concerning an area of Aboriginal welfare, of which I have no knowledge, but now we get a ham effort of this sort, taken for the purpose of negativing an untoward decision of the State instead of seeking reconciliation and proper discussion and argument. What would be the misfortune if subsidy were withheld from the church for a month while discussions proceeded? If the Government is not dissuaded by the fact that it is creating in effect little Alsatias within the Australian community by this proposition then it is right, but if it is persuaded otherwise, if we have any interest in Aboriginal welfare, let us take a little time to consider it further, to iron out a measure, if one is needed, in the Commonwealth sphere.
My last word on the subject for the purposes of honourable senators tonight is this: Let us remind ourselves of the unique situation of Commonwealth interference, we being in that excellent position of having a giant’s power, the right to override inconsistent State laws within the ambit of our authority. The State has no right to come back. If we usurp this field or arrogate it to ourselves, that can be renounced or qualified by ourselves only, or by our successors only. But if it remains within the State’s power, subject to these requirements of finance, ex-State or Commonwealthand in this field where both have an interest- then of course the position is completely the subject of proper negotiation and discussion between Federal and State authorities.
As for the paltry dispute concerning administrative procedures that has provoked all this, you will remember that Byron wrote an appropriate couplet on the back of his deed of separation- I shall not recite the foregoing part- to the effect that both may be wrong and both should forgive. We should get back to a proper consultative council table with the Aborigines and work out a proper system of government for their welfare. The Bill is the antithesis of that.
– I am grateful that I have been in the chamber tonight to listen to Senator Wright. I wish that we were in a situation where we had a greater appreciation of what we are about in this Bill, where we could indulge in real and deep argument concerning what its outcome should be. I agree with much of what Senator Wright said. In many ways the argument he puts is worthy of a greater and more substantial Bill, not this flimsy bit of window dressing to which we are addressing our attention. Really, the Premier of Queensland ‘s comment as reported in today’s Canberra Times is probably one of the most honest of those that have been made on the situation that exists between the Federal Government and the Queensland Government. I think it gets to the heart of the matter. He said that the Aurukun Aboriginal mission dispute was really about mining royalties, and we are pretending here that what it is really about is the lives and futures of the Aboriginal people elsewhere.
Last week in the Melbourne Sun a cartoon appeared showing a mountain of bauxite with two Aboriginal people sitting on it. They were saying to each other: ‘It is very confusing. Is it Bjelke ‘s bauxite or is it Mai’s bauxite?’ I think that tends to sum up what the argument between the two governments is really all about. I find this Bill a hypocritical exercise. To quote John Newfong, the Queensland Chairman of the National Aboriginal Conference, it is a cop-out, a piece of window dressing. We are told that it is extraordinarily urgent business, that we have an urgent situation between two governments.
Let us take one of the areas that brought about this urgency. The Queensland Premier said that he had been petitioned by the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island to take over the running of those two settlements. He said he had been petitioned three times by those people. We have never seen those petitions. We have never heard of the circumstances in which those petitions were taken up. We do not know what names were attached to the petitions or who took up the petitions. One would have thought that before we were pushed into this situation of urgency at least the Federal Government would have inquired a little further into the so-called petitions and would have at least asked for some evidence that the petitions were taken up and that the people on those settlements felt that way.
Senator Bonner earlier today quoted telegrams from the Uniting Church in Australian which said that it wanted the legislation passed today. That is great for the Uniting Church. But we just happen to have a telegram from the National Aboriginal Conference saying that it wanted one week in which to consider the matter. I would have thought that those people had some sort of priority and that their wishes might have been taken into account. The Uniting Church may have done all sorts of very good work on the missions. But the situation concerns the Aboriginal people and their council- the supreme body of Aboriginal opinion in Australia which was set up by this Goverment. The NAC sent a telegram from its inaugural meeting saying that it wanted a week in which to discuss the legislation, but that was ignored.
– Would you like to hear the one from the Aurukun Council?
-I am talking about the National Aboriginal Conference that represents Aboriginal people at Aurukun and all other parts of Australia. The Government has ignored that request. Why did the Government spend money to set up the Conference if it is of no account? The Conference has been meeting in Canberra all this week so it would not have been very hard to find the members of the Conference and to ask them for their opinion. However, they have been ignored. It is all just a sham and a whitewash.
The Government has left members of the Conference to sit down and pontificate. Those members know that anything they do will not be of any account, because the Uniting Church can move in with a telegram and override them. Where is the integrity of this Government? The Prime Minister goes to the inaugural of the National Aboriginal Conference and says:
It was never good enough for politicians or bureaucrats whether at State or Federal level to impose on the Aboriginal people their conception of what was good for the Aboriginal people. Aboriginals have the same rights as other Australian citizens to determine what is best for them.
What a horse laugh that must have raised at the National Aboriginal Conference. What a horse laugh it must be raising in every Aboriginal settlement around Australia and in every area where Aboriginal people meet together. It is the greatest piece of hypocrisy that any Prime Minister of Australia has ever come out with.
Why rush the Bill through the Parliament? Honourable senators can sit up all night and try to understand the ramifications of the legislation. But what about the people who really matter? We received the Bill at 10 o’clock on Tuesday night. What about the people whose lives it will concern? When will they see the Bill? Obviously they will see it when it is a fait accompli. We all know how difficult it is to amend a Bill once it has been passed. There is no hope whatsoever of doing that. The people whose lives will be caught up in it, the people who are the most concerned with it, get no say and are not consulted.
We are told that the legislation is so urgent, that it must be rushed through so urgently, that we cannot stop for one day or one week to ask the Aboriginal people for their opinion, their help or their assistance. It was obvious last week when the battle lines were drawn between the Queensland National Party and the Federal Liberal Party that if the troops were really to be brought out to fight each other Parliament should meet with some urgency and someone should act responsibly. But of course the huffing and puffing subsided as we all knew it would, and so that urgency to keep the troops apart went.
– It was your urgency.
– It was your urgency. It was your Government that was huffing and puffing. It was your Government that said that it would immediately have to take steps when it knew it would not have to take steps, when it knew there would never be that urgency. If the situation was as urgent as that the Government should have taken steps. But no, the Government could wait until this week to deal with the legislation. However, this week the legislation is urgent and the Government cannot afford to wait a day or a week. Last week we could afford to wait until this week.
– That was our undertaking, to get it through this week.
-Why did the Government undertake to get this legislation through this week? What is the legislation to prevent if it is passed this week? The Government huffed and puffed all over Australia when it knew the urgency was not there. The Government huffed and puffed and set itself up all over Australia. The Aboriginal people’s supreme body met this week in Canberra. This is the body that the Government set up to advise the Parliament on Aboriginal affairs. Although the body met in Canberra the Government could not allow it one day or even one week to consider the legislation. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) said that he did not have the time to consult with the Conference about the Bill that the Government says it is rushing through the Parliament for the benefit of Aboriginals. Two years ago the Prime Minister was asked in the other place the following question:
Are the terms of the Queensland Government’s Aurukun Associates Agreement Act such that Aboriginal people are cheated of royalties and deprived of ownership and customary use of their land? Has the Queensland Government infringed United Nations and International Labour Organisations conventions regarding the rights of indigenous people in respect of their traditional land, particularly the right to be consulted? In what way is it intended to redress this situation?
The Prime Minister replied that he had nothing further to give other than the answer he had given to a previous question. He said:
I will be writing to the Premier seeking additional information. My colleagues the Minister for National Resources and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will also be taking up with the appropriate ministers the particular aspects that come within their responsibility.
He went on to say:
Since the matter of foreign investment is also closely intertwined in this total situation there will also be discussions with the companies concerned to make sure that this Government ‘s foreign investment policy is maintained.
That was two years ago. This period has passed, and apparently the foreign companies and the Queensland Government have such regard for any policy on foreign investment that this Government may implement that they have surged ahead regardless with a $ 1,000m investment in bauxite utilisation while they wait on the Federal Government’s answer. There was no urgency in that situation but there is a fearful urgency in this situation.
We know that both the Queensland Government and the Federal Government are aware of the minerals to be obtained from Aboriginal reserves. We know, because it has been reported, that a detailed study of 39 Aboriginal reserves to assess their mineral potential has been carried out by a wholly owned subsidiary of Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd. A memorandum dated 15 December 1976 to the General Manager of CRA Exploration Pty Ltd lists the reserves in order of importance as exploration targets. Eight reserves with good to excellent mineral potential were listed in the first group and described as the prime targets which should be given top priority in our future programs. The memorandum summarised the more important features of each reserve and what minerals were known to occur or could possibly occur in them. The reserves studied were mainly in the Northern Territory but included others in Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia. That is just one firm. Were the other mining firms sitting on their hands while that was going on? No, they were out doing exactly the same thing. So while the mining industry knows where the rich mineral deposits are and while the Queensland Government and the Federal Government know where those deposits are, where do the Aboriginal people stand? They stand at the end of the line. There was nothing then to stop people exploring on Aboriginal reserves; there is nothing now to stop people exploring on those reserves in Queensland and there is nothing in this Bill to prevent them exploring on those reserves in Queensland. Do we wonder why the rush is on? We know why the rush is on. It is because of the pressure on those mineral interests or both the Queensland and Federal Governments. One wonders, in light of the Federal Government’s concern in Queensland in this instance, whether it will intervene in Western Australia. Will it intervene on behalf of the Aboriginal people in Western Australia? Are their land rights, their heritage, to be concerns of this Government? Or is our paternalism to cover only the real aim of this Bill- the mineral rights, and for whom? In Western Australia the elders of the tribe said: Contact with white society and alcohol has almost destroyed our people’. They said they deliberately turned their backs on the white man’s world to make their own lives on their own land. Will this Government uphold that right for those people and with such speed? Will we be called back next week for urgent sittings to get through legislation to protect the rights of those Western Australian people? We will see, but I think we all know the answers.
We have before us a Bill that relies on a Queensland Act. There is every evidence that the Queensland Parliament will manipulate that Act to the detriment of the Aboriginal people and to the detriment of what may be the best intentions of this Bill. It is a Bill that gives local communities no right to prevent undesirable white men from entering their reserves. It gives communities no right to enforce their by-laws against the white man. We know that in many areas Aboriginal people suffer from alcoholism just as in many areas of Australia white men suffer from alcoholism. We know that many Aboriginal communities understand that they have a problem which is more than one can say for the white community. If the Aborigines pass a by-law prohibiting the use of alcoholic liquor on their reserves they cannot enforce that law on the white man. The white man may bring alcohol and may sell it to the Aboriginal people as he has done for so long. So what is the point of their being able to pass a by-law? It is kid stuff. We have before us a Bill that does not prevent their land being mined, a Bill that allows a part of their reserve to be apportioned for the use of the community. Presumably, the rest, the greater portion, could be mined and they have no right to object. It is a Bill that says nothing about vesting the lands or any part of the lands in those Aboriginal people. It gives them no title at all. As Senator Collard said, if this Bill did anything like that it would not have the support of the members on the benches opposite. We must not upset the people who want our minerals.
Senator Collard spoke of the pastoral industry and how it had looked after the Aboriginal people. That was paternalism gone mad. There are men out there who own pastoral lands and whose wives would not join them in those far outback places where life was not easy. Their wives and children tended to live in capital cities but those men did not feel that they should be denied the pleasure of having a woman to live with. So they took an Aboriginal woman to bed and they produced children. Those children, while very young, were sent to orphanages in the city. They were told that they were orphans. They were not told who their fathers were and who their mothers were, not told where they came from and were denied all knowledge of their forebears and their families. They were left in these orphanages to live as best they could. If it had not been for the care and love of their Aboriginal families who made sure that they knew where they came from and what they were, they would have had no beginnings. Those pastoralists did not do it once; they did it again and again. They sent their own children off into that purgatory, that limbo, of not knowing who they were. I do not believe Senator Collard when he says that Aboriginals did not make good stockmen. If they did not, so far as I am concerned the pastoral industry owes a debt which it has not even begun to repay.
I know there are people on the other side who deny that these people have rights as the original owners of this country, but let us not forget that our race bashed them, burnt them, raped them, murdered them, tortured them, poisoned them, starved them, cheated them, denied them education- it still does- denied them good health- it still does- and destroyed or commercialised their places of religion. From a legal, if not a moral, point they have some rights to the Australian land and they have more rights to that land than most of us have. Industry calls their claim to some land rights ‘unauthorised totalitarian control’. Industry maintains- the Queensland Premier supports it- that industry workers have the right to the recreational use of other areas such as Aboriginal reserves. Under this Bill, Aboriginals have no right to prevent industry using their lands for recreational purposes. Industry maintains that it has the right to water, to gravel, to timber, to port facilities regardless of what rights the Aboriginals claim. This Bill does not stop industry claiming those rights. It gives the Aboriginal people no right to prevent industry from marching on and using those facilities. The Premier of Queensland believes- I believe that the Federal Government believes- that industry has those rights and that Aboriginal people have no right to deny industry.
I believe that this is a gutless Bill introduced by a gutless Government which in conjunction with State Premiers is supporting and protecting the mining companies. We are told that we do not have the time to discuss this Bill and its ramifications seriously and properly. I quote from a report of a Senate Select Committee entitled The Environmental Conditions of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and the Preservation of Their Scared Sites ‘. It states:
That was from a House of Commons select committee report on Aborigines in 1837 and, so far as I can see, nothing has changed in the time from 1 837 to 1 978. We still have not even a week in which to consider what this Bill will do for the Aboriginal people. I commend the amendment moved by Senator Gietzelt and hope that it is supported by the Senate.
-I oppose this Bill. When I look at the commotion that has been created it makes me realise how a mountain can be made out of a molehill. Let us look at the simple story. Some time ago the Queensland Government realised that things were not the best in some of these areas. It investigated the matter and as a result indicated that it was prepared to take over those areas in order to bring them to a higher standard. The Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs, Mr Porter, yesterday made a statement on this subject. I have known Mr Porter, a Liberal Party Minister, for many years. He was our Party’s State Executive officer in Queensland. I have always found him to be a capable, honest and sincere person and I believe that he has been a first class parliamentarian. He is the type of person who in his portfolio would do his best for the Aboriginal people. However, before he took over his portfolio the situation on these reserves had become known and there had been discussions with the then Presbyterian Church which was looking after these missions. The Queensland Government realised that things were not the best but gave the Church extra time- 12 months- to try to straighten out the problems. Still the situation did not improve. Mr Porter in making his speech yesterday said:
Extraordinary efforts have been made by the Commonwealth, the media and the Uniting Church to suggest that action for the transfer of management came as a bolt out of the blue, that the peoples had been perfectly happy with the BOEMAR management, and our action was precipitate and ruthless and against the people’s settled wishes. These are the allegations- but what are the facts? As far back as 1973 Cabinet had expressed its concern with an unsatisfactory management situation at Aurukun and the Church was told that the arrangements for management with its generous funding accompaniment ($750,000 in the current year) required the communities be managed consistent with the State’s policies applying to all other Aboriginal reserves in Queensland.
Again in 1974 the Church was informed of further Cabinet concern that the two communities in question and that the position was so bad that they were prepared to assume forthwith the management role. Church assurances were again given, and so action was deferred.
Then came a period of mounting concern expressed by the peoples as community conditions deteriorated to such an extent at Aurukun that many people felt they could no longer live in the settlement proper, and went out to more remote areas to fend for themselves.
The situation has reached crisis point where, in February 1976 my predecessor, the honourable Claude Wharton, MLA, and his director, visited Aurukun accompanied by both the Moderator-General of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, the Reverend P. Wood, and the senior secretary of
BOEMAR, the Reverend John Brown. At the pressing request of the Church it was at length agreed we would defer assuming management from the Church for a further 12-month period, giving the Church a final opportunity to provide effective management. But if there was not the promised improvement, we would then have to act.
That clearly indicates that this is not something that has happened overnight. The situation has been developing for some time. In many respects the position at Aurukun was very serious. The educational standards fell.
– Who is responsible for that, Senator?
-The health standards fell and also there was a shortage of food and consequent malnutrition.
– That is a State responsibility, Senator.
– My friend Senator Thomas asks who is responsible and then suggests that it is a State responsibility. Apparently the Aboriginal children had previously been taught with other children. Mr Whitlam, whom Senator Thomas and other socialists on this side now so strongly support- and Senator Thomas knows what has happened in his State- brought in this divisive policy which separated Aboriginal people from everybody else, thus creating an apartheid situation. Of course, some time ago honourable senators who are supporting this measure were opposed to it. They are so consistent.
It was for these reasons that there was a change in the system. It is all very well to talk about people managing their own affairs but, to show honourable senators the difficulties that were experienced in regard to food, in January 1 976 the Aurukun Community Incorporated Pty Ltd, an Aboriginal co-operative sponsored by the Commonwealth- the Commonwealth knows how to run everything in Australia but does not know how to get unemployment down or how to stop strikes- was indebted to the extent of $66,000 to a northern firm for supplies. A year later the debt had been reduced to about $50,000. It has now been cleared. Mr Porter’s statement continued: lt is difficult to understand, however, how a community store catering for a population of 700-odd could operate effectively with such a debt and the insistence by an alternative supplier for goods on the basis of cash within seven days.
We find that a back-up of at least two months reserve stocks would be essential, in such remote localities. Consequently, it must be accepted that for a considerable period the people were being deprived of essential foodstuffs.
Yet people still talk about running things for the Aborigines and how they therefore are going to help them. Mr Porter continued:
The debt of $50,000 which has now been cleared was paid presumably as a result of excessive prices being charged in the store.
Honourable senators, I am sure, would enjoy paying the following prices: Twelve ounces of cheese cost $1.30 compared with 55c at a neighbouring community; a drum of flour cost $15.30 compared with $9.20 at a neighbouring community.
– Subsidised by the Government, was it?
– If it was subsidised by the Government it is still a hefty price. Coffee cost $6 compared with $3.50 at a neighbouring community. This is what these people had to pay.
– Do you want the Government to subsidise them?
- Senator Thomas does not like the truth. Two kilograms of sugar cost $1.20 compared with 53c at a neighbouring community and toilet paper per roll cost $2.40- obviously a rare and costly item. We have heard about the Uniting Church and others running things there very well but this is a striking illustration that they are not. Our health authority in Queensland performs a very good service and I do not think anybody would say that the State health authorities would go out of their way to make crooked reports in order to justify a political point of view. I think that the public servants in the Queensland State Government are as good as those anywhere else.
– And you would support the Minister for Health, Dr Edwards, would you not, senator?
- Dr Edwards does not come into this. When it comes to doctors, you have to be careful. Doctors look after themselves. I remember the Sister Kenny business. The doctors would not have a bar of her; no fear. They said: ‘Why worry about those people with paralysis? Sister Kenny went to the United States and started a number of clinics there, Eventually our doctors agreed that there was something to her methods. That is why a number of people have been cured. Our doctors were so intelligent and so public-spirited that they would not agree with her. They reported against her.
I believe that the Queensland Department of Health works on a reasonably good basis. The health report in March 1973 of the situation at Aurukun- and this is interesting- revealed that 48 per cent of the children were greatly under weight for their age. Twenty-four per cent had anaemia and there were bad infestations of parasites. Checks made in May 1975 disclosed that less than half of those children were showing even the standard weight increase.
– This is under the State Health Department.
– No, this was under the Church for which you are standing up. The parasite infestations remained and scabies was widespread. In October of last year the reports of malnutrition at Aurukun were so grave that the head of the Aboriginal health team, Dr Musgrave, went there to check on the situation for himself.
– Whose fault is that, Senator?
– It was not the fault of our Queensland Department of Health. I am sure that Senator Baume, being a doctor, will agree that this is worth listening to. This is what Dr Musgrave reported:
The situation at Aurukun is very bad and malnutrition especially is a serious problem . . . Fruit arrives only once a week and there is no milk supply at all . . . There was hardly any food in the store . . . The headmaster complained that the breakfast for children comprises damper and tea, and there was no lunch except mangoes, and this affected their alertness at school … It seems likely the standards of health, mental and physical, will continue to deteriorate, as will the social climate. The remedy must lie in the development of well defined policies for the future advancement of the people living at Aurukun.
On 27 November last, the Department of Health medical officer reported that:
Complaints are also to hand about the poor cleansing of night soil pans -
This will strike honourable senators as being very good from the dirty health point of view- and the same truck used for refuse removal is used without prior cleansing for picking up food from aircraft.
Yet honourable senators are talking about the wonderful way in which Aurukun is run.
– It is a State Government responsibility, Senator.
– I think it is disgraceful to suggest, as Opposition senators are doing, that everything in the garden is lovely. The simple position is this. If the State Government finds those conditions existing, what is wrong with it trying to make those conditions better for the people?
– What did it do about the situation?
– It was the State Government ‘s responsibility, Senator.
-What is all that rat-tatting over there?
– It was the State Government’s responsibility, Senator. It has always been its responsibility.
– Opposition senators say that they are standing up for these people on the missions. They are not standing up for them at all. They are just doing a lot of ratbagging and a lot of political ploying.
– But you just produced a case against the State Department of Health.
– I am reporting that the people you are supporting in running the missions, the now Uniting Church -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Robertson)- Order! Senator Wood, please direct your comments through the Chair.
-Yes, Mr Acting Deputy President. But Senator Missen is trying to make out that the Queensland Department of Health is to blame. It is not. The Uniting Church is running the show and it is to blame. Our State Government, in a sensible way, says: ‘Well, it is about time the missions were taken over’. Would you, as a Federal authority, like such reports to be made if you were running the show?
-No. In an article in the Courier Mail in September 1 974, Senator Bonner he must have woken up to what the then Federal Government was like, but he has forgotten now- said that he did not believe that the Federal Government of the day and the Federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs were competent to handle the affairs of Queensland Aboriginals. That is what he thought about the then Government. In fact in Brisbane the previous night, the then Federal Liberal Leader of the Opposition, Mr Snedden, said that he believed that the State Government had shown a great deal of concern for Queensland Aborigines.
– It sounds like it, after what you have just been reading out.
-There are none so blind as those who will not see. It is very hard to drive nails into heads of iron.
– What about wood?
– Wood can have a straight grain and run true, and not be afraid to express himself in an honest and sincere manner.
– Wood can also split on occasions.
-I do not split. I am not like some people. I am trying to point out that the State Government was doing the right thing if it believed that things were wrong. The Labor side does not like to hear this because it was this separatist movement, the Whitlam Government, which initiated and ultimately brought about these conditions. Opposition senators do not like that to be known. In 1974 people on our side of the chamber opposed very strongly any move by the Federal Government of the day. Senator Bonner, who now proclaims that everything in the world is worse because of the Queensland Government’s actions, is reported as saying in a Courier Mail article of September 1974:
If they -
That is, the Federal Government- take over Aboriginal affairs in Queensland and make the same amount of mistakes they have made in the Northern Territory, God help my people.
– We have got a better government now, though.
-Do you think so?
– That is very nice. A mountain has been made out of a molehill on this question. It just goes to show that if the Federal Government really tackled the problem of unemployment and industrial chaos in this country, instead of fiddling around with things like this, it would be doing a lot better for this country. I say that without any hesitation at all. This Government is drifting towards a socialistic trend. There is no question about it. This trend was introduced by Mr Whitlam and it looks to me as though there is no greater admirer of Mr Whitlam than Mr Fraser. He imitates him time after time.
– He has a funny way of showing it.
– Yes, he has really become a second Mr Whitlam. The point is this: The way the Government has been going, it has developed a socialist streak. I know that our Queensland Government has that impression of this Federal Government. To show how far the Queensland Liberal Party platform on Aboriginal welfare differs from the Federal Liberal policy platform, I shall read part of it to honourable senators. It states:
Queensland has a responsibility for the care and welfare of its indigenous people. The Liberal Party will promote measures -
1 ) to ensure that all Aborigines and part-Aborigines will attain the same manner of living as other Australians and live as members of a single Australian community -
– This will not be done on the apartheid basis. This sounds like peanuts to me.
-Oh, do not be so childish. This is the Queensland Liberal Party platform on Aboriginal welfare. I shall tell you later about Senator Bonner so far as this Liberal policy is concerned. The platform continues:
Any special measures taken for Aborigines or partAborigines are regarded as temporary measures, not based on race, but intended to meet the need for special care and assistance to protect them from any ill-effects of sudden change and to assist them to make the transition from one stage to another in such a way as will be favourable to their social, economic and political advancement.
– Who wrote that?
-That is the Queensland Liberal Party policy. It was stated in a telegram to me from Mr Porter. He also said:
From the foregoing you will see Queensland policies totally in line with this platform whereas Commonwealth policies totally its reverse. Therefore in Bill Commonwealth is denying pledged Liberal policy on Aborigines and promulgating pledged Australian Labor Party policies in lieu.
That is the policy of the Liberal Party. Mr Bill Knox is the Deputy Premier of Queensland and the Leader of the Liberal Party in Queensland. He is a fine person, for whom I have a very high regard. He told me that on the occasion of formulating the policy he invited Senator Bonner to the policy meeting. Senator Bonner approved all the policy that they discussed.
– He would not invite me to my own funeral.
-I believe that what Mr Knox said is correct. He said that Senator Bonner was invited and that he agreed with everything that was said. This is a simple situation which has been magnified out of all proportion. The basis of it is to attack the Premier of Queensland and his Government.
– He is a socialist.
– He is not a socialist. If only we had him as Leader here with Bill Knox as Deputy Leader, this country would be a lot better off. Mr Bjelke-Petersen is the best leader in Australia. He is not afraid, he is strong, he is honest and he sets the requirements of the people as his goals. He does not take one step forward and two steps back like someone else I could talk about. This Government is adopting a socialist policy which it seems to do so often recently. I think the Queensland Liberal Party policy as enunciated is a much better one. There is no question that the suggestion that these people must be kept separate from other Australians is apartheid. It is a separatism policy.
– They are not kept separate. They are not under obligation.
– It is separatism. It is apartheid. It is a Whitlam policy and Malcolm Fraser, being a great admirer of Whitlam, is following in his footsteps. How can anybody tell me that a Liberal Government should adopt Australian Labor Party policies and divert from good Liberal policies?
– Menzies did year after year.
- Sir Robert Menzies was an outstanding personality.
– He was not much good as a Prime Minister.
– He was a very good Prime Minister. I may have had arguments with him but he was the best Prime Minister we had in the 29 years in which I have been a senator. People change. Senator Bonner is kicking up a great fuss about things now. I told honourable senators what he said four years ago. He was very strong about these matters. He would not have a bar of the Federal Government. I can remember him saying that he stood up for the Queensland Government and its administration of Aboriginal affairs. He said: ‘I am proud to be a product of the Queensland Aboriginal settlements ‘. Why has this change taken place? People should have good memories about some of these matters.
It is amazing how people from other States tell people in Queensland how to run things. They are such intelligent people in the south. The trouble with the southern areas is that there is so much fog that people cannot see very clearly. In Queensland we have such bright sunshine that we can see much further ahead than they can. As for these people telling us what to do in Queensland and how much they know, it is a lot of baloney. Senator Wright is an exception. He is a Tasmanian senator. He has been one of our outstanding parliamentarians in the 29 years that I have been a senator. Senator Archer also comes from Tasmania. Then, of course, there is that famous personality, Michael Hodgman, from one of the House of Representatives seats in Tasmania telling us what we should do and how Bjelke-Petersen should be thrown out of office by the Governor.
– He is dead right.
-Yes, he is dead right. All the Aboriginals in Tasmania are dead. The Tasmanians shot them all. They are dead right, all right. They are right dead. This is the type of man who blows off steam and tells us what to do.
– What about Fraser? He lives in Victoria and tells you what to do.
- Mr Fraser is said to be so conscientious and concerned about the coloured people. I remind honourable senators that he was at a convention in Africa when he attacked Rhodesia for apartheid, which he practises in Australia, and on other aspects with which I shall deal later. At that time the coloured people of his own electorate rose up and said: ‘We are out of work. What is he doing for us?’ I would like to know how sincere Mr Fraser is. Has he given a personal demonstration of his sincerity to those coloured people on his property at Nareen in his electorate? How many Aborigines has he employed there? People tell us what we should do. Michael Hodgman comes from a State which treated the Aboriginals so well that it shot them.
– How many do you employ?
– I have had a coloured person working in my travel office.
– What colour?
-Not far from Senator Bonner’s colour. He is not a full blooded Aboriginal. However, I do not make any distinction about colour.
– Except that you don’t like blacks.
– Black is a very popular material with the ladies. They like wearing black because it is a very beautiful material.
– Particularly at funerals.
-Not only at funerals but at other times. One does not get that funeral aspect when dealing with this sort of thing. Honourable senators should have some brighter thoughts on the matter. They will then realise that the Queensland Government properly looks after its Aboriginal people. I object to people like Hodgman and others telling us what to do. I know that they are great intelligent people. A lot of claptrap has been spoken about the Uniting Church. It is very nice for people to think that a person of the cloth or a minister must be sacrosanct and untouchable. As I have said before, members of the Uniting Church are rabid socialists. If honourable senators have good memories they may remember that on the occasion of the first double dissolution they issued a statement in the Press asking people to vote for the Whitlam Government. They signed their names, Noel Preston and so on.
- Senator Missen said: Wicked’. Does he think it is right that they should use their positions as church leaders to tell people to vote for the Labor Party? These are the people who are trying to talk about -
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m., under sessional order, I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 2 March 1978:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The new operating theatres and specialist neurosurgical areas under construction at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital are included in the New South Wales total program of works for which Hospitals Development Program block grants have been provided. (3)I understand that the decision to build the eight new theatres and two neurosurgical areas was based on a need to replace existing inadequate facilities, as assessed by the Health Commission of New South Wales on evidence placed before it by the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 14 March 1978:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
With regard to a new nursing home the staffing levels funded under deficit financing would be subject to negotiation between the organisation operating the nursing home and my Department having regard to Commonwealth and State minimum requirements and the staffing levels of deficit financed nursing homes of comparable size in the State where the nursing home is situated.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 April 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19780406_senate_31_s76/>.