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Thursday, 29 May 1997
Page: 4011

Senator CRANE(3.34 p.m.) —We have just heard one of the most appalling addresses ever heard in this place. The imputation against our minister was not only uncalled for but grossly unfair. We have on the other side of this chamber an opposition that 12 months ago, after 13 years in power, lost government. During that time I never once heard anybody from that side of the chamber make any reference whatsoever to those who are now known as the `lost generation'. We all knew about it. I went to school with some of the so-called lost generation: the Aboriginals who lived at the New Norcia mission. They are still friends of mine. But nobody on that side raised the issue. You did nothing about it. To come in here and make these accusations today against our minister in the form they have been made is not only uncalled for but reflects grossly on, and highlights absolutely, your incompetence.

When we hear charges from Senator Bob Collins and when he talks about honesty and truth, I remember that he was the minister who said that he would resign if he had not fixed the waterfront in 12 months. The waterfront has not been fixed. It is still waiting to be fixed. He did not resign. It is one of the challenges we have to deal with in government. When we talk about the aspects of this debate, it is very important that it be put in its proper perspective. As far as Aboriginal people are concerned at this time, the most important issues that need to be dealt with are health, education and housing. When we go out into the communities and talk to these people, they plead with us to give them a hand. That is what Senator Herron has set out to do: to give them a hand in dealing with those issues.

You are making an accusation. I do not accept that accusation. That would be one of the most flimsy prosecutions I have ever heard, even suggesting that it is the most important report. I would say that the deaths in custody report was a pretty darned important report. You did very little about that. There have been a number of other reports that fundamentally and basically were not only ignored by the previous Labor government here but were ignored by the various state Labor governments around Australia during your time.

Senator Murphy —That's not the question we took note of.

Senator CRANE —That is not the question you took note of? Nonsense. You can't handle a bit of truth. You can't handle a bit of flak. You can't handle your own incompetence. You can't handle your inability in your 13 years in government to address some of the key issues: the problems that the fringe dwellers have, the problems of the people who live outside of Kalgoorlie in culverts have. What did you do about that? Nothing—absolutely nothing. You ought to hang your heads in shame.

I can remember the newspaper report being brought into this place on that issue. What did you do about urban Aborigines and some of the disadvantages they face? Very little. Yet you come in and throw these accusations around and try to pretend that maybe because Minister Herron got a fax on one day and read it on another day it means something. What at the end of the day does it mean? It means absolutely nothing.

What will mean something are the business programs being developed now. What will mean something are the programs that are being developed with the army to assist Aboriginal people. What will mean something is the extension of the station buying program in Western Australia, where in recent times another four stations have been bought for Aboriginal people. Those are the things that will matter. Those are the Aboriginal interests that we will continue to progress, whether it be in regard to hospitals, education, housing or assistance for business.

Senator Murphy would do well to have a look at some of these programs. He would do well to take a bipartisan approach to some of these problems and support what is happening. At long last we actually have a minister and a government who are addressing the real issues. Senator Herron has been to 60 communities in one year, communities that you people have never heard of. You have never been near them—never talked to the people, never sat down with them. That is your record. You are the people who ought to hang your heads in shame and think about how incompetently and how inadequately you handled the situation of Aboriginal people in this country. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —The time for the debate has expired.

Question resolved in the affirmative.