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Wednesday, 3 May 1961

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock (LYNE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Select committees and their relation to the matters covered by this clause have been mentioned. The honorable member is in order in referring to the select committee appointed to inquire into the granting of a vote to aborigines provided he relates his remarks to the clause under discussion. I suggest to him, however, that he should not devote the whole of his speech to a discussion of select committees.

Mr UREN - The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) has reminded me that honorable members on the Government side do not have a say in the appointment of these select committees, that the Prime Minister makes the decisions for the other side, and that consequently honorable members on the Government side must be " Yes " men if they aspire to appointment to a committee.

The lead must be given by the Commonwealth Government on this aboriginal question and it has neglected to give that lead for far too long. It has been argued that the Labour Government did not do this or that in the past. We of the Opposition do not contend that Labour governments of the past were perfect. It must be remembered that both the Chifley Government and the Curtin Government were in office during a very difficult war period and were not then able to do anything about the aborigines because of the many other pressing problems requiring attention. Now, the Labour Party is living up to its responsibilities and urging that Australian aborigines be given the right to vote at federal elections. They now have the right to vote in State elections for the lower House in South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. In the home State of the Minister for the Interior - Western Australia - the Hawke Labour Government sought to give aborigines the right to vote in connexion with the election of members to the lower House but the proposal was strenuously opposed by the conservative upper House in which the majority of the members represented the same party as that represented in this chamber by the Minister for the Interior. He has talked about the Labour Party indulging in hypocrisy, but the Minister and the members of the Government should examine their own house. There is a problem in the Northern Territory. In many respects the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has done a good job, but this is not a game of throwing bouquets. This is a matter of principle. The principle is that the aborigines of Australia should have the right to vote, and that is the principle of the amendment moved by the Opposition. We believe that all aborigines in this country should have the right to vote in elections for both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

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