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Wednesday, 19 October 1983
Page: 1918


Mr WELLS —Has the attention of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs been drawn to articles in the Brisbane Courier-Mail of 15 October and 17 October indicating that Australian Labor Party candidates in the forthcoming State election have been denied access to Aboriginal people on far northern reserves? Are these reserves under the control of the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement? Is the head of that Department Mr P. J. Killoran, who happens to be the National Party candidate for the electorate concerned? Has the Minister noted allegations that officers of the candidate's Department have threatened Aboriginal people with the loss of their social security benefits or of credit at reserve stores if they vote for the Labor Party candidate? Can the Minister assure the House that Commonwealth benefits will not be at risk whatever the outcome of the Queensland election? Finally, will the Minister refer these matters to the Human Rights Commission as they appear to constitute a serious infringement of civil liberties?


Mr Sinclair —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. A Minister has a range of ministerial responsibilities. I suggest to you that nothing in the honourable gentleman's question seemed in any way to relate to responsibility exercised by the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.


Mr Holding —Mr Speaker, on the point of order: The High Court of Australia has held that the constitutional responsibility for Aboriginal affairs and matters pertaining to people of the Aboriginal race clearly rests with the Commonwealth. Equally, I have been asked: Has there been or is there a serious threat to the civil liberties of Aboriginal people? I would have thought that, having regard to our constitutional responsibility, the question is clearly in order.


Mr SPEAKER —I rule that the question is in order. I call the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.


Mr HOLDING —Yes, my attention has been drawn to the articles mentioned by the honourable member--


Mr McVeigh —I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I draw your attention to standing order 144 which says:

The following general rules shall apply to questions:

Questions cannot be debated.

Questions should not contain-

(a) statements of facts or names of persons . . .

Mr Killoran's name was mentioned and I believe that the question is out of order .


Mr SPEAKER —The remainder of the question dealt with matters that are properly within the province of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.


Mr HOLDING —My attention has been drawn to the articles. It is a sad day indeed when the official apparatus of the Queensland Government, supposedly created for the benefit of the Aboriginal and Islander people, is perverted in order to obtain some minimal political gain for candidates for and on behalf of the Government of Queensland and the National Party. I was concerned about the articles and requested an immediate investigation by officers of my Department. I understand that the Labor candidate for Barron River, Mrs Wendy Lilja, sought permission to visit the Aboriginal reserve at Wujal Wujal recently. She received a telegram from the manager, that is, Mr Killoran's subordinate--


Mr McVeigh —Mr Speaker, he has mentioned the name.


Mr HOLDING —I am perfectly happy to name any Australian who wants to abuse the civil rights of Aboriginal people. I am surprised that the honourable member would want to defend such a person. This gentleman, who happens to be Mr Killoran's subordinate, purported to refuse permission. When Mrs Wendy Lilja went to the reserve anyway she discovered, of course, that the telegram that had been sent to her could not have come from the council because it had not been consulted and it welcomed her visit. Of even more concern is the allegation which is being consciously made by members of the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement-again subordinates of Mr Killoran-that any Aboriginals who vote against the National Party or against Mr Killoran can expect to have their children taken from them and to lose their social welfare pensions.

Opposition members interjecting-


Mr HOLDING —I find it extraordinary that honourable gentlemen opposite who want to moralise are prepared not to treat these very serious allegations with the seriousness that they deserve. Having regard to the background of the Aboriginal people on these reserves, there can be no more serious exercise in intimidation or political blackmail--


Mr Anthony —You would not be interested, except for the State election.


Mr HOLDING —Let it go on record that the Leader of the National Party supports this kind of political thuggery. You are a mealy-mouthed spokesman for a bunch of political thugs. That is your problem.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The House will come to order and the Minister will return to his answer.


Mr HOLDING —Having regard to the history of what occurs on the reserves in Queensland, I repeat that there can be no more serious threat to any Aboriginal people than to tell them that if they vote in a certain way they are likely to lose their children and their social welfare payments.


Mr Sinclair —Address the Speaker. Follow the rules of the place.


Mr HOLDING —There is no point in addressing anybody who looks as silly as you.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The House will come to order. I indicate to the Minister that the interjection was a valid one. If he turns away from the microphone I have difficulty hearing him.


Mr HOLDING —I am sorry about that. These matters are now under investigation. It is our intention to refer them to the Human Rights Commission because these incidents are just one more example of the colonialist mentality of the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement and its Director who has, throughout the current political campaign, deliberately confused his position as a senior public servant, having real control over the lives and destinies of the Aboriginal people, with his role as a candidate. He has been perfectly happy to do that to the disadvantage of candidates from all political parties other than the National Party, and I include candidates from the Liberal Party. They are as much victims of this situation as are candidates from the Labor Party. Of course , the real victim is the system of political democracy itself. I give an assurance to the Aboriginal people of Queensland that in no circumstances will these threats be tolerated by the Commonwealth. We will act on them. I assure the Aboriginal people of Queensland that there is absolutely no threat either to their children or to their social welfare payments.


Mr Anthony —You will not worry after Saturday.


Mr HOLDING —It is a matter of regret that any Minister of the Commonwealth has to give that kind of assurance over the persistent, woeful interjections of the Leader of the National Party.


Mr Sinclair —Make a statement. This is ridiculous.


Mr HOLDING —You would be an expert in the ridiculous, my friend.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! I ask the Minister to draw his answer to a conclusion.


Mr HOLDING —The conclusion is this: I do not have any doubt at all that in the privacy of the ballot box Aboriginal people in Queensland will make their comment on the policies of the National Party and the attempts to exploit the situation that have grossly involved Mr Killoran.