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Monday, 23 November 2009
Page: 12548

Mr KATTER (5:45 PM) —In respect of the member for Moreton’s contribution, Mr Deputy Speaker, I do not know where these people get these extraordinary ideas. Has he no memory at all? The worst riot ever in Queensland parliamentary history was when the maligned Bjelke-Petersen government’s policies were overturned by the Goss Labor government. It was the worst riot in Queensland parliamentary history.

Mr Perrett interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr AJ Schultz)—Order! The member for Kennedy now has the call.

Mr KATTER —Don’t you remember that? You obviously have a very selective memory, member for Moreton. When the deed of grant in trust legislation was introduced—by me, I might add—on the front page of the Australian newspaper, of the Cairns Post—of every newspaper in this country—was that the elders wept. After 130 years they got their land back, only to have it taken off them again by your party in 1992. Don’t you have any memory?

Mr Perrett —Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek to intervene.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Is the member for Kennedy willing to give way?

Mr KATTER —Yes. I want to take the interjection.

Mr Perrett —Do you have the Aboriginal Land Act that followed the DOGIT legislation? Are you familiar with it?

Mr KATTER —It was my legislation.

Mr Perrett —The Aboriginal Land Act, not the DOGIT legislation.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Kennedy will now answer the question.

Mr KATTER —Mr Deputy Speaker, I welcome the questions. Do you know, I had this enormously radical approach. It was revolutionary. We went out and sat with the people. We called a meeting and simply asked them what they wanted. And, do you know, in the 26 years since not one single minister has ever done that. Over 3,000 attended—

Mr Perrett —Rubbish! Absolute rubbish!

Mr KATTER —Say that outside and I’ll sue you! I can prove that we had over 2,800 people at the meetings. Say it outside and we will see who is—

Mr Perrett —Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek to intervene.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Does the member wish to field the question?

Mr KATTER —Yes, absolutely. I am taking his question.

Mr Perrett —Member for Kennedy, if you are suggesting that there has never been a minister since you to go and consult with Aboriginal people, that is highly offensive. That is what I objected to.

Mr KATTER —Name what minister—

Mr Perrett interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Moreton will resume his seat. You cannot debate the issue. You have been given permission to ask a question.

Mr KATTER —From now on you will cop it between the eyeballs. There were 2,800 people who attended the meetings. They attended the meetings and we asked them: ‘What do you want?’ They said, ‘We want our land,’ and I said, ‘Right, I’ve got a piece of paper and I have got to put someone’s name on the bottom of it. It is up to you as to what name you want put on the bottom of it.’ I would leave too, if I were you, member for Moreton. I asked: ‘Do you want to put the shire council? We are going to set up shire councils here. Do you want land councils? Do you want the names of the land councils put there? Do you want tribal councils?’ They were not called native councils at that time; they were called tribal councils. I asked: ‘Do you want the tribal council name on it? Do you want private ownership, the same as everyone else in Australia has, do you want a continuation of government ownership, or have you got some other idea?’ They discussed it. Most of these meetings took the best part of a day in each community. Surprise, surprise: we had given them the choice and they decided that they wanted to own their own houses, their own farms and their own cattle stations. They did not want the tribe to own it. They did not want the local council to own it. They wanted to own it themselves. That was what they decided. In fact, in all of those meetings there were only three people who objected. The previous speaker referred to the Bjelke-Petersen government. Of all of those communities, I think at Yarrabah there were over 2,000 people who attended the celebrations at the handing over of the deeds of grant. So either the previous speaker knew absolutely nothing about what he was talking about or, alternatively, he came in here and positively and mischievously misled the parliament. There are only two possibilities here. One is towering ignorance—

Mr Ripoll interjecting

Mr KATTER —What have I just said that is incorrect? Either he did not know what took place or, alternatively, he is being mischievous. There are only two possibilities here. Rosalind Kidd, most certainly no admirer or supporter of conservative politics, wrote a book called The Way We Civilise: Aboriginal Affairs—The Untold Story. It is a textbook throughout universities in Australia. Frank Brennan, most certainly no friend of the conservative side of parliament, wrote a book called Land Rights Queensland Style: The Struggle for Aboriginal Self-Management. Both of those books are highly flattering of what we did in Queensland. They are, I might say, historical documents. The member comes in here and rewrites history when in actual fact his party overturned that legislation, precipitating the worst rioting ever seen in Queensland parliamentary history. The beautiful fence was torn to pieces. There were about 2,000 people. Some people would not describe it as a riot. I would. I was in the middle of the people there. They smashed the door, they smashed windows and they tore down the flag. Two hundred went to hospital, it was alleged—we do not really know how many went to hospital—and some 200 were supposedly sent to jail for objecting to the overturning of the legislation.

There was no credit accruing to the government except that the government simply went out there, asked them what they wanted and then delivered it to them. There was nothing extraordinary there. What proceeded was that all of the six million acres in Queensland that were referred to as ‘reserve areas’—a lot of them were old mission stations or penal-type reserves such as Palm Island—were moved over to ownership by the local council, because someone had to decide who got what parcel of land to put cattle on, a farm on, a service station on or whatever the hell they wanted. The government did not want to be involved in that. We believed the local people should do that. There was an appeals tribunal, which was a couple of tribal elders—for lack of a better word; ‘justices of the peace’ was the technical term—a magistrate presiding and one representative of the government. It would be up to the council. You would apply to the local council to take up a private block, and if you did not like the outcome then you could appeal. If the council did not like the outcome then they could appeal. That was what happened.

I turn to the housing, because this is supposed to overcome our housing problem. I have just come from a conference of the mayors representing 40,000 people of Aboriginal descent in Australia. In fact, they are the only properly elected group that represents people of Aboriginal descent in Australia. They represent the shire councils that were set up under the act during that period of time. I think a lot of the criticism of the premier, Bjelke-Petersen, was well directed in the early years, but I think the criticism in the later years would get you laughed at if you knew what took place on the ground then.

But I turn back to the housing. A man called Gregory Wallace became a very famous man in Australian history. He comes from a little town called Hopevale. For those of you who follow rugby league, Matty Bowen comes from Hopevale. The first ordained priest in Australia, Pastor George Rosendale, was ordained in the Lutheran Church and came from Hopevale. The first Aboriginal Australian member of parliament comes from Hopevale. It is a very famous town with a very successful history in the area. I think the honourable member for Leichhardt would agree with me that Hopevale is still making a very significant contribution today. Greg Wallace came up with the idea of working for the dole. He convinced the local people to work for the dole and was put on 60 Minutes. There was such a surge of approval from the whole of Australia for what had taken place there that the next week there was a second broadcast of Greg Wallace on 60 Minutes—the only time in 60 Minutes’ history that there has been a repeat. So they got Work for the Dole.

Noel Pearson’s brother Gerhardt Pearson rang me up and Gerhardt said to me, ‘Why can’t we use Work for the Dole to build houses?’ and I said, ‘Gerhardt, you should get the Nobel peace prize for this year.’ I am not making political points here. I made the comment in anger, in defence of a government that I was part of, but Gerry Hand said: ‘What an absolutely brilliant idea. Let’s get going with it.’ Within two weeks Gerry had given me approval to move with it, so we were then freed up. Half our labour force was coming from Work for the Dole, so we were building very, very cheap houses. Eric Law and Lester Rosendale were instrumental in securing from the ACC—a meeting of the mayors of all the councils at the time, if you like—an agreement that all houses in Queensland would be built exclusively by black labour, not white labour. In other words, the houses would be built exclusively by people of Aboriginal descent. So that was overlaid on top of the scheme.

Finally, Donnie Fraser from Doomadgee rang me up—again, a person of Aboriginal descent, a local boy at Doomadgee. He did not come from that area but he married a local girl and he was of Aboriginal descent himself. Donnie Fraser was later mayor of the community, and he came up with the idea of having our own block-making machines. I was a bit scared about this because I thought this might be a bit sophisticated. He said: ‘No, it’s not. We can train people to do this. There is some sophistication, but we can train them.’ Anyway, we ended up with eight block-making machines, I think there were. I remember at Doomadgee—I hope my figures are right here—we had been building 2½ houses a year. But by mobilising the free labour from Work for the Dole, by mobilising the local block making—the blocks were double the price by the time they got there, and of course the blocks were also being made by Work for the Dole labour—we had extremely cheap blocks. Every 1,000th block had to go down and be tested. They had to meet Besser specifications, which they did. So we went from building around 2½ houses a year to around 10 or 12 houses a year in Doomadgee.

I will make the point again—I have made it twice, but I will make it a third time—that I really did not have anything to do with these decisions. They were not my decisions. The people wanted them to happen. They seemed to me to be reasonable ideas and I am sure that Gerry Hand, the ALP minister at the time, would say the same thing if he were here now. He would say they were not his decisions; they were decisions from the people themselves.

We are now asked to accept that the federal government is going to run the housing schemes. The federal government has run the Northern Territory now for 30 years. Go and have a look at their handiwork. Have a look at how the Northern Territory communities are performing. Some of the communities in Queensland have now been under self-management for nearly 30 years. Go and have a look. I am sure the member for Leichhardt would agree with me here. Go and have a look at our communities. Go to Pormpuraaw—well, I have not been to Pormpuraaw recently. Go to Kowanyama. Go to Yarrabah. Go to Mornington Island. Go to any of our communities and see how they are performing, and then compare that with the federal government’s performance. They have been running the communities in the Northern Territory. Compare the performance of both. What is happening here is that the Northern Territory model is being forced and imposed upon the Queensland communities. Not surprisingly, they are bucking. The performance of the federal government bureaucracy in the Northern Territory speaks for itself—and I am not having a go at the existing government here. The bureaucracy for the last 13 years was that of their political opponents.

The last seven houses at Mornington Island, I was assured, were for a contract of $4 million. They were $600,000 a house. You can have a look at the photographs of the houses. They are not a whole lot bigger than the toilet block on our floor in Parliament House here. They are disgracefully small. They have no ventilation. They are hot boxes. How anyone could live in them or go to sleep at night in the intense heat that would be generated inside those houses is quite amazing to me.

One of the young mayors got up at the meeting last week and said: ‘Can’t we have houses that we can live in? These houses are most unsuitable for us.’ When we went out again and asked the people they did not say that they wanted gunyah type houses or houses that were sort of Aboriginal. They really wanted conventional houses, but they did want ventilation; however, I have not got time today to go into the details of that. You are saying that the outcome should be local involvement, but this program has no local involvement. It is an insult to say to these people that they have been consulted. Does it have private ownership of houses? Does it allow a person to own his own house? No, it does not. Does it work for the dole? No, it does not. Is it local labour? No, it is not. Is it suitable housing? No, it is not. Does a local manufacturer manufacture the blocks? No.

I was guided by Mahatma Gandhi. He said: ‘It may be that we Indians cannot run India as well as the British Raj, but it is infinitely more important that Indians run India rather than the British, even if we cannot run it as well.’ I have referred before to Pastor George Rosendale. I needed him to do a job and I was talking like a machine gun for about 25 minutes and he just listened patiently and put up with me. When I finished he said, ‘When the department of Aboriginal affairs come in and build 10 beautiful houses for us at Hopevale, that is not progress.’ He was working on his beach hut. He had cut down some trees, got the bark off them and put them in a bit of concrete in a hole in the ground, and he was nailing galvanised iron on and pouring the concrete—a very simple, humble sort of dwelling. He said, ‘When you get 10 beautiful houses built for you by the government, that is not progress. This is progress.’ When I said that at the mayors meeting all of them nodded. They all knew exactly what I was saying.

One of mayors said, ‘Your problem is you’re addicted. The first step in overcoming alcoholism is to admit to yourself that you are an alcoholic,’ and I am quoting Mayor Percy Neal here. He said: ‘You are addicted to the idea that black people can’t run their own affairs. You’ve got it so ingrained in your head that you can’t overcome it. It’s just there, like an addiction.’ He said: ‘We were here for 30,000 years. We might not have been batting terrifically, but we were doing all right. We were surviving. We didn’t need you. We don’t want you. Don’t come in here telling us what to do. Leave us alone. Let us do our own thing.’ After 200 years we still do not allow them to own their own houses. The only place on earth that you are not allowed to own your own house is in the 30 per cent of Australia that is Aboriginal lands. For one brief shining moment—that the last member condemned—for six or seven years they were able to take up private ownership of a block of land. We made many mistakes. Only about four per cent of the area ever got out to private ownership, and some that has been set back since then, as the member for Leichhardt would know. But for one brief shining moment it was there. It can be done. There is no reason that it cannot be done.

There continues to be a 17-year life expectancy gap, with arguably six or seven times the number of children of Aboriginal descent now being stolen off their parents than were being stolen in the stolen generation. They are the only people on earth that cannot own their own homes. The average occupancy rate was reported recently—and I think it is pretty right—as being 15 people in a house using one bathroom facility. Yet you could give them a private title at Yarrabah. We have already had imputed valuations done, and they have said they are worth $100,000. So if you just give us the right of private title then we can go and get the money to build a nice kit home ourselves—and come in at a price we can afford the repayments on. But still, as I speak here today in what is almost the year of our Lord 2010, if you are of Aboriginal descent and you live on that 30 per cent of Australia that is supposed to be Aboriginal lands you are not allowed to own your own home. Everyone comes in here and talks about it. The last member from the opposition spoke about it. They were there for 13 years and nothing was done. (Time expired)