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Thursday, 28 June 2012
Page: 4924


Senator BOSWELL (Queensland) (21:27): Both sides of parliament, over many, many years tried desperately and put everything they had into improving the lot of our Indigenous people. If money could have solved the problem it would have been solved, because no side of parliament has spared anything to lift Aboriginals out of where they are, which is in communities that are relying basically on passive welfare to exist.

Time and time again we have seen reports, and every report has come out showing that there is no improvement in the welfare of or care of children. In fact, it is going backwards. I have observed this in my time here in parliament. I never want to go back to the stage where the communities were under the charge of religious orders. We have passed that and we never want to go there again. The Baptists had a community, the Lutherans had a community and the Catholics had a community. That has gone. We cannot go there again. We have advanced on that.

I have seen that people who lived in those communities had an education. They could speak English. Since those communities have been removed the standards have fallen. I have seen generations of Aborigines—grandmothers and grandfathers who can read and write and speak English, whose sons and daughters can speak less English and whose grandkids can speak less again. Report after report has come through saying the improvement has been zero; in fact, we are going backwards. A report came out which said little children are sacred, and that really blew the whistle on what was going on in Aboriginal communities. Are we to sit there and say, 'Let's continue; let's have more money; let's have more reports’? Every report is getting worse and worse, and we are putting more and more money in and going absolutely nowhere; in fact we are going backwards. What do you do in those circumstances? You have got to try something different. You have got to reach out and say, 'This hasn't been working over the last 50 years. What do we do? We can't continue to go down this path, because we are getting nowhere.' That is the background of the intervention.

The Greens obviously think it is not working and they are quoting Aboriginal people, leaders in their community, saying it is not working. I think you can find other Aboriginal leaders that say, 'It is working. It is improving. The kids are getting better educated. The kids are getting more to eat.' We have to do something. We cannot just keep going the way we have been for the last 50 years where Aboriginal children are only speaking one language in a community that maybe 400, 500 or 600 people can understand. They cannot speak English. They get marooned in the community. They cannot go out because no-one can understand them.

Senator Ludlam—and I do not doubt his or Senator Milne's sincerity for one minute—how can you advance an Aboriginal community when you have them locked in a community that speaks a language that only a minimal number of people can communicate in? They cannot move out of their community. They cannot go and get a job.

I am pleased to say I see a turnaround. I see some great leaders advancing Aboriginal communities. I see these people trying to lift their people out of welfare dependency. I see them trying to get education for their people. I see the mining companies taking their share of responsibility and Rio Tinto saying, 'Twenty five per cent of our employers will be first Australians.' 'Twiggy' Forrest and other mining entrepreneurs are saying that we have a responsibility to get these people out of their communities and into real, meaningful jobs. I am not talking about $20,000 a year token jobs; I am talking about $70,000, $80,000 or $100,000 jobs where they buddy them up and put a lot of effort into maintaining their commitment. I see the mining community accepting their responsibilities.

I see Bess Price, Noel Pearson, Wayne Bergman and Alison Anderson—they are the new Aboriginal leaders who are saying, 'Let's not be victims any longer. We played the victim game and it's never achieved anything for us. All we have ever achieved is to be on welfare and be dependent on handouts.' These leaders are driving their constituents forward, driving their people forward, urging them on. They are urging them to get an education, to get a job, to go into the mines, to develop their own country and to run cattle, farms and mines. They are doing a great job can and they have to be acknowledged.

I say to Senator Milne with the best will in the world: times have changed. People do not want this anymore. These leaders are leading their people into a new land. If you ever saw that, if you ever wanted to see it, you should have seen it at the last election in Queensland. The Aboriginal community said, 'There's nothing in this. The Green-Labor-Wilderness Society alliance—they want to take our land. They do not want us to develop it. We cannot run farms. We do not want World Heritage across all our land. We want to have our mines.' And what did the Greens, the Wilderness Society, Pew and all those other green groups do? They said, 'We want you to sit there and you can develop a tourist industry.' The Aboriginal community said, 'No, we don't want a tourist industry; we want to develop our land. We don't want wild rivers that block off all our land; we want to do things for ourselves.' It has not worked for 50 years and will not work over the next 50 years, because stupidity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

I stood here and applauded when the apology to the stolen generations was given. I applauded when we introduced the welcome to country. I did not object to it. But what I did object to was that, on almost the same day that was introduced, the Aboriginals in the cape had the Wild Rivers Act declared. It was almost on the same day. I could see the irony, the hypocrisy. How could we say that we were sorry and speak the welcome to country every day but take the land they have had for 40,000 years and not let them use it? We tried to put a World Heritage listing on it. That is why the Greens are fighting a losing battle. Those people at Point Price and Wayne Bergman can see that, if they can get the money, they can educate their kids. They can give them an education; they can train them; they can lift them out of this poverty and this cycle of suicide, drunkenness and abuse.

At the last state election, I saw something that I never thought I would see: Aboriginals coming down and campaigning in the seat of Ashgrove. They were standing in front of Woolworths and on the street corners, handing out leaflets saying that the wild rivers legislation would deprive them of their country. They have realised they have a fight on their hands, and the only weapon they have is their vote. They are using their vote to lift themselves out of this poverty trap. They knew they had to win. Their land depended on it. Their birthright depended on it. If they could not stop the wild rivers act, they were going to lose everything. When we saw the vote from Cape York and the Torres Strait come in, which is where most of the First Australians live, it was overwhelmingly in favour of the conservatives. They are sick and tired of being pushed around by the Wilderness Society and the other green groups, which treat them as if they are ornaments, there to provide a photo opportunity for the non-existent people who might want to watch them and take a picture of some Aboriginal people. I say to the Greens: it is gone; you are fighting yesterday's battle. People want more.

This is the way we have tried to lift people out of their poverty, out of their welfare dependency. Some people say it will not work—the Greens say it will not work. I can find an equal number of Aboriginals who will say it is working. Let me just conclude my remarks by saying that as Australian politicians we had to do something. What were we to do, just sit there and say, 'Let's have a few more reports. Let's throw another couple of billion dollars in and see if we can buy the problem off'? We have tried that for years and it has not worked. That is why I support this intervention. I think it has problems, but I think the problems would be far worse if we did not have anything.

I implore the Labor Party: if you are going to have this particular policy then put your shoulder to the wheel and make it work. Do not just have it there as a picture that says, 'We have it here. No-one is really trying too hard. Let's not get our hands dirty.' If you are going to have it, make it work. Give it all you have and see if we can lift and help the Aboriginal community.