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Tuesday, 18 April 1961

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Leader of the Opposition) . - This question of the enrolment of all aborigines is a very vexed one that has concerned many governments over several years. As the Minister has said, the problem in some States is quite different from what it is in others and it is dealt with differently in the various States. For instance, in some States the aborigines have a vote, whilst in others they have not. They have no vote in Western Australia or Queensland, where the aboriginal problem is a difficult one. In Queensland, there are a few hundred full-blooded aborigines at most still living, but the aboriginal problem in Queensland', New South Wales and Victoria is a problem of the mixed whites more than one of pure-blood aborigines.

We do not object to the establishment of this committee, but we would like to see it function differently, perhaps, to the way the Minister might like to see it function. As the Government will have a majority on the committee of four to three, a report could be presented on a majority vote which would give a wrong impression. It might imply that there was no dissent among the members of the committee, or that the whole seven members were in agreement because the Government's majority of four had decided that a certain course should be followed. I move, therefore -

At the end of paragraph 8 add the following words: - ", and that any member of the Committee have power to add a protest or dissent to the report".

I think it reasonable that if one or more members of the committee do not agree with the views of the rest of the committee, he or they should be allowed so to inform the House when the committee presents its report.

Mr Duthie - A minority report.

Mr CALWELL - Yes, a minority report of one or more members. The committee is being appointed for the purpose of advising honorable members of the result of an investigation, and its report should not be just a majority report. Every member who serves on the committee should have equal rights. I note also that the Government is not seeking the cooperation of the Senate in this matter. Whatever the Government's reason may be, I direct the attention of the House to the fact that this committee is to be a select committee of the House of Representatives only. There seems to me to be no doubt that the Government took this action very deliberately and for reasons which seemed to it to be good and sufficient.

The only other observation I wish to make is this: The Labour Party outside this Parliament, as well as the Opposition, has been giving consideration to this question in recent times, and we have a number of amendments to the Electoral Bill that the Minister has before the House which we propose to submit. One of them deals with a number of matters that are raised in this motion. I take it that when the bill is before the House, every honorable member

Will be entitled to move any motion he likes, even though a select committee has keen appointed to investigate the particular subject-matter of the amendments. We have a feeling that perhaps the back-bench members of the Government parties have forced the Government to take action along -these lines realizing that action was being taken by the Australian Labour Party. Our federal conference last week laid down a policy in respect of aborigines. I do not know whether the decisions of that conference or the discussions that took place activated the Government. As an Australian, I am happy that something is being done on this question at last; but I direct the attention .of the House to the situation as I know it to exist so that nobody will come along later and say that the Government was ahead of the thinking of other Australians in other political parties, and decided this particular course of action on its own initiative. That just did not happen. I hope the Government will accept the amendment, and give it a speedy passage.

Mr Freeth - What is the wording of the amendment again?

Mr CALWELL - I have moved-

At the end of paragraph 8. add the following words: - ", and that any member of the Committee have power to add a protest or dissent to the report.".

I am not committed to words. Any form of words that will permit any member of the committee from the Government side or the Opposition side to express an individual point of view on any particular matter will satisfy me.

Mr Pearce - That provision is always made.

Mr CALWELL - I do not know that it applies always to a select committee of this House.

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