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Wednesday, 3 May 1961


The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable member is getting wide of the bill. To a large degree, many of those who have spoken already have gone a little wide of clause 4. I remind honorable members that this is not a debate on the rights of the people to universal franchise, but on the aborigines in particular. This part of the bill has no relation at all to the rights of any other people in respect of elections.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I think that is a very wise ruling, Mr. Chairman. I wish you had given it a little earlier because I had been hoping to reply to some of the remarks that have been made by Government supporters. However, I will not pursue that point any further. Too much emphasis has been placed on the difficulties associated with tribal aborigines.


Mr Killen - Do you not agree that there are difficulties?


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I am glad the honorable member for Moreton has returned to the chamber, because I want to say something about his speech. Too much emphasis has been placed on the position of tribal aborigines. Honorable members have overlooked altogether the fact that there are thousands of aborigines in the Northern Territory who are capable of exercising the franchise now, but they have been denied that right by the decisions of this Parliament. There is no need for us to go to Queensland or Western Australia or any of the other States. Let us look at the Territories that are completely under our control, such as the Northern Territory. There is absolutely no excuse for not giving the aborigines in the Territory the right to vote immediately.

The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) talked about the difficulties of giving people who cannot read or write an opportunity to vote. He asked, " How are they going to enrol if they cannot read or write? ". Let me remind him that under section 120 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, provision is made for people who cannot read and write. I have many persons in my electorate who cannot read or write, but under section 120 they are entitled to vote and be helped in any way they need.


Mr Kelly - An open vote!


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - There are plenty of people who would exercise an open vote in accordance with section 120. If the Government is really sincere in this matter it should accept the Opposition's amendment. There is no difficulty about it. The Government can show its sincerity and satisfy the members of the United Nations who are looking to us to prove our bona fides in this matter by accepting the Opposition's amendment. That would show that we practise what we preach, that we do not believe in racial discrimination and that we do not believe in putting the original inhabitants of this country on a lower level than those who have followed them. At this time when the Afro-Asian group represents such an important and influential section of the General Assembly of the United Nations, Australia should grasp the opportunity now to prove to the world that we do not regard our aborigines as inferior people.







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