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Wednesday, 22 August 1973
Page: 223


Mr BRYANT (Wills) (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

In the platform adopted by the Labor Party at Launceston some years ago undertakings were given that in accordance with the new powers acquired by the Australian Government as a result of the 1967 referendum Labor would assume the ultimate responsibility for Aboriginals and establish a Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs with offices in each State 'to give the Commonwealth a genuine presence in the States'. I remind the House of how overwhelming was the vote in that referendum. I think the total vote for yes in Australia overall was 89 per cent and in Victoria it was 93 per cent. The Government has moved to establish a genuine Commonwealth presence in the States. The Government implemented portion of this platform when on 19 December last it established the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. The Bill I am introducing today is a step towards implementation of further aspects.

The Bill is aimed at expressing briefly the Australian Government's new responsibilities and in particular at facilitating the transfers of State officers to the Australian Public Service. The State departments responsible for Aboriginal affairs have since the referendum received an increasingly large part of thenfunds from Commonwealth grants. In 1972- 73 they received some $22m out of a total direct expenditure by the States of approximately $34m. During 1973-74 it is intended that they will receive of the order of $31m from the Australian Government out of their total anticipated expenditure of some $43m. The State departments channel a substantial proportion of these funds through other State departments in areas such as health, education and housing. Clearly the present system involves much duplication of effort as between the Australian and State authorities and leads to some confusion on the part of Aboriginal Australians as to whom they should approach for particular services. The interim National Aboriginal Consultative Committee which I established earlier this year has expressed a clear desire that responsibility for Aboriginal affairs be transferred from the State governments to the Australian Government, and this request has been endorsed by numbers of regional meetings throughout Australia subsequently convened by the NACC. The NACC sent delegations to call on the Premiers or other senior Ministers of all States to make known to them the Aboriginal desire.

The responsibility which the Australian Government seeks in the States is responsibility for policy planning and co-ordination. In some States this is the limit of the function exercised by the various State Departments of Aboriginal Affairs. The Australian Government does not seek the transfer from the States of particular responsibilities in the fields of health, housing, education and other functional areas, which in its view should preferably be carried out by the appropriate Australian or State departments having responsibility in these areas, partly on the basis of the continued provision of funds by the Australian Government. In those States where the Departments of Aboriginal Affairs are already performing the limited function I have described, the transfer of function and of the State officers who at present perform that function can be relatively simple. Such States include Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales. In some other States it will be necessary for us to work out with the State authorities the best means of proceeding.

The Prime Minister has been in touch with each State Premier, and I with each State Minister responsible for Aboriginal affairs. In addition, Australian Government and State government officers in a number of States have had extensive discussions about the possibility and modalities of a transfer of functions and officers. In some States there has been ready agreement to the possibility of transfer of the function and the appropriate officers. Our conversations with all States are continuing. I hope that some transfers can occur before the end of this year. The present legislation does not constitute any form of compulsion. The Bill is purely an enabling one to facilitate transfer of the State officers where this is agreed between the Australian and State governments. The Bill would allow the Governor-General to enter into an arrangement with a State Governor regarding Aboriginal affairs which could provide for the transfer of State officers to the Australian Public Service; for officers of the Australian Public Service to accept appointment and to perform functions under State laws relating to Aboriginal affairs; and for the Australian Government to assume responsibilities of a State relating to Aboriginal affairs.

To enable State government employees engaged in Aboriginal affairs to be absorbed into the Australian Public Service, the Bill provides for such persons to be offered appointment or employment in the Australian Public Service. The Bill is drafted to ensure that a person who so elected would not suffer disadvantage. For example, he would be guaranteed at least the same remuneration as he would have got had he remained in the State service. Similarly, his prior service in the State service would; for example in respect of sick leave and furlough, be reckoned as service in the Australian Public Service. He would also carry over any accrued recreation leave. The matter of superannuation fund contribution and membership will be dealt with in a Superannuation Bill to be introduced later this session. Honourable members will note the similarity between this Bill and the Statistics (Arrangements with the States) Act 1956-1958 which provided the machinery whereby State statistical services were integrated with those of the Australian Government. I commend the Bill to honourable members.

Negotiations between the Australian Government and the State governments are carried out in the belief that people may be persuaded rather than coerced. We have had friendly discussions with all of the States. We have come to arrangements with South Australia, New South Wales and Western Australia. Due to the complexity of these matters, arrangements still have to be finalised. In the first instance, there were personal negotiations with Western Australia. Those negotiations were followed by direct letters between the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Premier of Western Australia. I wrote letters to the other 5 States. I seek leave to have those letters incorporated in Hansard so that honourable members will know exactly the terms and the atmosphere in which the negotiations are taking place.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes (CORIO, VICTORIA) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows) -

My dear Minister,

Arising out of our discussions during the Australian Aboriginal Affairs Council today, 1 am writing to you to raise the possibility of the Commonwealth assuming responsibility for the co-ordination of policies and special programs affecting Aboriginals is Queensland.

The Commonwealth Government has no wish to assume total and direct control of all programs and believes that in fields such as health and education the State authorities should continue to provide services for Aborines as for other citizens, with such special assistance as may be necessary being supported with Commonwealth Government grants as at present. I believe, however, that there would be advantages in having the functions or certain of the functions of your Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs transferred to the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I would envisage a division of my Department being established in Brisbane to maintain close liaison with your own and other State Departments, in particular in relation to Commonwealth funded programs.

There will, of course, be many problems to be considered and resolved. I would suggest that, if you and your Government agree, our officers might confer to explore the issues involved without commitment in the first instance. Officers might prepare a report for our consideration, outlining the most effective means of bringing about the transfer of functions.

I would be glad to have your views.

Yours sincerely,

GORDON M. BRYANT

The Hon. N. T. E. Hewitt, S.'M., A.F.M., M.L.A.,

Minister for Conservation, Marine and Aboriginal Affairs,

Parliament House,

Brisbane, Qld 4000 6 April 1973

My dear Minister,

Arising out of our discussions during the Australian Aboriginal Affairs Council today, I am writing to you to raise the possibility of the Commonwealth assuming responsibility for the co-ordination of policies and special programs affecting Aboriginals in Tasmania.

The Commonwealth Government has no wish to assume total and direct control of all programs and believes that in fields such as health and education the State authorities should continue to provide services for Aboriginals as for other citizens, with such special assistance as may be necessary being supported with Commonwealth Government grants as at present.

In the case of the mainland States I have already written to the Ministers about the possible advantages in having the policy and planning functions of their respective Departments transferred to my Department of Aboriginal Affairs. The circumstances in your State may be different, and I would appreciate your views on whether there would be advantage in our officers meeting to explore the issues involved, without commitment in the first instance. Our officers might prepare a report for our consideration.

I would be glad to have your views.

Yours sincerely,

GORDON M. BRYANT

Dr The Hon. A. J. Foster, M.H.A., Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Department of Health Services, Cnr Bathurst and Murray Streets, Hobart, Tas. 7000 6 April 1973

My dear Minister,

I refer to our discussions on 2 April about the possibility of the Commonwealth assuming responsibility for the co-ordination of policies and special programs affecting Aborigines in New South Wales.

The Commonwealth Government has no wish to assume total and direct control of all programs and believes that in fields such as health and education the State authorities should continue to provide services for Aborigines as for other citizens, with such special assistance as may be necessary being supported with Commonwealth Government grants as at present. It was, however, seen that there would be advantages in having the functions of the Directorate of Aboriginal Welfare in your department of Child Welfare and Social Welfare transferred to the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I would envisage a division of my Department being established in Sydney to maintain close liaison with your own and other State departments, in particular in relation to Commonwealth funded programs.

There will, of course, be many problems to be considered and resolved. I would suggest that, if you and your Government agree, our officers might confer to explore the issues involved without commitment in the first instance. Officers might prepare a report for our consideration, outlining the most effective means of bringing about the transfer of functions.

I would be glad to have your views.

Yours sincerely,

GORDON M. BRYANT

The Hon. J. L. Waddy, O.B.E., D.F.C.; M.L.A., Minister for Youth and Community 'Services, Parliament House, Sydney, N.S.W. 2000 6 April 1973

My dear Minister,

Arising out of our discussions during the Australian Aboriginal Affairs Council to-day, I am writing to you to raise the possibility of the Commonwealth assuming responsibility for the co-ordination of policies and special programs affecting Aboriginals in Victoria.

The Commonwealth Government has no wish to assume total and direct control of all programs and believes that in fields such as health and education the State authorities should continue to provide services for Aboriginals as for other citizens, with such special assistance as may be necessary being supported with Commonwealth grants as at present. I believes that in fields such as health and education having the functions or certain of the functions of your Ministry for Aboriginal Affairs transferred to the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I would envisage a division of my Department being established in Melbourne to maintain close liaison with your own and other State Departments, in particular in relation to Commonwealth funded programs.

There will, of course, be many problems to be considered and resolved. I would suggest that, if you and your Government agree, our officers might confer to explore the issues involved without commitment in the first instance. Officers might prepare a report for our consideration, outlining the most effective means of bringing about the transfer of functions.

I would be glad to have your views.

Yours sincerely,

GORDON M. BRYANT

The Hon. V. O. Dickie, M.L.A., Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Parliament House, Melbourne, Vic. 3000. 6 April 1973

My dear Minister,

I refer to out discussions on 27 March about the possibility of the Commonwealth assuming responsibility for the co-ordination of policies and special programs affecting Aboriginals in South Australia.

The Commonwealth Government has no wish to assume total and direct control of all programs and believes that in fields such as health and education the State authorities should continue to provide services for Aboriginals as for other citizens, with such special assistance as may be necessary being supported with Common wealth Government grants as at present. I think we agreed that there would be advantages in having the functions of the Resources Branch in your Department of Community Welfare transferred to the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I would envisage a division of my Department being established in Adelaide to maintain close liaison with your own and other State Departments, in particular in relation to Commonwealth funded programs.

There will, of course, be many problems to be considered and resolved. I would suggested that, if you and your Government agree, our officers might confer to explore the issues involved without commitment in the first instance. Officers might prepare a report for our consideration, outlining the most effective means of bringing about the transfer of functions.

I would be glad to have your views.

Yours sincerely,

GORDON M. BRYANT

The Hon. L. J. King, Q.C., L.L.B., M.P., Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Parliament House, Adelaide, SA. 5000

Debate (on motion by Mr Bennett) adjourned.







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