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Wednesday, 10 October 1973
Page: 1843


Mr GORTON (Higgins) - I intervene very briefly in this debate because I wish to take the opportunity to express appreciation for the effort which the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), put into his work while he held that portfolio. There can be no doubt that he put his heart and soul into improving the conditions and the opportunities afforded to Aborigines. He did not approach the debatable question of assimilation versus integration, for example, on the basis that he knew what was best and he would impose his view. Rather he approached it on the basis of seeking to find out what the people concerned wanted. If he believed that it was possible he sought to do that which was wanted by those people. I am bound to say that he adopted a number of attitudes and a number of approaches with which I personally disagreed and with which I would continue to disagree. I do not propose to go into them now but I do think that everybody in this House would know that in adopting those approaches he was doing what he thought was right and that is something which must stand to his credit.

There is only one other thing that I wish to say: If there is to be a situation in which a Minister is appointed to this very difficult portfolio, whoever that Minister may be or may have been - and I go back beyond the honourable member for Wills - and a non-elected person who disagrees with the decisions of the responsible Minister takes the opportunity to bypass him and, without that Minister's knowledge, even goes to a Prime Minister and has overthrown the decisions of the Minister responsible, then so long as that situation continues the parliamentary approach will be derogated. The Minister in charge of the portfolio through no fault of his own will not be responsible, as he should be, to the Parliament. If that situation continues the idea of elected persons making decisions and Ministers speaking on behalf of a government will be denigrated. I can only hope that this situation will not continue now that there is a successor to the Minister who has just handed in his portfolio covering Aboriginal affairs. Those are the 2 matters which I wanted to raise and that is all I want to say. Firstly, I wanted to pay a tribute to the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, though I disagree with a great deal of what he wants to do. Secondly, I wanted to say that whoever is in his position must not be in a position where somebody outside can overrule him or have him overruled, particularly without his consent.







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