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Tuesday, 14 September 1976

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) -In no area more than Aboriginal affairs has this Government demonstrated to the Australian people the sheer hypocrisy of its election promises. On 28 November last year the now infamous 'vote Liberal' telegram went out from the then spokesman on Aboriginal affairs, the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr

Ellicott), who is now no less than the AttorneyGeneral of this Government. In that telegram, he promised categorically:

No cuts in Aboriginal Affairs budget or in Aboriginal affairs programs.

He stated specifically that there would be no cuts for housing, education, employment, health and legal aid. The breach of each and every one of these promises is now history. Electors who expected honesty and integrity have received in their place blatant dishonesty and betrayal. This Government's shameful exploitation of Aboriginal unemployment and housing initiatives, its callous indifference to Aboriginal legal aid, nutrition programs and aid to Aboriginal health centres is an affront to the integrity of the Australian people. Yet again, promises made openly, and in this case at massive expense to the taxpayer, have been broken with careless indifference. I believe that it is important for me to place the telegram of 26 November 1975 to which I have referred in its proper context and to read it in the form in which it was sent to thousands of Aboriginal organisations and communities all round Australia. It states:

Mr BobEllicott Liberal and Country Party spokesman for Aboriginal affairs said today there would be no cuts in Aboriginal affairs budget or in Aboriginal affairs programs. Funds will continue to be made available for housing, education, employment, health, legal aid etc. Pensions payable to Aboriginal people will not be cut and will rise automatically twice a year with cost of living increases. All available funds will be shared among Aboriginal communities on a fair and impartial basis. A Liberal National Country Party Government will support Aboriginal organisations such as the Aboriginal medical and legal services. It will hold an urgent inquiry into the role of the NACC to determine whether it can be given a more important role in Aboriginal affairs. Efforts will be made to increase the number of Aboriginal people involved in Aboriginal affairs. Employment and training schemes will be urgently investigated with aim of increasing job opportunities for Aborigines throughout Australia. Spread the word that there is absolutely no truth in Labor Party rumours about cuts in Aboriginal affairs budget. Under a Liberal Country Party Government Aborigines will be better not worse off". Urge to vote Aborigines Liberal Country Party on December 13th. Full policy is following by mail.

Best wishes BOB ELLICOTT

The Lynch Budget returns expenditure on Aboriginal Affairs to the level of pre- 1 972 days. There has been an overall cut of 30 per cent in real terms in Aboriginal expenditure. The majority of these cuts have been in the areas of housing, health and education, the 3 areas most important to the self-respect and self-determination of any person. What does the Lynch Budget really mean? Let me list the cuts in real terms which have been made in the appropriations for various Aboriginal programs: Support for Aboriginal sporting bodies has been reduced by 100 per cent; support for Aboriginal publications has been reduced by 100 per cent; support for Aboriginal land councils has been reduced by 13 per cent; support for enterprises- the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account- has been reduced by 77 per cent; support for town management and public utilities has been reduced by 36 per cent; support for recreational and cultural activities has been reduced by 37 per cent; payments to and for the States have been reduced by 37 per cent; Aboriginal study grants have been reduced by 22.6 per cent; funding for Aboriginal education in the Northern Territory has been reduced by 34.7 per cent; funds through the Department of Health have been reduced by 18.25 per cent; administrative expenses have been reduced by 13 per cent; funds for Aboriginal conferences have been reduced by 2 1 per cent; funds for investigations and research have been reduced by 30 per cent; support for Aborigines at government settlements has been reduced by 14 per cent; assistance to Aboriginal missions has been reduced by 12 per cent; support for ecological projects has been reduced by 12 per cent; support for Aboriginal hostels has been reduced by 10 per cent; support for Aboriginal enterprises has been reduced by 10 per cent; and support for Aboriginal housing through the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account has been reduced by 17 per cent. The Attorney-General's promises stand in tatters and the AttorneyGeneral himself stands discredited, as does the Liberal-National Country Party coalition.

Let me look just briefly at the question of unemployment, another area in which the present Attorney-General who was then the Opposition spokesman on Aboriginal affairs promised to increase jobs for Aboriginal people, the situation has gone from bad to deplorable. Despite submissions from the Australian Council of Social Services, the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and other advisory bodies and contrary to the recommendations of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, the Budget appropriations in areas which involve Aboriginal employment, Aboriginal enterprises and special projects have been eliminated. Despite the pleas of these organisations and the obvious worsening of Aboriginal unemployment, the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs have had to decrease the number of field officers available to cover this vital area. This, too, is in direct contradiction of the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs.

Official figures show that at the end of July, 9667 Aboriginal people were registered for employment. Of these, 341 were school leavers who had been unemployed since December last year and 2284 were classified as 'other young people '. This amounts to an official recognition that 30 per cent of the Aboriginal work force is unemployed. The Australian Council of Social Services, which represents 2000 voluntary organisations, has speculated that Aboriginal unemployment has increased by 50 per cent since July. We may never know the real extent of Aboriginal unemployment. While the general level of unemployment in Australia is around 5 per cent the Government says that about 10 000 Aboriginal people are now out of work. Some of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs spokesmen have speculated that 50 per cent of the Aboriginal work force is now unemployed. So these figures do not tell the real story about the cut back in the allocation for Aboriginal affairs.

Even the Government's own inquiry, which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has used selectively to justify his apparent disregard for Aboriginal welfare has made comments on this matter. I quote from the inquiry's findings:

Given the exceptionally high rate of Aboriginal unemployment and poor economic prospects in many areas where Aboriginals live, urgent attention should be given to redirecting special projects assistance rather than withdrawing it.

The inquiry supported the attempts of the Labor Government to provide employment and its efforts to make Aboriginal projects useful not only through the facilities provided, but also through jobs made available and the training and expertise involved.

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs made very specific recommendations on this particular matter. I quote just one or two of the Committee's recommendations, the first of which reads:

The Special Work Projects Scheme be greatly expanded and that the Australian Government make the necessary funds available.

The second recommendation was:

Negotiations between the Departments of Aboriginal Affairs and Labor and Immigration commence immediately on the transfer of responsibility for the Special Work Projects Scheme to the Department of Labor and Immigration.

It went on to recommend that Aboriginal people fill certain positions which have been designated. This Government has no regard for Aboriginal employment except as a political tool. We had the spectacle only 2 weeks ago of the Prime Minister misusing statistics to imply that this Government was looking to see that Budget cuts did not affect Aboriginal employment. Yet his Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) in a letter to Aboriginal communities addressed 'Dear Friend' has stated that special arrangements have been made to ensure that employment is maintained. But no arrangements have been announced, no projects have been commenced and no additional funds have been committed. Again, the Aboriginal people are to wait the outcome of yet another thorough review.

In the area of Aboriginal health there have been drastic cuts to the extent of 18.25 per cent. The fallacy of the cutback in the allocation for Aboriginal health services has been highlighted by the Government's own committee of inquiry, the Hay committee, which stated: . . . without State supplementation the provision of what might be termed normal health opportunities for Aboriginals as well as special facilities to enable them to start catching up with the rest of the community would be at risk.

The fact is that the allocation for expenditure on Aboriginal health services in 1975-76 was $2 1.48m. The appropriation for the current financial year is $20. 43m- a decrease of $ 1.043m in money terms, and something like 1 5 per cent in actual terms having regard for inflation. Grants to the States have been cut from $14m last year to $ 13.2m this year. Grants in terms of aid to Aboriginal organisations to operate health services, principally Aboriginal health centres in Townsville, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Bairnsdale, Shepparton, Perth and Alice Springs, have actually increased in money terms by $850,000. Nevertheless, in terms of inflation, they have been cut. Grants for Aboriginal health services in the Northern Territory have been reduced from $5. 5m to $4.5m in real terms- a cut of 15 per cent. So we are able to look right through the scene as exposed by the recent Standing Committee report to see the disastrous events which are occurring in the Aboriginal health field. The Aboriginal infant mortality rate, for example, in the Northern Territory in 1975 was in the ratio of 50 to 1000 as compared with 16.1 to 1000 in a comparable European situation. I commend the reading of the Committee's report. It draws attention to health problems associated with climatic conditions, the leprosy situation which it says is still serious, eye diseases which it says are getting too little attention, the failure to deal with the problems of diet and nutrition and the long-term effects which will accrue, alarming ear disorders, ear abnormalities which occur at the rate of 60.4 per cent compared with 1 6 per cent in a comparable community, and venereal diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhoea which have increased considerably in the last 2 years. The report refers to the incidence of tuberculosis in these terms:

Aboriginal people suffer excessively from a high incidence of tuberculosis. One quarter of the population of Aboriginal people incur an incidence which is 3 times higher than the white population.

The Committee makes similar comment about dental care, the lack of vitamin C, the incidence of gastro-enteritis, hook worm, the problems of alcohol, family planning and mental health. In the face of all that, this Government has cut expenditure on Aboriginal health services. It has done likewise in regard to the Aboriginal legal aid service where considerable cuts have occurred. All the Aboriginal legal organisations are in debt. Of course, in every area the Government has broken its promise to the Aboriginal people.

Mr ACTING SPEAKER - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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