Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 9 December 1976


Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) - I should like to warn the Government that if these amendments are accepted it is quite possible that the position of the Aborigines ideologically in relation to land could be more significant in respect of this country's position in the world than are the rights of mining companies or miners. In British colonial history there has always been a conflict between what I might call: The white man on the spot who knows the "nigger" and the government at home'. I believe that the latest instalment in that was the Rhodesian affair, where the white man on the spot knew and the government at home was dismissed as very theoretical. We now have another version of this in the passing of affairs to the Northern Territory Assembly. What the white man on the spot knows is what he is interested in knowing, which usually concerns some economic resource. He knows little of the motive and cares less.

I had the privilege of taking with me to Switzerland 2 distinguished AboriginesGalurrwuy Yunupingu and Wulaymbuma Wunungmurra- to visit the Swiss company which had taken up interests in the Gove area. When in Switzerland I thought that one of the top Swiss men to whom I spoke was rather flippant about Aboriginal land. He was interested in money. As we were travelling together in a car I told him about Wulaymbuma Wunungmurra, who had refused to be used to lead a group of demonstrators for Aboriginal land rights in a procession in Melbourne. It was pretty well known that that group might have clashed with the police and Wulaymbuma Wunungmurra was opposed to any violence in the matter. I pointed out to the director of the Swiss company that if Wulaymbuma Wunungmurra had not had that perception and had led the group and been hit by the police with batons while demonstrating for his land rights the company director and all his public relations would not have made as much impact in the world as would have the violence directed against an Aborigine while demonstrating on such a matter. Yet Wulaymbuma Wunungmurra did not want to use that method to gain publicity. Others were trying to use him for that purpose. Undoubtedly the rights of the Aboriginal people to land will be swept under the carpet, just like South Africa's apartheid and many of the other racial issues which were ignored in the past and now have become major world issues. The Government has shown sensitivity to mining companies and their interests will not count nearly as much in the world's evaluation of Australia as will the extent to which Australia recognises the dignity and rights of these Aboriginal people.

I am not sentimental about land never being developed and I do not think the Aborigines are so deluded. However, I would be very careful about brushing aside serious concerns of the Aboriginal people either for the special considerations of the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory, whose existence, in my opinion, is a misfortune, or for the consideration of these

E articular companies. The amendments are on a ne with the whittling away that has been characteristic of the amendments to the original legislation that was introduced last year. But, for heaven's sake, the Government should have seen enough of the world now to know that race issues are very vital issues indeed. There is a very simple reason. If you reject a man on the grounds of his politics or his religion, he may change them to please you, but if you reject him on the ground of race in any way whatsoever by discrimination in regard to his land rights, there is no way in the world he can change his race to please you.

Many peoples in the world regard this whole question of race relations as the litmus test of what other nations are really on about. That is why I believe that, ideologically, all of this sort of legislation is immensely significant for this country. We will be judged as to whether we fully accept the dignity of the Aboriginal people. The States have never accepted it. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) knows that Queensland does not accept it. He knows that the claims of land rights have never been accepted by the Queensland Government and that this is quite serious for this country. If anyone liked to research the history of race relations in certain phases of Queensland's history, he could build up a more disastrous case than could be built up against South Africa. I can well imagine the sort of propaganda that might be directed against us. Before the referendum in 1967 the Aboriginal question had never been properly dealt with. It had been dealt with in a piecemeal fashion by the 6 States. The people at that referendum asked the national Parliament to recognise the full dignity within the nation of the Aboriginal people .

We have given them voting rights, drinking rights and fornicating rights that they never used to have inter-racially, all of which did not cost the Treasury a farthing. But this question of their land rights may cost something; it may take something from the mining companies or from us or from our future prospects. I believe that the Minister is sensitive to these issues. I have very great respect for him but I think that these amendments are unfortunate if they again represent as a result of pressures that have come from mining elements, an insensitivity to what Aborigines feel about their land. If these elements are able to influence and control the Government, there will be a situation like that in Queensland and the Aborigines will get nothing at all. Most Aborigines who are working for their rights think it is unfortunate that these sentiments have developed in the Federal Parliament about the Northern Territory. They work with the State governments to try to ensure that this does not happen in States which have significant numbers of Aborigines and potentially significant land questions. With regard to this issue, the Commonwealth Government must offset the insensitive, blind and racially irresponsible policies of governments like the Government of Queensland which does not care tuppence- except on tuppeny-ha 'penny issues about governorswhat image this nation projects to the outside world.

I believe that all the legislation the Commonwealth has attempted over the last couple of years has done something to offset that unfortunate impression. If we retreat now I believe that, ideologically, the image projected by this country into the world will be one that will be quite damaging to us. It is worth something, in our relations with a good many other countries, that we should ourselves be above suspicion on race questions.







Suggest corrections