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Wednesday, 22 March 1972
Page: 841


Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) - I find it necessary to enter into the debate because of what has been said. I agree heartily with the concluding remarks of the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) that if untruths are told they should be nailed and the people of Australia should know. I think we should go to some trouble to find the whole truth of the matter. I do not think that to rely upon an unretentive memory, as the AttorneyGeneral did, is the answer. I do not think that what Senator Bonner said could be construed as nailing alleged lies that Senator Keeffe has told. If we analyse Senator Bonner's speech - a study of Hansard tomorrow will show this - he supported Senator Keeffe's accusation. Senator Keeffe was not in the chamber when the motion for the adjournment of the Senate was proposed, which is unusual for him, but we must remember that the motion was proposed three-quarters of an hour before the time it is usually proposed on a Wednesday. It was proposed at a time when the Press Gallery was full. The journalists would have had time to file a report for inclusion in tomorrow morning's papers. Senator Bonner walked in the door and was directed to his seat by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Kenneth Anderson). If one had a suspicious mind one would think that the proposing of the motion three-quarters of an hour early was for the purpose of enabling the Senator's speech to be included in the papers tomorrow because he has to face the electors in November this year.

As Senator Keeffe was not in the Senate when Senator Bonner commenced speaking I doubt whether he knew that the accusation about the mini-skirted girl was denied by Senator Bonner. I doubt that Senator Keeffe know that the maggotty food incident was denied by Senator Bonner. It is interesting to note that when Senator Keeffe walked into the Senate the public gallery was full of Aborigines, half castes or people of some degree of colour. When Senator Keeffe left the chamber and when the AttorneyGeneral rose to speak the Aborigines left the gallery. If a member were to ask how this happened, obviously the answer would be that they were supporters of Senator Keeffe's. They accept Senator Keeffe as a better representative of their race than Senator Bonner. I think it is quite possible that Senator Keeffe was not in the chamber at the time because he was interviewing these people. He is the man who is representing the Aborigines. I would be remiss in my responsibility if I did not congratulate Senator Keeffe on his great defence of coloured Australians, when compared with the attack made on him by one of their race in defence of the white man's treatment of Aborigines in Queensland. Senator Keeffe, who may not have known of the denial, stated that the miniskirted woman was sent from the mission station, I think by the inspector, because of her short skirt.


Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - She was a 29-year old woman.


Senator CAVANAGH - Senator Keeffe said that she was a girl. That was one of the complaints. Senator Bonner denied this. He said that the girl was 29 years of age. Therefore, in his mind, that makes a liar of Senator Keeffe. The person reciting the incident could well depend upon the appearance of the female in stating whether she was a girl or a woman. I think it is nattering to say that a female of 29 or 30 is a girl. Senator Greenwood, with his legal training, should know that a judge does not exclude the evidence of a witness because of certain discrepancies in that evidence. We admit that if there is a difference between a girl and a woman of 29 there is a possible discrepancy in Senator Keeffe's argument, and that is one score for Senator Bonner. On this occasion it was a matter of the use of an expression.

Senator Bonnersaid that she was sent from the station because of the wrath of her people. That supports the statement that she found it necessary to leave because of the cultural and spiritual background of her people. They did not like to see a girl in a mini skirt. She did leave. Whether she was sent by the administrator or by her people, the girl was driven from that location because she wore a mini skirt. The Senate should be inquiring into the matter to ascertain who is responsible for sending her from the mission. Possibly Senator Keeffe's accusation is right. There is no evidence that it was her people who sent her from the mission. I think that in the next day or so this will be denied by those in authority at the mission.

The other allegation which Senator Greenwood said was proved to be a lie related to maggots in the tucker. Senator Bonner did not deny that this happened but he used the occasion to make an attack on Senator Gair who may face election at the same time as he does. That matter related to the State Government of 1955. It did so happen that they had maggot ridden food and Senator Keeffe says that this is still happening today. The greatest accusation made by Senator Bonner was that Senator Keeffe would use the Aboriginal people for political gains. Senator Keeffe gets a lot of political gains from championing the cause of the Aboriginal people. That is the reason why Senator Bonner will not be elected next November. Although he claims to represent the people of Queensland he has stood before the people only on one occasion and at that time he was rejected. He, is here in the Senate as a Government appointment. The people of Queensland have not accepted him. He needs a bodyguard to protect him from his own race in Queensland.


Senator Bonner - People coached by people like you - people like you who lean to communism.


Senator Poyser - Mr President, I object to that remark by Senator Bonner. He is accusing a member of this Senate of being a communist. I ask that the remark be withdrawn.


Senator Greenwood - I rise to a point of order. That is not what Senator Bonner said.


The PRESIDENT - Order! The Clerk will take down the words used by Senator Bonner. Will you repeat them, Senator Bonner?


Senator Bonner - Mr President, I said: People like you who lean to communism'.


Senator Poyser - I ask that that remark be withdrawn.


The PRESIDENT - Senator Cavanagh,do you consider the words to be personally offensive?


Senator CAVANAGH - No.


Senator Poyser - Mr President, they are offensive to me. This is an example of what happened just recently when certain words were used and the person concerned did not take offence to them but other persons in this chamber did and they subsequently caused the withdrawal of the remark.


The PRESIDENT - Order! Senator Bonner, from my long experience in the Senate 1 consider that the words were injudicious and I would be grateful if you would do me the honour of withdrawing them.


Senator Bonner - Mr President, in view of what you have said I do withdraw the remark.


Senator CAVANAGH - Whatever leaning I may have in that direction, Mr President, does not necessitate police protection for me.


Senator Poyser - What about-


The PRESIDENT - Order! Senator Poyser, you have had a guernsey and I do not want any more interruptions from you. Senator Cavanagh has been here for many years and is perfectly able to make his own contribution without encouragement from you.


Senator CAVANAGH - The accusation was made that Senator Keeffe uses the Aboriginal people for the purpose of political gain. I said that he does make political gains from championing their cause. What was the purpose of bringing Dr Everingham into this debate tonight? An honourable senator stood here tonight and appealed to our sincerity to correct a wrong that allegedly had been caused by Senator Keeffe. If the purpose was to correct a wrong, what was the purpose of bringing in the name of Dr Everingham who is a well known spokesman for the Labor Party on matters affecting the Aboriginal people. There could be no other purpose than that the accuser wanted to do the very thing about which he was accusing someone else. The whole purpose was to discredit the Labor Party's treatment of Aborigines and to suggest that he was doing more for them and their protection. What a fallacy. What hypocrisy on the part of this man who dares to get up and accuse someone else. Possibly Senator Keeffe did not reply to the particular question, but in no uncertain terms he left noone unconvinced that he was championing the cause of the Aborigines in Queensland and the Torres Strait Islands. Possibly they never have had a better champion of their cause.

I would say to both Senator Bonner and Senator Keeffe that as they walk into the Parliamentary Library they will find on the racks on the left hand side copies of the Cairns 'Post'. In a copy of that newspaper they will find a report about the outbreak of hepatitis in a town called Edmonton. Among the causes of that outbreak is the fact that 27 Aborigines are living in 2 rooms. Let us forget about who makes political capital out of this matter. This is a bad case which requires some action to be taken in the interests of these people whom both honourable senators claim to represent. Both of them put up a case tonight. I say to them: 'Get to it, one of you, and do something about the dastardly conditions under which these people are living. The lives of their children are being sacrificed. For God's sake, do something about it and forget about the political gains. You are cheaply trying to use this chamber. Help the people you claim to represent'.

Question resolved in the affirmative.







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