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Wednesday, 12 April 1972
Page: 1060


Senator KEEFFE (Queensland) - The Senate will recall that some days ago Senator Bonner and I clashed in this chamber. I think honourable senators will recall that a personal attack was launched upon me. 1 do not normally indulge in this type of discussion, either inside or outside this chamber. I regret that both the Premier of Queensland and Senator Bonner have seen fit to pursue this personal vendetta in spite of the fact that in a recent statement 1 made at a public symposium, at which either or both of them could have been' present, 1 did not mention either person by name but 1 did criticise policies. I think that is the fair way to play politics. However, when there is personal criticism of this nature I think that one is justified in defending one's attitude. 1 propose to do that very thing this evening. I shall read from the 'Courier Mail' of Tuesday, 11th April 1972. As Senator Bonner has not denied this statement I assume that what he has been quoted as saying is correct. The report states:

Senator Bonnerdenied claims by Senator Keeffe that OPAL-

That is the One People of Australia League - was a government-front Aboriginal organisation.

He said that if Senator Keeffe could prove where any member of OPAL had been given an opportunity, of renting a house over someone else deserving of it he would personally investigate the matter.

There are a number of other things that the honourable senator is reported to have said and which basically agree with what I previolsly stated at this public seminar in relation to the shortage of housing, high rents and so on. The report concludes:

He did not know of any occasion when Senator Keeffe had visited any OPAL establishment apart from one meeting in Townsville, where he claimed Senator Keeffe and a group of university students had tried to disrupt the meeting.

I believe that these 2 statements ought to be corrected. In my view it would be a waste of time quoting cases to Senator Bonner. The other evening during the adjournment debate I mentioned occasions during the recent cyclone disaster in Townsville when Senator Bonner promised certain things to certain people but the promises were never carried out. There are many black people in this community who say that they make complaints to Senator Bonner and write to him but cannot get replies to their letters. His statement about my attempt together with some university students to disrupt the meeting is a distortion of the truth because this never took place at all. It was a public meeting which obviously had been sponsored by OPAL. It is interesting to note that at that meeting a number of accusations of ill treatment and neglect were made in relation to Aborigines. It is true that a number of ABSCHOL representatives were present. I throw the story right back to Senator Bonner. I ask him to say publicly and prove to me and all Queenslanders - in fact all Australians - that OPAL is not a Government front organisation.

This organisation is disintegrating in most centres of Queensland. I believe that this organisation was started off with a pretty sincere attitude by a large number of people who joined it. But it was misused for political purposes by the Liberal-Country Party Government in Queensland. It is the organisation through which most of the Government funds are channelled when the Government wants to keep onside. It has been widely said that this organisation is the Uncle Tom of the organisations. There are still a number of very good people in it. But I suggest that Senator Bonner, who is the State President of this organisation, has a responsibility to the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders of Queensland. If this organisation is going to work the way it ought to work - if one can believe in the original objectives for which it was established - perhaps Senator Bonner will explain to me why the Mount Isa branch of OPAL has one member left of whom I am aware today. Did the members leave this branch because of allegations about a fairly large sum of money that may have been spent without authority? Perhaps there is a real explanation for this. Perhaps Senator Bonner has the explanation. Maybe the head office of the organisation confiscated the money. But there are more than rumours around that town as to why that branch disintegrated.

At one time Townsville had a very active branch of OPAL with many good people in it. There are still three or four very good people in it, including the Anglican priest Father Clarkson, who does a tremendous job. There are one or two others, but that about comprises the extent of the branch in Townsville these days. It has fallen to pieces, and it has largely fallen to pieces because of an interracial seminar which was held in the city some years ago. Members of the Special Branch of the police came to town and said: 'You cannot associate with this seminar because there is a suggestion that there may be communists associated with it.' There is no local autonomy so far as branches of OPAL are concerned. Perhaps on some future occasion when Senator Bonner has time to reflect on this he will make a public statement and perhaps disprove the allegation I have made that this is a Government front organisation. I would like to know how many branches of the organisation operate in Queensland. It is true that there might be one or two members who are able to do things because they are able to have money channelled from headquarters. Perhaps the honourable senator will explain to us why Mrs Wilding, one of the best known workers for Aborigines in the last 2 decades in Queensland, was dismissed or forced to resign - whichever the case may be - as matron of the biggest establishment that OPAL has in Queensland.

I am not knocking OPAL, but I am saying that unless it is removed as a Government front organisation it is a useless organisation. The Government is able to help its favourites. It is able to help those who say: 'Yes, boss, we will do exactly as you want and we will carry out your policies.' If the Government wants to clean up this organisation and make it a real Aboriginal organisation instead of one that is going to serve the Uncle Toms in the community then I shall be the first to help. Perhaps one way you may do this - through you, Mr President, to


Senator Bonner - is to make sure that the organisation no longer remains as a Government front organisation.


The PRESIDENT - Senator Keeffe,I shall interrupt you for a moment. There has been no appeal against your use of the phrase 'Uncle Toms* which I consider totally offensive if it is directed and imputed to any honourable senator. I would be grateful if you would desist from using it.


Senator KEEFFE - In the way I was using it I was not referring to Senator Bonner.


The PRESIDENT - You have used it twice, so do not use it any more, please.


Senator KEEFFE - In any case, I have finished that particular aspect. 1 shall now refer to the Premier of Queensland. Remember, this is the same Premier who made a statement some 2 or 3 years ago in the State House of Parliament that he was going to have me followed around the State because I was a definite security risk. This is also the same Premier who, when World War II was on, sought exemption from service to operate his peanut farm. In the same issue of the 'Courier Mail' he accused the Australian Labor Party of supporting ils own system of apartheid. The report states:

He said the ALP was doing this in trying to make 'a political football' of Aboriginal people.

The ALP, rather than seeking equality for Aboriginal and Islander people' -

This is Mr Bjelke-Petersen's published statement- is in fact demanding preferential housing treatment for them,' the Premier said.

It appears that it is part of Labor's policy to sponsor racism in reverse in Queensland and other States.

Apparently it is Labor policy also to undermine moderate Aboriginal organisations such as the One People of Australia League.'

The report goes on:

The Premier said yesterday: 'In Queensland, housing for Aboriginals is based solely on need.'

Heavens above, they really need housing.

The report continues:

The Government seeks the advice of Aboriginal advisory councils in the allocation of homes.'

Just let me give the lie to that statement. Recently I talked to a nominated member of a council on one of the reserves in Queensland. He asked: 'Why can't I get a house?' He was one of those who was supposed to be recommending where the houses went. The report further states:

He said the average cost to the Government of an Aboriginal's three-bedroom house was $10,000.'

The Premier said that more than $7,300,000 of Federal and State Government funds had been spent. The report goes on to quote the Premier as stating: . . the Government is currently negotiating for tender or has under construction a further 129 homes.

It continues:

Mr Bjelke-Petersensaid Senator Keeffe did not have the support of the vast majority of moderate Aboriginals. 1 think that the last Senate election in Queensland indicated that I had the support of a very great group of Aborigines who had voting facilities. But so few of them have voting facilities that I challenge Mr Bjelke-Petersen's statement. Firstly, it is incorrect and, secondly, it is one of his extraordinary attitudes to life in general. I shall read from a statement which was incorporated in an article written by Dr Barrie Pittock. Honourable senators will remember that a moment ago I said that the Premier of Queensland was complaining that the Labor Party was demanding preferential housing treatment for Aborigines. In a copy of 'Identity' published in January this year Dr Barrie Pit.tock, a well known scientist, said:

Governments and, more particularly, Aborigines and their supporters, have tended to justify favourable discrimination on the general grounds that Aborigines have suffered adverse discrimination and deprivation for so long that a few years of favourable discrimination is the least they can expect, and that it is only by such measures that the glaring inequalities between the standard of living of the average Aboriginal and the average non-Aboriginal can ever be eliminated.

Unfortunately, such arguments, while they sound convincing to the average suburban liberal-

Of course, that is liberal with a small '1' - and even to many politicians secure in their middleclass electorates and the unreality of Canberra, are not at all convincing to many rural people and poorer whites who are themselves facing economic difficulties in a declining economic situation.

Poverty knows no colour bar and there are, no doubt, many non-Aborigines who are in need of financial assistance for housing, education and health services as are the vast majority of Aborigines. Ideally, therefore, one should look towards an economic policy and welfare services which would eliminate poverty of whatever colour. Short of a social and political revolution - and some would say a change in human nature - such a comprehensive solution to the problem of poverty seems a forlorn hope.

We must therefore get our priorities straight. Poverty is bad enough, but poverty combined with racial or colour differences is socially, divisive and may in the long run prove disastrous.

They are the words of a well known scientist. They are a Hat contradiction of the terms of Mr Bjelke-Petersen's statement. Let us have a quick look at Mr BjelkePetersen. I quote from page 118 of the Blue Book 1971-72'. It reads:

BJELKE-PETERSEN, Johannes. Australian, born 1911. Politician: Country Party member of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland for Barambah, since 1950, and Premier and Minister for State Development and Police, Queensland, since 1968 (member for Nanango, 1947-50; Minister for Works and Housing, 1963-68).

Then it gives his business and private address and the names of his wife and children. 'Who's Who in Australia, 1971' also gives his history. It reads:

BJELKE-PETERSEN, Honourable Johannes, Premier and Minister for State Development. Queensland, since 1968; Minister for Works and Housing 1963-68; M.L.A., (CP) for Nanango 1947-50 and for Barambah since 1950; son of late C. G. Bjelke-Petersen, Denmark; born 13th January 1911, Dannevirke, New Zealand; educated Taabinga Valley School and private studies.

Then it gives information on his domestic life. Let me quote from a book called 'Sir Henry, Bjelke, Don Baby and friends'. On page 25 there is a reference to Mr BjelkePetersen. lt reads:

His day begins at about six, with physical exercises and a Bible reading. Ft ends, at night, in the same way. The Bible has always been the main book in the Premier's life. He carries a pocketsized Bible everywhere. In the middle of the day, whenever he can, he takes a few minutes off and reads a chapter or two. Sometimes official business prevents this, but he never misses a morning and evening reading. 'I have a lot to be thankful for that my parents encouraged me to read the Bible,' he says. 'Too many, people have a Bible in their homes but never read it'

I agree with him. Obviously that reference to him is intended to show that he is a good Christian. I would like to see that attitude carried into his public life. In his Press statement he claimed that 701 houses were built in 5 years and that 129 were on the drawing board or under constuction. The construction of 701 houses in 5 years is the equivalent of 140.2 in one year. That is not enough to keep up with the normal population increase in Queensland, a State which has 50,000 Aborigines and

Islanders and a rapidly increasing birth rate. He claims that State and Federal funds expended amounted to $7.3m during that period. I would like to know the break-up of that amount because very little was spent on housing until the Commonwealth Office of Aboriginal Affairs was established and money was made available to the State. If the Premier has the courage to give publicly the break-up of Commonwealth funds and the money that was spent from the coffers of the State Government I think a lot of people will be due for a shock.

Many Aborigines on settlements in Queensland are living in abject poverty. I have complained in this place previously, 1 have complained at public meetings and I have complained in Press articles and on radio broadcasts about the poverty that is being experienced by black people in Queensland, lt has to be seen to be believed. None of the major settlements, including places such as Cherbourg. Woorabinda, Yarrabah, Bamaga, Thursday Island, the Torres Strait Islands and Palm Islands - there is no need for me to list all the settlements - has a provision for the adequate growing of farm crops to feed the children who live on the settlements. Some are pretty big settlements. Palm Island alone has about 1,300 people. None has less than several hundred people. These reserves are administered by Mr Bjelke-Petersen and his State Government. On most of the settlements the children have never had fresh milk. There are herds of roaming cows. Some are scrubbers. I think that the other night I said that 2 stud bulls were imported at Palm Island to develop a beef herd. Only the cows knew why the bulls were brought there. Since that date there has been no breeding for stud purposes. These are tragedies.

Mr Bjelke-Petersenprofesses to be a good Christian and says so publicly. I admire a man who says that. I like a man who states his beliefs and his principles. But I like him to stick to his principles. In Queensland we only need mention the word 'black' and poor old Premier Johannes Bjelke-Petersen sees red. He immediately rushes into print because he gets terribly excited. He is touchy on the subject of the dereliction of duty to Aborigines and Islanders. He goes into a mad panic about it. He is getting into a bigger panic these days because he is only a few weeks away from a State election. He ignores the fact that for a long while his Party has used Aboriginal welfare as a political football. I would like him to make a few facts known to the public. He has long been known as an employer of black labour. It is extremely doubtful whether his black employees always enjoyed the wage rates prescribed by industrial awards. I challenge him to produce his wage sheets for every black person he has employed, lt might produce some revealing evidence. It would also be interesting if the Premier could state clearly that none of his black employees has suffered because he neglected to pay workers' compensation premiums. These documents are not hard to produce. He is a pretty good business man, according to the mining journals. He should be able to produce copies of all his wage sheets and documents such as those that he has kept as his farm records. I have no doubt that if he has nothing to hide he will be able to have them published on the front page of the 'Courier Mail' in the next day or two or perhaps in one of the national or other State papers.

This shocking state of affairs is compounded because the Minister for Conservation, Marine and Aboriginal Affairs in Queensland also comes from a grazing family in a grazing area. I would like to see him and/or his family produce similar wage sheets to see whether their black employees have always got the correct wages. It would not be a difficult thing for these facts to be made public. If the Premier wants to bring personalities into these issues he should not be upset if people defend themselves and challenge him on a personal basis in return. The important thing is that the job which has to be done by the Queensland State Government, by the Premier, by the Minister for Conservation, Marine and Aboriginal Affairs and by the Director of Aboriginal and Island Affairs in that State is to give all 50,000 of the black people of Queensland a fair go.







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