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
Tuesday, 23 October 1973

Senator LITTLE (Victoria) -The Australian Democratic Labor Party does not oppose this Bill. Indeed, it would be difficult to dispute the principles that are outlined in it concerning the transference of State public servants to the Commonwealth Public Service. I think that we would all be in agreement with that. Of course, we must all recognise the gradual shifting of responsibility from the State area to the Commonwealth that was an inevitable feature of the decision of the people of this nation in a referendum vesting in the Commonwealth powers in relation to this question. Perhaps it would have been wiser if that had happened many years ago. I say this: There are those who are expressing opinions- I suppose that in some areas they are valid- that the results of that referendum have not been carried into effect quickly enough. I point out that there could be areas in which that is true. But in the whole general problem of Aboriginal welfare and the improvement of the opportunities of these people to join meaningfully in the way of life of this nation, I believe that time is by no means the most important factor.

Sentimentally, we would all like to see things done immediately. However, we are dealing with problems of which time itself is a part. They are problems that have their origin, perhaps, many centuries ago. It is now apparent to us that the attempts that were made by people in this country when there was the first awareness of a responsibility in this area were made in completely wrong directions. That is no criticism of the people of the day and the age who were the first people to recognise the responsibility and the need to do something. It is not surprising that, with hindsight, we see that they made many errors. We had the fundamental error of a handout type of policy that was carried on for far too long. I believe that we must all accept a fair share of responsibility for that. I am not trying to attribute blame to anyone, because blame in this area is of no advantage to the Aborigines. They are the people to whom we are now trying to give opportunities that perhaps they should have received previously.

However, I think that there should be some care in considering the principles that are laid down in this Bill. I accept the necessity that there should be a transfer of some State public servants, a desire on their part to transfer to the Commonwealth and a need for the Commonwealth to obtain those who have been trained in the areas concerned. But it would not be wise to denude the States of all their expertise because State responsibility must and will continue. There are many people who need assistance who are not Aborigines in the true sense of the word nor Aborigines in the sense that it will be the

Commonwealth's responsibility to deal with them largely. There are many people now who for generations have been fringe dwellers of the suburban areas in several of our big cities. They present a completely different picture. They require a completely different attitude towards whatever assistance is rendered to them than the other people concerned in this problem who are spread over areas further north and other areas. I do not think that it takes long for anybody to appreciate that there is not one simple single problem in this area. There is a problem that perhaps in the beginning had a common origin. But it has branched out into so many facets today that there is a need in particular localities for legal expertise and a local touch.

The State governments are perhaps closer to the people in some of these areas than is the Commonwealth Government in trying to deal with the diverse problems of the Torres Strait Islanders and the suburban dwellers around the cities such as Melbourne, Sydney or even those clustered around the more rural areas such as Warrnambool in Victoria. Three distinctly different types of people have developed today because of 100 years or so of different environments in which they have lived. One separate group is the Aborigines who live in the far north of Western Australia and the Northern Territory and who live under an entirely different set of circumstances and have to face different problems emanating from those circumstances. They perhaps have a common background with other Aborigines, but they pose a completely different picture which requires an approach completely different from the approach which would be adopted in some localised city areas. For that reason I say a word of warning to the Government. I do not suggest that it is the Government's intention to attract officers from the States. The Government should not be over-anxious to attract State officers. The States have a need and a requirement for skilled officers. The Government should not seek to recruit this staff into Federal departments. Obviously the greatest amount of funds will be spent in future by the Federal departments, despite the generous opportunities that are now to be extended to the States because of the reawakening of requirements in this field and because of the need to provide the opportunities.

I join Senator Laucke in expressing some regret at other stories which we heard today. It would be fallacious to think that the attempts to establish for these people- for themselves and in their own right- business ventures which would provide an opportunity to enter into the type of environment which we have would be successful from the beginning. If we expect the ventures to be 100 per cent successful we would be impossibly unfair to the people who are trying to assist them and to the people themselves. I believe that we must expect a great deal of failure. Those failures will not all be the responsibility of those to whom we are endeavouring to give the opportunity. Mistakes will be made by those to whom we give the responsibility for being an immediate contact with the people and for being immediately responsible for the assistance. Many a man has gone bankrupt several times in his lifetime. Some of our great grazing millionaires have been declared bankrupt, but they have finally succeeded in making fortunes in their chosen field of activity. We must keep these things well in mind as new ideas are tried- and they must be tried, even if they fail and fail again. I believe that if weaknesses are found in administration they must be stamped out Ve are dealing in an area in which we can no longer afford to have any more failures on the administration side than we can possibly help.

Do not let us expect too much of the people to whom we are granting the opportunity. If we do, we will do them a great injustice and ourselves a great disservice. This problem represents one of (he great challenges of this day and age for Australians. It is ours because we have inherited it. It is ours because we have perhaps been too slow in realising it is there and in tackling it with the depth of intelligence with which it should have been tackled in the first place. I believe that a previous Minister, Mr Wentworth, was one of the first persons who began to move away from the idea of handout policies and towards a more constructive and realistic approach to the whole affair.

I do not indulge in criticism in this area. Many have failed in the past. Many will not achieve their goals in future. But it is an area in which all must strive and use their experience, their knowledge and their intelligence. Political parties and political expediency should be left out of the matter because the question far transcends politics and political parties. Who did this or who did not do that for the Aborigines is all a part of Australia 's history. The people who are criticised the most today are the people who were the first to attempt to do something. Because their attempts were not headed in the right direction we, with the experience of hindsight, can say that they were wrong. We know that they were wrong but at least they were trying to do something when nobody else was trying to do anything at all. None of us should forget the lesson which the history of our nation teaches us, because in this area there is still a lot that we do not know- more than we think. Therefore, we must be fair to everybody. We must not try to take too much political advantage of attempts which are made and which do not succeed 100 per cent. We must remember the common goal and objective which surely all of us must have. We support the Bill and hope that it will have a speedy passage.

Suggest corrections