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Wednesday, 14 November 1973
Page: 1816

Senator CAVANAGH (South AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs) - Those honourable senators who were present earlier will recall that I spoke to the adjournment motion for the purpose of enabling Senator Keeffe to enter the chamber to ventilate a grievance which he told me this afternoon he wished to raise on the adjournment. The sudden proposal of the adjournment motion caught Senator Keeffe unawares. He did not know that the motion was to be proposed at that time. As he had informed me of the matter that he was to raise- it affects my portfolio- I suggested at the time of the adjournment motion being proposed that I might seek the opportunity to make a statement later as I had not moved the adjournment motion and would have no right to reply later; my short intervention to speak at that time denied me the right to speak on a second occasion.

Three questions have been raised tonight, not simply the matter foreshadowed by Senator Keeffe. I think that I am the Minister who should reply to them. One relates to Aboriginal affairs. Another deals with the action of an honourable senator in moving the adjournment motion. I will say no more about that matter. I was the one humiliated by that action. It may well be that it would have been preferable for me not to prolong the sitting of the Senate when that motion was moved. I think I had enough support to defeat the adjournment motion at that time. However, it is too late now to change what happened. I do not wish to go further into that matter.

I turn to the question of Lockhart River. When I was informed today that Senator Keeffe intended to speak on this subject, I contacted my Department which communicated with the Queensland authorities to try to obtain some information on the subject. One should be careful what one says about the question because the Commonwealth hopes to take over from the States the policy and planning of Aboriginal affairs throughout Australia. Many of the schemes which attempted to do this have fallen down. I have visited Western Australia and South Australia and seen the responsible Ministers. As a result, in the very near future, that planning and policy will be passed over to the Australian Government. I have had discussions with Mr Dickie from Victoria. Despite the fact that it was thought that there would be no cooperation, I do not think it is impossible to get complete co-operation with Victoria. I think that Victoria will be handing over those powers to the Commonwealth. In the brief time that I was in New South Wales I spoke to Mr Maddison, the

Minister for Justice. I think that as a result of my visit we can expect greatly improved relationships between the New South Wales police and the Aboriginal community.

Senator Greenwood - It seems that some people are more persuasive than others.

Senator CAVANAGH -Mr Maddison was very anxious to try to do something about a better system of co-operation between the two. I do not know whether it was my persuasion or his reasonableness.

Senator Greenwood - I think it was your persuasion.

Senator CAVANAGH -Do not flatter me too much because you do not know to what extent I might go. One has to be careful, not having gone to Queensland at this stage, to say nothing that would possibly act to the detriment of future negotiation in Queensland.

Let me say that the publication in the Queensland Press of the parliamentary discussion would suggest that there were no facts on which to base any allegations, but that there was a deliberate plan of question and answer to denigrate Senator Keeffe. I do not know the motive behind it. The report of the parliamentary discussion states that Minister Hewitt stated that department officers had gone to Lockhart Mission for Aborigines on Cape York after the bashing of a mission manager who is resigning. There is no suggestion that Senator Keeffe was ever there. The report continues:

Hewitt said bashing was the most recent of a long line of disturbances caused by radicals and trouble makers visiting settlements.

There was no suggestion of who the radicals and trouble makers were. There is no suggestion that Senator Keeffe was one of them. Because they had no knowledge that Senator Keeffe was at Lockhart River they had to concoct something else. They said that it may have happened after Senator Keeffe 's visit. The report also states:

Trouble makers were going from settlement to settlement stirring up problems. Row, Country Party member of Hinchinbrook, asked Hewitt if Senator Keeffe had visited Palm Island recently.

There is no mention about Lockhart River where there was a disturbance, and the manager resigned. The report continues:

Row asked Hewitt if Senator Keeffe had visited Palm Island recently about the time of the recent disturbances and whether he had worn the red head-band of the Black Power Movement.

Senator Keeffehas stated the significance of the red head-band. The report continues:

Hewitt said he did not know if Keeffe had visited the Island.

That is the end of it. He did not know. He could not link up any disturbance on the Island with Keeffe. Because it was an attempt to attack Senator Keeffe, he went on. The report continues:

Hewitt said that he did not know if Keeffe had visited the Island recently, but if Row said Keeffe was a member of Black Power he had no reason to doubt him.

So Senator Keeffe is supposed to be a member of the black power movement. He is said to be somewhat responsible for an assault that occurred at the Lockhart River Mission at a time when there is no proof that he was there. It is only because Mr Row, a Country Party member, asked whether Senator Keeffe had visited Torrens Island that we can see the purpose of the attack. Despite what relations it may strain, the whole purpose of this report has to be shown.

On the facts as I can find them, with reference to Mr Max Hawkins's inquiry, we have obtained the following information from National Aboriginal Consultative Committee sources at Cairns -and I take it that Max Hawkins was an NACC officer in Cairns- based on an account by 2 Aborigines from Lockhart River: On the evening of 13 November, a resident Aboriginal who had been drinking wine went to the canteen and asked for and received a drink of beer. The manager entered, told the barman not to serve the Aboriginal any more beer and pushed him outside. The manager followed the Aboriginal outside and was hit two or three times. A brawl developed on the ground. The manager retired to the mission office with bruising, but there was no evidence of facial cuts. Two policemen arrived on 14 November and escorted the manager to Cairns. It is reported that he has resigned.

Under Queensland legislation control of canteens is by the Director of Aboriginal and Island Affairs. The manager was therefore probably within his legal rights in directing the barman to refuse service. The Aborigines might dispute this. I would believe that he was not within his rights in manhandling a person, if indeed he did so. The circumstances of this case might be the reverse of what has been alleged. But this incident has no connection with the activities of Senator Keeffe, who we have been told by those who accompanied him on the delegation behaved respectfully, courteously and in an orderly way. I do not know how Senator Keeffe has offended the Country Party of Queensland, but there was a deliberate attempt in the Queensland Parliament to discredit Senator Keeffe, to blame him for incidents that occured when he was not present. It is quite unfair for Mr Row to blame the troubles on Senator Keeffe. His visit occurred on 26-29 September, whereas the trouble occurred in November. Senator Keeffe 's visit was at the request of Mr Bryant, and he and his team drew up a series of proposals which are being examined by officers of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I think that shows to what depths some politicians will sink for reasons which are unknown to me at this stage.

The other question with which I wish to deal- I gave Senator Wright an answer on it this morning as Acting Minister for Primary Industryconcerns the payment made to those who suffered loss as a result of revaluation of the Australian currency. It was known at the time the currency was revalued that there would be some who would suffer loss, and provision was made at the time that when loss was suffered and hardship could be shown those concerned would receive compensation from the Government. In reply to Senator Wright this morning I disclosed that of the claims that have been made in the apple industry 90 per cent have been paid.

Senator Wright - They have been authorised to be paid. I think that is what the Minister said this morning and that is probably more accurate.

Senator CAVANAGH -They have been authorised to be paid. It is therefore a question of how much we subsidise an unprofitable industry, or a question of whether the money paid in subsidy would be better employed in redeveloping a primary industry in which men could make a living. Our desire is that they be able to make a living. People in primary industry do not want to be subject to the charity of other taxpayers. The money that the Commonwealth has been giving them in the form of subsidies should be given to them for the purpose of redevelopment so that they can have viable land holdings. That is Government policy. Where hardship can be shown on the part of any Tasmanian growers or people in any other primary industry as a result of revaluation, payment will be made by the Australian Government.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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