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Thursday, 14 November 1974
Page: 2442


Senator CAVANAGH (South AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs) - Mr President-


Senator Rae - No tedious repetition, please.


Senator CAVANAGH - There is no need for it because there is a multitude of inaccuracies to reply to. This has been a rather interesting debate and I think the accusation is well made that it is not until one goes to Queensland or comes into this chamber that Aboriginal affairs is drawn into politics. That is unfortunate. No matter when I first saw an Aborigine or what I knew about them then and notwithstanding what is indicated in the documents of the Queensland Minister, tabled by Senator Lawrie, after some 1 3 months in charge of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs working with a department that is knowledgeable in Aboriginal affairs, and after the miles I have travelled and the thousands of Aborigines I have met, I now have some cognisance of Aboriginal thinking, Aboriginal people and Aboriginal affairs. That knowledge is important and what I have heard tonight indicates that there are very few in this chamber who understand Aboriginal affairs.

I would like to give credit to Senator Bonner. It is obvious that he has a knowledge of this subject but it is unfortunate that he cannot do justice to his people because of his political affiliations. And although he has a knowledge of Aboriginal affairs he has no knowledge of government departments and how they have to work or how they should work. Of course, Senator Rae has not opposed Government policy on Aboriginal affairs and confined his remarks to the Bill. He brought in a political element by suggesting that we were not giving sufficient to a certain brand of government in Queensland.


Senator Rae - I did not mention the brand of government.


Senator CAVANAGH - I know. I mentioned the brand but it has a close affiliation with the hallmark of Senator Rae's Party. It is said that the Government has adopted this attitude to Queensland because Queensland was not cooperative and Senator Rae suggests that my interpretation of 'non-cooperation' is that Queensland will not do as it is told, it will not do as we tell it. As he says, the greatest consideration should not be this 'I will take my bat home ' attitude, it should be the interests of the Aborigines. If that is the only consideration then the amendment means nothing because it is an expression of opinion. Senator Steele Hall came into the debate and, as a political strategist, said that Senator Rae had made another mistake. He sought as the opinion of this Senate that the Government was doing the right thing for Queensland and indicated that he would not get support and that the result will be when the question is put to the vote of the Senate that the Senate will express its belief that we are doing the right thing by Queensland. There has been no condemnation of the Government's policy. Labor's policy is essentially land rights and Aboriginal self-determination. It is not a question of our saying what Queensland or anyone else should do; it is what Aborigines should do. And the attempt to get this amendment carried has been based on falsehoods and slander from the start. There is no truth in the accusations. Let us look at and clean up first the expenditure in this field last year. Queensland never spent its grant in respect of Aborigines.


Senator Rae - Housing?


Senator CAVANAGH - In respect of housing it exceeded its allocation and got my permission to do so. There was granted $1.2m for Aboriginal health which was not spent, and the grant given to Queensland for education and amenities was not fully spent. So while admitting that Queensland overspent on housing, and this extra amount would be deducted from this year's allocation for housing, Queensland never spent all the money made available by the Australian Government for Aborigines last year. As I have said before, although Senator Webster challenges me on it, there will be no reduction in housing this year as a result of Government policy. Senator Bonner said that there must be a reduction if we give this $3.1m to the housing societies because there will be a duplication of administration and therefore less housing.


Senator Bonner - How do you get out of that?


Senator CAVANAGH - I suppose there is some logic in that. Senator Webster said that we have yet to form the housing associations. But is Senator Bonner going to say that we should not give this money to the Aboriginal housing associations when they want to develop housing? Where is his logic there? He is fighting against his own colleagues in making an emotional and passionate appeal here. He wants this Government to give the money to the Queensland Government which has not done the right thing in respect of housing nor the right thing by his own people, as it was put there to do. It is asked: Where are these associations that are yet to be formed in Queensland? I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a list of Aboriginal housing associations that are already formed in Queensland. That list will show that there are at present 8 housing associations on reserves and 25 housing associations operating off reserves, making a total of 33 housing associations operating in

Queensland at this moment, and all of them wanting money to build homes.


Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - How many houses have they built so far?


Senator CAVANAGH - Our purpose was their formation but it is alleged that we have stopped that. These associations have either purchased or built a number of houses in Queensland for the benefit of Aborigines.


The PRESIDENT - The Minister seeks to have the list incorporated, ls leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-

 

 


Senator CAVANAGH - The housing associations have an added benefit. Where they are able to do so Aboriginal labour is employed. They are creating employment opportunities. They are a better avenue. So we have the organisations. The Government believes in Aboriginal participation. It believes in helping Aboriginal societies and that is its motto. It believes in Aboriginal determination and in these people making their own decisions on their own type of housing and in them building their own homes. We are to be condemned because we seek to put the money into co-operative societies and not into an uncooperative government. I want to refer now to the challenge that if the money does not go into housing I will resign at the end of the year. A politician never takes such a risk as offering to resign. However, I am prepared to take this risk if Senator Webster, who knows I will not do it, is prepared to offer his resignation at the end of the year if I do fulfil the promise which he doubts I will fulfil. Senator Rae went on with many other misstatements. He said that we stopped the housing project at Redfern because we stopped the money. The Redfern project has not stopped because the money was not forthcoming. It has been funded on every occasion. There was a stoppage because of a dispute over payment with the builders labourers organisation in Redfern. The Redfern project is going ahead today.


Senator Rae - When did that change? When did that come about?


Senator CAVANAGH - I do not know.


Senator Webster - Were there a few houses, as you said?


Senator CAVANAGH -Senator Webster was trying to make out that we were making an Aboriginal compound. I said that it was a row of houses. It has now been demonstrated that it is a block of houses facing 4 outlet streets. The dividing fences are being pulled down and they are making it a garden avenue. At present they have 34 out of 74 houses. It is the ambition of the

Aborigines finally to get the 74 houses and establish an Aboriginal community. It is said that this is apartheid.


Senator Webster - They can have their separate development.


Senator CAVANAGH - I told the honourable senator that in the first place. This is Aboriginal self-determination.


Senator Webster - And we hate South Africa.


Senator CAVANAGH -That remark demonstrates the honourable senator's lack of understanding. South Africa has enforced restrictions. These Aborigines have the same rights as the honourable senator's relatives have of purchasing a property and saying that they want to live in the homestead on it. They have the same right of freedom. They have complete freedom to live in Redfern or anywhere else. These people are not imprisoned behind barricades as they are in South Africa. Because someone wants to live away from someone else does not mean that they are racist and that this is apartheid. This is a stupid argument that the Opposition has advanced.

I have some sympathy for Senator Keeffe 's approach in regard to the money paid to consultants and architects. These are high fees. The practice relating to Government expenditure is that everything has to be processed and there have to be feasibility studies. We get reputable consultants in our Department and they charge the standard recognised fees for the services. Like all professional services the fees are high. However they are one of the things we have to pay.

I tura now to remarks made by Senator Lawrie who obviously was briefed either by Mr Hewitt, the Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs in Queensland, or Mr Killoran, the head of that Department. The only thing wrong with his briefing was that there was no truth in it. It was all lies. Senator Lawrie started off by saying that at no time the Queensland Minister refused to meet me. I want to examine this statement. In accordance with a Cabinet decision I contacted all mainland States. Let me say, firstly, that I have had discussions with Mr Hewitt. Mr Hewitt, like all Liberals, does not bring politics into Aboriginal affairs.


Senator Rae - He is a member of the Country Party actually.


Senator CAVANAGH - Is he? Mr Hewitt is happy for there to be discussions between his Department and my Department. The Liberals in Queensland favour doing what the Liberals in all other Australian States have done and give the responsibility for policy planning and coordination to the Commonwealth Government. Only the Country Party is outside. One might guess that the Country Party has a vested interest. The Aborigines have been a cheap source of labour on cattle stations, on peanut farms and other Country Party activities. They built the cattle stations in Australia with their sweat and their slavery. If we can ever emancipate them so that they can get a decent living the Country Party will have lost a cheap source of labour. We will never be able to achieve that unless we can overcome what is happening at present in Queensland. Mr Hewitt, Mr Killoran the head of the Queensland Department, Mr Dexter and I have conferred. Mr Hewitt was quite happy to have a conference with the Department and to hand over Aboriginal affairs to the Commonwealth Government. However, while he was making that arrangement and before I left Queensland that night the Queensland Premier said in a Press statement that the Government in Canberra would get nothing from Queensland. The Premier made this statement while the responsible Minister was making this agreement with me. Our departments did meet following that but they never came to any decision. I believe that Mr Hewitt took the question to Cabinet. He knew he had the Liberal Party numbers in Cabinet but before the Cabinet meeting the Premier started talking about changing portfolios. The Country Party follows the same procedure as the Liberal Party does and he has the right of selection. He talked about changing portfolios and he got his way endorsed in that Cabinet.

The next matter I want to mention relates to the Woodward Land Rights Commission report. We approached all State Premiers to see whether they would extend to the States what Mr Justice Woodward recommended for the Northern Territory. Again, with the exception of Queensland, we have complete agreement with all States to set up land councils of some description to hear

Aboriginal claims to land rights and to make recommendations on those claims to their governments. We asked the Minister in Queensland to meet us on the Woodward report and to discuss next year's Budget allocation. He said he would not meet us on the Woodward report but would meet us on the subject of the Budget allocation. I then wrote to the Queensland Premier and asked whether it was any use continuing this fight and whether we could meet and discuss this question. The Premier wrote back and said:

I have your letter of 28 August, 1974, suggesting that we meet to discuss your Government's proposal concerning Aboriginals within Queensland as it relates to the Woodward Commission Report on Aboriginal Land Rights.

The Premier concluded his letter by saying:

I am sure you will appreciate our attitude and having made this clear to the Prime Minister, I do not see that anything can be achieved by your discussing it either with me or my Ministerial colleague concerned.


Senator Sheil - That relates to the Woodward report?


Senator CAVANAGH -That is the Woodward report, and there is the refusal. I asked Mr Hewitt to discuss with me the question of Palm Island at the time he visited this democratically elected council. As a result of the Cabinet decision he refused to discuss Palm Island with me. I said I was not prepared to go there to discuss Budget allocations because we would have to reallocate and we were not going to get knocked back.


Senator Bonner - He was disgusted with you.


Senator CAVANAGH - If the situation is as Senator Bonner stated, that the Queensland Government will not shirk its responsibility- I think that was an honest expression- then he has cast aspersions on every other Liberal State government in Australia. They have shirked their responsibility. Do honourable senators think that the Premiers of Queensland and Western Australia are selling the Aborignals out by handing over planning and policies to the Commonwealth?


Senator Bonner - Can you tell me what amount of money out of the other States' Budgets was made available for Aboriginal advancement? I can tell you that the Queensland Government made $7m available for Aboriginal advancement. Can you tell me how much the other States have made available?


Senator CAVANAGH - I have questioned everyone about relevancy tonight. I do not know that what we have made available to the other States is relevant.


Senator Bonner - I am talking about the other States.


Senator CAVANAGH -The States have made a lot of money available for Aboriginal affairs out of Commonwealth moneys. Queensland has not spent as much as Western Australia on Aboriginal affairs.


Senator Bonner - You cannot answer the question.


Senator CAVANAGH - You have just been through the Estimates Committees reports and the figures were there. As a result of correspondence between the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Premier of Queensland, the Premier said that our Ministers should get together. My office telephoned Mr Hewitt's office to see whether we could make arrangements to see him. We received a reply that Mr Hewitt is in his office on Mondays, he is away campaigning all the week and he is at home at Charters Towers at the weekends. It seemed that it was impossible for him to see us. I said that I would go to Charters Towers at the weekend or would see him in his office on Monday. The appointment was fixed for next Monday in his office in Brisbane. We received a telephone call today informing us that on doctor's advice Mr Hewitt was going into hospital because he is completely exhausted. We have sent our sympathy. So it was a rejection by Mr Hewitt, and Senator Lawrie was wrong.

Now we come to the question of Mapoon. The first question is: Is there a rnining lease there? I released a Press report because I had heard that the Aborigines had been driven off the station as Nabalco Pty Ltd held the mining lease. Mr Bunny, who is the managing director of Nabalco, telephoned me in great distress and said that this was not so. He said that the company did not have a mining lease at Mapoon but had a mining lease over Red Sands which is some distance down the coast. I said: 'Why do you not make a statement and correct it in tomorrow 's newspaper?' He said: 'Yes, I will.' He telephoned me again the next day, full of apologies. He said: 'When I checked up our lease I found that we have a lease over Old Mapoon but the mineral content is of no interest to us and we are not concerned if the people go back. ' So there is a lease at Old Mapoon. I have a letter signed by about 20 residents of Old Mapoon- it is available for honourable senators to peruse- appealing to me for assistance for them to return.


Senator Bonner - Will you incorporate that in Hansard?


Senator CAVANAGH -No, I am not prepared to do so because it would make public the names of the individuals.


Senator Webster - I move:

That the paper be tabled.


The PRESIDENT - When the Minister has completed his speech you may move such a motion.


Senator CAVANAGH - I will not incorporate it in Hansard because all the names will be made public.


Senator Webster - Are you frightened of that?


Senator CAVANAGH - I do not know why you want the names. I will not voluntarily table the letter. If a resolution of the Senate is carried it will be tabled. Those who want to use the names to refer them to the Queensland Government so that it can use duress against the signatories must take the responsibility for carrying such a resolution. The letter is there and I am prepared to show it to anyone in confidence to prove that it is not a phoney letter. If honourable senators want it published so that duress can be used--


Senator Rae - We accept your offer, senator.


The PRESIDENT - I draw the Minister's attention to standing order 363 which says:

A document relating to public affairs quoted from by a Minister of the Crown, unless stated to be of a confidential nature or such as should more properly be obtained by address, may be called for and made a public document.

I repeat the words 'unless stated to be of a confidential nature'.


Senator Rae - We accept the Minister's offer that he will make it available to anyone on this side of the chamber who may wish to see it. We will not pursue the matter any further.


Senator CAVANAGH - I thank Senator Rae for that. I have more trust in Senator Rae than obviously Senator Steele Hall has. Senator Lawrie read out a document 'telling Cavanagh and the Department to put their money where their mouth is'. It said: 'You are useless and you do nothing. '


Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - They were not my words.


Senator CAVANAGH -No. It was a telegram that I received. Again I am prepared to show this to anyone. This telegram is signed by 22 Old Mapoon residents who want to go back and by 25 residents of an Aboriginal community at Weipa. They condemned me because I would not give money to them until I had been up and had a talk to them about going back to Mapoon. I have been criticised because we let them go back. It is claimed that I and my Department would not give them the money and permit them to go back. They are used to support an argument against our condemnation of the Queensland Government. Such people include Mick Miller, Clarrie Grogan and Barbara Russell. Those people are known in the Cairns area for having fought against and condemned the Queensland Government for years. They are notorious for that. Yet today those names have been used in an argument in support of the Queensland Government. Because we will not go far enough they condemn us. They have been used to boost up an argument on this question tonight. We went up to Old Mapoon and met the people. We had a meeting with 150 people in attendance. It is not true to say, as Mr Hewitt said, that 3 aircraft were used.


Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - This was not at Old Mapoon; this was at Weipa.


Senator CAVANAGH -At Weipa. We went to Weipa and had a meeting.


Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - But you did not go to Old Mapoon?


Senator CAVANAGH -No. We did not use 3 aircraft at public expense. I travelled in a VIP aircraft but we paid no fares for anyone else to travel to Weipa. There were 150 one-time Aboriginal residents of Old Mapoon assembled at the meeting. They applauded us, gave us a midday meal and sang Polynesian songs to us. One could see the mission influence as they sang a hymn of goodbye as we left. It is possibly one of the most emotional scenes I have ever witnessed. They expressed anxiety to go back to Old Mapoon. Some of these people could not go because they had commitments. We do not decide where Aboriginals will live. They have an affinity with the land. Whatever the difficulties are in living on that terrain, it is our job to overcome the difficulties. They make the decision about where they want to live and we come in to try to improve their accommodation. Their land is sacred to them and it means more to them than living in a town like Weipa could mean. The result was that we offered them tents and transport facilities so that they could travel from Weipa. Are we condemned for that?

When we went to Normanton we saw poverty, distress and suffering. This was emotionally referred to by Senator Bonner today when he referred to how his people live. The Australian Government is attempting to rectify this position. It has arisen because of 200 years of Queensland Government. Senator Bonner has stated that the Queensland Government has done nothing off the reserves. We can prove that that is so. When we went to Normanton we saw how the Aborigines lived in barricades. They are living in big tents, dirty houses and unlined galvanised iron sheds. They have barricades with partitions of unlined galvanised iron. The Aborigines have no ablution facilities. There is a kitchen measuring 10 feet by 6 feet which has to service 30 families -some of which comprise 10 people. People live in a room which is 10 feet by 8 feet. They have to cook their meals in a small annexe out the back on a normal wood burning kitchen stove which serves 30 families. Of course, they are lighting fires all around the place to cook their food. That settlement is a Queensland Government settlement. The Australian Government is trying to rectify that situation.

Nowhere else are there conditions as bad as those which we saw in Queensland. I have been through the Kimberleys in the Northern Territory and other Aboriginal settlements but I have not seen a settlement as bad as those in Queensland. I have proof of the fact. Objections have been raised to the photographs which have been taken by staff of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I believe that the film will be shown on the television program 'This Day Tonight'. It has been stated that the program will bring out, in all its glory, the horrors of Queensland. It has been stated that we invaded the privacy of the Aboriginals at Normanton when we visited their homes. We visited those homes at the invitation of the residents. We were invited to come into their kitchen in order to photograph it. We have been accused of taking a photograph of a boy outside a toilet. We were taken down to the place at which the photograph was taken to see that there was no toilet in existence. (Extension of time granted) I thank the Senate for the extension of time. I will be brief because I would like this Bill to pass through the Senate this evening. I have given an indication of the horror and the squalor that exists in Queensland. I have also given an indication of what the Australian Government is trying to do in Queensland. No honourable senator can condemn us for that. I do not have time to refer to all the matters to which I would like to refer.

In Normanton about 8 houses have been built for the Aborigines. This is where they have 4 blocks each containing space for 30 families in the barricades. The town council has said that no more Aboriginal houses can be built in the town because they do not have a water supply. It has been said that Senator Cavanagh will not give them the $ 1 34,000 that is necessary to establish a water supply. To provide the Europeans in Normanton with a water supply is properly a State Government responsibility. The State Government has done nothing for Normanton. The town council, because of its Country Party representation, is justifying everything the State Government has done. The Council has stated that they will not have any more houses built for Aboriginals because they do not have sufficient water. It is said that if more homes are built, gardens will be established and more water will be used in Normanton.

I have illustrated the life of the Aborigines in Queensland. Time will not permit me to go much further into this matter. The Government wants to overcome the problems of the Aborigines in Queensland. The Racial Discrimination Bill 1974 introduced by Senator Murphy is aimed at overcoming the differences between whites and Aborigines in some respects. We seek to bring in legislation that will render invalid Queensland law that has the effect of preventing the Aboriginal islander from terminating the management of his property. We want to exempt an Aboriginal islander from the requirement to obtain a permit to enter a Queensland reserve; prevent the punishment of an Aboriginal islander on a Queensland reserve for misbehaviour unless the conduct is shown to be unreasonable; supersede the wide powers of entry into the premises of an Aboriginal islander on a Queensland reserve; render invalid laws requiring compulsory labour on Queensland reserves except reasonable community work where ordered by a court; and provide a right of legal representation before Aboriginal or island courts. The aboriginals have no right to legal representation. They are forced to work and they are not paid the award wages. This is what the great Queensland Government does. This indicates the fight that we are having to improve the conditions of Aborigines. Because a Government of the Opposition's kind is in office in Queensland, Opposition senators would condemn the Aborigines. Even Senator Bonner sacrifices his people for political preservation. It shall not happen.

Senator RAE(Tasmania)- I wish to make a personal explanation.


The PRESIDENT - Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?


Senator RAE - Yes. I claim to have been misrepresented not by the Minister but by a previous speaker. Two matters were raised by Senator Milliner. Firstly, he said that I was talking to protesting Aboriginals outside Parliament House whilst the Estimate Committees were sitting and that I was absent from the Estimates Committee of which I was a member. That, as will be shown from the Hansard report of the Estimates Committee meeting of 3 1 October, is not correct. The Estimates Committee report shows that the Committee sat from 12.11 p.m. until 2.52 p.m. The time.at which I was talking to those Aborigines was well after 3 p.m. I was showing to those Aborigines that we were prepared to talk to them and to listen to their matters of concern.

Secondly, Senator Milliner said that I asked no questions in relation to Aboriginal housing in Queensland during the hearing of the Estimates Committee in relation to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. As the Hansard record will show on page 395 that statement also was inaccurate.

Senator BONNER(Queensland)-I wish to make a personal explanation.


The PRESIDENT -Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?


Senator BONNER - Yes. I was in my room just a moment ago listening on the public address system to Senator Cavanagh 's speech. As he finished his speech, he claimed that I was using my people for political purposes. I do not believe this is correct. I think the Minister should withdraw those remarks because during my speech I even gave credit to the Government for some of its policies in relation to Aboriginal affairs. At no time have I ever used the Aboriginal people for political purposes in this chamber. I have no intention of doing so in the future. I believe that the Minister should withdraw those remarks because I do not use my people for political purposes.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be added (Senator Rae's amendment) be added.







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