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Thursday, 28 November 1974
Page: 2984

Senator CAVANAGH (South AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs) - I wish to say a few words. This is the first time since I have been a Minister that I have initiated debate on the motion that the Senate do now adjourn. At times I have entered the debate when something has been said to which I thought a reply was justified. I find it is essential for me to speak on this occasion. I am led to believe that there will be a very big campaign throughout Queensland this weekend based on the attitude of myself and the Government to Aboriginal affairs in that State. I want to give the true details. I am inspired somewhat by a telegram I received today from Mr Anthony which states:

I have had numerous telegrams from Aboriginal leaders in Queensland expressing shock re new laws which are proposed which they claim will destroy their way of life stop I ask you to defer any further action in these matters until you have had appropriate discussions with the Advisory Council stop The people are dismayed that you are taking action without adopting consultations which the Queensland Government has always adopted with any proposed changes in the law

Doug Anthony

During the last month there would be few communities in Queensland to which I have not spoken and explained what the Government intends to do in regard to the law affecting Queensland Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. I found general approval of it. I received some weeks ago a telegram from one council chairman opposing our interference in Queensland. When I arrived at the Weipa airport I met the chairman of the council who was going back to Torres Strait. I said: 'I did not like that telegram,' and he denied having sent the telegram. I have received 21 telegrams, all in identical terms. This morning I received 15 telegrams, all from chairmen of councils, ten of which had been lodged at the Thursday Island Post Office between 1 1.30 and 1 1.50 this morning. By ringing the chairmen of the councils and making inquiries I found that each chairman had received a telegram in these terms:

Premier -

Note the word 'Premier'- advises that new law proposed in Canberra would enable any Aboriginal or Islander to enter or live on any reserve without reference to Council.

That is false, nevertheless that is what the telegram says. It goes on to say:

Other Chairmen are sending following telegram.

I emphasise those wordsPlease advise if you wish to have same message sent in your name to Prime Minister, Parliament House, Canberra; Senator Cavanagh, Parliament House, Canberra; Leader Country Party, Doug Anthony; Leader Opposition Senate; Leader Opposition.

The text of the telegram reads:

My people shocked to hear of new law proposed which will destroy way of life enjoyed by Aboriginal people on this reserve. Quite clear Government has no understanding of well-being of people living here as proposals will destroy their happiness and way of life. On behalf of my people I ask that you stop this law until it is talked out with advisory councils in the same way as Queensland Government has always dealt with all changes in the law.

Senator McAuliffe - Who sent the telegram?

Senator CAVANAGH - The telegram was sent by the Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs but it is a request from the Premier. As I have said, the Prime Minister, myself, the Leader of the Country Party, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition all received identically worded telegrams. I received 21 telegrams, identically worded, sent out by someone on behalf of the Premier. The council chairmen did not send them. Ten telegrams were lodged at the Thursday Island Post Office.

Senator McLaren - Paid for by the Premier?

Senator CAVANAGH -Paid for by the Premier. The chairmen were requested to add their names. The Premier says in the telegram that he wants these matters talked out with the advisory councils, just as we do. I attended a meeting of the advisory council. The Premier spoke to these people the day before I attended and expressed, as reported in the newspapers, his pleasure that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in the Australian Government was speaking to them because now he would be speaking to genuine Aboriginal leaders and not listening to the militant minority from the urban areas down south. I went and spoke to the council. I exposed the restriction on liberties under Queensland law and told them that we sought their support. They said they had a committee looking into it and the chairman of the council said: 'Well, these are all chairmen of various councils. They want to speak to you, Senator.' I said 'What do you want to say?' They said 'We want to speak to you privately'. Mr Dexter and myself sat in another room and they came in one by one. They had many requests but every one of them expressed dissatisfaction with the Queensland law. This illustrates the tyranny which exists. At a public meeting they could not say it. In privacy they could say it. They reaffirmed to me on Torres Strait Island at the weekend the tyranny that exists as evidenced by the request from the Premier. They are forced into sending this telegram, and we get mere puppets like Doug Anthony who says this represents the view of the Aboriginal people in Queensland. It is a fake.

Senator Rae - I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy President. Standing order 4 1 9 says:

No Senator shall digress from the subject-matter of any Question under discussion; -

This is the important part- nor anticipate the discussion of any subject which appears on the notice paper . . .

The matter to which the Minister is speaking is one which appears on the notice paper. It relates to a Bill which he introduced into this Parliament. I believe this is clearly an infringement of this standing order. It is for this very reason that there should not be a pre-debate of a matter that the standing order is there.

Senator Cavanagh - On the point of order, of course the honourable senator does not understand that I am not discussing the Bill before the Senate. I have not mentioned one word that is in the Bill. I am discussing the tyrannical and oppressive attitude of the Premier of Queensland.

Senator Rae - But the telegrams were about the Bill and they purportedly said what the people 's reaction to it was.

Senator Cavanagh - If I can get a hearing on my point of order, Mr Deputy President, the Standing Orders provide that reference may be made to something that is on the notice paper only if it is necessary to explain what one is discussing. We are taking part in an adjournment debate. I am discussing the attitude of the Premier of Queensland and justifying my condemnation of his attitude to the Bill that is on the notice paper. Nowhere have I discussed what is in the Bill. Nowhere do I want to discuss what is in the Bill. I want to confine my remarks to the Queensland Premier's attitude.

Senator Poyser - Mr Deputy President,I rise to speak on the point of order simply to make one point. On a number of occasions I have raised this very point of order in relation to questions asked in question time that refer to a BUI on the notice paper. On every occasion that I have raised this point the ruling of the Chair, in various words and in various ways, has supported the flexibility of debate. I cannot see how the point of order which has been raised by Senator Rae can be upheld in view of the fact that on so many occasions my points of order have been rejected although they were put on the same grounds as was Senator Rae's.

Senator Wood - On the point of order, Mr Deputy President, I draw attention to the telegram that has been mentioned by Senator Cavanagh. It relates very much to the legislation because it reads:

My people shocked to hear of new law proposed which will destroy way of life enjoyed by Aboriginal people . . .

It goes on to say:

.   . I ask that you stop this law -

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Order! I call Senator Keeffe.

Senator Wood - But I am speaking on the point of order, Mr Deputy President. What I am saying is -

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Keeffe wishes to raise a point of order.

Senator Wood - Oh, don't tell me; I don't know anything about it. Right, you know everything.

Senator Milliner - Oh!

Senator Poyser - Oh!

Senator Wood - Well, he does not know anything about it. He will not listen.

Senator Georges - That is a reflection on the Chair.

Senator Keeffe - I point out to you, Mr Deputy President, with great respect that Senator Wood has now picked up a piece of paper that was the subject of the debate that Senator Cavanagh started and I submit that it is entirely out of order -

Senator Wood - It is definitely in relation to the Bill and the Deputy President cannot see it; does not want to see it.

Senator Georges - Mr Deputy President,I raise a point of order. I feel that Senator Wood has been at fault here. He has no right to reflect upon you in the way that he has reflected upon you and then to leave the chamber. I ask that he be recalled to the chamber to apologise to you for the grave reflection upon your ability to decide upon the point of order which has been raised.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There is no point of order in what Senator Georges has to say and there is no point of order in what Senator Keeffe has to say. I only regret that Senator Wood is not here now to continue the point of order. In relation to the point of order raised by Senator Rae, there is some basis for that point of order. It could be considered that the Minister is anticipating a debate on a Bill which he himself has put down. The matter which he has raised is directly related to order of the day No. 40 on the notice paper, which is the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Bill. It would be quite proper, I think, for me to suggest to you, Mr Minister, that you should complete your remarks quickly. If you will do that I will not uphold the point of order, although I feel that it has great weight.

Senator CAVANAGH - In view of your ruling and my respect for your ruling, Mr Deputy President, I will comply with it. I think that I have said all that is to be said on the question. What I am about to say now is not in relation to the Bill. I ask the recipients of these telegrams, the Leader of the Country Party, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition in the other place: Please do not present me with telegrams, as the Leader of the Country Party did, and expect that I will accept them as containing the expression of the Aboriginal people in Queensland.

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