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Thursday, 5 December 1974
Page: 3196

Senator KEEFFE (Queensland) - I wish to contribute to the debate on this Bill. I wish to touch first of all on some of the statements that have been made by Senator Rae, the Opposition's shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. He finalised his remarks by claiming that the Government was adopting a Big Brother, socialist attitude to Aborigines and suggested that a poll be conducted on the reserves. But he refrained from going into any detail on that. I do not quite know how or why he wants the poll to be conducted. The Australian Government has adopted the attitude that in every way possible Aborigines will make their own decisions anyway. Senator Rae is claiming that by conducting some sort of poll on some specious grounds he is going to solve all the problems that he and his race have created insofar as the Aborigines are concerned. I respectfully submit that the real reason why Senator Rae is wanting to adjourn this matter is the same reason as his Party had yesterday when it stonewalled on Bills which ought to have been cleaned up in this chamber in an hour or two; that is, that he and his Party are afraid of the political consequences of this Bill. They did not want it debated yesterday when the proceedings of the Senate were being broadcast because the things that they have to say are politically unacceptable to the public at large and to Aborigines in particular. That is the main reason. Senator Rae wants to defer further consideration of this Bill because of that political fear.

Amongst the alleged evidence that he produced in favour of his submission was a telegram, which he read, from John Watson. Let me go back to what I said in this chamber some time ago. John Watson, who is quite a nice young bloke, is Chairman of the Council on Palm Island because of white interference in the Council which had been properly elected previously. I said then and I repeat now that the petition which was taken up was completely false. Many of the signatures were forged. The names of people who had been dead for some time appeared on the petition. The names of people who have never been able to sign their own names appeared on the petition. Some people were persuaded to sign it because they were given various reasons other than what was on the petition itself. Senator Rae also read a telegram from a Mr Les Stewart of Cherbourg- Senator Rae probably would not know where it is- who is the Chairman of the Advisory Council.

Senator Rae - I mentioned that.

Senator KEEFFE - Has Senator Rae, who is speaking as an expert on this matter, been on the Woorabinda settlement? Has he been on any of the other reserves in Queensland? Of course not.

Senator Rae - I answered your query.

Senator KEEFFE - Senator Raeshould not sit over there and in his great depth of ignorance say that he is an expert in this field because he is not. Senator Rae quoted from documents on a subject about which he knows nothing. Let me say that Mr Les Stewart was under the domination of white people in interfering in the Palm Island ballot. I am saying with some degree of evidence that, in spite of all the good intentions of John Watson, that telegram or the major part of it was drafted by the white management of Palm Island in the last few days. Let me quote from an article concerning a statement made by John Watson 3 days ago. It has not been denied by either John Watson or John Dillon, the current manager of Palm Island. He said:

There would be no Council and no opportunity for the people to demonstrate their ability to handle the job in hand if the 2 Acts were abolished.

That is surprising because that man had never said that before in his life. It is obvious that he is only saying it now because he has been bulldozed and intimidated by the current white management of Palm Island. John Dillon went on record in the same article as saying other things. I must admit that it surprised me to find that a man who has so many good attributes is now falling into the error of the Director of Aboriginal Affairs in Queensland, who follows the same line as the Premier of Queensland, of adopting the attitude of warning all politicians and others from making any statements until they again examine the situation.

The claim has been made insofar as Palm Island is concerned that millions of dollars have been spent there by the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs. That is a downright and utter lie. Every penny spent in that direction has come from the Australian Government. Most of it has come from this Government, but some of it came from its predecessors. So that any expenditure which has been undertaken there by the Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs in Queensland is coincidental. There has been some income, of course, because 23.26 tons of bananas have been harvested from the local crop in the last few months. But did that go back into the Island's financial resources? No. It went into the funds of the Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs in Queensland; that is where it went. A fairly large number of crates of pawpaws also was produced on that patch. The returns from that also went back into the same funds. The artifacts produced on reserves in Queensland, with minor exceptions, cannot be sold for the benefit of the people on those reserves. The money received for them must go back into the Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs. In the same way any return on the artifacts shop in George Street, Brisbane, goes back into the Department. .Very little of it ever sees its way back to the people who, by the sweat of their brows and their brains, produce the things which are produced. So that it is not only hypocritical but also downright dishonest for the shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to say that no legislation of the nature projected by this Government is necessary in Queensland. I want to go on a little further on that track. The great pity, of course, is that the shadow Minister does not know what he is talking about. He has almost reached the stage where he is like the Leader of his own Party, who is trying to get an aerial ambulance to operate to the Islands off Tasmania when one has been operating there for 1 5 years.

Senator Rae - That is a total lie and you should withdraw it.

Senator KEEFFE - Do not get excited. We are going to need medical treatment for Senator Rae shortly.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Milliner)-Senator Rae, you know that that is an unparliamentary remark. We have had sufficient trouble with that sort of thing over the last day or two. I ask you to contain yourself.

Senator KEEFFE - I am not asking for a withdrawal, Mr Acting Deputy President. Whenever Senator Rae gets upset he uses all sorts of epithets. He has no control over himself; so we do not worry about him.

Senator Marriott - He has not been put out for a week, like you have.

Senator KEEFFE -Senator Rae has been known for this over a long period of years. He has something wrong with his metabolism or something because when he gets upset he has a tendency to flare up in an uncontrolled manner. So we are not going to take a great deal of notice of that sort of thing. Sometimes he does it to divert attention from the argument under discussion; at other times it is just a physical weakness.

Senator Jessop - What about talking about the Bill?

Senator Marriott - He knows nothing about it.

Senator KEEFFE - When I want treatment from an optomotrist I will ask for it. I return to the points which raised by Senator Rae. Senator Rae made reference to the tents which have been erected outside Parliament House. I know that he objects to them. I know that he took strong exception to them in the days when his Party was in government. In fact, he was one of those who came into this chamber and supported the then Minister for the Interior, Mr Ralph Hunt, when he was able to get something like 60 to 80 police over there with guns and batons and belt the blacks into the ground so that the lawns were not green but red with the blood of Aborigines. This man, who now claims to be a great humanitarian, stood in this chamber and supported the bashing of Aborigines outside this Parliament. He now claims to be great humanitarian. He is a basher of Aborigines from way back. That is the sort of thing he wants to do now. He wants to keep the Aborigines under subjection and he has no other way of getting around it. That is why he is running away from this issue. He fears the granting of freedom to the Aboriginal people of this country.

Senator Rae - Would you like to quote the reference, otherwise you will be again taken as a liar?

Senator KEEFFE - What was that?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Milliner)- Senator Rae, I have already warned you once in that respect. If you want to ask for a withdrawal -

Senator Rae - Mr Acting Deputy President,the remarks which have been made are untrue.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTOrder! I happen to be on my feet, Senator Rae. You will resume your seat. You know the correct procedure to follow if you want to ask for a withdrawal of anything which has been said.

Senator KEEFFE - The honourable senator was in this chamber when this matter was debated. He supported the attitude of the then Minister for the Interior in carrying on his bashing of Aborigines outside of this House. There is no use his now trying to evade the issue.

Senator Rae - Would you like to quote the reference?

Senator KEEFFE - Hansard is good enough, is it not, or do you not believe Hansard either? The evidence is in Hansard. The honourable shadow Minister belongs to that section of the white community which believes that the Aboriginal people ought to be kept in subjection at all times and in its own way, subtle or otherwise, it builds up this idea of hate, this idea of colour distinction, and it contributes to the backlash. There was an incident at Bamyili not so many weeks ago when 3 classrooms were burnt and a Molotov cocktail was hurled under the teacher's house. An attempt was made by some white people in the area to blame Aboriginals for this. It was amazing that when a certain white man left the settlement all of these things stopped; nothing further of this sort occurred.

Senator Marriott - Where did you move to?

Senator KEEFFE - I will answer intelligent interjections, Senator Marriott, but as I said before I will not answer unintelligent ones. That is the feeling in the community which is supported by most members of the Opposition. There are some honourable senators opposite who have quite humanitarian policies and do not support that attitude.

Senator Sheil - Is not Bamyili under federal control?

Senator KEEFFE -Bamyili is under federal control. I am not talking about control, Dr Sheil. I am saying that there are some white people in the community who endeavour to build up this feeling. If the honourable senator had been listening earlier instead of wandering around mentally he would have heard what I said and he might have been able to absorb it. I have complained in this chamber about the attitude of the Premier of Queensland in regard to the purchase and sale of houses for Aboriginal people. If this is not discrimination, nothing is. I have cited an example which I have placed in the hands of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) for investigation. I cited it in a previous debate in this chamber and I repeat it because it is only one of many examples. This case is documented and clear to understand. A house was bought for some $9,000 and what happened some4½ years later? We have to blame the Premier of Queensland for what happened because the Federal Minister has no authority in

Queensland. All activities in that State in regard to Aboriginals are carried out between the Director and the Premier. The Premier has said: 'They are my blacks and it is my land, and the Commonwealth is not going to get them anyhow'. That is the attitude he has adopted. He wants to profiteer to the disadvantage of the Aboriginals. The house that was purchased for around $9,000 he now wants to sell to an Aboriginal family for $ 1 7,000 odd. The rent which they paid for over 4 years was to have been taken as the deposit, but in addition to that rent he now wants another $2,000 odd in cash before that Aboriginal working class family can obtain possession of that house.

I want to mention another example for which the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has the documentation. A long time ago I wrote about the disappearance of a child from Weipa. I will not mention the name of the family but if any member of the Opposition wants to look at the document he is free to do so. This child was adopted out with the aid of a departmental officer of the Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs and a missionary or a lay missionary- nobody is quite sure of his status. The child was fostered out. I asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to conduct an investigation as the family wanted their baby girl back. After a lengthy investigation by the Australian Government Minister he finally received a reply from the Queensland Department saying that the girl could not be found but that it would be putting the matter in the hands of the police. In a letter dated 25 October 1974, directed to the Australian Government Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and signed by the Queensland Minister, the Queensland Minister stated:

I refer to my letter of the 14 June 1974 concerning the whereabouts of -

The lass is named-

Daughter of Mr and Mrs . . .

At this time, I assured you that the matter had been placed in the hands of the Commissioner of Police and that further attempt would be made to locate the child.

I must now inform you that extensive inquiries within the State of Queensland have failed to reveal the whereabouts of the child but the matter will be pursued further and I will write at a later date to inform you as to the outcome.

That family does not come from way out in the top end of the Gulf somewhere. Certainly they come from the far north of Queensland. That child was fostered out with the knowledge and responsibility of an officer of the Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs in Queensland and a preacher or a lay preacher, and they have lost all trace of her. The parents have been denied access to their daughter. Will the shadow Minister, who has now become a shadow because he has disappeared from the chamber, and others on his side of the House say that they do not want this sort of legislation to protect the rights of Aboriginal people in Queensland? How hypocritical can you be.

Senator Sheil - Why did they foster her out?

Senator KEEFFE - There were certain domestic circumstances at the time and it was not done with their written permission. They were stood over by departmental officers. That is why the child was fostered out. Similarly, thieving of Aboriginal children goes on in other parts of Queensland under the so-called protection of the State Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs. There are kids stolen from families in Queensland. If we ever have the opportunity to turn up some of the Queensland files we will see how many kids have disappeared over the years into the hands of so-called do-gooders in the white community. The honourable shadowy Minister for Aboriginal Affairs made reference a while ago -

Senator Young - I take a point of order, Mr Deputy President. I clearly heard Senator Keeffe say 'the honourable shadowy Minister'. That is casting a reflection upon a very responsible member of our Party. I take exception and ask for a withdrawal.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I think Senator Keeffe might moderate his tone. I do not uphold the point of order.

Senator KEEFFE - I take it back because the shadow Minister has now appeared again in the shadows of the doorway. Tabled in this chamber yesterday- this is where the shadow Minister claimed that false information was being given by the Minister--

Senator Rae - I take a point of order, Mr Deputy President. A point of order was taken a few moments ago by Senator Young. To compound what he had already done Senator Keeffe, knowing full well that I was standing in the area immediately in the precincts of the chamber looking up documents to verify some of the claims that he had made and which I believed to be erroneous, has repeatedly referred to my absence from the chamber. I have heard every word of the nonsense that he has spoken.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There is no substance in the point of order.

Senator KEEFFE -Thank you, Mr Deputy President. I must be excused because the honourable senator was standing in the shadows. When a shadow Minister stands in the shadows it makes him very difficult to see. The document which was tabled yesterday by the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Bishop) came from official records and shows everyone involved. Senator Rae alleged that he had received 22 telegrams, the Minister said he had received 21. Give or take one telegram or two, the principle is still the same. All of these telegrams, without exception, came from the Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs. Honourable senators on the other side implied the other night that council meetings had taken decisions as to the contents of the telegrams and as to how they would be forwarded.

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - I take a point of order on this matter, Mr Deputy President. I realise that the Postmaster-General made some reference to the source and times of these telegrams earlier this week. I understand that the PMG regulations make addressing, lodging and everything else associated with telegram private. I think that this information should never have been disclosed in the Senate. It should not be talked about or disclosed now.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I am not in a position to say whether the matter should be discussed in the Senate in view of certain PMG regulations. It seems quite appropriate for discussion in this debate.

Senator KEEFFE - I would not do so if it was out of order, Mr Deputy President. Senator Lawrie is quite wrong. These things are subject to inquiry, particularly if there is any falsification of Post Office records. After all, it is a public organisation and the origin of these telegrams was not as was claimed by members of the Opposition. So, whether they came from Cowal Creek, Bamaga, Woorabinda or anywhere else, they were all transmitted by the Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs. I know there is a telegram- I do not have a copy of it- circulating and in the possession of some people on Cape York giving a direction for this sort of telegram to be sent. The Minister read a similar telegram the other night.

I have heard it said by the shadow Minister and others that there are free elections on every reserve in Queensland. 1 challenge the Queensland Department and the shadow Minister in this chamber to produce the evidence that there has been a free election on every reserve in Queensland this year or last year. I was on one reserve within recent months at which no election had been held for 4 years. Yet the shadow Minister has the effrontery to tell us that there are regular free elections. They do not take place, in spite of what the Queensland Act may say, in spite of what the regulations may say and in spite of what magic plan there is for the future. A very close Aboriginal friend of mine was here this morning and was telling me with some glee about a beautiful dream he had last night. He dreamed that it was 8 December and he woke up on that Sunday morning to discover that the Country Party had been defeated. He said: 'I enjoyed the dream so much that I went back to sleep and by the time I woke up 5 minutes later not only had the Country Party been defeated but also there was not one of its members left in the Queensland Parliament'. This Aboriginal is a very good friend of mine and is a very distinguished Aboriginal from Queensland. That was a beautiful dream he had last night. He comes off a reserve too. It does not happen to be Palm Island, Bamaga or Woorabinda but it is one of the other reserves. He told me that the white manager- the Omo white manager, you know- woke him late at night to make arrangements for a telegram to be sent for a purpose other than that for which the telegram came here. Not only was pressure applied to people under these circumstances but also they were told lies in some instances so that if there was any check back they would be able to say: 'Yes, I authorised the telegram'. What a great shame this is. Yet the shadow Minister says that we do not need legislation of this type.

I could go on for a lengthy period of time but I know that there are honourable senators on this side of the chamber who would like the Senate to adjourn on 24 December even though some on the opposite side want to sit here till 26 December. They endeavoured to set up the platform for that yesterday. The reason an adjournment is being sought is the political fear of members of the Liberal and Country Parties, the same political fear that they have shown in this chamber over the last 2 years when they have stupidly blocked legislation which was for the benefit of the Australian people. They are doubly intent on blocking this legislation because it is for the benefit of the Aboriginal people of Australia. They do not want to seem them get any benefit unless they, as white people, can get 4 times as much in advance.

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