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Friday, 15 June 1984
Page: 3144

Senator JONES(3.11) —I wish to make a few comments in relation to some of the points raised last night during this debate on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage (Interim Protection) Bill. It seemed to me that the Opposition was using the debate to misinterpret the legislation that had been introduced by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Holding). It seemed to be using its position to denigrate the Bill, to put before this Parliament ideas that the legislation would not be carried out in an effective or democratic manner, which I believe was very dishonest. Some sanity came into the debate when Senator Macklin of the Australian Democrats started to speak. He certainly put forward a realistic point of view in relation to the legislation introduced to support the Aboriginals in the problems that they have suffered for a long period.

Opposition senators, particularly Senator Bjelke-Petersen, said that we were bringing in the Bill in haste. They also said that we were discussing land rights, which was very far from the truth. They said that we did not allow any co-operation or discussion with the Aboriginal and Island people in relation to the legislation, which again was very far from the truth. As to the first claim, the claim that we were bringing in the legislation in haste, I suggest we go back to the 1967 referendum, a referendum in which the people of this country gave the Commonwealth the constitutional power, a clear responsibility, to do something about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people. It is only now that we have a government and a Minister who are sympathetic to the cause and who have brought down effective legislation. I believe that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage (Interim Protection) Bill will start to move the Commonwealth to a position in which it can deal with some of the State legislation which works against the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people and has worked against them for over 20 years or, I should say, since the States concerned brought it down.

The Bill was brought down by the Minister after consultation with the Aboriginal people. There was direct consultation and discussion with these people before the Bill was brought before the House of Representatives. The claim by Opposition senators that the legislation was about land rights indicated to the Senate very clearly that Opposition senators had not read the legislation. It is not about land rights. I think even the Aboriginal people understand the difference between a heritage Bill and land rights legislation. It is very clear that the Australian Government will have discussions with the Aboriginal people before it brings down land rights legislation. It is also very clear, if one looks at a couple of the introductory statements made by the Minister in the House of Representatives, what this legislation is all about. If Opposition senators had read the Minister's second reading speech in the House of Representatives, they too would have had some understanding of what it was about prior to their coming into this chamber and opposing the legislation. In a very small paragraph relating to State and Territory law on page 2132 of Hansard dated 9 May the Minister said:

As I have already said, this Bill provides the legal basis upon which the Commonwealth can act where the law of a State or Territory does not provide the necessary protection. The lack of protection may arise from either an absence of effective legislation or an unwillingness to enforce the provisions of legislation capable of meeting the goals of this Bill.

I believe that that is one of the main principles contained in the Bill brought down by the Minister in the House of Representatives. In another paragraph on the same page of Hansard the Minister states:

It will be clear . . . the Commonwealth wants to encourage States and Territories to use such legislation as they have in the interests of the Aboriginal and Islander people for whose benefit it was passed. Where that legislation is inadequate the Commonwealth will, through this legislation, encourage changes to be made. The Bill before the House is intended to meet those situations where, for whatever reason, local law is inadequate. The Commonwealth has a clear constitutional responsibility to act. This Bill will give it a legislative base on which to act.

Those are points that members of the Opposition underrated or forgot to mention during the debate last night. We need to look at the sort of legislation that exists in some of the States. In particular, we should look at legislation brought down in the Queensland Parliament supposedly to do something for Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders. The Community Services (Torres Strait) Bill and the Community Services (Aborigines) Bill were passed by the Queensland Parliament in April 1984. In essence, that legislation does nothing. That legislation does not change the legislation that existed previously in Queensland. Aboriginal and Islander people in Queensland are understandably disturbed at the prospect of a continuation of this institutionalised assault on human rights. As with the previous legislation, community councils are being set up and incorporated, with councillors being elected for three-year terms. Councils are now to be trusted with a few local government functions but subject to special provisions under the legislation brought down in the State Parliament .

The Director of the former Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement, Mr Pat Killoran, has become Under-Secretary of the new Department of Community Services, and will continue his reign of white supremacy as the great white chief, with the unusual minimal accountability to the Parliament. I will say something later about what the chairmen of the various committees within the Torres Strait Islands have said about the appointment of Mr Pat Killoran as the Under-Secretary under this legislation that has been brought down in Queensland supposedly to change what has been happening in that State. The extent of his oppressive role is reflected in section 73 of the Act, which enables him to administer the estates of Aborigines and Islanders. He is entitled to a grant of probate and is given priority over all other persons.

Senator Boswell —Madam Acting Deputy President, I take a point of order. With due respect to Senator Jones, I fail to see what his speech has to do with the sacred sites legislation.

Senator Cook —You don't understand it.

Senator Boswell —I do understand it. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the Bill in front of us. I draw your attention to the fact that we are dealing with sacred site legislation.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Coleman) —I understood that Senator Jones was bringing into his contribution to the debate on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage legislation mention of the situation as it exists in Queensland. At this stage I intend to permit him to continue along those lines.

Senator JONES —Thank you, Madam Acting Deputy President. The point of order taken by Senator Boswell, a senator from Queensland, certainly shows very clearly that members of the Opposition do not understand what the Bill is about. In my first remarks on the Bill I clearly outlined what our Minister said in the House in relation to the Commonwealth Government acting if the laws within a State were inadequate or were not being applied to the best interests of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in that State. Very clearly the new legislation brought down in the Queensland Parliament cannot act in the best interests of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Queensland.

In some circumstances Mr Pat Killoran is empowered to determine which persons are entitled to benefit from the estates of deceased Aboriginals and Islanders. Under section 74 of that Act he is entitled to determine whether a community will be permitted to sell and supply beer. This is a provision to entitle community residents to take marine products or fauna by traditional means providing it is for consumption by members of that community. There are no provision for water rights, timber or quarrying rights, fishing, honey or foraging rights. Unlike the previous legislation, there is no provision relating to the veto of mining activities or for sharing in royalties or even profits from mining.

There has been much continuing discussion about the effects of the Queensland Government's attitude towards its Aboriginal population. Not enough response has been forthcoming to the pleas for help that have been coming out of the Torres Strait Islands for years. There have been pleas and petitions from Islanders, backed up by the Thursday Island Hostel Superintendent, for something to be done about the shocking rate of venereal disease, sometimes reaching an estimated 50 per cent. These pleas continue to fall on deaf ears. The State Government in Queensland continues to take no notice of what is happening in the Torres Strait . Because of the cost of bringing food to the islands to feed the young people, there are even cases of malnutrition. Education of Islander children is disregarded by the Queensland Government. Teachers in island schools have not even met the educational qualifications of the teachers in normal State schools throughout Queensland. What the State Government has done is allow people to have some training under the Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement Department and then move them into schools which teach Aboriginal people. It has then tried to move them to the Queensland mainland, where it expects them to compete with the white community.

The Queensland Government has deliberately done nothing either to assist or to encourage the establishment of viable industries in the Torres Strait Islands. Instead it has condemned Islanders to subsist within an economy based on social welfare alone. But the damage is not only economic. It has meant that many young Islanders have succumbed to the Queensland Government's long term policy of integration. What that means to the Queensland Government is not immediately clear. What it has meant to the islands is the disintegration of families and the subsequent destruction of their foundation and unique culture.

Senator Boswell —Madam Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. We have been through venereal disease, malnutrition and just about everything to do with Aborigines and Islanders except sacred sites. I ask you to bring the honourable senator back to the Bill.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Coleman) —The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage (Interim Protection) Bill 1984 is before this chamber at the moment, Senator Boswell. I can only presume that you have not been listening to Senator Jones who, as I understand it, has been demonstrating the need for legislation in relation to a State. I am not having any difficulty with the honourable senator.

Senator JONES —Thank you, Madam Acting Deputy President. I repeat for Senator Boswell what the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs stated:

The Bill before the House is intended to meet those situations, where, for whatever reason, local law is inadequate.

I add, or not being applied. The Minister continued:

The Commonwealth has a clear constitutional responsibility to act.

I believe that this shows very clearly that the State Government of Queensland is not acting in the best interests of the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island people. For centuries Torres Strait Islanders have enjoyed the benefits of the traditional extended family. That tradition is now faced with extinction thanks to the State Government's concept of integration. Integration has forced more than half the population of the Torres Strait Islands to seek refuge on the Australian mainland from the oppressive, bureaucratic rule of Killoran's Department. Disappearing also from the islands are the traditional arts and crafts passed down from generation to generation. During my recent visit to the islands we found one elderly gentleman carving combs and trying to teach the children. That was the only example I noted of an elderly person trying to teach younger people some art. The art and culture of those people is being completely destroyed by the attitude and legislation of the Queensland Government.

Even the Islanders recognise that it may already be too late. Most of the young men and women have gone from the islands. On Thursday Island integration has left an acute social imbalance with women far outnumbering men and all the social and economic consequences of such an imbalance. Almost all the food and general supplies have to be imported as there is little local industry. The cost of living, combined with an abnormal freight component is staggering. Few fresh fruits and vegetables are grown on the Islands and they are a rare luxury in most Islander households. The effect on the health and nutrition of the Islanders is only too evident. Thursday Island still has an inadequate and unreliable supply of clean fresh water. It has one of the highest per capita rates of alcohol consumption in the southern hemisphere. The people are still there; they simply have nothing to do. No provisions have been made by the State Government to give them a worthwhile style of living on Thursday Island or, for that matter, on the other islands in the Torres Strait. Basic amenities on the island are scarce and recreational facilities are virtually non-existent. The former Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement, now the Department of Community Services-both are insulting terms-is in total control of health, education and what little commerce there is

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Coleman) —I draw Senator Jones's attention to the fact that he is now ranging very wide of the legislation before the Parliament. I would appreciate it if he would bring his remarks back to the Bill before the Senate.

Senator JONES —Thank you, Madam Acting Deputy President. I will bring my remarks back to the Bill before the Senate. In doing so I will say something in relation to the Under-Secretary who was appointed by the State Government and who is not approved by the councils of the islands in the area. Mr Pat Killoran was appointed the Under-Secretary to the new Department under the new legislation. He has certainly left a taint in everyone's mouth in relation to what is happening on the Torres Strait Islands. One needs to go back only to the last State election.

Senator Boswell —Madam Acting Deputy President, I take a point of order. We are now going through the character assassination of a public servant. I cannot for the life of me see what that has to do with sacred sites legislation. I think Senator Jones is totally out of order. I ask you to bring him into order.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —I have drawn Senator Jones's attention to the fact that he is ranging a little broad of the legislation. I would be grateful if he would bring his remarks back to the Bill before the chamber.

Senator JONES —I was going to refer to a telex I have which refers to the Torres Strait Islands and the legislation before the chamber. It is a telex to members of the Queensland Government and to the Queensland Premier. It reads as follows:

That result does not reflect a lack of confidence in your Government or the National Party of Queensland, but in Mr Killoran personally.

To enable the proper and successful operation of the New Community Services ( Torres Strait) Act-

that refers to the Act being governed by the legislation which is to be passed by this chamber-

. . . we earnestly request that you do not appoint Mr Killoran as Under Secretary, Department of Community Services.

If we are talking about Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders we have to look at every island or every island community. That telex is signed by every chairman of every island community and it requests the State Government not to make that appointment under the new legislation brought down in the State Parliament. If that is the case, surely the legislation we are debating today should recognise the points of view of those Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders. A meeting of the councillors of the Torres Strait Islands was held on 17 and 18 August 1981, and a survey was undertaken in those areas. That survey points out very clearly that all the communities in the Torres Strait area say they want inalienable freehold title on their land. Ninety-five point five per cent of the people voted for inalienable freehold title of the land, and 3.8 per cent voted for freehold land. A survey was carried out on the control of islanders' affairs and 99.5 per cent said that they believed the Islanders should control their own islands and 0.5 per cent said that they were against it . I think, firstly, that that shows very clearly that the Torres Strait Islanders believe that Pat Killoran should not be the Under Secretary and, secondly, that they believe, as Islanders in that areas, that they should control their own destiny.

I believe that the legislation before the Senate, which went before the House of Representatives, is the sort of legislation that the Commonwealth Government should have in place, along with that concerning land rights, so as to allow it to undertake the responsibility given to it, following a constitutional referendum, of meeting some of those requests by the Torres Strait Islanders.

Madam Acting Deputy President, I am not sure that my next matter really refers to the Bill. If not, you can rule on it. A circular of the Cooroora Electoral Council of the National Party of Australia states:

On 9th May the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Hon. Clyde Holding, introduced the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage (Interim Protection) Bill 1984 into the House of Representatives.

The circular certainly refers to the Bill. It seems to me that members of the Opposition, including Senator Boswell, got their points of view from the National Party in Queensland, which seems to be very much influenced by the League of Rights. It states:

That the Cooroora Electoral Council NPA denounce in strongest possible terms, opposes by every means at its disposal and exerts total energy to maximise opposition to each and every section and provision of the proposed 'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage (Interim Protection) Bill 1984.'

That position is put very clearly. It seems to me, Senator Boswell, that the National Party is totally opposed-

Senator Boswell —It has nothing whatever to do with rights.

Senator JONES —Has it not? Let us look at the back of it. It states: 'Aboriginal Land Rights'. That has nothing to do with the Bill? It is confusion. It continues: 'A Threat to All Australians-Speaker Mr Geoff McDonald Author of '' Red over Black''.' Then there is a little message from the Premier which states:

'I think that Geoff McDonald's message is extremely important to Australia's defence and sovereignty. All Queenslanders should take the opportunity of hearing him' Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

Mr Geoff McDonald speaks with unique authority on communist efforts to exploit 'land rights'--

Senator Kilgariff —Madam Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I was just saying that we must get back to the debate. As you say, this has nothing to do with land rights.

Senator Boswell —On the point of order, Madam Acting Deputy President, the Bill states:

An Act to preserve and protect places, areas and objects of particular significance to Aboriginals, and for related purposes.

I suggest that that has not come up in this debate once. The debate has ranged over all questions relating to Aboriginals. If Senator Jones wants to debate the Aboriginal question, I am quite happy to accommodate him. But he has not addressed the Bill once. I draw your attention to that.

Senator Robert Ray —On the point of order, Madam Acting Deputy President. My colleague, Senator Jones, has been clearly showing the reasons and motives for such hostile opposition to this Bill. He has been demonstrating that all sorts of cretinous right wing groups in this country are stirring up the people sitting opposite. He is entitled to do that. He is entitled to reflect on the motives of those sitting opposite for opposing the Bill. Right throughout the debate, they have made no actual objection to the Bill itself.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Coleman) —On the point of order, Senator Jones related to the House the contents of a telex which had been received. I understand that it is due to an interjection that he then turned that telex over and proceeded to detail other messages that were contained on the back. There is no point of order.

Senator JONES —If we go a little bit further in relation to this circular we find, as I said before, that it was by the National Party of Australia. It puts the same proposition forward as the Opposition put up last night in relation to its opposition to the heritage Bill. If we go down the circular we find that what is said-this is what was said last night-is that this Bill puts the property of every person in Australia at risk of expropriation or alienation of their rights in relation to land. That is the sort of false argument that was put forward by the Opposition last night. It is the sort of argument that has been put forward by people from the National Party of Australia who have written this circular and who support Geoff McDonald, speaking at an Aboriginal land rights meeting. He is an ex-communist who spoke about a communist plot for land rights throughout Australia. Senator MacGibbon is sitting there. He has not said a word; nor should he. It seems to me to be quite unfair that Senator MacGibbon had to stab in the back former Senator Neville Bonner who was a member of this House, who was defeated in preselection, and who, if he had been in this House, would have spoken with some authority on this Bill.

Senator MacGibbon —I raise a point of order, Madam Acting Deputy President. That is a completely outrageous and incorrect assertion for the honourable senator to make. I ask him to withdraw it straight away.

Senator Grimes —On the point of order, I think the expression used by Senator Jones was that Senator Bonner was stabbed in the back. Senator Bonner was defeated by Senator MacGibbon. It is a very common expression in political parlance in this country that someone in those circumstances is stabbed in the back. I think Senator MacGibbon is being a little bit sensitive if he expects that to be withdrawn.

Senator MacGibbon —I wish to speak again to the point of order. Senator Grimes is just fooling around the point and adding to Senator Jones's insults. I ask for Senator Grimes to withdraw that allegation, too, because he knows that it is basically and absolutely untrue.

Senator Chaney —I rise on the point of order, Madam Acting Deputy President. It seems to me that the debate is degenerating into abuse rather than debate. A statement has been made about Senator MacGibbon to which he clearly objects and which I believe to be objectionable. A few moments ago Senator Robert Ray referred to cretinous right wing groups. Perhaps a little later in the debate I will quote a State Minister from Western Australia who made some considerable criticisms of this legislation. Perhaps he is in one of those cretinous right wing groups.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —On the point of order, Senator?

Senator Chaney —On the point of order, we are debating a significant Bill which has considerable public interest. The sorts of comments which have been made by Senator Jones are out of order and do nothing to dignify or to improve the debate on this important matter. The remarks should be withdrawn.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Jones, there has been a request for a withdrawal of the comments which you made about the stabbing in the back of the former Senator Bonner by Senator MacGibbon. I ask, under those circumstances, that you withdraw the remarks.

Senator JONES —I will withdraw the remark. I am not sure where he was stabbed.

Senator MacGibbon —Madam Acting Deputy President, that is not acceptable to me in any way at all. I ask him to make an unqualified withdrawal. The point was that a selection process was carried out by the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party organisation selects its candidates, not the candidates themselves, least of all Senator Jones who has never gone before a preselection committee of the Labor Party in his life.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! I ask Senator Jones for an unqualified withdrawal of the statement that he made.

Senator JONES —Madam Acting Deputy President, I withdraw. Members of the Opposition are interjecting and taking points of order. The Leader of the Opposition has said that the debate has degenerated. I do not think that the debate has degenerated. We have moved it to the level to which the members of the Opposition tried to put it last night. Their opposition of the Bill shows clearly where they stand. Some of the references that I made in relation to the Torres Strait Islanders-they related to documents, telexes, et cetera-are very true. The information that I have available to me shows very clearly the attitude of the Opposition and where it stands in relation to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia. Finally, I say that the sooner this legislation is passed by this House-

Senator Grimes —The earlier we will get home.

Senator JONES —The earlier the better, as my leader says. The sooner this legislation is passed, the sooner it will be that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people start to have some constitutional base for their claims and some constitutional base on which to stand-

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.