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Wednesday, 1 December 2004
Page: 107

Senator HEFFERNAN (4:58 PM) —Thank you, Aden, for your motion today. I do not know why we do not have reporting—which is referred to in the latter part of your motion—but I bloody well intend to find out. I guess the danger might be that it is just another bureaucratic process that produces no outcomes. I rang Michael Long today. He was walking through Yass. There was a cool change. He said he had sore feet, but the weather had cooled down. He is to meet the Prime Minister on Friday morning. I said, `Why don't you come up to parliament tomorrow afternoon?' I have invited him up here tomorrow afternoon to meet a lot of people who are very sincere and committed to making things better for our Indigenous people.

I think there is a lot of goodwill in Australia, but I am sick of all the political rhetoric and a lot of the garbage that comes through this place at times in terms of long-winded speeches when it is only these walls that are listening. I do not think national days of recognition are the solution to any of this. Could someone explain to me how national days of recognition for our kids have done anything to solve the plight of 1½ million kids in South-East Asia and a million kids in South America who are tourism products for sex? Good-o, we will have a national day of recognition; it does not do much for them. On the night of the day people walked over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Margaret Valadian posed the question: now that the Western Australian government has apologised, how are the Indigenous people of Western Australia any better off? It is not a bad question. We have got to give our Indigenous people education. If we give them education, we can get some health outcomes through employment. We have got to give our Indigenous people a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

I would like to tell a little story. I went to Redfern a couple of years ago and there had been a drug raid there. I pulled up in my car and the mob said, `Gee, mate, don't leave your car there. It'll get knocked off or turned over.' I said, `No, I've just come out here to say g'day to the mob.' When I had finished with Mick Mundine and one or two others, I came out to the car and there was a bloke sitting in the gutter opposite my car. I got in the car and I thought, `I'll go and say g'day to him.' I got out of the car, went over and said to him, `How are you, mate? What are you doing?' He said, `I'm just sitting here.' I said, `What do you do?' He said, `Every day I just come and sit here.' He thought I was a policeman. Anyhow, I said, `Where've you been?' He said, `I've been in jail.' I said, `What were you in jail for? Did you stick someone up?' He said, `I did.' I said, `Were you hungry and short of money?' He said, `I was, so I stuck someone up.' I said, `Why didn't you go and fill out a form and get the dole?' He said, `I can't read or write.' I said, `Mate, do you want a job?' He said, `Mate, I'd love a job.' So I went about that process. I will not bore you with the rest of it.

Go out to Yuendumu and you will see that there are 450 kids at Yuendumu who should be going to school. The last time I was there I think 100-odd of them were going to school. What hope have they got? Half the adult population, who have got no reason to get out of bed in the morning, entertain themselves all night and sleep all day. The kids do not get tucker before they go to school and no-one gets the kids to school. What hope have these kids got? If you go out to Mount Theo, you will see that these are distressing times for our Indigenous people. It does not matter how many speeches we make in this place; it is not going to make any difference. We have got to actually get things done. Things are being done, and positions have improved, but I do not think this should become a political contest of ideas. I think it should become a contest of goodwill.

For all sorts of reasons I think Michael Long is a really good example of triggering a new horizon. I think Michael Long ought to join the National Indigenous Council. There are a lot of good people with a lot of goodwill on that council. There are lots of people who say it is just a waste of time because we do not know how it is going to operate. There is now an inquiry in this Senate which has got an inevitable outcome because ATSIC is being closed down. I would appeal to Michael Long to become part of the brains trust. Michael Long is a person who is a doer. He has improved his lot in life, he has taken advantage of the will to improve his position and he is a shining example of what you can do. If I were a little kid out at Yuendumu who got up in the morning and Mum and Dad were not there, and it was time to go to school, and there was no lunch, and things were tough, and I turned on the telly and saw Michael Long, I reckon I would be interested.

While I commend the intent behind today's motion, Aden, and I think you are doing a good job by putting it before the Senate, I am not too sure that that bloke sitting in the gutter in Redfern would get any benefit out of anything we say here today, because he has no education. Redfern has been destroyed by people who plait their armpits and sell drugs. If you go to the tent embassy down here in Canberra, you will see a lot of well-intentioned people who feel that they have been bypassed by the system. They feel that they have not had their first bite of the cherry while a lot of other people have got fat and rich. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.