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Thursday, 30 April 1987
Page: 2345

Mr HAND(9.21) —We have just heard a person who I doubt, from his contribution tonight, has even read the Aboriginal Land (Lake Condah and Framlingham Forest) Bill. During the half hour speech of the shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly), he found time to discuss the legislation for, I think, a total of seven minutes. However, I must say that I supported many of his concluding comments. I have made such comments in this place before. The conditions of Aboriginal people in this country are a disgrace, but that is not the fault of this Government and it is probably not the fault of the last Government. It is the fault of many things. I support what the honourable member for Bradfield said about Australia waking up to the plight of Aboriginal people. I have said that before in this chamber in other debates in which we have both taken part.

I have visited all of those places that the honourable member talked about; so has the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Holding) and so have a number of other people. There is nothing worse than trying to understand that sort of problem when one sees it and then having to relate it to people when one comes back from those places. The honourable member for Bradfield should not engage in point scoring exercises such as he did in part of his comments tonight. The sooner we all enter into a spirit of co-operation, adopt a bipartisan approach to this question and cease to kick Aboriginals around as political footballs, the sooner attitudes across the nation will change, and maybe we will be able to address the very serious problems-which are Fourth World problems-that exist in this country. Nobody in this nation can hold his head up when we see the plight that these people face around the nation, particularly in the outlaying areas.

The Standing Orders require us to discuss the legislation. The shadow Minister talked for a brief period about legislation. Let me say, firstly, that the Bill has in fact been discussed by the Upper House in Victoria. The reason the legislation is here is that the Victorian Opposition-both parties-decided it would not support it. That is why the Victorian Government, quite correctly, asked us to deal with it. So it is very slippery indeed to suggest in this place that the matter ought to go back to the Victorian Parliament when honourable members opposite know that the Victorian Parliament, through the Upper House, will in fact reject the legislation. Honourable members opposite should at least have the decency to say: `We want the matter to go back to Victoria because we, like our counterparts in the Victorian Parliament do not support it'. Then perhaps the people of Lake Condah and Framlingham will understand. Honourable members opposite should not parade themselves as being a friend of the Aborigines when in fact they are doing everything to stop these people advancing their position. That is what honourable members opposite are about.

The shadow Minister did say that he visited the area in question. I remind the House that this area is my old bailiwick, as the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Hawker) will no doubt know. Many is the time that, as a small child, I travelled there with my relatives, whose property virtually adjoins what is known as the `Fram' bush. I spent many enjoyable times in that area of western Victoria. The point is that we ought to understand that the shadow Minister travelled to the area to acquaint himself with the problems of the Framlingham people and Lake Condah people. Since the shadow Minister referred to the Warrnambool Standard, it is interesting to read the Press reports of his visit. He spent one hour at Lake Condah and 30 minutes at Framlingham. That is reported in the paper. He spent 30 minutes with the Framlingham people discussing their problems. I guarantee he spent more time at the local art gallery, because that is what he does when he goes away with us on other trips. The shadow Minister should not come in and tell us about our performance. I have seen his performance, and if he wants me to cite the performance of some of his colleagues on these trips, I will do that too. But tonight is not the occasion for that.

I have some strong feelings about this legislation. As a former resident of western Victoria it has some meaning for me. It is legislation of which we can all be proud. It has been attacked by people in the Victorian Parliament. We also heard in the context of the debate that people in Victoria are upset about it. I will tell the House how upset they are. The Victorian Opposition Leader, one Jeff Kennett-a man who is prone to use the telephone a lot and engage in language he does not want printed in the newspaper because his kids might read it; he is that sort of individual-travelled the length and breadth of Victoria trying to beat the drum with the Australian League of Rights to get opposition to this legislation. He was so concerned about it that he never went to talk to the Lake Condah people or the Framlingham people. The reason he never went to talk to the Framlingham people was that he could not get out of the pub in Warrnambool. He got landed in that pub in Warrnambool. He was a dismal failure. He could not travel the 15 miles out the Framlingham to talk to the people. Yet he paraded around Ballarat and all through western Victoria trying to drum up opposition to the proposition. That is a disgrace.

Mr Connolly —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I think it is very improper for the honourable member to make allegations about people who are not here and who cannot defend themselves, to use the language he just has and to make the implications that he has just made. I ask that they be withdrawn.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Blanchard) —There is no point of order.

Mr HAND —There is no point of order. I will not withdraw because, as a matter of fact, I have a relative who was in the hotel with him. If the shadow Minister wants me to elaborate on it I will. It is a fact that he was in the Warrnambool hotel for some considerable time and could not travel out to talk to the people at Framlingham. The point I am trying to make is that all these people-the shadow Minister, the Kennetts, the Hunts and all of them-bleed all over the floor about their concerns for Aboriginal people. The shadow Minister spent an hour with them; he spent 30 minutes with another group. The other character who leads the Opposition in Victoria could not even talk to the people. Yet these people pretend they are concerned about them. Let us be serious about what the intentions of honourable members opposite are.

I think it is also important for the House to understand what the people in Lake Condah think about the shadow Minister, because in the brief time he was there they learned a little bit about him. On 17 March 1987 a Press release was put out by the Chairman of the Lake Condah and District Aboriginal Co-operative Ltd in Heywood, Mr C. M. Lovett. He had a few words to say about the shadow Minister. I will quote some of the better parts of the comments. In fact, if not for the fact that time is against me I would read it all into Hansard so that we could all read it tomorrow. He said:

The Lake Condah and District Aboriginal Co-operative Limited today condemned the visit by David Connolly, the Federal Liberal Party spokesman for Aboriginal Affairs, as being a waste of taxpayers money and publicly challenged the Liberal party to divulge what the one hour visit to Condah cost. Australian taxpayers are entitled to know what it costs for these visits.

The Chairman of the Lake Condah and District Aboriginal Co-operative Limited, Mr Claude Lovett, in response to Connolly's visit said the Western District community was fed up with politicians who were using the Condah Land acquisition as a political football.

People like Connolly fail to remember the 1968 Commonwealth Referendum which Australians voted overwhelmingly to support the Commonwealth Government having constitutional and legislative responsibility for Aboriginal Affairs.

The Press release continued:

Mr Lovett went on to say that again we are visited by a `fly by night' politician who is that interested in Aboriginal Affairs, the Condah and Framlingham Bills that he was unaware of before his visit, that there were 28 elders (not 27 as reported) on the Kerrup-Jmara Elders Corporation.

Maybe he should have attended the Mara Seminar at Portland and `consulted' with over fifty Aboriginal members and Government agencies who attended Mr Lovett added. Mr Lovett went on to say that politicians like David Connolly (who is supposed to be the Federal Liberal Party's spokesman for Aboriginal Affairs) have proven time and again that they have no understanding whatsoever with the Condah, Framlingham or any other Aboriginal land issues Mr Lovett said.

. . . .

Mr Lovett said that the Condah Bill is morally, legally, and more importantly, culturally correct for the Aboriginal Elders, generations today and in the future: Aboriginal people are fully aware of the benefits it will bring to us now and for future generations.

The document went on to state on the third page:

Liberal Parties and their junior conservative associates had continually gone against the Fraser and Bolte philosophies on Land Rights and were intent on placing obstacles in front of the Condah and Framlingham Bills.

The conservative stance was clearly aimed at political oppression of the concept of Australian multiculturalism and anything that represented the rights of minority groups.

The document further stated:

Mrs Phemie Day co-ordinator Kerrup-Jmara Elders Corporation today stated Aboriginal people are sick of being turned into political footballs . . .

These people are not silly. They see through this sort of stunt; they see through this sort of exercise when Opposition representatives whistlestop through a place for an hour, and that is the sort of response they get. The honourable member for Wannon has also been doing a little grandstanding around his electorate. His visit has been reported in the Warrnambool Standard. Just to prove I have not misled the House, I shall quote from the Warrnambool Standard of Thursday, 12 March 1987. The seventh paragraph stated:

Mr Connolly, with the Member for Wannon . . . spent more than 30 minutes talking with Framlingham Aborigines. They also visited Lake Condah, for one hour . . .

which is the subject of another land Bill. The honourable member ought to quote all the things Mr Clark said about them, as well. So what we are really talking about here is two pieces of land. There would not be a person within 100 miles of Framlingham who does not recognise the Aboriginal people's ownership of the Fram bush land. I have relatives there whose property backs on to O'Sullivan's Lane, which runs into Wangoon Road and then to Fram bush. They have always referred to it as the Aboriginals' forest. Everybody down there accepts that. Why cannot those opposite accept it here? The local communities accept the fact, and the same applies to Lake Condah. Honourable members would do well to get from the Parliamentary Library, if it could get it for them-I am sure it would-the history of Aboriginal people in the Lake Condah area and the history of the mission, right back to the first and second world wars. The Aboriginal men went off to the wars and fought for this country. They are well-known identities throughout the area. So it is cheap and cruel and rotten of Opposition members to parade around in here saying that we are doing the wrong thing. If they were in any way decent, when it was first announced that this was going to occur they would have been on the telephone to their colleagues in Victoria, saying: `For God's sake, what are you doing down there; pass the legislation'. We had the spectacle of the Liberal Party spokesman, Mr Kennett, the Leader of the Opposition, saying that the Labour Government should have forced it through the Upper House because of the retirement of one of the Liberal Party members. That is not the way to perform. It may be the way Mr Kennett performs; it is not the way the Cain Labor Government performs. The Liberal Party had its chance to pass the legislation and it let it go.

I wanted to say a lot of things about this legislation, but we are talking about two very small parcels of land. The Condah area involves only 55 hectares of Crown land, as described in the Bill, and in the information I have been supplied with the Framlingham area is described as being 1,130 hectares of Crown land administered under the forests Act. In 1961 the Framlingham forest formed part of an area of land temporarily reserved for sale and set aside for the use of Aborigines. Despite the wishes of the Aborigines, and without regard to any form of the recompense for the existing state of disposition from existing tribal lands, most of the land has been sold or leased, the last excision having occurred as recently as 1952. If we read the history of these places we find that the reserve, as they were known in the old days, were much bigger. We ought to ask ourselves, in light of what the Opposition spokesperson said about the plight of Aboriginal people in this country, why it is that the original grants of land shrunk so dramatically. Is that not a recognition of 200 years of the Aboriginal people being wronged? To come in here and suggest, as they have done, that it can be fixed up is hypocrisy in the extreme. So we have seen a dwindling of a race and a dwindling of an asset-the land-and we are now in a small way trying to rectify that and hand back to the Aborigines some of what is rightfully theirs.

As I have said, it is easy to talk about one's travels, as the shadow Minister did. I look forward to the shadow Minister, on the next visit by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, coming up with some enlightened ideas.

Mr Connolly —You will not be there because you have dropped off the Committee, which shows your continuing interest.

Mr HAND —I have not dropped off the Committee; I am back on the Committee. The honourable member should not worry about me; he has not got rid of me that easily. When I saw that he had retained the shadow portfolio, I got back on. He should not go into one's performance on the Standing Committee, or I will start to describe chapter and verse the performance and attitudes of some of those opposite. While on the Committee I have served alongside three Opposition shadow Ministers, and they have a long way to go before they will even begin to impress me. Let us not talk about what they think is wrong; let them come up with some suggestions on how they can cure these ills, which are real and which they have talked about.

Mr Connolly —We have a whole policy on this.

Mr HAND —I have read the Opposition's policy, and it does not offer any concrete solution to the serious problems that it rightfully addresses. The Opposition has not put up a solution. All members of the Opposition can suggest is that this ought to go back to the Victorian Government. This is a far-reaching piece of legislation. It recognises a whole range of needs as stated in terms of the wording of the preamble, to the legislation. It is well worth reading because in the future when land rights legislation is discussed, in this Parliament and in others, people will refer to this legislation because of its nature and because of the way in which it has found its way here.

I wish to place on record that the Australian Labor Party's policy is quite clear: It is the prerogative of the States to act in terms of land rights, but if they fail to achieve their proposals it is then, under our policy, referred to the Federal Government to deal with it. That is what has happened with this legislation. There are people from the Condah community here tonight to witness this historic piece of legislation, including Georgina Williams, Beryl Hull, Sandra Onus and Eunice Lovett. So when honourable members speak they should remember that these people are here to observe this Parliament in action. They will probably go away a little bewildered by the whole experience but I hope that after tonight they will understand that in a short space of time they will be the owners of and have title to that piece of land.

So one can talk for 20 minutes, half an hour, or for whatever time is allotted, but the main thing that we have to consider tonight is the needs, desires and wishes of these Aboriginal communities, in particular the Lake Condah and Framlingham people. I believe that, at the end of this debate, those desires and wishes will be met. I hope that, given the arguments that have been presented by honourable members on this side of the House, Opposition members in the other place will support this legislation and not attempt to hinder it as they did in the Victorian Parliament. It is just not good enough for them to say that this is a State matter when they have the comfort of knowing that the upper House in Victoria is controlled by their own parties and when their intention was to defeat the legislation. It is a very cheap stunt for honourable members opposite to come into this House and suggest that it is a State matter when they know what the result will be. I commend the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the Cain Labor Government in Victoria, other Ministers who have contributed to this legislation and the people of Framlingham and Lake Condah. I wish them success.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Blanchard) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.