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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 2855

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE(11.54) —I thank the Minister for Community Services (Senator Grimes) for his explanation. I was not seeking in the particular to criticise this Government as though it is the beginning of all sins. I was making a general observation that it has been a fault of successive governments over the years. Their priority has been self-determination and not qualifications. They have not provided skills to those who are given self-determination-self-determination brings with it costs to taxpayers-or the capacity to be able to manage their affairs in the way that they want and the way which all Australians want.

I do not know whether Senator Grimes has the answer but, as I understand it, there was some difficulty in restructuring the scheme of management with the community store and receiving the additional loan because the Aboriginal community was resisting the condition which was part of the arrangement that the management and control of the affairs of the store were to be handed over, in part, to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs officer who was seconded to the community. That to me highlights the very real problem. The store has incurred enormous debts. The Department will seek to repay those debts. That is a distinction we all know between the white business in Wyndham and the Aboriginal community in Oombulgurrie. In the case of Oombulgurrie the Department has offered to provide loans to allow the store to trade out of its difficulties, whereas the storekeeper in Wyndham who is owed the money can go broke tomorrow and nobody will offer him a loan to trade himself out of his debts. When there is that distinction there is a real onus on the part of the Government and the community to ensure that there is precise and proper accountability.

It seems to me that that is one of the very real problems. Proper skills were not provided to these people. In the past there has been a temptation to rush headlong into ensuring that Aboriginal people are given self-determination without the necessary equipment that goes with it. I hope that in the future proper accounting procedures will be put in place and that the Aboriginal communities will learn and understand that the money is not never-ending. The very fact that the Oombulgurrie community is now resisting handing over responsibility for the community store to the Department is indicative, in my view, of the fact that its people have not yet understood that, at the end of the day, there has to be a balance between that which they spend and that which they receive.