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Thursday, 5 April 1973
Page: 1187

Mr JAMES (Hunter) - I amprivileged to join in this debate, which is creating history for the Northern Territory. The Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Enderby), who is at the table and who is one of the hardest working Ministers in the Government, seeks a mandate from the Parliament to establish a joint committee to inquire into and report upon matters relating to the Northern Territory. Like my colleague the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), as a result of my parliamentary activities taking me to the Northern Territory on numerous occasions in recent years I have developed some knowledge of the Territory and its problems and some degree of affection for the Territory and its people. I would say that at least one-third of the work performed by the Joint Committee on Public Works in recent years has involved its members in inquiring into, inspecting and taking evidence from numerous important people in the Northern Territory in connection with proposals relating to the Territory. We have had either the pleasure or the displeasure of visiting places such as Snake Bay, Alligator Creek and Elcho Island and a place called, I think Gundabluey. We have been practically all over the Territory.

The Northern Territory has its problems but it is overcoming them. I recall that when I came into this Parliament in the early 1960s the Australian Labor Party was thundering at the Government of that day to develop the north and it had some effect on the then Government. The Government responded to a degree which, one could say, was to its credit. Due to the logic and forcefulness of its arguments, the Labor Party Opposition brought about the beef roads in the Northern Territory. It also brought about improvement* in the electricity supply and sewerage systems of Darwin and Katherine. In the latter years that the previous Government was in office we saw the installation of a rather modern sewerage system at Tennant Creek, a sewerage system which many people in my electorate would be proud to have. We also saw an improved sewerage system - at great cost to the Commonwealth - in Darwin. It was during the hearings concerning that sewerage system that I found that some of the people of Darwin were not appreciative of the generosity of the taxpayers in the eastern States and what they were prepared to concede to the Darwin people by putting into Darwin an ultra-modern sewerage system which many of the important towns and cities in the eastern States have been wanting for years but have not yet in sight.

In my view the Committee to be created should and will act in the interests of all the people of the Northern Territory on a nonpolitical basis. I believe that the Minister for the Northern Territory will use his influence to see that the Committee functions similarly to the Public Works Committee. I felt that the honourable member for Wakefield was a little extravagant in his praise of me and the duties that I performed as a member of the Public Works Committee. Without taking any advantage of my colleagues on the Public

Works Committee let me say that I was the sole dissentient - not that I feel honoured to have been the sole dissentient; my decision was dictated by evidence and conscience; I take a good look at myself when I find that I am in disagreement with the rest of my Committee - over the site of the Palmerston freeway. I think that time will tell whether I was hard to get on with or whether my logic was sound and true, because this Parliament has referred the matter of the Palmerston freeway back to the Public Works Committee for reconsideration. I believe that a majority of the Committee will come down in favour of the route which originally I alone supported. When 1 say that I am conscious of the fact that when God created man he gave him no third hand with which to pat himself on the back.

Let me turn to the more serious problems of the Northern Territory. I think that the people of Darwin are inclined to be more bitchy than the people of Alice Springs. The climate promotes disagreement in Darwin. I found that it was easier to argue with my colleagues on the Public Works Committee when we were in Darwin than when we were in Alice Springs because of the inclement weather. But it is an Australian privilege to have a bit of a bitch or a disagreement - to have a bit of a go - and they certainly do in Darwin. As I said before, they have an ultramodern sewerage scheme. 1 asked the experts who testified before the Committee: If they put the sewerage outfall a mile or two out into Darwin Harbour, what would be the degree of pollution of the Darwin Harbour compared with that of Bondi Beach? The experts said that it would be infinitesimal and that it would be negligible compared with Bondi Beach. However, I found that I was in the minority on that occasion. I was not in sole disagreement. And at much more cost to the taxpayers throughout the nation, the ultra-modern scheme for land treatment of the sewage at Darwin has commenced operations. Good luck to them. They won the day and they got an ultra-modern sewerage scheme.

On the serious side of things, what concerns me most in the Northern Territory is that the previous Government, due to agitation from the Australian Labor Party, raised the social services for the indigenous people in the Northern Territory, to the great acclaim of all Australians. Late last year T was very happy to hear the honourable mem ber for Bradfield (Mr Turner) mention a case in the region of the Oenpelli Mission. Thi? concerned excessive drunkeness and the exploitation of Aborigines. While I am on this subject I want to mention a case that was brought to my attention by a most reliable source of information concerning the Bamyili Mission outside Katherine. The natives there are deprived of a wet canteen. On the day when the natives receive their rather - to them - substantial social service payments, a fleet of taxis pulls up at the mission and ferries them about 50 miles into Katherine. On one occasion the Katherine Hotel sold out of wine and all types of bombo - cheap wine or hooch. These social services were provided by this Parliament when the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) was the Minister for Social Services. He displayed many good qualities in his administration of Aboriginal affairs. I accept full responsibility for saying that. I believe that he was one of the best Ministers that the Liberal Party could produce as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. But I would have admired him more than ever if he had tackled these problems of the Europeans exploiting the natives and a fleet of taxi drivers running the natives into town the moment they receive their social service payments to buy the hotel out of hooch or cheap wine. Whether the missions like it or not, they must face reality. They must consider permitting the sale of beer of low alcoholic content on the missions.

The same thing happened in the defence forces many years ago when they had dry canteens. The honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) will probably agree with me. When the young recruits in the Navy, the Army or the Air Force did not have drinking facilities at their units they went into the local hotel. They were exploited. On some occasions when they were half intoxicated they were sold soapy water for wine or beer. They disgraced their uniforms until the progressive thinking heads of the defence forces realised that they had to face common sense and reality and put wet canteens on the Army and Air Force establishments where these young men could be supervised by long term serving officers. They were taught when to cease drinking and how to behave when they were drinking. I believe that this is urgent and imperative for the Northern Territory missions. I feel confident that the progressive thinking Minister for the Northern Territory will keep these facts in mind and that the missions will have to face the reality that liquor of a low alcoholic content should be made available on the missions where the natives cannot be exploited by white Europeans, publicans or taxi drivers. I hope that the proposed Committee when created will regard this matter as of top priority, because the brewery interests do not care as long as lucrative returns are flowing in for their shareholders. We must provide drinking facilities and properly trained people who will say to the Aborigine: 'Sambo, you have had enough. How much have you given to Mary and the kids?' He has to pull, if I may use the vernacular, some of his social services money aside and say: 'This is to buy food for Mary and the kids'. This is the practical approach we have to take. I believe that the creation of this Committee will be a step in the right direction. T believe that it will be a committee of a non-party political nature from which the people of the Northern Territory will derive great benefit, particularly the Aborigines, who will be saved from exploitation in the fields on which I put my greatest emphasis.

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