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Tuesday, 29 May 1973
Page: 2766

Mr BRYANT (Wills) (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs) - One of the inflictions of gaining the front bench is that one's colleagues think that one should not take as much part in debates as one did formerly. On this occasion I follow the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) more by chance than by choice. In his speech he said that the Government must not be a pace setter. Of course, a problem from which Australia suffered for 23 years was that it was led by a group of foot dragging Ministers who, like Micawber, waited for something else to turn up so that they could follow that lead. This Government was returned on 2 December with the wholehearted support of the Australian people for innumerable policies right across the board. In the area under my own administration there are matters that require urgent and immediate attention. With due respect to the Leader of the Opposition 1 admit that at present many decisions have to be of an ad hoc nature. I shall explain why presently.

The right honourable gentleman spent most of his time talking about inflation, and well he might. He was its principal architect. For years he was one of the directors of the Australian economy and of Australia's policy making. Who is he to stand in this House and condemn anybody for what has happened in the last 6 months? At least the Government has overcome the problem of unemployment which is the most dreaded spectre in the Australian or any other community. The Government recognises that the question of controlling prices is a problem that has confronted humanity and governments for a long time. We recognise that every policy one pursues is likely to create pressures in some direction and these pressures will have to be handled. We recognise also, as I think did the right honourable gentleman himself, that no government has been able to control inflation properly unless it has inflicted upon the community controls which the community ultimately would want to reject.

Evident in the right honourable gentleman's speech was his obvious dissatisfaction with every program the Government is pursuing. He is against everything the Government has set out to do. Obviously he opposes the increases in social security payments during the last few months. He says that this has created inflationary pressures. He says that any expenditure of public money will ordinarily do so. He opposes our programs related to city living. From his speech it would appear that the creation of new departments is a threat to Australia's future. He does not like taxation reform and the way the Government is pursuing it, but he pursued this subject some 12 months or so ago. Obviously he is against the policy of creating more housing opportunities for people. He does not like our health policies. It gave me some pleasure to see the dreadful gloom that come over the faces of honourable members opposite when they thought that the taxation structures were to be changed. Now the Leader of the Opposition is one of the latest recruits to economic planning. We welcome him to the ranks. I only wish he had adopted such an attitude in the recent past.

I respect the research undertaken by the honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley) but I suggest that he should direct his attention to the recently returned heroes in Victoria, the members of the Hamer Government. They are the villains of the piece. They are allowing the matters to which he referred to proceed in the way they are proceeding. I only hope we can get more co-operation out of them in respect of a matter that I shall now raise. Before lunch the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) raised the question of the health of the Aboriginal people in Gippsland. Gippsland is one of the wealthiest parts of

Australia, and Australia is probably one of the world's wealthiest countries. It is depressing that at this time people in such an environment should be suffering a deprivation of health services. But this is the case with Aboriginal people. The honourable member for Casey and some members of my staff went to Gippsland a week or so back and he has told me about that visit. All honourable members who read newspapers and receive letters from that area are aware of the situation. Unfortunately I have not been able to visit the area recently but members of my Department have done so. A really depressing aspect of this matter is the difficulty of getting immediate action in situations such as that which applies there. 1 hope that in the near future we will be able to create administrative systems that will overcome the disabilities imposed by constitutional precedents and so on.

We have raised this matter with the Victorian Department of Health. This week officers of my Department are visiting the area. Dr Langsford, who is the Director of Aboriginal Health hi the Commonwealth Department of Health, will go there next week. He has already had' discussions with the Victorian Department of Health. We have asked the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to take up directly with the Premier of Victoria the general question of co-operation in this area. I rose this afternoon simply to place that on the record. As soon as the matter was raised with me by the honourable member for Casey, I had conversations with my colleague, the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham). We did try to take action-

Mr Hewson - Did you ask the honourable member for Gippsland?

Mr BRYANT - The honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) has been in touch with me. The honourable member for Casey and other members of the House have taken the opportunity to place before me the difficulties of the Aboriginal people in their areas. Earlier in the year I wrote to all members of Parliament. Many of them have no Aboriginal people in their districts. I received a pretty universal and satisfactory response. I assure honourable members who are concerned about it that anything they wrote to me is confidential between them, me, any of my immediate staff who had to read it and those from whom we gathered the material. I can see no solution to the question in East Gippsland, unless we are able to open a full time medical service particularly for the Aboriginal people, such as is operating at present in Sydney and Brisbane.

Mr Chipp - Is the Minister receiving full co-operation from the States?

Mr BRYANT - We have sought co-operation from the States. We have sent our officers down there. We are doing our best to achieve co-operation, but co-operation does not seem to be anywhere in the dictionary of political terms of the Victorian Government at the moment.

Mr Mathews - The Victorians deny that it is a problem. They say that there is no problem.

Mr BRYANT - They deny it exists.

Mr Chipp - Who says that?

Mr Mathews - The Deputy Director of Health in Victoria.

Mr CHIPP (HOTHAM, VICTORIA) - That is not political.

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