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Tuesday, 9 October 1973
Page: 1803

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - It is a pity that the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant), who is sitting at the table, is no longer fully responsible for the actions of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Although I have had considerable disagreement with him in the past on certain subjects, I am firmly convinced that he - like the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), who also struck stormy times - is a man who was sincerely motivated in his interest in the welfare of the Aboriginal people.

Mr Cross - Hear, hear!

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - Perhaps it was that interest which led to their downfall. It amused me to hear the honourable member for Brisbane say 'Hear, hear'. I can cite examples of contradiction after contradiction between him and the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. At least the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and present Minister for the Capital Territory has been given the crumb job of representing in this chamber the present Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh). The Department of Aboriginal Affairs is this year to increase its expenditure from $46m to $89m.

Mr Cross - More than that. You cannot count.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - The honourable member for Brisbane says that more is to come. As far as I am concerned, it is about time the Government became honest about its actions and started to tell this Parliament exactly what it has in mind instead of saying that more is to come. The figures shown in the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1973-74 hardly tell us anything. For instance, a proposal to increase expenditure from $3 2m to $70m is described simply as 'Aboriginal Advancement (for payment to the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account)' What the devil that means I do not know.

I take the opportunity of this debate on the estimates for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to remind the Minister for the Capital

Territory that 2 weeks ago- on 25 September - he was reported at page 1469 of Hansard as saying:

Many questions were raised this afternoon, and perhaps honourable members opposite will forgive me if I leave the answers to some of them until the Estimates debates start.

I see a smile on the face of the Minister for the Capital Territory. Heaven help the people of the Australian Capital Territory. I want to remind the Parliament of an issue which I raised on 25 September. I refer to the shabby deal that I believe has been dealt to the residents of the Brisbane suburb of Hill End by the Labor Government in its wishy-washy handling of the purchase of the former Baptist Theological College in that suburb. I point out to the Minister for his sake and so that when he does get a chance to reply to my comments - I imagine that that will be tomorrow - he will have it clearly in his mind that he stated on 23 June that the proposed hostel at Hill End would provide study facilities and a respectable place for Aborigines to live. On 24 June - if that was a Saturday - he stated initially at a public meeting that it would be for students and immediately afterwards said that it would be a place for people to live - a slight retraction. On 8 July the honourable member for Brisbane came out and said in his capacity as Chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs-

Mr Cross - That is not true.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - The honourable member for Brisbane does not know yet what I am going to say. On 8 July he was reported in the Brisbane 'Courier-Mail' as having said-

Mr Bryant - Oh!

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - The Minister for the Capital Territory says 'Oh'.

Mr Cross - I rise to a point of order. Any statements I made in the Press in Brisbane would have been made as a member of the Australian Labor Party's Aboriginal Affairs Committee.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Scholes - Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member may take a point of order only on a procedural matter concerning the Standing Orders and not on debating points.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - I am glad the honourable member for Brisbane has clarified that matter. In the making of statements the honourable member has not hesitated to use the mantle of his dual role to boost his importance as a spokesman for the Labor Party. Let me quote what he said:

The purpose in our mind is to accommodate Aboriginal girls completing Senior and wishing to enter commercial and other courses starting in February.

I wish again to quote what was reported to have been said by the honourable member following some suggestions that the hostel was to be used for other purposes. On 18 July, under the large headline 'Hostel use determined', the following statement appeared:

There was absolutely no suggestion of the Aboriginal hostel planned for Hill End being used for anyone other than students, the Federal member for Brisbane Central, Mr Manfred Cross, said this week.

That article appeared in another newspaper. The 'Sunday Mail' of 29 July 1973 carried the story that the Aboriginal hostel planned for Hill End will accommodate girl workers and not students when it opens on 1 October. The picture was unfolding for all to see. I hold up the 'Sunday Mail' of that date and read a little further from it. The article to which I am referring went on to say that an official of the Federal Aboriginal Affairs Department, Mr Bob Huey, said this in Canberra yesterday. One of the things that the people of Hill End, whom I represent, want explained to them is what authority Mr Bob Huey had to make statements which were contrary to those of the honourable member for Brisbane and to indications which the Minister had himself given. I repeat that that article appeared on 29 July. I come now to an article which appeared in the 'Observer' - a large newspaper which is distributed on the south side of Brisbane.

Mr Cross - What is its circulation?

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - It has a circulation of 100,000. It has a larger circulation than the Australian Labor Party's magazine Trend', whose circulation is diminishing. On 8 August the 'Observer' reported:

Despite Press reports to the contrary the Federal Government still intended the Aboriginal hostel at Hill End to be set up for students, Federal member for Brisbane, Mr Manfred Cross, said this week.

That is just one small chapter in the procrastination and uncertainty which has surrounded this hostel. The Minister is sitting at the table with his jaw in his cupped hand wondering what the devil has gone on behind his back. Is it any wonder that today - the day on which he was dropped from the portfolio of Aboriginal Affairs - he has suddenly been able to see the reasons why there were people who had doubts as to his capacity to run his Department properly. I do not believe that this is representative just ofthe Minister. I believe it is something which is happening in almost every department under the new Government. It is not the fault of the departments - it is a case of the right not knowing what the left is doing and the left not knowing what the right is doing.

All of this has sadly had the effect of creating a degree of bad will in the suburb of Hill End. Unfortunately the people of Hill End have been portrayed as racists by certain elements within our society. All they want to know is what has been planned. I hope that the Minister for the Capital Territory, as the representative in this chamber of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, will when he has an opportunity to do so spend quite a few minutes telling us what went wrong and how it is that Mr Bob Huey was allowed to make a statement which was so contrary to the assurances we had received from other quarters. It is just not good enough that the whole issue should be treated in this manner. We look forward to clarification of it. I assure the Government that if the new Minister for Aboriginal Affairs does not clarify this matter he will regret that he ever obtained his new portfolio.

Consideration interrupted.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Scholes -Order! It being 15 minutes to 11 o'clock in accordance with the order of the House of 1 March I shall report progress.

Progress reported.

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