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Tuesday, 29 October 1974
Page: 2095

Senator CAVANAGH (South AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs) - I feel compelled to rise in this debate to correct some of the misstatements that have been made and to put the record straight It has been a most interesting adjournment debate. We have had 2 speakers. Senator Coleman told us of the undemocratic legislation cutting across human rights which has been put into operation by a Liberal Government in Western Australia. She expressed condemnation of it. There we see discrimination in Western Australia through legislation which has recently been introduced. Senator Webster's remarks are not far removed from this subject. He acknowledges that attitudes contrary to human rights are not correct but says that we should not try to stop them in South Africa because we have them in Australia. He condemns the attitude to Aborigines in this country. He is not appreciative of it; he condemns it and says it is wrong, it is rotten. I admit that there are sections of discrimination against Aborigines.

Senator Webster - I hope you send that to the United Nations from our Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. What a great statement! If you do not send it, I will.

Senator CAVANAGH - I admit that there are pockets of discrimination against Aborigines and other low socio-economic sections of our community but honourable senators will see this in many countries. We have condemned it. Senator Webster wants us to go to the United Nations to show that we are not pure and that we are deserving of condemnation. He comes out with the same utterances as Senator Coleman who is concerned with discrimination against a section of the community. But Senator Webster says that we should not take any action to stop it from happening in some other country because it is happening here on a lesser scale. If we think it is wrong surely we should try to stop it here just as we are trying to stop it by supporting a resolution at the United Nations against South Africa. We should be united in this protest to see that discrimination ceases in Australia also- both in respect of the legislation passed in Western Australia and in respect of the Country Party's attitude particularly to Aborigines within Australia.

If honourable senators want to see the greatest discrimination in Australia we have it in the Queensland Parliament against the Aborigines. In Queensland a white man is covered by an award wage while an Aboriginal doing the same work gets $53 a week. Do honourable senators say that that is not discrimination? Under the laws of the land, whereby Aborigines are on enclosed settlements, white men cannot go there without the permission of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Queensland. Is this not discrimination? Surely the advocacy of Senator Webster will justify his voting for our Queensland Aborigines anti-discrimination Bill when it comes before the Senate. He could not refuse to vote for it. I applaud him for his attitude towards and his condemnation of the discrimination which has existed in Australia, but he says that because it exists here, because we are guilty, because we are rotten, low-down and contemptible for tolerating it, we should do nothing to cut it out anywhere else in the world. He then comes around to say that we should not take this action against South Africa because in fact it does not happen in South Africa. He quoted an anonymous document that he found on his desk. He never quotes proof. He never quotes an authority on any question and it is contrary to the principles of Parliament to quote anonymous documents in the Senate. But let us come to the question-

Senator Webster - I said it was signed by Mr Willis.

Senator CAVANAGH - Let me say this: From the statements that have been made tonight, if we are sincere we should be hand in hand in unity- Senator Coleman, Senator Webster and I- to stop discrimination where it exists in Australia or any other country. Misstatements have been made about the tying up of a group of Aborigines in one settlement in Sydney. In Redfern, where the Aborigines mostly live, there is a row of attached houses which not a government but an Aboriginal community purchased and is in the process of renovating. Those attached houses will be occupied by Aborigines. Most of them were previously. The houses they could not purchase will be occupied by Europeans. The houses across the street will be occupied by

Europeans. It is a street which everyone has freedom to go down. This is not blocking Aborigines away on their own. That is what is happening at Redfern in a housing project. It has been stated right throughout Australia that I said that Labor's policy on Aboriginal affairs was a disaster. Soon after I took up the portfolio of Aboriginal Affairs, when speaking to a National Press Club luncheon in Canberra I stated that the implementation of Labor's policy on Aboriginal Affairs had been a disaster.

Senator Jessop - Were you having a shot at the previous Minister?

Senator CAVANAGH - No, I was not having a shot at the previous Minister. I was referring to the zealousness of those connected with Aboriginal affairs and saying that at last they had a Government that was determined to do something. Formerly they went in, spent money and put some people in jeopardy, without proper accountability or accountancy. This has been proved by the Auditor-General's report. At no time did I say that Labor's policy on Aboriginal affairs was a disaster. The implementation of Labor's policy on Aboriginal affairs is bringing praise from all sections of Australia at the present time. We are showing results. For the first time we have some self-determination by Aborigines. The people in the Aboriginal community are deciding their own destiny. It gives them some purpose in life and some aspiration for which to work. No one can say that that is a condemnation of Labor's policy on Aboriginal affairs.

Let me turn to the question of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee and the suggestion that I said that it is not representative of Aboriginal people. I stated to its recent conference that I thought that under its previous constitution it was not receiving the expression of Aboriginal people. The members agreed with me to change the constitution so that the proposed National Aboriginal Congress would be meeting in committee at the settlement level and from there at the regional level. So there is no doubt that it will be hearing the voice of the Aboriginal people. These are the questions about which there have been misstatements. Labor's policy on Aboriginal affairs is the only hope we have in Australia of stopping discrimination.

Let us remember that the things that Senator Webster hates about discrimination in Australia and the things that Senator Coleman dislikes about Western Australian legislation are hated by all free men and all democrats. Let us clean up our own house. Let us stop discrimination and apartheid wherever it may raise its ugly head. If we unite and join in support for the Minister for Foreign Affairs we will be striking a blow for democracy throughout Australia and for the human civil rights of citizens.

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