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Thursday, 14 November 1974
Page: 2412

Senator KEEFFE (Queensland) -I want to refer to a couple of matters. In particular I criticse some of the things which Senator Rae has said. He has taken an emotional attitude, not a very logical one, to the whole problem. On many occasions before I have said in this chamber that as far as I am concerned the socalled Aboriginal problem is a white man's problem. We created it in the first instance. We perpetuated it. In many ways we are not doing a very good job of solving the white man's problem. Until 2 December 1972 the Aboriginal people in this country had no hope, no future and no possibility of ever raising their living standards to that of the rest of the population. I shall touch first on one of Senator Rae 's last points. He criticised the fact that there has been a decrease in the housing allocation provided for Aborigines to the Queensland Government. On at least 2 occasions in the last 2 financial years fairly large sums of money have remained unexpended in Queensland when they should have been made available for the purchase or construction of homes for Aborigines. Money has been grossly misspent by the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs. A lot of these problems come back to the Aborigines Act 1972 and the Torres Strait Islanders Act 1972. 1 think this might have been referred to in the article which Senator Rae mentioned or in an article published subsequently, probably in the 'Courier-Mail'. The author said that there was a subtle miniracism attitude by even dividing the 2 groups of black people and covering them under 2 restrictive Acts. This is the root cause of most of the evils of my State of Queensland. There is no real reason for keeping either Act in existence. But those who are in authority in that State believe that this is the only way in which you can keep black people in subjection.

I raised a question in this House a few weeks ago in relation to expenditure on housing for Aborigines who eventually hoped that they would be able to purchase the homes. At the time I said that the Queensland Government was making a profit at the expense of black people. I have referred a specific case to the Minister which is currently under his scrutiny. It involves an Aboriginal family in my own district which moved into a house some 4 to 41/2 years ago. About $9,000 was paid for that home. The family had hoped, in fact they were told at the time, that when they wanted to purchase the house they would be able to purchase it. They were clearly under the impression that they would be able to buy it at somewhere near the original purchase price. Recently they made approaches to the Department to purchase the home. They were told that they could buy it for some $ 17,000. 1 am not putting up a phoney argument. I have information in black and white in my own office records. In addition, this family had to find some $2,000 for a deposit. If that is not blatant racketeering at the expense of the black people of Queensland by an unsympathetic government, then I ask honourable senators to tell me what is. These days housing is bad enough for the ordinary individual in the community, whether it involves the payment of rent or the purchase of a home, with the current inflationary problems being experienced in the world. But it is doubly hard for Aborigines who almost invariably come within the lowest income group and frequently have to provide for a family larger than average. It is true that we are giving some help by way of secondary school grants and in other ways but we still have a long way to go-

I am sorry that Senator Rae has left the chamber. He would be well advised to cooperate with the Government rather than to adopt a knocking attitude. If this is the way that a State government handles its funds, then it is obviously incompetent to handle additional funds. There are people from one end of Queensland to the other waiting for homes. Queensland has the largest black population of any State in Australia with 60,000-odd people of whom about 7,000 to 10,000 are islanders. There are people in Queensland who are getting a rake-off, apart from the State Government, at the expense of the Aborigines. I saw a contract recently concerning premises to be made available for Aborigines in which an estate agent was apparently getting the rip-off. The person holding the first mortgage was almost identifiable with a section of the estate agency. During the Estimates debate I asked a number of questions about people who are operating in the Northern Territory. 1 have been supplied with that information by the Department. Of all the consultants and the accountants who are listed by the Department I have selected only a few. Let me mention some of them. There is Andrew McPhee and Associates, consultants, whose fee over the period referred to amounted to $15,018; Talbot, Hunt and Partners were paid $41,412; Gutteridge, Haskins and Davey were paid $184,778. I would like to know what they got those fees for. Two groups of people have to be protected in this community; firstly, the Aborigines, and secondly, the taxpayers. I think the taxpayers would be quite happy to be put in second place. But there are groups of people in the community who are getting a rip-off at the expense of the Aborigines. Let me cite a few more names. There is Boehme, Topeny and Partners who were paid $5,926. Now let us look at the accountancy group. Wilson, Bishop, Bowes and Craig were paid $17,412; C. W. Stirling and Co. was paid $8,231; E. J. Shepherd and Associates were paid $1,443, and Peat, Marwick, Mitchell and Co. were paid $16,969, almost $17,000. The Secretary of the Department went on to say:

In some instances the technical consultants are also acting purchasing agents and charge a fee but this component is not readily available as such costs are absorbed under other expenditure headings.

The figures represent actual cash paid to architectural and accounting consultants. The majority of the associations have incurred liabilities for fees in 1973-74 which were paid in 1974-75.

I assume that those figures refer to the 1973-74 financial year. It goes further than this. The Minister has very properly made available additional funds this year to assist housing associations. In Queen-land there is quite a number of them. But what has happened? We now find that a whole host of them are being held up at the registration level, so in a direct way the State Government again is stepping in to deprive Aborigines of housing. It is a hypocritical attitude for Senator Rae to adopt when he knows that this misuse of funds is going on at the State government level while he criticises the Australian Government for reducing the housing quota. It is not even a fair criticism. The honourable senator ought to look deeper into the subject before he starts putting up a phoney argument in this chamber. He is not helping the Aborigines. All he is doing is helping that close personal friend of mine, the Premier of Queensland, in his political arguments in the State election campaign.

Senator Devitt - Did you put in inverted commas that the Queensland Premier is a close personal friend of yours?

Senator KEEFFE - The Premier and I often have conversations through the 'Courier-Mail'. We are not exactly on telephone calling terms. But I will put it in inverted commas to put it on the right side of the ledger. The situation goes further than this. There are people who endeavour to set up their own private business organisations under the capital funding of the Australian Government. In many instances these involve consultants. One of the projects that I am particularly angry about is the famous one at Clump Mountain which, over a period of years, we have tried to get off the ground but there has been that much referring and conferring on the project, with people getting consultancy fees, that finally it was knocked back and it has now come up again for consideration. Who is to blame for this? I am not blaming the people in the Australian Department of Aboriginal Affairs, who in 99 per cent of cases are doing their very best to get over a very great problem. But I think that in a minority of cases some blame must lie there particularly with some senior officials. Not enough Aboriginal people have been taken into consultation. I note that Senator Rae did not say this because he probably does not know anything about it as he comes from a State were the Aboriginal population has been virtually annihilated. Aborigines ought to be consulted at every level and they ought to be involved in the decision making. I have heard it said in this chamber that Queensland is an ideal place. It is not.

Senator Rae - Perhaps you could direct your remarks to Senator Cavanagh.

Senator KEEFFE - I am saying that in very difficult circumstances Senator Cavanagh is doing the very best that he possibly can on behalf of the Australian Aborigines, so put that in your pipe and smoke it. The situation is that the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has been assailed on all sides but in particular is he being assailed by people associated with the Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs in the State of Queensland in which State the greatest number of black people are congregated. The Minister is not getting a fair go at all. I do not direct criticism in the manner in which honourable senators opposite are hoping, that is, at the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs, because as far as I am concerned many or most of its officers, as I said earlier, are doing the very best they can under difficult circumstances. Honourable senators will note that recently the Minister announced the setting up of a task force in Queensland. It must be done, in the interest of the Aboriginal people themselves. I do not know whether Senator Bonner would agree with me; it does not matter very much. In spite of the fact that it is said that there is a so-called advisory council in Queensland, the majority of members of that council have been hand picked in various ways by white people in the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs to make sure that the Aborigines say 'Yes, boss' every time that a proposal is put.

Senator Bonner - You are doing the Aboriginal people a disservice.

Senator KEEFFE - I am not doing the Aboriginal people a disservice at all. I know the reserves probably as well as Senator Bonner does, in spite of my white skin. I have heard people on every Aboriginal reserve in Queensland criticise the Queensland Aboriginal advisory council. On every occasion people- all Aboriginal people and Islanders- have criticised the advisory council in Queensland because it is dominated not by the Minister for Conservation, Marine and Aboriginal Affairs in Queensland, who is only the office boy and who is allowed to take messages between the Director and the Premier, or vice versa, but by the Premier.

Senator Bonner - Like the Federal Department did with Charles Perkins.

Senator KEEFFE - I will say a few words about him in a moment. I am not criticising the Queensland Minister. He is a very nice bloke, a very pleasant bloke with whom to have a beer and a yarn, but he is allowed no authority at all. If he were allowed some authority one would see a vastly different picture in Queensland. One would see State co-operation with the Australian Government as we have seen it in almost every other State in Australia. This is an area in which people- particularly the Premier of Queensland -are fond of saying that Aboriginal people are making their own decisions. They are not. There is an attempt at the Australian Government level to bring that about, but we have not yet gone far enough. There should be people within the Australian Department of Aboriginal Affairs who are black and who are making decisions on behalf of their brothers and sisters. I have always said publicly and privately that I have great sympathy for the aims and aspirations of people such as Charles Perkins, to whom Senator Bonner referred a moment ago. Charles Perkins knows my views in this regard. We need more people of the calibre of Charles Perkins, particularly in Queensland. We need to take Aboriginal people from under the harrow of the Act so they may be able to say things without being worried about whether they will be thrown off a reserve.

Senator Bonner - How would you know?

Senator KEEFFE - I do not wish to have an argument with Senator Bonner. Things are happening on reserves in Queensland of which I do not approve. I do not think that Senator Bonner approves of them either, but for political reasons he cannot criticise them. I can. I hope he knows that the so-called petition that was taken up on the Palm Island reserve was a hoax from the start. It was phoney. The takeover of the reserve by the Townsville City Council was opposed by the previous advisory council, but I am told- I believe reliably- that within 2 hours the new council under white domination carried a resolution agreeing to be incorporated within the boundaries of the Townsville City Council. I fear that if this reserve does not come under the administration of the Australian Government wealthy, multi-national tourist companies will walk in there and take it over. No more black people will be living there unless the companies k eep on a couple of gardeners and dishwashers, because that is all the Queensland Government allows black people to do. It does not allow them any initiative while it can keep them under the control of the 2 Acts and keep them cooped up on reserves.

I know it has been said that there are now loopholes in the Act- if one wishes to describe them as such- which allow Aborigines to be in charge of their own affairs; and a number of them are. Surprisingly, to those people who favour the Acts, Aborigines handle their own affairs much better than white people handled their affairs for them. For instance, they are now able to have a savings account and to find out that funds do not mysteriously disappear from their savings accounts as happened over a long period of years. There is an Aboriginal living in the Townsville area- I am prepared to make his name available if anybody wishes to know it, although I do not wish to mention it publicly because it might embarrass him or his family- who for a long period of time under the Act was able to put money away in a bank account. When he was able to get away totally from the reserve and be free of the Act, not only was he not able to find the money but he could not find the bank account. We have searched every bank in an area of 300 miles to find that man's bank account. Because of the lapse of time, we may never find it. It is unlikely that we will ever find it.

The will of a deceased Aboriginal or Islander in Queensland who remained under the Act is not valid unless it is signed by an officer of the Department. So those estates have gone into limbo. People are trying to claim on the estates of deceased relatives, and they are still unable to claim. Where is that money? Who is holding it? Is it in trust? Is there a hope that somewhere along the line those people will die and that money will go into Consolidated Revenue? Has it already been fiddled with at some level along the road? I know that is a very serious accusation to make, but I make it.

Senator Bonner - Under privilege.

Senator KEEFFE - I do not need to make it under privilege. It can be said outside the chamber. There have been cases in the past of native protectors- white men- fiddling with the bank accounts of Aboriginal people. Senator Bonner knows that. People have been charged. If he wishes to defend that type of person I am shocked and surprised at his attitude.

Senator Bonner - They were caught and punished, and the Department made good the money that was taken.

Senator KEEFFE - What about the hundreds who were not caught? Do they need defending? I will not defend them, and I hope that Senator Bonner will not defend them. There is a responsibility on this Government to clean up the mess left by years of maladministration at government level and at the Commonwealth level so far as Aborigines are concerned. Our ambitions are to see Aborigines running their own affairs to some degree in the short term- as soon as possibleand totally in the long term. Our ambition as legislators ought to be to ensure that no white people in the community are getting a rip-off at the Aboriginal people's expense and at the taxpayers' expense. This is happening. I would like to see the figures that I have quoted analysed publicly. This comes back to my public involvement in the Aboriginal Housing Panel. In my view, the majority of members of that Panel should be Aboriginal people. I do not care how good an architect is. Unless he lives with the people, as some of the architects involved with the Panel have, unless he knows their attitudes to housing, he has no right to say how they should live. Just look at the reserves in Queensland. They are neat little boxes built in areas where trees have been ploughed out. That is where we say that Aboriginals want to live.

Look at the Laura episode which I raised not many weeks ago in a question in this chamber. Aborigines did not want one house situated where the Queensland Department built them. But the Queensland Department expended the best part of $250,000 of Australian Government funds to build houses, firstly, where Aborigines did not want them and, secondly, in an area where they will probably have to be shifted because of the type of earth or sand in that area. The houses will probably develop a 45 degree lean in the first wet. If we had taken notice of the Aborigines we would have built houses in an area where they wanted them, where the ground formation would have been good, where they would have been able to have a garden and where they would have been able to live happily. Then we go to places such as Lockhardt. We shift the Aborigines by force from their grounds and put them on a hill- a stoney hill- under the dominance of the white man who is on top of the hill so he can look down on his black subjects. We have done this from one end of Australia to another over the years. If an Aboriginal lived on a reserve in Western Australia- not now; it has been changed in recent times- he was allowed to have alio volt lighting system. When it got dark the power was switched off even if there was a refrigerator running on the one point in the house. It did not matter if people had the baby's milk or the weekend meat in the refrigerator. According to the white masters of the day the Aborigines might have damaged themselves if they had left the power switched on overnight. In the last year or two we have got away from this attitude and it is in this area that the Australian Government Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) is trying to rectify all the things that have been done wrong over the years.

I could refer to the famous turtle episode. Here a man who was unable to administer a major project is no longer in the country. He disappeared from the country when things got too hot. It is a project on which a lot of taxpayers' money was lost. If there had been proper co-operation at all levels, State and Federal, at that time and if there had been proper administrative practices none of that money would have been lost. I am not saying that it would have been an economically viable industry. Nobody knows. But at least it would have been a decent testing area for us to see what we could do.

I must reiterate that in most of the Queensland reserves there is soil suitable for growing vegetables and tropical fruit, but this has never been done because the combines which are able to produce at unfair prices are able to make great sales at the expense of the black people on the reserves. This applies to places like Bamaga where the soil is good and where we have spent half a million dollars of Australian Government funds supplying water. Of course the first water connections were to the homes of the white officials. I have said this before and I will say it again because it has to be emphasised. When these water connections were made the first connections should have been not to those homes but to the houses of the black people, the people who have been deprived for so many years.

I was given an assurance a long time ago that when the water reticulation scheme was commenced at the Palm Island reserve the Aboriginals employed- and there was to be a high Aboriginal labour content, and there has been- were to get award wages. That never happened. An Aborigine driving a sophisticated piece of machinery was getting the top wages of $50-odd a week. If he had been a white man doing the same job he would have pulled down wages of not less than $120 and maybe even more a week. Of course, the labourers were paid on a proportionately lower scale. A statement which had obviously been prepared for the Oueensland Minister for Conservation, Marine and Aboriginal Affairs was reported recently in a newspaper and indicated that around $53 a week would be the average wage paid around the reserves. That is not true because it has not yet reached $40 at the peak and there are very few on the peak wage. The situation is a bit like that of Qantas pilots. About 3 pilots get the peak wage and about 3 people on the reserves get the peak wage.

This is another area in which the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is to be commended. At least he has set in train, slowly though it may be, in the Northern Territory and other areas under the direct jurisdiction of the Australian Government a proper award wage system, and he has provided proper social security benefits for people who are not able to be gainfully employed. But this never happened on Queensland reserves. It has been slave labour there for so many years that it does not matter. Yet this is the sort of system that Senator Rae in this chamber this afternoon defended. It would be a good idea if he went out and looked at some of the conditions and searched behind the false wall of respectability for some of the factual things he ought to be able to find behind it. The old Mapoon move has been dreamed of, not by a great number of people but by a hard core of people, for so many years that it does not matter. Do honourable senators know what was said by the Queensland Minister when these people wanted to move back to old Mapoon? He said: 'In forty or fifty years' time when your kids are educated you can go back'. Thank God they have taken the initiative and have gone back without his permission. They have gone back with the encouragement and support of the Australian Government's Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, to his eternal credit.

Senator Rae - And back to the hookworm which drove them away in the first place.

Senator KEEFFE - If Senator Rae speaks up a little I might be able to answer the interjection, if it is intelligent. What was it?

Senator Rae - And back to the hookworm which drove them away in the first place.

Senator KEEFFE - It had nothing to do with it. The hookworm which drove them away was a trinity- the Queensland Government, Comalco Ltd and the church mission. They made a deal over the heads of the Aborigines, and they were the real hookworm in that settlement. They were the ones who drove them out. Finally a few refused to go- and do not believe the story that no guns were used because guns were used to force them off the reserve. They have gone back to the land they knew. Now they are being further harassed by the Queensland Department. There are some clean-skin cattle there which by all accounts belong to the old people of old Mapoon. But they have been taken away by the Queensland Department. These people will not be allowed even a few clean-skins to form the nucleus of a small herd in that area. For God's sake, let us be honest in our attitudes and not fiddle around making political issues in the way that Senator Rae tried to do this afternoon. Do not put out a smokescreen to protect inefficient people.

Senator Rae - Well, really and truly -

Senator KEEFFE - If it is an intelligent interjection I will answer it. The last one was not but I answered it. What is this one? Senator Rae does not answer so presumably it was not intelligent and I will not proceed with it. We heard the crux of this matter last night. A number of senators on Estimates Committee G asked some pertinent questions. In the main we got fairly good replies. At least we got frank replies. We might not all have been happy with the replies. But when the estimates for . the Department of Aboriginal Affairs came into the chamber last night they were passed without any discussion at all. If Senator Rae wanted to pursue his little hate session he had a first class opportunity to do so last night.

Senator Cavanagh - He was not here.

Senator KEEFFE - The Minister draws my attention to the fact that Senator Rae was not even in the chamber. Obviously he was satisfied.

Senator Rae - I was present at the Estimates Committee G debate and at all the hearings.

Senator KEEFFE -That was not the point. The point was that if Senator Rae had a continuing grievance against the Australian Government's Department of Aboriginal Affairs his job was to have been in here last night like his colleague -

Senator Rae - Do not lecture like that. You are making yourself look even more ridiculous than usual.

Senator KEEFFE -When Senator Raegets heated he never handles his interjections properly, so he should not get heated now. His colleague Senator Greenwood was here. He was dissatisfied with the results of Estimates Committee A and he pursued those estimates here, and he pursued them at the Estimates Committee and held up its hearings for several days to the disgust of just about everybody on the Committee including his own colleagues. He held up the passage of those estimates through this chamber. He again pursued the matter and when he ran out of something fresh to say he read over his remarks from Hansard just to keep the debate going. If Senator Rae is dissatisfied he had his opportunity to come in here last night and utter the criticisms he is uttering today, but he did not do it. So we assume from his nonopposition last night that he is totally satisfied with the way in which the Australian Government is running its Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

I am glad that we have had this debate. It has been an opportunity to knock over some of the phoney statements that have been made by the Opposition's shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.

Senator Rae - You have not referred accurately to any of them yet.

Senator KEEFFE - What did you say, Senator Rae?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Milliner)-Senator Keeffe should direct his comments through the Chair.

Senator KEEFFE - I am trying to do that. I am prepared to answer his criticism if he has something valid to say.

Senator Rae - I said you have not accurately referred to any of my remarks yet.

Senator KEEFFE -That is an unintelligent interjection I have accurately referred to the remarks made by Senator Rae by shooting down in flames each of his accusations because they were not built on any substance at all. One of the major issues he referred to was the decision of the Australian Government to cut down the housing grant to Queensland by some $3m.

Senator Jessop - Do you agree with that?

Senator KEEFFE -Of course I agree with it. What is the use of -

Senator Jessop - Then you are against Queensland.

Senator KEEFFE - Senator Jessopdoes not even know what this debate is about. An allocation has been made over a period of years to the Queensland Government through the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs. Queensland is the only State which funds Aboriginal housing through the relevant department. In all other States it is done through the housing commission or the equivalent department. For 2 years at least the quota of money for Queensland has not been spent. Had Senator Rae listened earlier he would have found out that when it has been spent the

Queensland Premier and his supporters have been trying to make a profit at the expense of the black people.

The Australian Government has decided to set up a series of organisations known as housing associations so that the Queensland Aboriginal people will not be deprived of that money. The $3m will go into the housing associations in Queensland and for the first time many Aboriginal people will get an opportunity to have a home, something they will not get under the Queensland Government. I will bet pounds to peanuts now- this has nothing to do with Kingaroy or the Premier- that at the end of this financial year the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs still will have a large sum of unexpended money. The Premier likes it that way. If he is still in power that will be the case. He likes to be able to keep Australian Government funds in bank accounts, trust accounts, jam tins in his backyard or somebody else's backyard, refrigerators, in anything at all just to embarrass the Australian Government. I saw a cheque which should have been paid many months before by the Queensland Government go to a particular local authority. Interest had accumulated on it because the Queensland Government had hung onto it for so long. Even in the days when the Opposition was in Government at the Australian level money was made available for the repair of the swimming baths at Thursday Island. What happened to it? We never found it again. Money was made available for a kindergarten that was never constructed. The Australian Government has had to provide additional money to build a kindergarten and a swimming pool, things which should have been done four or five years ago, long before the Australian Labor Party came into office. Let us face up to realities and not go chasing political clouds. I believe that some of the things I have said badly needed saying.

Senator Bonner - And they were said badly.

Senator KEEFFE -Senator Bonner will get his opportunity in a moment. He spends most of his time interjecting and defending certain people in Queensland. I am ashamed of him for that but I know he cannot help it because he is under political pressure. Unless he says something outrageous I will endeavour to give him a fair hearing. These are the things we ought to talk about. The accusations thrown around this chamber by Senator Rae, the shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, will not stand up to public scrutiny because they are not built on substance or logic.

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