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Thursday, 21 November 1974
Page: 2631

Senator RAE (TASMANIA) - My question is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Since the debate last Thursday, with the further time available since then, has the Minister any additional information he could give to the Senate as to whether the Department of Aboriginal Affairs paid for the air transport of persons who attended the recent Weipa conference? The matter was referred to during the debate last Thursday in the Senate. At that time the Minister said that the Department had not paid for anything other than through a VIP flight. I ask whether the Minister has any further information in relation to that matter for the Senate. I ask further: Have any steps been taken to stop further Aboriginal conferences arranged through the Department of Aboriginal Affairs?

Senator CAVANAGH - I do not know whether we are talking about the same conference. The conference at Weipa, which is the only one of which I am aware, was a meeting of Aboriginal people which I attended for the purpose of discussing a return to Old Mapoon. I travelled there in a VIP plane. No aircraft was chartered at all for the conference. Mr Joe McGuinness from the Department was up there for 2 days organising the meeting and discussing problems with the Aboriginal people. He told me that he was using a car from one of the organisations there. As the honourable senator thinks that there is something about chartering or paying for an aircraft that I do not know about, I will make inquiries from the Department. It is unlikely that that occurred.

We are holding a series of conferences- we have held a conference at Bourke and we are holding a conference at Ceduna, I believe, this week- for the purpose of liaising and having consultations concerning departmental and Government policy with the various Aboriginal groups. A series of conferences have been planned, and these will continue. At such conferences attendance fees are paid and any necessary transport costs, such as the hiring of buses to bring delegates from various locations to the conference, are met. This could include plane fares because sometimes a conference is held in an area to which the delegates have to travel hundreds of miles. At the Weipa conference- if that is the same conference to which Senator Rae is referring -

Senator Rae - Yes, it is.

Senator CAVANAGH - There were no charter flights. I will make further inquiries to see whether any correction of that statement is necessary.

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