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Thursday, 28 November 1974
Page: 2992

Senator BONNER (Queensland) - I did not really have any intention of entering this debate until, when I was in my room packing up, I heard honourable senators opposite talking about some telegrams that had been received by some honourable senators and by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) from the chairman of some of the Aboriginal councils in Queensland. I received one of those telegrams myself. It came from Yarrabah.

Senator Keeffe - Do you have it there?

Senator BONNER - No, I do not have it here. It is in my office. I am quite willing to show it to anyone who wishes to see it. The main reason I entered this debate tonight was because I was disgusted to hear honourable senators oppositethe people who allegedly support the Aboriginal people- denigrate in the Senate chamber tonight a number of Aborigines in Queensland. They denigrated these Aborigines by saying that they could be coerced by the Premier of Queensland. These are intelligent men and women who were elected by their community to serve their communities. Honourable members opposite have the audacity to say that they support Aborigines and they want Aborigines to have selfdetermination. These people are determining for themselves what they want. It is no good for the Minister to try to shrug off the matter. He was up in the Torres Strait Islands just last week buying votes for the Australian Labor Party in Queensland by handing out money to the councils for the Torres Strait islanders as though it was going out of style. But it seems strange that it took him 1 8 months to get around to doing that. He was been Minister for Aboriginal Affairs for almost 18 months, but 2 weeks before an election he goes to Queensland and starts tossing money around so that he can buy some votes from the Aborigines. They are just as clever as he is. I suggest that they are a dam sight more clever because they will play the Federal Government against the State Government to get what they want. They learned this from the white man and from people like Senator Keeffe over there. They have learned how to play one white man against another.

We have heard it said that these people who are sending these telegrams down here do not have the intelligence to work this matter out for themselves. Fancy honourable senators opposite saying that they do not have the intelligence. Of course they have the intelligence to send telegrams. They may have been contacted by someone in the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs to say that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Bill was coming forward. How else could they know that this Bill was coming forward? They would not know about the Bill because it was introduced only yesterday. So someone told them that the Bill was being introduced. They used their common sense to send telegrams down to Canberra to ask members of Parliament not to allow this Bill through the Senate.

As one honourable senator in this chamber I presented a number of petitions in relation to the Family Law Bill with which we have just dealt. The petitions that I presented to the Senate- you can very easily verify this by looking at those petitions, Mr Deputy President- were all identically worded. Like those telegrams to which Senator McLaren referred, they are all identically worded. It is all right for a white man to send to the Parliament petitions or telegrams which are identically worded, but it is not all right for an Aborigine to do so. Oh, no, he would not have enough intelligence to do that! Only Senator Keeffe, Senator Cavanagh and Senator McLaren have that kind of intelligence; Aborigines do not! Like fun, they do not! They sent these telegrams because they do not want interference from the Federal Government or the Australian Government, as it calls itself. They do not want this kind of interference. They want to be left alone. They live on those communities and they have been happy there.

Senator Keeffesays that their letters are opened. I lived on an Aboriginal settlement, namely Palm Island, for 17 years. No one ever opened a letter that was addressed to me. How long did Senator Keeffe live on Palm Island? Since when did he live as an Aborigine under the Act? I lived under the Act. Untruths have been told in this chamber tonight. To say that the letters of the Aborigines living on the communities are opened and censored is not correct today. Twenty-odd years ago under the Labor Government in Queensland, yes, the letters were opened. Under the Labor Government 20 years ago when we were fed on maggoty flour- this was before the Country-Liberal Party Government got into power- yes, our letters were opened. Sure they were opened. We were sent on to mission stations in the State of Queensland by the Labor Government if we did not smile correctly when the white policeman spoke to us. We could be picked up for no reason at all and placed on a Government community. But that sort of thing was changed after the defeat of the Labor Government in Queensland by the Country Liberal Party Government. This Act which is condemned by Senator Keeffe was introduced by a Labor Government.

Government senators interjecting -

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)-Order!

Senator BONNER -Thank you, Mr Deputy President. The truth hurts. The dog Act in Queensland was introduced by those blokes over there, not by anybody on this side of the chamber. I can tell of some of the rotten things that happened on the Aboriginal communities under the Labor Government before the Country-Liberal Party Government came into office. If an Aborigine walked up the street and brushed a fly from his face he was put in gaol because he was supposed to have waved at the girls in the dormitory. That happened under a Labor Government. But the Country-Liberal Party Government changed all that in Queensland. The dog Act of the Labor Government was gradually changed over the years by the Country-Liberal Party Government in Queensland.

Government senators- Oh!

Senator BONNER -They know what the dog Act is; they should do. The Act has been changed a number of times under the present Queensland Government. Most importantly of all, it has been changed at the suggestion of the Aboriginal councillors whom the Government senators have been denigrating tonight. They made the changes in the Act. They told the Queensland Government what they wanted taken out of the Act and what they wanted left in the Act. It was not the Premier who did it. The Premier and the Queensland Government accepted the suggestions of the Aboriginal Advisory Council.

Senator Milliner - After how long?

Senator BONNER - Every time the Aboriginal Advisory Council met to review the Act the suggestions that it made were accepted by the Government.

Senator Milliner - Get back to your -

Senator BONNER - It is of no good Senator Milliner talking about it. I think until he saw me he would not have known a blackfellow if he fell over one. He does not go around the settlements. He does not know any of the people on the settlements. I have lived on the settlements. I have relatives living on settlements and they are happy to live there. I have tried to encourage them to come out. They say: 'No. We like Palm Island. We do not want to go out. You go out and live in the rat race. We do not want to go out.' They are still there, under this cruel Act that honourable senators opposite talk about. Their letters are not being opened either. They are still receiving their mail. It is doled out every day from the post office by the Aboriginal postmaster and his Aboriginal female assistant.

Senator Young - They are accusing the Aborigines of opening the letters, are they?

Senator BONNER -They must be. If anybody is opening them, Bernie Castors at Palm Island must be opening the letters! I would not think Bernie would do anything like that. Let us get back to the telegrams. The telegrams were sent by members of the Aboriginal Advisory Council. I recognise the names. Addimqum Adidi is the chairman of the Bamaga Mission Station, and I am quite sure he is quite capable of sending a telegram down here. So is Mr Lui from Thursday Island. A number of telegrams came from Bamaga. Surely a number of telegrams would come from Bamaga, because Bamaga is the centre for New Mapoon, New Majico, Cowel Creek and Bamaga. There are 4 settlements there altogether. They have to come through the one post office. From the islands surrounding Thursday Island, like Boigu and Mabioc, the telegrams have to go through Thursday Island. There is no other way for them to come out. The telegram would have to be lodged and it would have to go through Thursday Island.

Senator Milliner - Why not Brisbane?

Senator BONNER -They would not know anything about that.

Senator Rae - Were there telegrams from Mount Isa?

Senator BONNER -They came from everywhere. I know Eric Derrell, the Aborigine who happens to be running on the National Party ticket in Queensland at the corning election. He has a good chance of winning the seat. That is in Cook. That is where most of these telegrams are coming from- from the Cook electorate. I can well imagine that the people in the area will be well supported when Eric Derrell represents them in the Queensland Parliament very shortly.

With all the cries that come from the other side of the chamber about self-determination and all that sort of jazz, it seems strange that over the years there have been only three, or two, Aborigines so far who have been elected to any parliament in Australia- myself here for the Liberal Party, and a chap in the Northern Territory

Legislative Assembly who was endorsed by the Liberal-Country Party -

Senator Maunsell - Country-Liberal Party.

Senator BONNER -By the Country-Liberal Party, I am sorry. Now Eric Derrell is going to win the seat of Cook on the National Party ticket. So after all, I do not think we have a bad record.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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