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Thursday, 9 May 1957

Mr BEALE (Parramatta) (Minister for Supply and Minister for Defence Production) . - This debate, which started off on a dignified and high level, has, as might well be expected, been dragged into the gutter by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). That is standard, normal procedure in this House with him. The honorable member made an attack by way of personal abuse on the Minister. He quoted false figures and, generally, he did no service to the cause which was promoted by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) when he opened this debate. The misstatements throughout the speech of the honorable member for East Sydney were too numerous to catch up with in every case. He spoke about the aboriginal population being 50,000. lt is not. lt is 75,000. He suggested that the aboriginal population in the Northern Territory was decreasing, lt is not. It is increasing, and increasing for one reason - the humane administration which has been given to the aborigines by the present Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) and by this Government. In attacking the financial attitude of the Commonwealth, the honorable member was attacking the late Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, because Mr. Chifley's attitude in the matter of financial arrangements was exactly the same as that of this Government.

Sir Philip McBride - We have been more generous.

Mr BEALE - Indeed, we have been. Five times, six times or even seven times more has been given by way of grants by this Government than was given by the Chifley Government during corresponding periods.

This is a matter of importance and one that deserves the attention of the Parliament. It has had that in good measure in the course of commendable speeches from both sides of the chamber, but in these matters one must not overlook the fact that sometimes there is a great deal of exaggeration in the charges that are made. I might illustrate that statement in the few moments that are available to me by referring to the celebrated Grayden report in Western Australia. That was one of the most unreliable documents, resulting in the worst possible service to aborigines, that has ever been promoted in any Parliament or publicly delivered. After the report came out it was necessary for a series of official and responsible public persons to point out the facts. Mr. Murdoch, the publisher of the " News " in Adelaide, made a special trip to the area and said, on his return -

No aborigines in the central Australian reserves are dying of thirst, starvation or disease. The nationwide consternation for these people has not been necessary.

That is the comment of a responsible person. The reply of the chairman of the committee was to threaten Mr. Murdoch with contempt proceedings for daring to differ from the opinion contained in the report.

Mr. Murdochplanted himself in Perth, made a special trip there, and said, " Here I am ". Naturally, nothing happened.

Sir Philip McBride - Like the honorable member for East Sydney, the chairman of the committee ran away.

Mr BEALE - Yes. Mr. Brady, himself the Labour Minister in charge of natives, specifically denied that the charges were correct. Dr. Ronald Berndt, the senior lecturer in anthropology in the University of Western Australia, went with his wife, who also is a celebrated anthropologist, to the area and made a survey. They said -

There is no evidence of widespread or general malnutrition or disease in excess of what is found in other marginal areas.

A medical party under Dr. W. S. Davidson, the Deputy Director of Public Health in Western Australia, went to the area and reported to the effect that there were no signs of starvation among the natives of the Warburton Range who were examined by the party. So we could go on.

I point out these things because it is no service to the case of the aborigines for these exaggerated and inflammatory statements to be made. They get found out and there is the obvious reaction, that people dismiss all allegations about aborigines, so that their last state is worse than their first. We must stick to the facts of this matter. So far as the Commonwealth Government is concerned, the one fact that sticks up like the rock of Gibraltar in this debate is that the Commonwealth Government, through the present Minister for Territories, has done its utmost to care for and advance the welfare of the natives under its charge.

Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) put -

That the business of the day be called on.

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