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Thursday, 20 April 1961

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - I join with other honorable members in complimenting the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) on his presentation of a report which, generally speaking, puts the position of the aborigines reasonably fairly. Far too few members of this Parliament have given any attention to the problems of the aboriginal people of Australia. Apart from the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) and the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) I can think of few on either side of the House who have given much thought to the welfare of aborigines. I believe the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has given the matter quite a deal of attention and has made some worthwhile contributions to debates on the subject.

Mr Hasluck - What about the honorable member for Macarthur and the honorable member for Perth.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - No, they are recent converts.

Mr Hasluck - And the honorable member for New England?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - No, they are all very recent converts to the cause of aboriginal welfare. I am glad that the Minister has mentioned them because he has given me the opportunity of saying that this is the very first time I have heard the honorable member for Macarthur pay the slightest attention to the plight of the aborigines. However, it is very nice, after all these years in Parliament, to find the honorable member belatedly, and perhaps reluctantly, coming in on the side of the aborigines. A lot more could have been done, a Jot more should have been done, and .a lot more should have been said by the Minister. Although the things which have been mentioned in the statement are good as far as they go, a lot has been omitted from it. The Government should take more positive steps than it has taken already to ensure that aborigines receive the same award rates of pay as white men receive for the same class of work. That is ;no,t so at present. For years courts have refused applications to give to aboriginal station hands in Western Australia, South Australia, New 'South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria the same rates of ;pay .as apply to

F.2778/61. - R. - 1421

non-aborigines. The cold hard fact is that aboriginal stockmen, station hands and boundary riders are far better in those positions than are the majority of white men.

Mr Hasluck - Why do they not join the Australian Workers Union?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - They do.

Mr Hasluck - Then why do they not obtain the increased rate of pay?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I am glad that the Minister has interjected. The aborigines join the Australian Workers Union, and the union includes in its applications to the court for a variation of the federal pastoral award a claim for these people to be brought within the provisions of the award, but on each occasion the court rejects that claim. According to the decision of the Commonwealth court, the only aborigines in the pastoral industry who are entitled to award rates are shearers and that is because the shearing section of the pastoral award obliges the employer and the employee to enter into a personal contract which stipulates that the award rates of pay and other conditions prescribed for the shearing personnel shall apply. But the station hands who come within the category of aborigines set down by the various State authorities are not entitled to the provisions of the federal pastoral award, even though they are members of the union and even though the union repeatedly has made application to the court that they should be given .the benefit of the award.

Mr Duthie - Why are the applications refused?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Because the graziers, by whom the aborigines are employed, and who now occupy the land which once was theirs, always vigorously oppose the application in the court. They do everything that they can to ensure that these remnants of this fast disappearing race, on whose land ;they are now squatting, are refused even the rudiments of industrial justice. Can any one justify that? I should like to hear the views of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser), whose association - the Graziers Association - was responsible for preventing these aborigines-

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Who said that it is my association? I am a member of the Wool and Wheat Growers Association.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - You are also a member of the graziers association.

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - How do you know?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I looked up the list. I also learned that the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) has contributed to the graziers' association so that he can put forward a, case against aboriginal station hands receiving the same rate of pay as others receive. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) is a member of the graziers' association. Where is he now? All these honorable gentlemen who protest in this House that they believe in giving the aborigines justice and a fair go, and who are members of the graziers' association are wittingly or unwittingly, directly or indirectly, by their contributions helping to pay the costs of the case that is put forward by the graziers' association each time that the union submits its application to the court to ensure that the union's proposal is defeated.

The Government belatedly has dealt with the matter of social services for aborigines. Only last year, after years of agitation by honorable members on this side of the House, I wrote two or three letters to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) pleading with him to do something about this matter. It was a waste of time writing to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) who is not even bothering to listen to what I have to say now. The only way in which I eventually got some common sense out of the Government was by forgetting the Minister for Social Services and by writing to the Prime Minister, reporting to him that the Minister for Social Services was unable to understand the logic of my submission, and reminding him that as well as being our Prime Minister he was also the Prime Minister of the aborigines. I think this softened his heart because shortly afterwards he directed the Minister for Social Services to ensure that the aborigines were given social service benefits.

Mr Hasluck - The Minister for Social Services was a strong campaigner for that.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - He did not show any evidence of it.

Mr Hasluck - He did. He campaigned very hard for it.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I did not notice any evidence that he was a strong campaigner for social services for aborigines. In fact, my understanding is that if he had his way he would cut out social services altogether.

Mr Hasluck - That is completely false. Be fair to him.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - This statement by the Minister, who seems to be quite vocal at the moment-

Mr Hasluck - You say such extraordinary things.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The Minister's paper states -

The conference agreed that the extension of social service benefits to aborigines, which has now been in operation for twelve months, has worked very smoothly.

I do not know how the conference came to that conclusion because the scheme has not worked very smoothly for the aborigines. I have complained vigorously in Parliament about the fact that the Playford Government in South Australia takes all the social service benefits to which the aborigines are entitled and gives them only a small handout which is, in fact, less than what a white man who is an inmate in a hospital receives. Can any one justify that?

When I took up this matter with the Minister for Social Services I received a reply which I am still trying to interpret, but the fact is that no action has been taken to correct the anomaly to which I referred. The Government talks about giving justice and equality to these people. Why does it not give the Minister for Social Services a good shake-up and tell him to get over to South Australia and direct Tom Playford to cough up the money, that has been contributed by the taxpayers of Australia, to the people living on mission stations? These people are not wild, roving nomads, savages or primitive natives. Some live on the Point McLeay mission station and some on the Point Pearce mission station. They pay taxes as we do. They send their children to school and they can read and write and speak English as well as, if not better than, some of us here. They are good workers. They go into the shearing and other industries and stand shoulder to shoulder with the white men, doing their work just as well as any white man does it. The native shearers, in the main, are better shearers than the white men.

How disgusting it is for the Minister to sit at the table stroking his forehead with his hand and appearing to take absolutely no notice of the fact that the Playford Government is receiving all of the money that is sent to South Australia for aborigines living on government mission stations! What right has the Playford Government to take this money? Why does not this Government take its courage, if it has any, in its hands and state that it will pay the social service benefits to which the natives are entitled direct to them? I made inquiries into this matter and I learned that the Playford Government claims that it is putting portion of the money into a trust fund, but it will not state who is to operate the trust fund. Not one member of the aboriginal race living on these mission stations knows what his share is of the money that is now presumably in the trust fund. When social service benefits were introduced the first thing the Playford Government did was to show its concern for the native people by charging them for electricity which previously had been free.

When you come to think of it, this country at one time was owned by these people, and we got it by guile, by murder and by the worst form of exploitation. Honorable members on the Government side may protest, but that is true. If honorable members read any history of Australia, they will see that some of the settlers spent the week-ends murdering natives. That was the week-end sport for some of the squatters. They went out shooting not kangaroos, but aborigines. It is useless for supporters of the Government to scream their heads off at that statement. They can consult the historical works and they will see that there is ample evidence that squatters did, in fact, go out at week-ends and cut these people down for the very sport of it. They poisoned the aboriginal children by putting strychnine in honey and by placing the honey on top of the posts so that the aboriginal children would eat it.

Mr Hasluck - This is fantastic nonsense.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - It is true, and 1 can produce writings to prove it. I can produce historical works and writings to prove everything I have said is absolutely true. We have a disgraceful record in Australia. The people who came here at the beginning of our settlement of this country have a disgraceful and wicked record so far as treatment of the aborigines is concerned. We virtually wiped out the whole race. The Minister has stated that there are only 70,000 of them left. What a record. What an admission.

Mr Aston - You have not produced one tittle of evidence.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - You have the Minister's own statement. He admits that we have wiped out all but 70,000 of the aborigines.

Mr Hasluck - I rise to a point of order. The honorable member alleged that I had admitted that we had wiped out all but 70,000 of the aborigines. I have not said anything of the sort. He has not produced one word of proof or one authority for the monstrous statements he has made.

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