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Wednesday, 22 March 1972
Page: 838

Senator GREENWOOD (Victoria) (Attorney-General) - Senator Douglas McClelland rose during the adjournment debate to draw attention to the problem faced by animated movie makers in Australia who were experiencing difficulties as a result of a very large American concern establishing itself in this country. He said that because of size, greater opportunities and a willingness to pay higher wages the American company was imperilling the existence of a pioneer firm in this country which had been in existence for about 30 years. I am sure that everyone would feel a great deal of sympathy for the firm which is threatened in the way in which Senator Douglas McClelland outlined. I think that he did not seek to minimise the difficulties in determining what sort of action could or should be taken in these circumstances. I must say that not only does it pose the problems which are involved in establishing a viable film industry in this country but dso it shows some of the problems which are involved when there is an influx of large overseas, highly capitalised concerns into this country. For my part I shall give consideration to the matters which the honourable senator raised. I shall also direct the attention of the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson), whom I represent, to the matter to see whether anything can be done on a basis which acknowledges the rights of people to move to better jobs and, at the same time, to avail themselves of opportunities to establish businesses in this country.

I feel that the Senate should come back to the point which Senator Bonner raised. He referred to what Senator Keeffe had said during the adjournment debate in this chamber on 9th March, and, he indicated that as a result of his inquiries he had found that certain statements made by Senator Keeffe were incorrect. Senator Bonner stated his dismay at that fact because wide publicity was given to the statements made by Senator Keeffe. Senator Bonner said - I think he indicated the way in which he believed the truth of what he. was saying - that some people in the Australian Labor Party were using the Aboriginal people for political gain. Senator Bonner, because of his race, objected to the way in which these people were being used. That was a natural reaction. It was sustained by statements which required rebuttal, if they could be rebutted, or some acknowledgment as to why the falsities were made in the first place. I regret that Senator Keeffe has not chosen to refer in any way to the matters which Senator Bonner has raised. I was present in the chamber when Senator Keeffe made his initial statements on 9th March. By the time I had risen to speak he had left the chamber.

Senator Marriott - He is not here tonight.

Senator GREENWOOD - Whether there might be some valid reason for his leaving tonight I do not know. He did not initiate the debate. But on the night on which he initiated the debate he was concerned to make his statement - it appeared to me. to be a prepared statement - and having made it he left the chamber. I think that in itself is some indication mat he was less concerned on mat night to obtain some reaction from the Minister and more concerned to make all the publicity he could out of the issues he had raised. I think it is important for us to look at what Senator Keeffe has said and then to refer to what Senator Bonner has said. Senator Keeffe did not hesitate to make a lot of allegations of a sweeping character wholly condemnatory of the persons whom he suggested should be removed from their position. He referred to a girl who had been punished for allegedly wearing her skirt at a length shorter than that acceptable to the superintendent of the Doomadgee Mission in the Gulf of Carpentaria area. He went on to state: . . the girl was picked up in Mount Isa by the district representive of the Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs and was taken to his office for interrogation. As 1 understand the position, the girl is still under the Act. The obvious end result will be that she will be punished by the Department or she will be returned to the Mission for punishment.

Senator Keeffe,with a flourish, said:

This will happen over my dead body and over the dead bodies of all her friends. This gives a lie to what the Superintendent said in the early stages ... 1 understand that when the alleged offence was committed the girl wrote to the Director and complained about the treatment that had been meted out to her.

He mentioned her name at a later stage and said:

Not only has the girl - mentioning her name -

.   . been unfairly treated, but there are dozens of others, both boys and girls, who also have been subjected to punishment of a kind which should not be meted out to any human being.

That is a statement which, I imagine, could not have been made in the detail in which it was made unless some statement or background was there to sustain it. What Senator Bonner said tonight was that that statement was untrue.

Senator Cavanagh - Only insofar as the girl was aged 29 years.

Senator GREENWOOD - Yes, that the girl who was mentioned - her name is in Hansard and Senator Bonner said that he had a statement from her - is not a girl; she is aged 29 years. Also she denies - this has been in the newspapers too- that there has been any punishment of herself or anybody else for wearing a mini skirt of a certain length. All I say is that Senator Bonner made the statement that what Senator Keeffe had said was untrue and said that he had a statement from this girl. I say that the girl has publicly denied the statement which has been made.

Why did not Senator Keeffe, when he rose with all his bluster, refer to the allegation which he had made originally and the truth of which Senator Bonner had categorically challenged him to assert? He dodged the issue. I venture to say that what he did was to adopt a Goebbels-like technique, namely, that if one can throw in something more and so cover the scene possibly the original statement will be able to be sustained without any regard to what has been said subsequently in denial of it. That, to me, is the point of which we should not lose sight. It is what Senator Keeffe, by the way in which he engaged in a host of cheap sneers at Senator Bonner, was seeking to do. It is also what Senator Milliner sought to do by his reference to other matters. They sought to skate over the crucial issues which were raised, which naturally are of concern to Senator Bonner and which ought to be of concern to every honourable senator.

Are we to have this chamber used, as we have seen it used not infrequently in the past, as a place in which statements are made which are untrue, in which a lot of epithets are thrown about which cannot be justified and in which, when an issue of fact may be involved, people just dodge seeking to justify their statements when they are challenged and when it is said, for example: There is a statement by the person in which she denies entirely what you said'? Those allegations which Senator Bonner made tonight have not been denied by Senator Keeffe. He has dodged the issue. I wonder whether he will ever let the Senate know where his information came from, whether he checked his information and whether it is anything more than a fabrication of what he would like to be the story that he would tell rather than She truth of what did occur.

Then we have the other allegation that is made. Senator Keeffe said on the night of 9th March:

The food served to people on. the mission has improved in recent months. Previously the standard of meals was such that for breakfast they were served boiled wheat complete with weevils and maggots, and the other meals were largely comprised of bread with treacle or dripping, or sweet potatoes and green peas, and sometimes pumpkin and meat was served.

That, I am sure, is a statement which is made by a person who has been given information and obviously is delivering himself from notes or a prepared statement. But Senator Bonner said that that was an incident that occurred in 19SS. Did Senator Keeffe seek to challenge that proposition?

Senator MCAULIFFE (QUEENSLAND) - Yes, he did.

Senator GREENWOOD - As I understand it, he did not.

Senator Keeffe - You could not have been listening.

Senator GREENWOOD - I listened carefully to Senator Keeffe. I know that he referred to something that the Premier of Queensland, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, had said with regard to that and that he challenged and denied the truth of what Mr BjelkePetersen had said. But I did not understand him to deny that this incident had happened in 19SS. All I say is: If it did not happen in 1955, when did it happen? Is it something that happened recently? Senator Bonner has said that this did happen in times past.

Senator McAuliffe - What about the allegations against Dr Everingham by Senator Bonner?

Senator GREENWOOD - We shall come to that in due course. All I say is that there is a matter for concern in the use of this chamber as Senator Keeffe used it. Without giving any notice to the Minister concerned as to the general character of the allegations he was making, he used it as a forum for the publicity that is obtained with respect to allegations the verification of which is not given and, when they are challenged subsequently, he does not choose to indicate whether he is able to sustain them or whether the statement that be made was true.

I deplore also the way in which this occasion was used by Senator Keeffe to engage in what I would describe as a dastardly personal attack on Senator Bonner. lt is not debate simply to hurl abuse at a person who puts up a point of view which one does not like. Yet Senator Bonner had to sit here tonight and have it said of him that he was a person who was not speaking on behalf of his own people. We know Senator Bonner. We heard him tonight. I say that it is not only hurtful but dastardly to say of him that he was not speaking on behalf of his own people. Naturally he was speaking on behalf of the Aboriginal people in Australia and the people in Queensland whom he represents. He was speaking with feeling because he saw that the people of his own race were being used for political purposes; and all he gets in return is an attack of a character which is basically personal and which suggests that he is not really speaking on behalf of his own people.

Was it relevant to suggest, without any indication of facts or material to back it up, that he has never done anything on behalf of the Aboriginal people since he came into the Senate? Is it fair to say that he has never made a reference to them when we know as a fact that that is not true? It is simply the sort of personal attack which gets headlines and is meant to hurt. Presumably it does hurt. But it is sufficient if other people are prepared to stand up and indicate that it is not regarded as the truth by those who have heard it. Senator Keeffe asked why Senator Bonner left it until 22nd March to raise this matter when he, Senator Keeffe, made his statement on 9th March. Senator Keeffe well knows that 9th March was the last night on which the Senate sat and that this is the second sitting day since the statement was made. It is not unreasonable to raise the matter at this time.

Then there is the point with regard to Dr Everingham which was taken by Senator Milliner. I do not know why Senator Milliner chose to come to the defence of Dr Everingham. The reference to him was made in the course of a statement by Senator Bonner. I have here a copy of a letter that was published in the 'CourierMail' of 24th February 1969.

Senator Poyser - What newspaper was that?

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