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Thursday, 14 November 1974
Page: 2430

Senator STEELE HALL (South AustraliaLeader of the Liberal Movement) - I do not want to say a lot about this Bill. I have had the pleasure of talking at some length with Aboriginal leaders and I intend to renew those contacts because I greatly enjoyed learning more in this field. The one great factor I came away with after my first real meeting on that level was that those people really wanted to be Australians and to end discrimination in this community. I think that the amendment proposed by the Opposition would further discrimination, not end it. I listened with great interest to Senator Bonner, and especially to -

Senator Rae - Ha, ha!

Senator STEELE HALL - I shall have something to say about Senator Rae a little later in my address. One of the great flaws in the Opposition case in this matter is that it has Senator Rae putting it. I will elaborate on that matter at another time.

Senator Rae - Thank you. My word can be taken.

Senator STEELE HALL - I will illustrate how a senator's word is not to be taken as he puts it. A man who has promoted the untruths as Senator Rae has done is not the man who should lead for the Opposition on this very delicate question. Senator Bonner said very rightly that this should not be a political question. One understands, of course, that there is an election campaign in Queensland at this time and that this is a very political debate in this chamber. As I understand it, in 1967 the Australian people directed that Aboriginal affairs was to become a matter for the Australian Parliament.

Senator Bonner - The people gave the Australian Government the right to make laws pertaining to Aborigines. I do not remember anything in that referendum which said that the Australian Government should take over the responsibility of the State departments in any State.

Senator STEELE HALL - It certainly gave the major responsibility for Aboriginal affairs to the Commonwealth Government and, as I understand it, under this legislation that Government has made arrangements on a negotiated basis with all the other governments concerned with Aboriginal affairs except the Queensland Government. As I understand it from the arguments put from both sides of the House, the Queensland Government has not agreed with the Australian Government.

Senator Bonner - The Queensland Government is not prepared to shirk its responsibilities as other States have done.

Senator STEELE HALL - I do not agree that the South Australian Government has shirked its responsibilities in this matter. I had something to do with the early stages of this transition. On both sides of politics in South Australia there has not been a disagreement nor an assessment that the South Australian people or the South Australian Government, of either colour, has shirked its responsibility by co-operating with the Commonwealth Government. This legislation is being discussed here by the Opposition as if somehow the Queensland Government is the chief beneficiary of it. I thought we were dealing with the welfare of Aborigines in Queensland rather than the Queensland Government which Senator Rae is supporting in his amendment. I am not enamoured of the Government led by Mr Bjelke-Petersen in Queensland as far as it represents Australians in that part of Australia. I have no doubt that he will be returned to office on a minority vote in that State but for a number of particular reasons he is not regarded outside Queensland as an estimable leader of Australians. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) outlined in his second reading speech instances of the Queensland Government being unwilling to talk with the Australian Government about Aboriginal affairs. I find that an incomprehensible action on the part of a government which at least has a duty on behalf of the people it represents to consult with the Australian Government. No valid excuse has been given in this House as to the inaction of the Queensland Government in this matter. None has been forthcoming and I cannot envisage that any will be forthcoming which will excuse the laxity and apparent determined intention of the Queensland Government to ignore its responsibility in this matter.

Senator Rae - Did you know that Mr Hewitt, the Queensland Minister, is in hospital at this moment otherwise there would be a meeting next Monday? Did you know that?

Senator STEELE HALL -As I said earlier, Senator Rae is not a responsible senator in regard to this matter. I can demonstrate to the House, and I might do so directly if he continues to pursue this vein, that his word is not to be taken as it is said. I am not concerned with Senator Rae in this debate.

Senator Rae - How about responding?

Senator STEELE HALL -May I tell the honourable senator that I am not concerned with his utterances because I do not necessarily believe them.

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