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Thursday, 28 November 1974
Page: 2990

Senator KEEFFE -Everything that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) has said tonight is dead right.

Senator Maunsell - How do you know?

Senator KEEFFE - I will be stating a few facts in a moment and I think if the honourable senator does not have an impervious brain he might realise it. I was amazed tonight when the shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Rae, participated in this debate. There are probably three times when he has not handled himself very well. One was during the anti- Vietnam dispute when someone stepped on his toes. He was sitting in those days in the seat in front of where I am standing now and he came in one night and said: '1 was on the reserve and I have a greatcoat to prove it'.

There was yesterday's little episode as a result of which apparently he also is now an unemployed fire walker. Tonight he comes in on this issue completely uninformed, emotionally, and not in command of either himself or the facts. The telegrams that have been read into the record by my colleague Senator McLaren indicate with very great clarity the organisation that went into the sending of these messages. It is possible, of course, that there happens to be a State election campaign and that my beloved friend, the Premier, with whom I converse regularly- I will not refer to him religiously tonight; he has over the last few weeks done a lot to lose that title- would adopt this sort of tinny gimmick which he would think would probably gather votes for him. Well, it will not because he has manipulated, unfortunately, too many Aboriginal and Island people in Queensland for too long a period. He has been able to manipulate them under the power of 2 Acts- the Aboriginal Act 1972 and the Torres Strait Islanders Act 1972.

These 2 Acts stood on the statute book for a long time before they were proclaimed. They were proclaimed on the Monday following 2 December 1972 because the intention, I believe, at the time was to amend them further if the McMahon Government had been returned to power. When the McMahon Government was not returned to power he took the first opportunitythat was on Monday morning, 4 December 1972 - to proclaim those 2 Acts. As Queenslanders can tell you, it was ages afterwards before we ever saw the regulations under the Acts and the by-laws that apply on the reserves. We have to remember that 30,000 people are under the direct control or are potentially under the direct control of the 2 Acts. So the Premier can manipulate people like this whenever he feels like it. This is precisely what he has done in this instance.

Senator Sheil - That is not right.

Senator KEEFFE - Goodness gracious me. When you have been around the political scene a little longer you will understand some of these background issues that we talk about in this Senate. I would like to refer to two or three of the statements that were made by Senator Rae. Frankly, there was very little in his speech worth commenting on. But he did complain of having got 43 letters from one post office on some issue or other. To me that is politically and personally totally immoral. If people do not protest spontaneously, if they do not protest as members of an organisation, if something has to be done to make them protest, there is no protest at all in my book. I am sure that these people would not have protested in this manner. It is a political manipulation by those who control them by virtue of their power under the 2 Acts of Queensland.

Senator Raemade a sneering reference to the Old Mapoon episode. It was quite incorrecttotally untrue. I know all of the people who have gone back to Old Mapoon. They have talked about this ever since the days when the remainder of the people at Old Mapoon were intimidated by people carrying guns into the old reserve area. There is no getting away from these facts at all because that is the truth, and a lot more people will ultimately go back to the Old Mapoon area. They are honest people and they know what they are about.

Senator Rae - That is not what they told me.

Senator KEEFFE - They do not need the sneering references of the shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs who comes from a State where his ancestors disposed of every Aborigine over a period of years so I will treat with the contempt that it deserves the statement he has made by way of interjection.

Senator Rae - You are so factually up the tree that I wonder that you even bother.

Senator KEEFFE - When the honourable senator was speaking I did not interject, partly because I thought that his speech was too stupid, but I did at least attempt to give him a fair go. Let me tell you one other thing about the islands, Mr Deputy President. The Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs in Queensland censors every message to every island in the Torres Strait, and has been doing so for years. It decides whether a telegram sent from one person to a relative living on an island in the Strait is despatched. We have been trying to establish a radio station in the area so that people can be kept up to date. There is a transceiver system set up on all the islands. I know that when Senator Cavanagh 's predecessor visited the islands messages were sent through this transceiver system saying to give him a hell of a time while he is there. It was a direction but very few people did this. Most of them are decent open-minded people who wanted to see all sides of the question.

On many occasions I have sent messages to reserves in Queensland. They have had to be sent in plain envelopes because they are opened.

I know that the first Minister for Aboriginal Affairs ever appointed in this House- not a member of my Party- had his mail opened by the white managers on reserves in Queensland. They were read and maybe delivered. If that happened to members of the Liberal Party, what excuse is the Opposition' now putting up because it is still happening? It has to stop. The only way it will stop is by giving publicity such as this. I can remember sending a personal registered letter on one occasion to one reserve. The man concerned is no longer in the employ of the Queensland Department. In fact he now is an employee of the Australian Government but in those days he was the manager of a reserve. That personal registered letter was never delivered to the person to whom it was addressed. When I complained about it he said: 'OK, I suppose we can sack the black postmaster.' It was not the black postmaster who was at fault because he had no option but to hand over all official mail to the manager of the reserve. The man who preceded that man on this reserve used to drive up and down in front of my office in Townsville. He would pull up beside the lines of Aboriginal people entering my office and would tell them that their houses or their jobs were in jeopardy. If honourable senators opposite do not believe that this intimidation goes on in the Queensland Department they are either fools or are covering up something that is dishonest.

I am glad that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs raised this matter tonight. I hope it will give somebody in the Queensland Department a fright. 1 hope it gives shaky knees to the Premier of Queensland, politically and physically. I hope it will lead to a reorganisation of the moral thinking of some of those who allegedly represent the people of Queensland and the Government of Queensland today.

Senator LAWRIE(Queensland) < 1 1.23)- I was not going to speak on this subject until I heard that last tirade which included so many misstatements. When the Bill was brought into this House by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) the reaction on the various reserves in Queensland and on the islands must have been a shock to the Minister. The spontaneous reaction is apparent in the telegrams that he said he has received.

Senator Cavanagh - They are all indentically worded.

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