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Monday, 4 September 1989
Page: 916


Senator BOSWELL(10.23) —Before the Minister responds to Senator Coulter, I want to use the analogy of a sewerage system in Western Australia. The Western Australian Government is responsible for land, local government and a number of areas that have been given to the States by the Australian Constitution. What I fear, Minister, is that if grant funding under section 96 were taken from the Federal Government and given direct to the State governments, great animosity would be created, whether we like it or not, and the people who would feel that animosity would be the Aboriginal people. They would feel it because State governments would lose interest. When that hypothetical sewerage system was proposed in Western Australia, the Western Australian Government could say, `Well, that's a Commonwealth responsibility. It has accepted all responsibility for Aboriginals and has just cut us out'. It probably would not be done intentionally but that is what would happen; the Government knows it and I know it.

In the best interests of Aboriginal people we have got to keep the State governments interested in Aboriginal development because of the responsibilities that they control-land, local government, harbours, marine, fishing, wildlife et cetera. If we treat State governments with contempt-that is what the Government is doing, downgrading all the State and Territory governments of Australia-we will downgrade the Ministers and there will not be Minister to Minister contact. There will be less ministerial council contact. Inevitably-it will happen as surely as night follows day-the State Aboriginal Department, or whatever they call themselves-Community Affairs in Queensland, Aboriginal Affairs, Department of Aboriginal Affairs or whatever they are called-will be downgraded and will be less of a department than they were when they had Minister to Minister contact, and the people who will get hurt are Aboriginal people.

Senator Coulter has picked that up. I know Senator Coulter and I know the Democrats' policy on State governments. He is not one to support them. But the facts are that we have got them there; they are closest to the people, and they have all the equipment. They know what they are doing on the ground, and we are going to remove them by degree out of Aboriginal Affairs. That must be stopped at all costs. Senator Coulter, to his credit, has picked that up, and he deserves congratulations.