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Tuesday, 29 October 1996
Page: 4703

Senator HERRON (Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs)(7.56 p.m.) —I would like to take the few minutes remaining to refute some of the statements that have just been made. It is incumbent upon the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Beazley) to state his position clearly and unequivocally regarding the racist debate that is occurring at the moment, particularly in relation to Aboriginal affairs.

Have we heard a word from the Leader of the Opposition in this regard? I think it is incumbent upon him to state his position. All that we have heard is an attack on the Prime Minister (Mr Howard), and the Prime Minister clearly refuted that in the House today. He has made it abundantly clear that he is not racist, but we keep getting this allegation that, somehow or another, he is, by inference, racist in relation to the Aboriginal people of this country, and that is far from the truth.

It is incumbent upon Mr Beazley to state his position, because he has been remarkably silent in this regard. One wonders whether it is because there is a certain amount of support for those statements within his own party. Why is he not coming out clearly and unequivocally in this matter? He gets his surrogate here in the Senate to make statements in this regard.

Senator Bob Collins —I'm nobody's surrogate, Senator Herron.

Senator HERRON —Well, his spokesman, if you wish. It is a term that is used. Then to compound it, for the life of me, Senator Collins has been pursuing this matter in relation to the Special Auditor. The allegations that came through to my office on my selection as minister came from Aboriginal people. As I go around the remote communities there is enormous criticism from people in remote communities, as I have said on the record, about a fire hose of money at one end and a trickle coming out the other. That is coming from remote community people. It is a spurious allegation to say that it is the government that is doing this. This is coming from remote community people who are making these allegations. Many of those allegations have been put forward. I will not repeat yet again the findings in the final report of the Special Auditor. Eighty-nine per cent were not in complete order—89 per cent, Senator Collins.

In regard to these allegations about my comments in the estimates, I suggest that Senator Collins read carefully—get away from his obsession; get away from his demand that somehow I have misled the Senate—the Hansard. He needs to try to take the mote out of his eye and read it carefully. He will see that there has been no misleading. He has been pursuing this in question time consecutively. He is now doing it on the adjournment.

Maybe he should ask somebody else—because he obviously does not have the capacity—to read the Hansard and understand it. Perhaps he can read it but perhaps not understand it. I would suggest somebody on his staff. Maybe it is somebody on his staff who is fuelling all this, and, Madam Acting Deputy President, this is the alternative government! These are issues of major moment that are going to bring down the government! If the opposition is ever going to get back into the game, then they have to start taking notice of things. We have a cattle industry crisis in this country, and the shadow minister for primary industries is carrying on with these issues. (Time expired)