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Tuesday, 20 October 1970


Dr GUN (Kingston) - I wish to discuss the appropriation for the Office of Aboriginal Affairs. I am concerned with one of the most sordid affairs in post-war Australian politics. 1 refer to the Queensland Government allowing the aluminium company. Comalco, to deprive the Aboriginals at Weipa on Cape York Peninsula of their birthright, and the recent acceptance by members of the Queensland Government of a preferential issue of shares ki Comalco. The whole deal was begun by the Queensland Government which passed legislation excising no less than 91 per cent of the Aboriginal reserve at Weipa and handing it over to the mining company. What was the mining company prepared to do, in return, for the Aboriginals? There was no end of promises to provide improved education, employment opportunities, housing and an improved standard of living in general for the Aboriginals. According to the Queensland Minister concerned - this was in November 1957 - the company would provide a dormitory within the reserve to house single natives employed by the company, it would erect a trades school to enable youths to have tuition to fit them for apprenticeships and it would provide fencing for the reserve.

None of these promises has been implemented. Only a tiny fraction of the Aboriginals at Weipa are employed by the mining company. There has been no trade training for any of them, and of course training for executive positions is out of the question. The mining company initially gave an assurance that there would be desegregated schooling. What has actually happened is that there is now the school for Aboriginals on the old mission site and another shcool for European children at the township, 7 miles away. The occasional European child in the area of the mission site needing schooling is taken to the European school, an expense the Queensland Government claimed was not warranted for Aboriginal children.

So called 'adequate housing' was promised, but what was the performance? It was a payment of $300,000, which the Queensland Department of Native Affairs used to construct 62 houses at an average cost of $4,900. This allocation meant that the Aboriginal houses lacked laundries and sewerage, something which Aborigines apparently can do without. In contrast, the average expenditure on each European house was $28,000. On top of that many amenities were provided in the new township which have turned out to be unavailable for non-whites. The reward to Comalco for trampling on the Aboriginals at Weipa is probably the richest bauxite deposit in the world, with a value of something like 12 billion dollars. The cost has been the payment of $300,000 for Aboriginal housing plus a royalty of 5c per ton of bauxite. This royalty incidentally is paid into Queensland consolidated revenue. This is an interesting contrast to the royalty of 20c per ton paid by Nabalco for the bauxite at Gove in the Northern Territory and which is paid, not into Commonwealth consolidated revenue, but into an Aboriginal trust fund.

And now we come to the big pay-off to the Queensland Government which has presided over the whole ugly deal. Preferential issues of shares in Comalco were made to these members of the Queensland cabinet: Mr Chalk, the Treasurer, 1500 shares; Mr Rae, Minister for Local Gov.ernment and Electricity, 1500 shares; Mr Hodges, Minister for Police and Works, 1200 shares; Mr N. Hewitt, Minister for Conservation and - note - Aboriginal Affairs, 1200 shares; Mr Tooth, Minister for Health, 1200 shares; and Mr Campbell, Minister for Industrial Development, 700 shares. These 50c shares were offered with a premium of $2.25, making a total payment of $2.75 per share. When they came on the market these shares opened at $5.70 each and rose to $5.90 each on the first day. They are at present valued at $5.50, a hundred per cent profit - not a bad transaction.

The Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Wentworth) probably will tell us that 50,000 shares are held in trust for the Aborigines. If these were distributed to each Aboriginal at Weipa there would he about 8 shares per person, but it is worse than that because the shares are held in trust for all the Aboriginals of Queensland. In this Parliament in June the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) declared that the preferential issues of shares to the Queensland Government members was not his concern. This is not so at all. By a large majority in the 1967 referendum the Australian people gave power to the Commonwealth to legislate for the welfare of the Aboriginal people. The Commonwealth must now act resolutely and quickly to preserve the future of the Weipa Aboriginals from the predatory actions of the mining company and the Queensland Government. With the power of export licensing the Commonwealth has all the powers it needs. There is one further very sinister aspect to the matter. I have it on good authority that the Queensland Government now has a policy of separate but equal development at Weipa. I think we all have a very clear picture in our minds of what separate but equal development means. Its more common name is apartheid. The Queensland Government has no intention of integrating the white and black communities at all. 1 am not talking about South Africa; I am talking about a Government right here in Australia. The Commonwealth Government is legally and morally bound to forestall these actions which are completely contrary to the policy of the Federal Government and the wishes of the Australian people.

Finally, I would like to refer to two extracts from the Townsville 'Daily Bulletin' of Saturday, 11th July 1970. On that day an Aboriginal man was jailed for 2 years with hard labour for attempting unlawfully to use a motor vehicle. The man was said to have a lengthy criminal record including a number of charges for unlawfully using motor vehicles. On the same page is an account of 2 men who pleaded guilty to five charges of breaking and entering. Both these latter men had previous convictions and currently were serving 18 months on probation. For these 5 further offences they were placed on probation. Here are 2 cases in the same Court, the same day, the same judge. The black man gets 2 years for attempting to unlawfully use a car, the white men are put on probation for 5 separate offences of breaking and entering. 1 think this requires no further comment, except that this was an extract from the local paper of the one day of my life I have spent at Townsville. If this is a representative sample of justice in Townsville, T would suggest it is time that attention was given to using the courts to dispense justice without fear or favour and without regard to colour. The member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) incidently is no doubt doing a splendid job for the Returned Services League in Townsviile. It is about time he threw off his inertia and helped the Aboriginal community in his electorate. I have waited for him to speak up for the Aborigines in his area, but T have waited in vain. I have no doubt his electors will give him the treatment he deserves ;n 1.972.







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