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Thursday, 22 October 1970


Mr COHEN (Robertson) - I was pleased to see the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) get up to speak because until he rose we had heard only from our esteemed friend the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull). I was surprised to see him rise, knowing the Country Party as I do, and talk on Aboriginal affairs. He has no right to do this because he is not an Aboriginal. Whenever we of the Labor Party talk on rural matters we are told to sit down because we are not farmers. Why did he get up and talk on Aboriginal affairs; he is not an Aboriginal?


Mr Hunt - He represents them, that is why.


Mr COHEN - He misrepresents them, just as you do. We have had a disgraceful performance from the Government tonight We know we can always get the honourable member for Mallee up when we say no-one from the Government side has spoken. He got up just to make sure there was a name from that side of the House. The only man who spoke with any sincerity was the honourable member for Maranoa, who has a genuine interest in the subject. Until then there had been the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross), the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis) and the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby). Then we saw the honourable member for Mallee get up just to make sure the Government had its name on the sheet.

Let us get back to a few fundamentals on this subject of Aboriginals. Tonight most of my colleagues have covered the subject so well that I do not intend to go over it as I have done in previous speeches in this Parliament. My colleagues have talked this evening about why Aboriginals are such a depressed minority. They have asked the Government what it is going to do about it. We know from previous speakers - and it has been said so often in this House - that the problem starts primarily from the day the Aboriginals are born. Children up to 6 months or until they are no longer breast fed are fairly equal with their white contemporaries. It is after that stage when they are living under such shocking housing conditions that their health starts to deteriorate because of their continual reinfection. If they happen to survive to the age of 4, which is the danger period, they have been sick so often that they are not only physically retarded but also mentally retarded. If they manage to survive through early childhood they come up against all sorts of problems such as social deprivation at the age of puberty. So we have this continual evolutionary process which is unfortunately creating a situation where by the time Aboriginal children are 15 or 16 years of age they are so fat behind their white contemporaries that they have no possible hope of catching up.

The honourable member for Kalgoorlie mentioned the question of the definition of an Aboriginal. He gave a very good description when he said there is too much generalisation when we talk about Aboriginals. We hear this so often from , people who talk about the Aboriginal. We know quite well there is not just one type of Aboriginal for there is the city dweller - the Aboriginal who comes perhaps from Victoria. These are people like Lionel Rose and Eric Simms from .Sydney, who are part Aboriginals. We cannot possibly talk about them in the same way as we can about the bush dwellers, the fringe dwellers, the Arnhem Land dwellers or however many groups we like to divide them into. There are distinct groups with distinct social problems. It is a misnomer to talk about an Aboriginal. I am sure the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) understands this problem well. I will not go over all the problems of housing. I think it has been said by every speaker tonight that the housing situation is the one that will be the rock upon which we will build the answer to the Aboriginal problem. Until we have them off these filthy revolting rubbish tips and out of these disgusting shanty towns, we have no hope of making any progress. We have to find a means of providing them with a way of surviving in our competitive capitalist society. This is what concerns me.

I want to mention a few things about the trip some honourable members had through the Northern Territory during the recess. I was impressed with some things and I will compliment the Minister on them. But I will not compliment him on the fact that he is always running around calling anyone who does not agree with him a Communist. This is the one thing that stops the Minister getting the complete respect to which he is entitled. We have all said many times in this House that he has a very far reaching knowledge of the problem. We have complimented him but if we criticise him we are Communists, do-gooders, stirrers or something like that. I object very strongly to those sort of terms being levelled at anybody who criticises the Government. It is a pity he spoils his reputation in this regard. Having said those nasty things about him I want to compliment him on what I saw at Alice Springs on my way to join a committee. With my family I drove to Jay Creek outside the Standley Chasm which is a famous tourist resort and saw there some appalling living conditions. I was quite shocked. My wife fortunately had not witnessed anything of this nature before. I had seen it on previous trips. There were children with torn singlets, filthy, dirty, matted hair, eyes covered with pus, running around almost naked. On a river bank I saw 2 pieces of corrugated iron making up what was a house.

However, I did see some things that gave me some pleasure. I noted that the Aboriginals had formed a co-operative progress association at Jay Creek. At the entrance to Standley Chasm they have built, with the help of money provided by the Aboriginal Enterprises Fund, a first class, kiosk which provides food, including sandwiches, steaks and all manner of amenities for the thousands of tourists who visit Jay Creek or Standley Chasm. This is providing employment for Aboriginals. The kiosk also' contains a wide range of native artefacts which are for sale. About 4 or 5 Aboriginals are employed - 3 or 4 girls who are beautifully dressed and groomed and a chef. Some 8 or 10 Aboriginals are employed in another enterprise near the kiosk. This is a trail ride enterprise which takes tourists on rides throughout the area. I understand that also they have a cattle co-operative with 100-odd head of cattle. I regard this as a first-class enterprise which the Aboriginals have established with some help from a European gentleman named, I think Herb Adams, who has been appointed by the progress association to help them run the business and to teach them saddlery and a few other skills. I understand that they are making great progress and that they are managing to function as a viable business. The sort of activity that is proceeding at lay Creek is a means by which the Aboriginals will, in some respects, be helped to establish themselves economically. However, at Jay Creek something should be done quickly to provide decent housing, because the present housing conditions are absolutely appalling.

On this trip we visited 2 or 3 other places. I want, particularly to mention Groote Eylandt because if ever I saw a set of conditions where Aboriginals are thriving it was at Groote Eylandt. The Opposition has not been noted for the compliments it pays the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, but I think this company deserves to be congratulated for the modern, progressive and enlightened approach that it has taken towards the Aboriginals on Groote Eylandt; not all of it, perhaps, because of its great humanitarianism. The point is that what we saw was extremely good. I think this has much to do with the fact that the Rev. Taylor foresaw the great manganese deposits that existed on Groote Eylandt and took out .a lease on the resources for the Aboriginals, and instead of the usual situation where 2 royalties are paid, one to the Government and one to the combined Aboriginal Trust Fund in the Northern Territory, a third royalty is being paid to the Aboriginals on Groote Eylandt. This means that the local community of about 900 Aboriginals is receiving some $150,000 annually at present. I understand that they expect to receive about $200,000 by next year or the year after. By this means they are receiving some direct compensation for the activities that are going on right in their neck of the woods.

As a general rule 1 believe in the philosophy that certain groups of Aboriginals should not be wealthy because they happen to have mining resources on their particular plots of land. I agree with the former Minister for the Interior (Mr Anthony) who advocated the policy that the money from royalties should go into a general fund. However, in the peculiar circumstances that exist with these resources, 1 believe that, the idea of the third royalty being paid because of the leasing conditions at Groote Eylandt should be applied throughout the whole area. There is a similar situation at Gove, but the third royalty is not being paid because the lease was not taken up on behalf of the Aboriginals. I imagine that the same situation will occur at Oenpelli where a uranium deposit has been located. I would advocate, and I hope that when the Labor Party becomes the government in 1972 it will do this - the introduction of a system whereby a third royalty is paid wherever a big mineral find is made on an Aboriginal reserve or wherever Aboriginals are ensconced so that they can see some direct benefit from those vast enterprises that dislocate their lives.

Other benefits accrue' from such enterprises. I must compliment the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. for its attempt to employ as many Aboriginals as possible in its enterprise. On Groote Eylandt some 28 are working for the company, and doing extremely well. This may sound to be a small proportion of the 900 local Aboriginals but when one realises that 500 of them are children, 200 are women and about a further 100 are too old to work or otherwise incapable of working, it leaves only about 100 males of whom one-third are being trained by the company. This is a commendable effort. The attitude has been adopted that wherever the interests of the Aboriginals and the Europeans conflict, the Europeans must give way. We heard of incidents between Aboriginal women and European women. Whenever these occurred the company had the good sense to sack the Europeans, get them off the island and out of the area. This is what we were told. I might mention that we sat around talking to the Groote Eylandt Aboriginals for some time. Eventually we asked them whether they had any complaints and it took almost half an hour before we heard a complaint. I had to lean forward to hear what the Aboriginal man said. He said that there was too much taxation. This is a complaint that is not restricted to the Aboriginals on Groote Eylandt.

I should like to see a special attempt being made to ensure that royalties are paid to Aboriginals where a mining enterprise dislocates their traditional cultural and tribal way of life. I hope that in the near future - and when we become the government - we will take up the point that the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis) mentioned about racial discrimination. I should like to see racial discrimination illegal in Australia. I should like to see it outlawed. I should like the Parliament to examine some of the legislation which has been introduced in the United Kingdom for the Race Relations Board. I should like also to examine what has happened in Canada with respect to hate literature, but I think this is something that must be considered in the future.

I conclude on this note: I know that the Government wants to move on to other business, but on the question of land rights I am most critical of the Government. I think that the Government is reacting to situations and is not acting. We saw wherever we went - at Gove, Groote Eylandt and at Wave Hill particularly - much activity. I believe there was a good reason for this. Apart from the attitude of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, on which I have already commented, I believe that the Government and the companies were sensitive to public opinion because all of these areas had been in the public media - on television and in the Press - and had been given much publicity; therefore there was activity. I was absolutely shocked to see the amount of money that was being spent at Wave Hill and not being spent at places like Jay Creek or areas we saw earlier this year.

If ever I saw a reason for the students who have been criticised for stirring to get out and do some more stirring it is this Government's reaction to pressures from the public media. Right throughout our trip we were constantly aware of the sensitivy of the companies to criticism. The criticism had come about only because the Press, the television media and the students had sought to demonstrate and highlight these inefficiencies. I was getting to the stage where I felt that demonstrations were losing their impact, but after seeing this attitude of the Government I can only say that, if that is the way the Government reacts, these people should demonstrate in a lot more places. I understand that the same thing is happening at Roper River. The Aboriginals there went on strike. A protest occurred. What happened? The Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) flew up there, and things are now to start happening at Roper River. All I can say to the students is: 'Get out and get the names of a lot more of these places. Get the names of a hundred different places and get them in the headlines'. If they do they will get the Government to do something about them.







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