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Tuesday, 1 April 1980
Page: 1257


Senator WALSH (Western Australia) - In the same issue of the West Australian- that is, 25 March- Commissioner

Leitch is quoted as saying that the investigation -and charges 'could develop into another election being held '. He did not explain how he arrived at that conclusion. Virtually all of the matters relate to postal voting. In total 137 postal votes were cast, and the winning margin was 800 votes. Either Commissioner Leitch 's arithmetic is as weak as his other logic, or he is suggesting that the winning candidate will, in some unknown way, be disqualified from Parliament by his investigation. Commissioner Leitch has stated to senior staff of the West Australian newspaper that forcing another election is his objective. The Commissioner's forecast of another election seems to be purely wishful thinking. If it were not, however, the propriety of a police commissioner forecasting the outcome of court proceedings which have not been initiated would be grossly improper- so improper as to justify his removal anywhere else but in the banana republics of Queensland and Western Australia.

Whether Commissioner Leitch 's hostility to Aborigines is due to innate racism or to his belief that Aborigines vote Labor- that is, whether he is motivated by racial or political bias, or bothcannot be determined. Likewise, it cannot be determined whether his hostility to Ernie Bridge is derived from Bridge's Aboriginal ancestry or from his association with the Labor Party. The effect, however, is the same.

Of course, whether the Premier has any direct hand in this- I do not believe that he has; it does not matter whether the Commissioner is directed by the Premier or whether he takes these actions spontaneously- he is responsible. The final effect of all of this victimisation of Aborigines in Kimberley- without doubt it is intended- is to stop them from voting altogether. That is the ultimate objective. If the events in Western Australia over the last month had taken place in Queensland, the national media would, quite properly, have been outraged. Its relative disinterest in Western Australia has been, I trust, only a result of geographic isolation.

Until such pressure is brought to bear on the national media, clearly the Fraser Government will take no action. The Prime Minister will continue to talk tough abroad and to go to water at home. What is needed in Western Australia, pursuant to the Commonwealth Government's constitutional powers and responsibilities, is action over Noonkanbah and a judicial inquiry or royal commission into the behaviour of Police Commissioner Leitch, following the precedent established by the last Federal Labor Government, when Senator Cavanagh, as Minister, in conjunction with the Western Australian Government, established a royal commission into Skull Creek. The Western Australian Government agreed to the setting up of that royal commission because it knew that the Commonwealth would proceed independently and unilaterally, whether or not it agreed. That royal commission, of course, ultimately was very successful. Anything less than that will be an abrogation by the Fraser Government of its constitutional responsibility to Aborigines.







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