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Thursday, 15 May 1980
Page: 2274

Senator KEEFFE -Can the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs inform the Parliament when award wages will be paid to Aborigines in Queensland who are employed in the various reserve communities? Can he also inform the Parliament whether the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement has produced any plans to make use of the $417,000 which is likely to remain unused at 30 June 1980? Further, can the Minister advise whether his Department has yet been able to assess the total sum likely to remain unexpended as at 30 June 1980? If this information is still unavailable, is it because of the embarrassing rumour now circulating in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs that unexpended funds in the Department may be as high as $ 13m on 30 June 1980?

Senator CHANEY - I do not think I have any good news for the Treasurer of the sort suggested by the honourable senator. I do not anticipate underexpenditure of anything like $13m in my Department this year. There will be some underexpenditure, but it will be considerably lower than that. In part it is because of underexpenditure of State departments and in part because of underexpenditure by Aboriginal organisations, including organisations in Central Australia, which have not been able to meet the very useful plans that they had. It is a matter of regret for the Government when this occurs, but it does occur with respect to both governments and Aboriginal organisations.

The earlier part of the honourable senator's question referred to award wages. All honourable senators are aware that this is a matter which is before the Queensland Industrial Court. It is a matter which was brought before that Court I think by the Australian Workers Union. There have been adjournments of the matter since the Industrial Court held that award wages were to be payable under Queensland law on Queensland reserves. There has been a series of adjournments and I understand that that was with the agreement of the parties to those proceedings. Basically, the adjournments have been for the purpose of ensuring that additional information can be put before the arbitration authority. At this stage I am not aware of the precise, up-to-date position but I will seek that information and let the honourable senator have it. As far as plans which have been produced for spending are concerned, I can assure the honourable senator that wherever possible, where there is a shortfall and there are other areas of Aboriginal need which can be met within the appropriations which are provided by this Parliament, the funds are applied.

Senator KEEFFE - I wish to ask a supplementary question. I am shocked at the Minister's reply. Is the Minister unaware of the fact that the courts in Queensland are not holding up the payment of award wages to Aborigines on reserves, but that his Government and the Queensland Department are now conducting their third inquiry? It has nothing to do with the Industrial Court. I resent misinformation of this sort being given to a chamber of this Parliament.

The PRESIDENT - What is the question? I can see no question in that.

Senator CHANEY -Mr President,I will give an equal reply and suggest that the honourable senator get a hearing aid.

Senator Keeffe - He doesn't have to tell lies.

The PRESIDENT - Order! Senator Keeffe, withdraw that. You are charging the Minister with being a liar.

Senator Keeffe - I withdraw the word 'lies ' but he does not have to tell untruths.

The PRESIDENT - That is a qualified withdrawal. You know that it has the same meaning. Withdraw without reservation.

Senator Keeffe - I withdraw that, but I ask the Minister to give truthful information.

The PRESIDENT - Senator Keeffe,you must not let an inference remain.

Senator Grimes - It is not an inference. He is giving the facts.

The PRESIDENT - It is an inference. The fact that you say that indicates the correctness of my asking Senator Keeffe not to qualify his withdrawal. Senator Keeffe, withdraw without qualification.

Senator Keeffe - Mr President,at your request I withdraw but I promise the Minister that I will take the first opportunity to speak on the first reading of a Bill and point out where he is wrong.

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