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Wednesday, 3 November 1971
Page: 2976

Dr KLUGMAN (Prospect) (12:55 PM) - I should like to preface my remarks on the estimates of the Department of the Interior by saying that I shall be dealing basically with the Northern Territory because I have recently been there. What I am saying is a criticism of the neglect of the Northern Territory over many years is not necessarily a reflection on the work of the present Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) because I think that at least he has his heart in the right place; he is trying to do something far the Northern Territory. When I was there some 2 or 3 weeks ago for the election campaign for the Legislative Council present also were the Minister for the Interior, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) and any other Australian Country Party Minister who could get on a VIP plane, to see what they could do to try to save the seat for the Country Party in the long run. The Minister for Trade and Industry was quoted at the time as saying that in the future the Northern Territory would become a separate State and that he was confident it would become a Country Party State.

The reason he gave for its becoming a Country Party State was that there was an absence of industrial unionism, an absence of affluence and an absence of education. I am not surprised that he put those 3 things together to suggest that they make up a perfect recipe for a Country Party State. To my mind, all kinds of rackets are going on in the Northern Territory. It is already being run as a Country Party State. For example the airline which recently changed its name to Connair Pty Ltd has been granted a subsidy this year of $838,620, which is nearly a 100 per cent increase. This subsidy is 5i times as much as the subsidy granted to Ansett Airlines of Australia for the whole of Australia. It is a Liberal Party organisation, as honourable members may know, while Connair is a Country Party organisation. No tenders are called for the services provided by Connair. Mr Eddie Connellan, the managing director of Connair, is described as having been a member and a strong supporter of the Country Party for many years. .

Sir JohnMcEwen, the former Leader of the Country Party, is quoted as having said in Darwin in 1969: T will resist any moves which may bring competition to Mr Con.nellan's airline'. He made it clear that he would use all of his influence to block any attempts to have the service open to tender. This is a Country Party airline. We do not want anybody else coming in here. So it costs the taxpayers $838,620 this year. Sir John McEwen said that Mr Connellan was a wonderful man whose airline made only a pittance out of the subsidised operation. I am sure that Mr Connellan, apart from supplying free transport for Country Party candidates in all kinds of local elections in the Northern Territory, also kicks in substantially to the Country Party kitty. But the objectionable thing as far as I am concerned is that no tender is called and that public money is being used to subsidise a political party.

On Tuesday, 26th October last, 1 spoke on the estimates of the Department of the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts. I made the point that I have visited the Northern Territory and that I have seen Aborigines who were living like animals at Papunya. People accused me of trying to make political capital out of this. Let mc quote what Dr Goff Letts, a Country Party candidate at the recent Legislative Council election, said. I am quoting from the 'Sunday Australian' of 17th October. The heading is 'Aboriginal graduates live in kennels'. The report states:

Young Aboriginals educated at Darwin's highly rated Kormilda College are living in 'insanitary kennels' at a welfare settlement without job opportunities, a doctor claimed this week.

The doctor was not I. The report continues:

Humpies would be too complimentary a term for the primitive unsanitary kennels in which people live', said Dr Goff Letts, a Country Party candidate in the Northern Territory's Legislative Council election.

The settlement is at Hooker Creek, 480 miles south west of Darwin. Dr Letts said the people at Hooker Creek dad asked for better housing and were prepared to work on their own home building projects - but nothing ha'd been done. "The most depressing side of it is the presence of a number of young Aboriginals who attended Kormilda College only to return to conditions of wretchedness without useful work or means to practise what they have learned.'

And he warned that unless action was taken to give employment opportunity at Hooker Creek an area of bitterness and trouble' would develop.

The report then gives a description of Dr Letts background. The story was followed up in the Northern Territory 'News' of 30th October. There is a picture of the Hooker Creek settlement. Referring to Dr Letts, that reports states:

One of the terrible things about the situation is that these people are living only 100 yards from the staff quarters,' he said.

The staff quarters are generally of a pretty fair to good standard - some brick and some demountable and generally air-conditioned. Every time the people living in these kennels look up they see the staff houses. The type of housing provided for the staff at Hooker Creek should be provided for everyone there.

The report then describes what happens to those who attended Kormilda College. Dr Letts said that the situation at Hooker Creek was completely unnecessary. At that stage Dr Letts was a Country Party candidate. He is now a Country Party member of the Legislative Council, having defeated an independent member. He is an addition to the Country Party strength in the Legislative Council to which the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) referred earlier. The reason why he was elected to the Legislative Council was that he attacked the County Party administration of the Northern Territory; Good luck to him if he keeps it up. The position there is quite shocking.

I refer briefly to the Northern Territory Development Notes for the 1971 Budget. On page 20 there is a comparison table of activity of proposed expenditure for the last 2 years. Honourable members will note that while Aboriginal advancement expenditure is proposed to be increased by 13 per cent this year the increased expenditure on police has risen by 16 per cent. Last week the Northern Territory 'News' carried stories by a Sister Helen Wagner who had recently resigned from the Department of the Interior. I will try to read into the record some of the points that she makes, but the important point that she is making is the confusion in the Northern Territory. Different government departments are running services which should be run by one government department. Sisters are employed at bush hospitals run by the Welfare Division of the Department of the Interior. The doctors are employed by the Department of Health. The sisters are not under the direction of doctors. They have contact with doctors by radio. They are visited by doctors, but they are in different departments. This is a ridiculous proposition.

Both the sisters and the doctors, on my visit, agreed that there should be some joint control. The reason for the separate control no doubt is empire building on the part of one or other of the departments. I do not know which one it is, and I do not particularly care. If this has lead to the situation in which infant mortality in Central Australia has risen to over 200 per 1,000 as compared with 80 per 1,000 2 or 3 years ago, obviously the position must be changed. I do not care whose corns one treads on, the important thing is that the position must be changed as quickly as possible. We have a description by Sister Wagner of the sort of things that apparently were going on, according to her, when she first went there in 1967 and the sort of things that she implies tend to go on now and are the reason for this increase in infant mortality. My time has almost expired and I am therefore unable to read this report into the record. But there are some shocking allegations made in this report. I agree with the Northern Territory 'News' that there is complete justification for the appointment of some sort of committee of inquiry to investigate, not to allot blame because I do not think this is the important thing in this case. This should not be the aim of such an inquiry but it should try to find out what would be a reasonable method of improving the set-up there because I think it is important that it is improved.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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