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Thursday, 15 March 1973
Page: 653

Mr CALDER (Northern Territory) - I rise to support the Bill but in so doing I would like to say to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) how much I have appreciated, as I am sure he has, the speeches that have been made during the debate on this Bill. I think that probably they have been far more thoughtful, or appear to he far more thoughtful, than the speech I am about to make. I say to the Minister in all seriousness that one of the sources of major concern in Australia today is the welfare and the improvement of the lot of the Aborigine. The Minister commenced his second reading speech by saying that he assumed that most members of this Parliament and even members of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party could read. I believe that he was getting off on the wrong foot. That sort of attitude is liable to antagonise men who are. as 1 am sure we all are, dedicated in their efforts to see that the Aborigine gets a fair go. Some of us have been working towards this end for a lot longer than others. But I take the Minister to task for some of the remarks he made, especially since they refer to the area in which I live. I realise that the remarks made by the Minister were probably said in a lighthearted way because I know that he has a good sense and humour as well as a tremendous interest in the big job which he has undertaken. The Minister said that when his colleagues on both sides of the House go to the Northern Territory they should have a look at the Alice Springs airport to start with. The Minister talked about Swimming pools and first class travellers. But it is generally known how far the swimming pool at the Alice Springs airport is away from the nearest Aboriginal settlement?

The Government is constructing an establishment which will cost in excess of S2.5m a mile or so from the area which the Minister spoke about in his second reading speech. I know that the Minister was probably thinking of Amoonguna. But the Minister should not use these barbed shafts in criticising honour able members opposite. We are all trying to go in the same direction. These sorts of comments do not go down very well with the people who live in the north and these people are the ones on whom the Government will have to rely if it is to carry out its policies. These people will be only too interested to assist if they do not get turned off by the sort of remarks and attitudes that we heard from the Minister.

On the subject of roads, the road which runs for 180 miles north-west from Alice Springs to Yuendumu was built for one reason only and that was to go to Yuendumu. The Minister said that municipalities have not built roads. But the previous Government built that road. The Minister knows that this road was built to connect Yuendumu which has a population of 800 to 900 people. We know very well that the Minister realises the immensity of the task before him. We have heard many people say that money is not the answer. Of course, we all know that money has to be used, and it has to be used in big licks. I think that the success of this project depends upon the people whom the Minister can employ or engage to help him and the ability of the Department to do the job which the Minister hopes to do. My advice to the Minister - I hope that the Minister takes it in the spirit in which it is given - is to be very careful of the things he says when he is travelling through this country. After all. he does not live in this part of the country and neither do many of his advisers. Some of his advisers who arrived in the north very recently to our way of thinking in the Northern Territory are not Aborigines. I would ask the Minister to give me a definition of an Aborigine because there is a lot of confusion on this point. Australia is being told what Aborigines want and v/hat they are thinking. I am asking the Minister to weigh all of the evidence very carefully because there ure part coloured people in the Northern Territory who. incidentally, in our part of the world are thought of as Europeans in regard to their behaviour. The Minister will have to weigh his actions very carefully, because this doubt and wondering about what is happening was the reason behind the meeting in Katherine. The purpose of the meeting was not so much concerned with the fact that people were demanding certain things. The Minister was quite within his rights to give the answer that he did. The reason for the meeting - and this will cause many more such meetings - is that those who were seen associating with the Minister and who could be advising him do not have the respect of either the Europeans or Aborigines in that area. I am telling the Minister this because I live in the Northern Territory and I know it to be true.

The Minister is quite right when he states that these problems faced the previous Government. 1 am sure they did. But the 'Rights for Territorians' meeting as it was called should have been described as a demand for an inquiry into the running of Aboriginal affairs. I must admit that this feeling was afoot in the term of office of the previous Government. In fact, I think the Northern Territory Legislative Council mooted on more than one occasion a demand for such an inquiry. But to say that this meeting was racist, as it was described in the Press, is not correct. Some of the terms of reference suggested for the proposed inquiry included:

The running of educational, health and job opportunity functions of the Department.

Allocation of funds to the Department and the way it is expended.

Unemployment at various centres of both Aborigines and whites.

Job opportunities for Aboriginals. The committee will inquire into the policy of educating Aboriginals . . without development of industries to employ them.

These are not all the terms of reference given. The people at this meeting did not propose these terms of reference in a racist manner. They are concerned about these problems. They live in the Northern Territory. They came from as far as Booroloola to attend the meeting. Katherine has a population between 2,000 and 3,000 of whom 500 or 600 attended the meeting. That is the equivalent of an attendance of 300,000 or 400,000 people in a capital city. These people are concerned about the present situation. If we allow the attitude of these people to be described in the Press in northern Australia and to be portrayed to the rest of Australia - even to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs - as a racist approach the Minister will find himself on a collision course with them. We cannot afford to have this conflict.

Let us face the fact that the previous Government did a tremendous amount for Aborigines. One has only to proceed from Unakumba to Angurguru, travel across the top end of Arnhem Land and through to the centre to see what people have done and are doing for Aborigines to recognise that what

I say is so. Some of the critics, a number of whom are churchmen, are accused of dividing Aborigines. Men who were officers of a similar department with tremendous experience prior to the Minister assuming his portfolio have been cast aside in the new Department. I do not know how any man with 20 years of experience can be cast aside. Such experience is possessed by Harry Giese. I acknowledge that I had some arguments with him. But I know that these men have some contribution to make. We must all face this problem together.

I ask the Minister to mark well the information and the sources of information which he has. The Bishop of Darwin, J. P. O'Loughlin, has spent 20 years with Aborigines, as have many other churchmen in Australia. These are the people to whom the Minister should be listening. I have a list in my hand. On one side are the names of about 20 people. In that list is the name of Bishop O'Loughlin, together with the names of people of whom the Minister probably has never heard.

Mr Cross - Hand your list in.

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