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Wednesday, 11 April 1973
Page: 1352

Mr CALDER (Northern Territory) - Last night, because of the decision of the Government, time ran out and I could not finish my speech on the motion for the adjournment. I was talking about a This Day Tonight' segment which was filmed in Katherine on 7th March. I had virtually only opened my remarks. Tonight I refer the House to the filming which took place in Katherine on the night of 7th March and the screening subsequently not only in Darwin but also in all Australian capital cities. The scene opened with the producer, a man called Finlayson, leaning over the door of his utility in the main street of Katherine and remarking that Katherine had never been known for its good humanitarian relations between races. This is the way he set the scene for what was to be a nation-wide television broadcast of a program that is accepted generally as an authoritative production of fact. I say it was actually completely and utterly biased. It was endeavouring to produce a set of circumstances which would convince the people of Australia that a meeting which took place in Katherine was a completely racist meeting.

What sort of experience has a man like this Finlayson which enables him to arrive at a place in. the Northern Territory and decide that he is going to do this? After leaning over the door of his car he pointed at the Crossways Hotel in Katherine and said: 'And the whites are over there in their $2m Crossways Hotel planning their strategy, working out what they are going to do in their air conditioned rooms, while the Aborigines are across the high level bridge over the Katherine River'. According to this report they have nothing. They have no assistance, no air conditioned rooms and are not planning any strategy.

I point out to the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) and to all people concerned that this sort of approach to Aboriginal affairs and the Northern Territory situation is damaging. It is making the job of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant), who is sitting at the table, far harder than it would otherwise be because this program endeavoured to paint a picture and excluded from the scene anyone who happened to be interested in the welfare of Australian citizens whether they be Aborigines or anyone else. This reporter could have asked any one of the 500 or 600 people who were at that meeting to tell him what it was all about. At that meeting 12 people were elected to a committee but he did not ask one of them for an opinion. He did not ask one of them what the meeting was about. He decided to sound off and give Australia the benefit of what I consider to be very slender knowledge about the matter. Not only is it slender know ledge but also it is very dangerous conjecture, but he adopted this sort of attitude. He could have easily asked one of the members of the committee, some of whom were Europeans, some part coloured, some cattlemen, some welfare people, a cross section of the town of Katherine. But instead he endeavoured to describe this meeting as a white racist meeting. I think he succeeded because a number of complaints I have received about that particular segment of that program have said that this man was really showing that there was this attitude in Katherine, that there were 500 or 600 people seething in a racist manner.

I will read some of the terms of reference of that committee appointed at the meeting to prove that those there were not at all racist. Had this reporter spent any time in the area or been interested enough to find out the situation and had not decided before he went there exactly what he was going to do and eventually misinterpreted the situation in Katherine, he could have seen these terms of reference. I will not have time to go through them all but some of them were: The running of educational, health and job opportunity functions of the Department; the running of settlements at Hooker Creek, Beswick and Roper River - these places are in the local area and naturally enough the people would be interested in them; the allocation of funds to the Department and the way they are expended; the questioning of the lack of supervision of the spending of welfare cheques paid to Aborigines for specific purposes. The people who were at the meeting see these others coming into town on payday and spending their cheques on grog and not spending enough money on their families. Naturally enough the local people are very perturbed about this. They are the people who live in the area and see these things happening and this is why the meeting was called.

But this reporter did not wish to portray this genuine interest in the welfare of the people in the area, not only Aborigines but also whites on the settlements. Unemployment at various centres of both Aborigines and whites was another of the terms of reference. I will not read any more of them but there are many more. I am sure that the Minister knows them all and that he appreciates the facts. I am not attacking him but the man who produced this segment and misrepresented a meeting at Katherine, misrepresented the

Northern Territory and the whole Aboriginal scene in Australia. He has done a great disservice to the people who are trying to help Aborigines. He set up the convenor of the meeting, the manager of Killarney, Mr Tapp, and Mrs Tapp. He lured them across the high level bridge ostensibly to be seen speaking to Aborigines in camp environment. Someone - whether it was the reporter or someone else 1 do not know - had arranged for an exemployee of Mr Tapp to come out of the bush. He did so and he and Mr Tapp had an argument. This was one of the would-be highlights of the segment showing this cattleman accusing this Aborigine of not having worked properly for him and the Aborigine accusing htm of not paying him sufficient money.

The program did not bother to look at the other side where Mrs Tapp was speaking to some of the Aboriginal girls who had worked with her and were overjoyed at seeing her in town. This was a friendly scene. But no, this reporter showed this bitter meeting between an employer and the man he had sacked, a man who had left him irresponsibly. I appeal to the Minister, to the Government and to anyone concerned to recognise that the Aboriginal situation in the Northern Territory and across the top of Australia could be dynamite and has to be looked at from both sides. Those who go to the area and write news stories and take pictures have to understand that they can help the Aborigines as well as we can.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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