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Wednesday, 16 May 1973
Page: 2219

Mr CROSS (Brisbane) - The Government certainly welcomes the expressions that have been made by the honourable members who have spoken. This Committee is being set up in accordance with a decision that was reached at the Launceston Conference of the Labor Party. Of course, the Senate has had a committee working in this area for some time. I think that we all recognise that there are many problems - problems of consultation and problems of establishing programs which advantage Aboriginal people in the whole range of circumstances in which they live from one end of the Commonwealth to the other and which genuinely help them. These programs for Aboriginal advancement are integrated with programs to assist other people in needy circumstances or people who suffer from the problems of isolation and who live in rural areas a long way from the capital cities. Not only will the programs provide the amenities of life and opportunities for Aboriginal and island people of Australia but they also will create a climate in which they can live peacefully with their fellow Australians and play a positive role in furthering an Australian community. That, of course, is not said without respect for those people who live in communities of their own and wish to continue to do so.

Like the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), I hope that this Committee does not become a political forum. My experience as a member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs on which I have been privileged to serve since 1967 together with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant), who is at the table, for a period of that time, and members from both sides of the House, is that when members serve on parliamentary committees they leave their partisan points of view behind them. This is not to say that we do not have our political philosophies. When we are out of the political forum we tend to look at things honestly. I see no reason why this Committee should not operate in the best traditions of parliamentary committees.

Mr Peacock - Objectively, 1 think you meant.

Mr CROSS - Without reflecting on anyone, perhaps I should explain the word 'objective'. I think there are times - and I think we would be prepared to admit it - when we line up in the political arena here, voting For things that we would not cheerfully support. For example, sometimes I have felt great regret when I have been voting to disagree with the Speaker's decision on some matter when I have thought in my own mind that the Speaker was right. Party loyalties dictate that in this place on many of these matters we line up and be counted. But I realise that some of these matters are improving under the present Government. I am delighted with that portion of the motion which states that the Committee will have the assistance of the necessary staff facilities and resources because I find myself in this new Parliament spending most of my time walking from one committee meeting to another, sometimes wondering whether my time is being well used. 1 think this is a very important part of the provisions for this Committee. Parliamentary committees in this area - in the matter of voting rights and in the matter of land rights for the people of Yirrkala - have played a constructive role and I am sure that this Committee will play a similarly constructive role in the future.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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