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Tuesday, 25 September 1973
Page: 1462

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - Whilst many of the things that the honourable member for Cook (Mr Thorburn) said are commendable for the sentiments expressed in them, let me draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Liberal Party is the party which turns words into reality. The honourable member for Cook referred to the fact that there is one Aborigine in the Senate. Let me remind him that that senator is a Liberal and that the honourable member's Party is yet to endorse an Aboriginal candidate who is in the position of winning. The action of the Liberals in endorsing minority groups can be further underlined by the fact that in the history of the Australian Parliament - I am referring now to a majority minority group and one . which has been kept down by the Australian Labor Party - only 8 women have become members of either the House of Representatives or the Senate. Two women have entered the House of Representatives and six women have entered the Senate. The 2 women who have come into the House of Representatives both have been Liberals, and of the 6 women who have come into the Senate five have been Liberal ladies.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti}Order! I ask the honourable member to return to the Bill and to deal with the feminine question later.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - Yes, Sir. I was just drawing this to the attention of the House as an example of how the Liberal Party does what it says, and at times even more. In speaking to the Bill providing for arrangements with the States with respect to Aboriginal affairs. I have a duty at this time, on the first occasion since the unfortunate matter erupted, to draw to the attention of this Parliament and to leave in the record of Hansard forever a case which underlines the inept manner in which this new Government, which presently reaches out into the States for more powers, handled the procurement of the Hill End hostel in Brisbane. Mr Deputy Speaker, whilst the Opposition is not opposing the Bill, you will recall the words of the Opposition spokesman on Aboriginal affairs, the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett), who comes from north Queensland, when he drew to the attention of the House the fact that the Bill and the explanatory notes are more famous for what they do not say than for what they do say.

As I said, this is the first opportunity the Parliament has given me to raise this subject without having to speak in an adjournment debate or the like. Let me go back a few months to the latter part of June 1973. At that time somehow it was announced that the new Labor Government had bought the Baptist Theological College in the Brisbane suburb of Hill End for the purpose of a hostel for Aborigines. It was announced suddenly, and because of misunderstandings which exist in our community there was a reaction which members of the Australian Labor Party themselves have described as understandable. The reaction was not pleasant. I recall contacting the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) and advising him that there was a great necessity for a public meeting to be held and that he should be present to address it. I commend the Minister - and this is where my commendation ends - for his willingness to come to this public meeting. Furthermore, he acted with speed. He interrupted his return flight from Cairns in north Queensland to Melbourne in the south especially to address this public meeting in Brisbane which I had helped to organise.

Mr Cooke - He was a bit provocative before he got there, though.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - I hope that the honourable member for Petrie will take the opportunity afterwards to back me up in these views. As he said, the problem was that even before the Minister attended the meeting he was making statements to the effect that he had no sympathy for the objectors to the hostel. He had not even been there. He had not heard their views but he was stating quite clearly that he had no sympathy. On 23 June he said that the hostel would provide 'student facilities and a respectable place for Aboriginals to live'.

No one could argue against the sentiment or the endeavour of the Minister. However, the public meeting was held and approximately 300 local residents plus a number of disruptive outsiders attended. The Minister's attitude was arrogant.

Mr Bryant - Mine?

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - Yes. The Minister's attitude was so arrogant that it had the effect of making a long time Labor voter stand up and say to the Minister: 'Get down off your high horse.' He proclaimed to that angry crowd that had been whipped up by the Minister that he was a Labor voter - a brave thing to do at that time - yet his reaction was: 'Get down off your high horse'. Further on that occasion - I give the Minister a small credit tick for this - he accepted an invitation by a Mr Forrest who was at the meeting to visit Manhattan Walk and Musgrave Park. This is recorded in the 'Sunday Mail' of 24 June. The invitation followed an offer by the Minister to anyone in the audience to go down and look at a hostel which was operating in Victoria. One of the problems and concerns of the people is that Musgrave Park and Manhattan Walk are probably only a mile from the proposel hostel. The people are concerned about the close proximity to what is commonly described as a sometimes undesirable part of Brisbane.

Mr Cooke - Did the Minister go to Manhattan Walk?

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - The Minister went to Manhattan Walk.

Mr Cooke - After dark?

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - No, he did not go after dark. At that time the Minister was responding to a challenge from Mr Forrest to go there, and the Minister said: 'As long as you will come to Melbourne and look at this hostel.' The Minister accepted, but since then no contact has been made with Mr Forrest who offered to pay his own fare to Melbourne and who was promised that he would be shown the hostel. What a deplorable state of affairs. Further in this long history I wish to draw the attention of the House to the words of an Aboriginal civil rights leader, Mr Archie Smallwood, who summed up in a nutshell the feelings of the people of the multi-racial suburb of Hill End in Brisbane, a suburb where people have learned to live with people who are different. An article in the 'Courier Mail' of 26 June stated:

Aboriginals want to live in a respectable fashion like everyone else. We shouldn't be judged on the Aboriginals at South Brisbane who won't help themselves.' Mr Smallwood, an Aboriginal who works as a foreman with the Railways Department said the proposed Gray Street, Hill End, hostel would not become a haven for Aboriginal layabouts. 'It will be a hostel for students and it will be run properly with local residents being included on the hostel committee', he said.

Mr Cooke - The Minister was very equivocal about the use to which it would be put.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - That is right. Until 23 June we were told by the Minister that it would be for students. At the meeting the Minister procrastinated. He went slightly back on his word and said that the hostel would be for people. That was immediately after he answered a question in which he said that it would be basically for students. Even one day later he was going back on his word. The people went away from the meeting believing that it was to be a hostel for students. Unfortunately, some of those idiots who exist in our society endeavoured to whip up racial hatred. At that time not very pleasant slogans were painted on the walls surrounding the hostel. There were a few unfortunate public utterances, and these were not helpful. They only whipped up trouble and were condemned by all thinking people as being unnecessary and unfortunate.

On 8 July, according to the Brisbane Courier Mail', the Chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs stated:

The purpose in our mind is to accommodate Aboriginal girls completing Senior and wishing to enter commercial and other courses starting in February.

He said a lot more. I refer to this matter while this Bill is being discussed because I seriously doubt the competence of this Australian Labor Party Government - just as the people of Parramatta expressed grave doubts last Saturday - to administer the Department correctly. On 18 July the 'Observer' newspaper, which has a huge circulation on the south side of Brisbane, including the electorate of Griffith -

Mr Cooke - It is full of Labor propaganda.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) -It is not always full of Labor propaganda because it gives me an opportunity to express my Party's point of view in an honest way. On 18 July the headline read: 'Hostel use determined'. This appeared after some concern was expressed in our community as to what was going to happen. I am glad that the Minister is listening. The article read:

There was absolutely no suggestion of the Aboriginal hostel planned for Hill End being used for anyone other than students, the Federal Member for Brisbane . . said this week.

He said: 'Despite recent statements to the contrary this was the Government's final decision on the matter.' Because of the growing problems of the area I responded by sending a telegram to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on 2 July 1973 asking him to intervene. He advised me through his office on 6 July that the telegram had been forwarded to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. But unfortunately Brisbane was again to be neglected. The unfortunate history of the Hill End hostel shows that, after the public meeting I referred to earlier, a woman had been threatened that if she ever came into South Brisbane she should watch out. This stirring up of racial differences is something none of us, regardless of our policies, would want to see. But this was the unfortunate result. I am glad that the Minister is taking off his glasses and is listening more carefully now. That is the manner in which he should have approached this rather delicate question.

The matter hit the 'Sunday Mail' on 29 July 1973. This is a little bit like 'Blue Hills'. The history continued:

The Aboriginal hostel planned for Hill End will accommodate girl workers and not students when it opens on October 1.

This is another reversal from the original stand. The 'Courier Mail' of 30 July records how I deplored the switch. The 'Australian' newspaper - perhaps the Queensland edition - on 30 July reported that Aborigines were not being consulted by the Federal Government over the use of hostels. The President of the Black Community Service advised that 'Aborigines were angry that the Federal Government had reserved the Hill End hostel for girl workers and not students as originally proposed'. These were the actual words of Mr Ron Finney.

We come now to the next edition of 'Blue Hills'. On 8 August 1973 in the 'Observer', under the headline 'Students to use Hostels' the following report appears:

Despite Press reports to the contrary the Federal Government still intended the Aboriginal hostel at Hill End to be set up for students', Federal member for Brisbane .... said this week. The hostel -

It proceeds with an historical account. Honourable members may laugh. Those who come from Brisbane already know the sad history of this mucking around. My reason for raising this particular matter is that

I believe that the Government is totally incompetent in endeavouring to control every aspect of Aboriginal affairs. The Australian Labor Party already has proved that it is a party of procrastination. The Government's handling of the Hill End hostel has been so inept and studded with contradictions, bungles and indecision that even the staunchest Labor Party supporters in the area have long since ceased to play the pollyanna game in defence. There are in existence examples of conflict between the member for Brisbane and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Nobody in Queensland knew for months what was going on. The latest headlines advise that there will be some kind of training school. Indeed, in the Courier-Mail' of 11 September appears the heading: 'West End may be a pilot'. If the present Government is steering that plane I would not like to be on it. Heaven help the poor people that the Government will be picking up simply for an experiment.

The time allotted to me in this debate has almost concluded but I want to give one more example of the way in which the Government has treated the people of Queensland in this matter. In early September it advertised for a hostel manager and an Aboriginal house mother to be located in Brisbane at this hostel. It did not have the courtesy to place the advertisement in the 'Courier-Mail', Queensland's main newspaper. The Minister smiles. He has a particular feeling about that newspaper. The advertisement may not have been placed with that newspaper as a result of a particular instruction. However it is the height of rudeness for the Minister to advertise in other States through the national 'Australian' without giving the people of Queensland, who are not great readers of the 'Australian', an opportunity to be aware of such positions and of applying for them.

While the Opposition does not oppose this legislation there is every reason for the State governments to continue to voice concern at the spread of centralism because already, while the Government regards itself as capable, it has shown itself to be inept and incapable. The people of Hill End in Brisbane have been treated most shabbily. Any resentment which presently exists in that area is the direct result of fumbling in the purchase of the hostel and of the conflict in the various statements that have been made in the past.

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