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Wednesday, 10 October 1973
Page: 1866

Mr CALDER (Northern Territory) - As the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) challenged me about the drinking habits of various sections of the community in the Northern Territory I feel that I must speak. As an ex-policeman, he would probably spend more time delving into these sorts of things and court figures and statistics than I do. I have a somewhat broader approach to life, coming from a larger area. I cannot give him the specific figures for which he asks, but I would agree with him that the major problem of Aborigines in the Northern Territory is drink. That is nothing new; everyone knows it. So he is not telling me anything new. He is not telling the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs or anybody else anything new. It is a problem. I was in the Northern Territory when various people, who were members of the Committee for the Rights of Aborigines and Torres Strait islanders - the former Minister was one - and various other interested bodies were ramming very hard for Aborigines to have equal rights with Europeans to drink alcohol, to go into bars and so on. At one time there was some control over Aborigines drinking. It was a paternalistic control, and whether it was right or wrong, I do not know. But since that control has been removed the drunkenness problem has multiplied about tenfold. Various other people, including myself, were in the Northern Territory at the time and advised that Committee against granting this right completely. The Aborigines themselves, the old-timers, will tell you that flagon wine is the big problem.

The honourable member for Hunter alluded to a mission or whatever it was 40 miles from Katherine. I cannot think of what it is unless it is Bamyili. That is a Government settlement and is vastly different from a mission. It so happens that this is the first place on which the previous Director of Welfare in the Northern Territory Administration, Mr Harry Giese, established a wet canteen for the Aboriginal community. Mr Giese is amongst the people such as the former Minister who have been stood aside. He had 25 years experience with Aborigines which does not seem to be wanted by the present setup. He initiated the first wet canteen for an Aboriginal community at that place. I was there when we discussed it with the Aborigines, so I do not know where the honourable member is getting his information. He is quite right about flagons going out there. Very often the Aborigines, who can now buy cars and so on - it is quite right that they should be able to do so- drive to the hotel, get the grog themselves and run the flagon wagons themselves. It is not unknown for members of the tribal council to take from the mission or settlement the truck that they normally use for their own business, whether it is policing the place or doing patrols of the settlement or the mission, drive it to the hotel, stash it up with grog, bring it back themselves and sell it to their colleagues. So everyone is in it. lt is not just the Europeans; it is the Aborigines themselves. So just get that right.

I find that the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Enderby) is still responsible for the Northern Territory by, I imagine, a quibble. When I was talking earlier and he replied he seemed to make some play on the fact that I had overlooked that he was the Minister. When the Minister for the Northern Territory next comes to Darwin I will check to see who he is - whether he is the honourable member for Dawson or the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory. It is not a matter of trying to make me out an idiot; I will be interested to know whether the member for the Australian Capital Territory will be the Minister or not. The honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory was taking a typically narrow-minded legal approach. This is probably one of the reasons that he has not been a success as Minister for the Northern Territory. He does not have a broad enough outlook. I instance his endeavours to stampede the land acquisition ordinance through this Parliament and to force it on to the people of the Northern Territory who do not really want it. If he had a broader approach to life he would not, in his fury, have re-gazetted the ordinance within a day of its disallowance in the Senate. He would have recognised that many of the people of the Northern Territory did not want it and he would have conferred with them. Perhaps such conferences will take place when that ordinance is again thrown out by the Senate. I would advise the incoming Minister for the Northern Territory, or would ask the Minister for Secondary Industry (Mr Enderby) to tell him, to go to the people, and not just shoot from the hip and hope for the best.

Another matter I mention before dealing with the actual estimates for the Department is the question of responsibility for the Northern Territory Legislative Council. I do not know whether the Government's stamp duty legislation has been passed, adjourned or thrown out, but members of the Legislative Council are concerned at the whittling away of their authority and the disregard which is being shown for the legislature of the Northern Territory. Such disregard was being shown increasingly by the present or ex-Minister, however the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory cares to think of himself. However, I believe that the honourable member for Dawson who has a far broader experience of northern matters, will go to the people and listen to what they have to say. Land acquisition and the rights of and responsibilities of the Legislative Council are two of the most important and most urgent matters which should be discussed by the Government and considered by the Minister for the Northern Territory, whether he is the Minister now sitting at the table, the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory, or the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) who is in Japan or on his way home from there.

I do not have much time in which to deal specifically with these estimates but I notice that the beef roads program is running down and that only $800,000 is now available. This is a pity because this has been a tremendous scheme, well executed by the Department of Works. It has done much to open up the country and to strengthen the economy of the Northern Territory. I hope that when the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement is renewed this program will receive consideration, if it comes under that Agreement. I hope that the Minister for Northern Development as well as the Minister for the Northern Territory, if he be a different person, will consider this aspect because beef roads are of tremendous importance not only for the development of the Territory but also for the defence of Australia. To some extent this seems to have been forgotten and pushed into the background by the Government.

I note with pleasure an estimated expenditure of $5.Sm on roads other than beef roads in the Northern Territory. I have advocated such expenditure for many years. I think all honourable members realise that a lot of people and much business pass over earth roads in the Territory. In wet weather such roads create problems. The north-south road from south of Erldunda almost to Port Augusta is a dirt road. I would urge the Government to consider upgrading this road. The remarkably good season that has been experienced in that area this year has resulted in that road being wet more often than dry. A considerable amount of damage has been done to motor vehicles and much confusion and delay have been caused to tourists and vehicles of all descriptions. That road should be included in the developmental roads program or the beef roads program and proceeded with at an even greater rate than was the beef roads program. I leave the outgoing Minister with the thought that communications are essential in the north. I urge him to remember this.

Proposed expenditures agreed to.

Department of Civil Aviation

Proposed expenditure $115,643,000.

Department of Transport

Proposed expenditure $131,172,000.

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