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Tuesday, 27 November 1973
Page: 3948

Mr BONNETT (Herbert) - The Opposition does not intend to oppose the passage of the States Grants (Aboriginal Advancement) Bill (No. 2) 1973 through the House, but while agreeing with the principles involved, we hold grave reservations about how the large sum of money that is involved will be used to the best advantage for the benefit of our coloured people. The reservations we hold have been caused by the recent allegations of misuse of public funds set aside for the welfare of Aborigines and islanders and by the report of expenditure which was tabled on 11 October last by the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.

Over the years during debates on the issue of Aboriginal affairs I have consistently directed my remarks to constructive criticism and never to destructive criticism of the Minister's or Department's management and planning programs. But at this time I have some specific queries to raise. In raising these questions I also refer to the previous Government's administration. While I do not exempt that administration from blame for some lack of supervision of proposed projects and programs, I blame this present Government for allowing the lack of supervision and direction to continue.

In fact, the situation, according to the report tabled by the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, appears to have deteriorated still further in regard to systematic project planning, programming and the control of finance. I base these assertions on items of expenditure in table 4 of the former Minister's report which, in many instances, shows a surprising lack of detail. Because we are dealing with public moneys which are supposed to be expended for the benefit of our coloured people, this lack of detail is, I feel, a cause for grave concern to this Parliament and needs to be corrected as soon as possible.

To illustrate my concern, I shall mention a few of the items from the table to which I previously referred. It is noted that an Aboriginal legal service exists in all States, and various amounts are shown as operating expenses for the legal aid services. For instance, the amount is $110,000 in New South Wales, $118,000 in Victoria, $122,500 in Queensland, $127,000 in South Australia, and in Western Australia, under the heading 'The New Era Aboriginal Fellowship Incorporated', which I presume supplies legal aid, an amount of $110,000 is provided. An amount of $100,000 is shown for the Northern Territory, and under the heading 'National organisations legal aid scheme, initial costs' an amount of $7,479 is provided. An item which interests me greatly is the provision of $50,000 for the operating expenses of the Tasmanian legal aid services. I was under the impression that there were no Aborigines in Tasmania. But if there are, the number of Aboriginal residents in that State cannot be great, and I think this amount which has been spent on legal aid services needs to be accounted for. Overall, a total of $644,970 was spent on legal aid, and there is no mention of how this huge amount was spent. Again this emphasises the lack of necessary detail in the expenditure listed. I shall refer to a few extracts from the various State tables which, in my opinion, show the necessity for a detailed investigation into moneys allocated and the control and supervision of such expenditure.

In New South Wales, for instance, the Armidale Women's Rugby League Football Club - purchase of sports equipment, $548. I should like to know: Who do they play? Next is the purchase of Glenairy and Sunnyside, $130,000. I presume that these are properties? What were they purchased for and how is the project progressing? Purchase of building for use as an Aboriginal club, $250,000, and towards operating costs for the 1972-73 financial year, $20,000. Where is this building and how is it progressing? Breakfast and preschool cultural program, $12,470. What is that? Is it for actual meals supplied or is it a radio program? In Victoria the Aboriginal Advancement League operating expenses, $11,632. How is this amount accounted for? Nindethana Theatre Company - cost of producing play and rent of theatre, $800. Working expenses in production of play, $4,660. Was the play a success? Were there any door receipts taken to offset these expenses?

In Queensland the provision of caravans and associated facilities for Redlynch Aboriginals $32,500. How many caravans? Are they to be used as permanent dwellings? Would it not have been a more responsible action to provide $32,500 worth of permanent housing? Special work project at Mornington Island, $15,455. Special work project at Aurukun, $15,128. What are these special work projects? Have they been successful? Born Free Club, Brisbane - purchase of capital equipment, working fund for club program and part payment of operating costs, $9,800. Was the spending of this money controlled and was it spent to the best advantage? A recent news report classed this club as a hovel of filth and a degrading place for Aboriginals to sleep in. Another item is salary for Pastor D. Brady for a period of 6 months, $4,800. I heard Pastor Brady had retired to live at Palm Island some months ago. If this is so, what work is Pastor Brady doing to warrant such a huge salary? Promotion of sports carnival at Mount Isa, $5,000. Were any gate receipts taken to offset this expense? To establish a bus service on Palm Island, $6,500. Knowing Palm Island as I do, I ask: Where does this bus service operate to and from on Palm Island? Are any bus fares charged to offset operating costs. Torres Strait, Wolfram Pty Ltd, manager's salary and operating expenses, $20,000. Is this project productive? Have there been any financial returns from this project?

In South Australia, cost of running shearing and wool handling school at Point Pearce, $7,800. Has this project been successful? Who receives the training at this school? Aboriginal Cultural Centre of South Australia - operating costs, $13,000. Is this project worth while? Just what happens at the cultural centre? Is there any possibility of this centre yielding any return? Purchase of 7-ton truck and portable electric welder for water drilling project, $10,000. Who purchased this plant. Is it a successful and a profit making project? That is what Opposition members want to know and it is what the Parliament wants to know. Special work projects at Ernabella, $62,000. What are these projects? How are they progressing? Reafforestation project, $10,000. Equipment for irrigation, $5,000. Where is this project located? What types of timber are being cultivated? When did the project start? How big is the project? Council of Aboriginal Women of South Australia - operating costs, $12,000. Just what does this council do to merit such expenditure?

In Western Australia, Aboriginal Advisory Council operating costs were $22,000. What does this council do to merit such expenditure? Expand social welfare program in the Kalgoorlie area, $17,600. What was actually done for this sum of money? How did the Aboriginal community benefit from this expansion. Esperance Carrying and Parcelling Company wages, transport costs and truck, $11,000. Who controls this company? Is there any financial return from this expenditure? Mirama Council, Kununurra - purchase of 2 vehicles for use by community, $13,000; purchase of garden equipment, fencing and vehicle, $6,500. Who maintains these vehicles? Just what are they used for? Development purposes, Panter Downs, $32,500. Does the Minister know what these development projects are? I would bet he does not know. Development of Yandeyarra, $110,000. What is the progress report on these enterprises? Western Australian Museum - cost of erection of 3 storehouses and maintenance of 9 others, $12,000. Storehouses for what and how does this benefit the Aboriginal people? Surely this is not too much to ask.

In the Northern Territory there are too many items of expenditure to be covered in the time available. For instance, to name just a few, $36,800 to purchase two bakeries. Who do they bake for? For the purchase or development of cattle properties, $1,893,977. Have these projects been investigated to ensure that they are viable propositions? I have not heard them referred to in this chamber. How about a progress report on these enterprises? That is not too much to ask. Institute of Aboriginal Development in the Northern Territory, $204,829. What function does this institute perform to warrant such expenditure? To the Tiwi Development Company, operational capital, $5,000, and to Tiwa Tours, $30,000. Just what return can be expected from these enterprises for the benefit of the Aborigines to warrant such expenditure?

For national organisations - to applied Ecology Proprietary Limited, $430,000. We are aware of this and we have been through" it in the Senate and in this place. Salary and expenses for credit union trainees, $22,000. Pilot project at Jigalong, $8,600. Are these projects viable and of value for the assistance and welfare of the coloured people? Who authorised the expenditure of $35,000 to hold a national seminar of Aboriginal arts, $23,500 to stage the 1973 national Aborigines Day celebration and $19,000 for the October football carnival? I have only touched on some items of expenditure in the various States? I have not mentioned grants to sporting clubs and the like which apparently are handed out quite liberally. But is there any supervision or control to ensure that such grants are used as intended?

I have mentioned before that the Government's policy on Aboriginal welfare is a piecemeal affair, with no apparent direction or control and I think, the report tabled by the former Minister proves my contention. Public money has been used and should be accounted for. According to the report and what was said at the second reading stage of this debate direct responsibility for its use appears to be completely lacking. Does the Minister direct the expenditure of all public moneys paid out on behalf of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, or can a member or members of his Department authorise payments without discussion with the Minister? If this is the case it should be stopped immediately. Is the Minister completely in the picture in regard to all this expenditure? The Parliament is responsible for the expenditure of public moneys, and I request the Minister to acknowledge that this Parliament is entitled to know the full details of all projects, programs and requests for assistance.

If I knew, I would not be asking. In this way all the Parliament would be aware of what is happening and would be able to ensure that finance would be expended in the best interests of our coloured people. 1 think the Minister should be a lot happier under such an arrangement, for he would have the backing of all the Parliament for the various projects he desired to undertake on behalf of our coloured people.

In previous debates I have mentioned what I think is a definite need in the field of Aboriginal welfare. I refer to the planned establishment of community centres - something that I did not notice in the tabled report of the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Finance allocated for such purposes certainly would not be wasted. I know that in the building of these community centres there would be no lack of support from the coloured people who on many occasions have stressed to me the desire for such a set up. In fact, if my Party had continued in government after the last election I know that a community centre would have been established in Townsville by now. The establishment of these community centres where people, especially the Aboriginal women, could meet regularly would be a tremendous help to them. At the moment, no matter what town or city one visits - apart perhaps from the capital cities - where coloured people live one will find them gathering in parks because there are no premises available to them. I commend this idea to the Government as one which could be started immediately.

There is another very sensitive area in which the Government should clearly define its policies, that is, the area of housing. This is a particular problem which I hope the Minister can appreciate. In this instance I am not talking about the tribal Aborigines who wish to live in dwellings of their own design, but I am speaking about the fringe dwellers, as we call them, and those who rent premises in a town or city. Again I refer to the fact that our coloured people have a communal idea of living - an idea which we could not and would not tolerate but one which we must try to understand on their behalf. For instance, some State governments have the idea that by purchasing a home in a residential suburb in which the residents are white people, the integration of such living would overcome a lot of the characteristic problems between the coloured people and the white people. This is not so, and has proved to be a tremendous, failure in the centres of which I am speaking and of which I know. I am hoping that these governments will realise this before they purchase more homes in such circumstances.

In lots of instances the coloured people are embarrassed and their white neighbours are also embarrassed because mainly the white people do not understand the communal way of living of our coloured people. It is an accepted fact among them that if a couple occupies a house their friends and relatives are entitled to occupy the house also if need be. This may lead to overcrowding, which creates embarrassment for the landlord and the coloured tenants. Again where the tenants of a house are coloured, sometimes they have no idea of maintenance and this again leads to a problem between the landlord and the tenant which eventually leads to eviction orders and a certain amount of friction between the coloured people and the white population. They have stated to me often - I mix with them quite a lot and I see them every weekend - that they do not want to live like us but they will live with us. I think that this is a pretty fair assessent

In this area of housing problems for the coloured people in a white community I suggest that a suburb of neat, tidy dwellings with all the amenities and services be established solely for the coloured people, who would enjoy living together, would still be part of a community and would still play their part in the development of a city, town or area. Then they could indulge in their own ideas of recreation and relaxation in their own centres without any interference from the white population who have their ideas of relaxation and recreation according to what they themselves desire. This is a problem which, in my opinion, could easily be overcome by the establishment of a suburb specifically designed for our coloured people, with nouses, streets and all the amenities and facilities that go with suburban development. I would like to see it tried. I am sure that it would not be long before we would find that they would take pride in the appearance of their suburb, which would have its own community centre and community services. They could indulge in the specific way of living that they want, without hindrance to anybody else, and yet they would still be part and parcel of a community.

I commend this idea to the Minister as a starter. I commend the other ideas I have suggested for some time because I feel that policies directed toward something definite to assist the coloured people would mean a lot more to them than just the handing out of money in a fashion without system, rhyme or reason and which is starting to antagonise the white community. At the moment our coloured people do not know what they have got, where they are going or what they can expect. I am positive that everybody would appreciate and would put their whole support behind a definite, sensible policy which was strictly adhered to. (Quorum formed)

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