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Wednesday, 20 September 1972
Page: 1042

Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) - in reply - I desire to wind up the debate by saying that I have heard the whole of the debate and have found many surprises in it, especially in the speech made by Senator Byrne. The honourable senator said that members of the Labor Party who took an active interest in this debate were of the opinion that the Aborigines had a just cause and that they had protested more vehemently for that cause than they would have for other causes. I was very much concerned that the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) had asked whether the Labor Party would do the same for the Nazi Party or a Croatian party. Surely the cause cannot be mentioned in that way - by suggesting that the Labor Party should protest if the Nazi Party or a Croatian party wanted to demonstrate on the lawns in front of Parliament House. The Labor Party's concern was demonstrated by the fact that some members said they were prepared to link hands and form a barrier between the police and the Aborigines. This was evidence of their concern about the treatment that has been accorded to Aborigines over a Jong period, a concern which they were prepared to demonstrate in order to impress more people in Australia.

It is all very well to speak of the loss of dignity by Aborigines and of paternalism, but it is something we must face. We have a section of our community who are not getting a fair deal despite the money that has been spent on them to date by this Government. Senator Keeffe quoted the example of Vesteys being prepared to give land to the Aborigines. Yet no attempt has been made by this Government to provide land rights to Aborigines. A group of militant Aborigines, even if they are not representative of the whole movement by the Aboriginal people, is not prepared to permit their race to persevere under the conditions of the past. They see a need for some alteration to the system and they were prepared to demonstrate outside Parliament House in an obviously most effective way. I do not think it speaks well for a member of their race who happens to be a member of Parliament to disown them to the extent that he would criticise anyone who seeks to be of some benefit to them.

My first point on the Ordinance is that it was put into operation before the Parliament was allowed to consider whether it approved it or not, and that this action has never been justified and criticism of it has never been answered. The second point is whether the Ordinance is a good ordinance, leaving aside the question of Aborigines, or whether it ought to be amended or modified as it applies to the ordinary vehicle and to the lands or camping on them or the holding of circuses and festivals on them. Time prevents my going into the question of what the Ordinance will permit, lt does, however, give permission to erect a tent for, say, a circus, festival or carnival. But permission is given for certain things and denied for others. The Minister should be able to give permission to erect a tent for any purpose which he thinks justified. At present he is limited to giving permission to erect a tent for such things as a circus, carnival, festival, show or fair. Many church missions and similar societies are prohibited under the Ordinance from erecting a lent.

The Ordinance is faulty in its entirety and needs redrafting if we desire to preserve it. I would have thought that there would have been a statement by the Government on its intention to make adequate provision for people to protest, other than the half hour demonstrations that are held from time to time, without it being necessary to do what the Aborigines did on this occasion. Aborigines have tents, which they call embassies, in other cities. In Adelaide one has been erected on the lawns outside the Hotel Australia, which is one of the most prominent positions in Adelaide, with no interference from the State Government - I do not know whether it has power to interfere - and with the approval of the Adelaide City Council which is Liberal-controlled.

Senator Jessop - What about the embassy in Western Australia?

Senator CAVANAGH - -The honourable senator asks about Western Australia only because the Government there is a Labor government. The Western Australian Government came to an arrangement with the Aborigines about the removal of a tent. In Western Australia there was no hostility, no sneaking up in the night at 1 a.m., and pulling down tents. In South Australia they are allowed to demonstrate their opposition to the deprivation of their land rights, with the approval of the Liberal-controlled Adelaide City Council. That Council has a different outlook from that of other Liberals. We know that South Australian Liberals, apart from Federal members and Mr De Garif in the Upper House who seem to be following the Australian line of deep, conservative Liberalism, are running somewhat contrary to the trend of Liberalism throughout Australia. Obviously in South Australia there is a movement to make the Liberal Party sufficiently respectable to be re-accepted by the people of South Australia at some time in the future. The Federal Liberal Party has a long way to go before it achieves that aim.

Considering all the faults in the Ordinance, considering the purpose of the Ordinance, considering the mess that the Government has made of the Ordinance, and bearing in mind the decision of the Supreme Court which found that the Ordinance was not enforceable, I hope that the Senate in its wisdom will disallow the Ordinance.

Question put:

That the motion (Senator Cavanagh's) be agreed to.

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