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Wednesday, 21 November 1973
Page: 2019

Senator KEEFFE (Queensland) -I enter this debate with a lot of sadness. I cannot believe that what Senator Bonner has just said is what he really believes. I fear that it is a story which was given birth inside the Liberal Party in opposition to the advancement of Aborigines as put forward by the Government I support. I hope that on further reflection the honourable senator will withdraw many of the things he said. I think that we have to sort out a few of the statements in order to get a correct picture. There are now 2 people who have complained about the setting up of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. The first of those was Mr Les Davidson, who wrote to me. Now tonight I have heard that Senator Bonner is opposed to it too. To get the picture in its proper perspective, I must point out that the Aboriginal and island people in this country have been asking for many years for their voice to be heard in the councils of government. This is the first real attempt by any government to hear the voice of the Aborigines. The NACC has been established in such a way that it will provide a voice for those who still live in the tribal state, for those who live in the fringe areas and for those who are completely integrated into the Euro-Australian community. I want to correct another point for Senator Bonner who said that NACC was established by the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. This is not true.

Senator Bonner - How many members were at the conference?

Senator KEEFFE -I would not know how many were at the conference but I do know that there were a lot of Aborigines there from every State in this country.

Senator Bonner - Tame cats.

Senator KEEFFE -You cannot call them tame cats now. You said a while ago that it was a radical left wing organisation. Please make up your mind. When you opened your remarks you described FCAATSI as a radical left wing organisation. Now you say that it is a tame cat organisation. Let us be factual about it. Aboriginal people came from every State in this country an ! from the Northern Territory. They got together in a spirit of goodwill, under the first Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in this Government, in an effort to work out an organisation through which they could make their views known to the Parliament of Australia.

Senator Bonner - The were hand picked by the Minister.

Senator KEEFFE -They were not hand picked by the Minister at all. That is a furphy that has been dreamed up somewhere. I will not go back to the cartoons in last Sunday's 'Sunday Mail', but if I were to believe that statement perhaps one of the captions in those cartoons would fit that statement. But I do not want to use it.

Senator Bonner - Use what you like.

Senator KEEFFE -No, I will not. Senator Bonner you will not provoke me. I am terribly sorry that you made your speech tonight.

The PRESIDENT - Order! The honourable senator will address the Chair.

Senator KEEFFE - Yes, Mr President. It will not be an Aboriginal Parliament. The Australian Constitution does not allow the establishment of 2 national parliaments standing side by side. It will be an advisory committee and, if it works out successfully with the goodwill of white people and black people in this country, I hope that it eventually will become a statutory body with certain powers that will be vested in it as a statutory body. But, if it is to be knocked by influential people, of course it is doomed to destruction before it even gets off the ground.

While I am on the subject of FCAATSI, let me say that I am not barracking for one organisation or another. As people in this chamber and outside know, I have criticised the One People of Australia League at length over the years, but I see the current trends in OPAL as something good for Aboriginal people. So there are those who probably have noted that I have withdrawn much of my opposition in the last few months. But there are too many Aboriginal organisations. This has been the white man's plan for years and years- to keep black people divided. In New South Wales there are about 70 multi-racial and black organisations. In Queensland at one time there were up to 40 of them, and God only knows how many exist in various other States. The big problem that Aborigines and Islanders have had to face is that they have not been able to unite and fight a common cause, because the white man has consistently kept them divided.

The PRESIDENT - Order! I wish honourable senators would abdicate these racist terms. Aboriginal people in Australia are citizens of Australia, just as everyone else is.

Senator KEEFFE - What term are you objecting to, Mr President?

The PRESIDENT - I object to what I call racist terms and trying to divide Australian people between black people and white people. They are all Australian people.

Senator Cavanagh - This has been done.

The PRESIDENT - All right. Just let honourable senators refrain from using these terms.

Senator KEEFFE -Mr President,I object to that. I was not trying to do it. I am saying that it has happened in this country and that it should not have happened. By making that remark to me you are perpetuating it.

The PRESIDENT - I am not doing anything of the sort.

Senator KEEFFE - I am terribly sorry about it.

The PRESIDENT - I just say that I do not refer to any Australian citizen other than as an Australian, and these are Australian people.

Senator KEEFFE -Are you denying that Aborigines ought to be called Aborigines?

The PRESIDENT - I will not be involved in this. I just wish you would use constitutional terms.

Senator KEEFFE - I am using constitutional terms.

Senator Bonner - Why do you continue to use the word 'black' instead of 'Aborigine'?

Senator KEEFFE -Why can I not use the word 'black'? Blacks describes themselves as blacks.

Senator Bonner - It is an insulting word.

Senator KEEFFE - I am sorry. I will not indulge in side arguments.

The PRESIDENT - Order! I will object to these terms from the President's chair in the future. I will have Australian citizens addressed as Australian citizens. It has nothing to do with colour of skin, race or anything else. They are Australian citizens.

Senator KEEFFE -Thank you, Mr President. I am amazed at this trend in the discussion tonight. I want to go back to the letter that has been written by Mr Davidson to Senator Bonner and two or three other people. In the first paragraph it states that the Aboriginal people of this country have called for a voice. I hope that the NACC will be that voice. The second complaint is that the time for organisation is far too short. Certainly it is a shorter period, but we ran a State election in New South Wales which terminated last Saturday, I think, after about a 3-week campaign.

Senator Jessop - The Labor Party got done over.

Senator KEEFFE - Senator Jessopwill have an opportunity to talk later if he wants to. The third paragraph contains the complaint that white people had set up the Committee. Originally the Committee was not set up by white people at all. It is true that it was convened by a Minister of the Crown, but from there on Aboriginal and Island people themselves set up their own steering committee. They selected their own advisers. I will give honourable senators a little bit more of that in a moment.

Senator Jessop - How many of them were Aborigines? Were they all Aborigines?

Senator KEEFFE - All members of the steering committee were Aborigines or Islanders.

Senator Jessop - Were there any negroes among them? What about naming them?

Senator KEEFFE -Does the honourable senator think that there were negroes among them? Why is the honourable senator worrying about negroes?

Senator Jessop - I am not worried about negroes.

Senator KEEFFE - Are you drawing the colour bar again? It is like your argument today about 16-year-old girls.

Senator Jessop - The honourable senator is talking about Aborigines.

Senator KEEFFE - In paragraph 4 is a suggestion -

Senator Jessop - I raise a point of order. The honourable senator mentioned something about 16-year-old girls. I would like him to withdraw that statement.

The PRESIDENT - Order! I do not know -

Senator Jessop - You ought to know because you heard it.

The PRESIDENT - Order! Yes, I heard the words '16-year-old girls' but I am not aware of the context. What was the context?

Senator Jessop - I would like Senator Keeffe to qualify his statement when he talks to me like that.

The PRESIDENT - Order! I did not understand the context. Perhaps Senator Keeffe will explain to me.

Senator KEEFFE - Senator Jessopasked a facetious question in this Parliament today during question time about the amount of money it would take to look after pregnant 16-year-old girls. At the time I thought that it was an insulting question. He is trying to be insulting now by referring to negroes as being non-black or something.

Senator Jessop - I was not doing anything at all.

Senator KEEFFE - I am sorry. On the spur of the moment I cast an aspersion. If the honourable senator is insulted by it I withdraw it.

The PRESIDENT - All right, we have solved that problem.

Senator KEEFFE - Mr Davidsonin paragraph 5 of his complaint said that he felt that the setting up of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee was a step backwards. It is not a step backwards. It is one of the most forwardlooking advances that has ever been made by any Parliament in this country. In paragraph 6 it is suggested that education and publicity should be established to get people on the roll. There are Aboriginal people in this country who are afraid to put their name on the general roll because -

Senator Bonner - Oh!

Senator KEEFFE - Look, Senator Bonner, let us be perfectly truthful about this matter. There are Aboriginal people who are frightened. They are intimidated by police and other people and they are not prepared to put their name on the roll. They have told me so. I have no doubt- 1 am sorry that you do not believe me- that they would supply a statutory declaration to this effect if required to do so. Of course the suggestion that they ought to be set up in little organisations like the Australian Democratic Labor Party and other small groups is quite ludicrous. The only chance they have to be elected to this chamber or to any other chamber is to join one of the 2 major political parties. That is the way they can do it. I agree with Senator Bonner that Pete 's Week cartoons in the 'Sunday Mail' were quite insulting. They should never have been published. It is unfortunate that this newspaper thinks that these cartoons have some humourous value. They have not. Some of the statements made by Senator Bonner are completely consistent with a campaign which is going on in this country and particularly in Queensland at the present time. The honourable senator is probably acquainted with the remarks of a rather old and imbecile Parliamentarian of the State House, a Mr Tom Aikens, who delivered one of his broadsides again under Parliamentary privilege.

Senator Laucke - I raise a point of order. Reference had been made to a member of Parliament in another place in terms which are unparliamentary. I ask that Senator Keeffe withdraw.

Senator Mulvihill - Who is Tom Aikens?

Senator Laucke - It does not matter. It has been said that he is an imbecile member of Parliament.

The PRESIDENT - Order! Where?

Senator Laucke - In Queensland.

The PRESIDENT - Order ! A reference to a member of the Queensland Parliament has nothing to do with me. There is no substance in the point of order. Nevertheless, Senator Keeffe, I suggest that you restrain your language.

Senator KEEFFE - I am endeavouring to maintain a restrained attitude to this question which appears to be charged with emotionalism when it ought not to be so charged.

Senator Jessop - I am afraid that I have to rise on a point of order. Surely nobody in this place can refer to another member of Parliamentwhoever he may be- as being an imbecile? I demand that that reference be withdrawn.

The PRESIDENT - Order! I must apologise to the Senate. The learned Clerk has reminded me that standing order 418 provides:

No Senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament . . .

Therefore, Senator Keeffe, I ask you to withdraw the expression. Senator Laucke, I apologise for overruling you.

Senator KEEFFE -Thank you, Mr President. I am afraid that it is impossible for me to praise this particular gentleman who inside the Queensland Parliament has been conducting a campaign against black people over many years. I am sorry that it appears that Senator Bonner wants to make the same argument in this place. I do not want to argue with him.

Senator Greenwood - Just withdraw and get on with your argument.

Senator KEEFFE - In any case you are too stupid to argue with. I withdraw that. These are the cold facts about the setting up of the steering committee.

Senator Jessop - Mr President,I would like to know whether the honourable senator has withdrawn his statement.

The PRESIDENT - Yes, he withdrew it.

Senator KEEFFE - I did.

Senator Jessop - I am not sure of that.

The PRESIDENT - I clearly heard Senator Keeffe withdraw his reference to the State member of Parliament.

Senator Jessop - I would like to hear him say that. I heard an interjection come from our side of the House and the honourable senator responded to that. I would like to get that -

The PRESIDENT - I was letting Senator Keeffe finish what he was saying. Senator Greenwood interjected and said: 'Why does Senator Keeffe not withdraw?' Senator Keeffe said: Then I withdraw the reflection.' I allowed it to pass at that stage and I consider that the incident is now closed.

Senator KEEFFE - I withdrew twice, Mr President. I suggest that the honourable senator on my far right over there, politically and otherwise, listen more closely.

Senator Jessop - I would prefer to be far righter than you are.

Senator KEEFFE -You will be. May I quote a few paragraphs associated with the setting up of the steering committee and the NACC. These are the facts. The steering committee met from 19 to 23 March in Canberra. It came together to discuss, mainly, the election of a truly representative, fully Aboriginal consultative council. A number of advisers were asked to attend. For the benefit of honourable senators let me say that these people were not members of the steering committee. They were: Mr Malcolm Mackerras, politics; Mr John Evans, independent solicitor; Mr Bourke, Commonwealth Electoral Office; Mr Rose and Mr Scott, Attorney-General's Department; Dr Coombs and Mr Dexter, Department of Aboriginal Affairs. In conjunction with these advisers the steering committee resolved that certain proposals be put to the interim National Aboriginal Consultative Council for consideration. They were all adopted to a lesser or greater degree. The proposals were as follows:

That the respective States and Territories restrict their electorates to a ceiling number of six.

Senator Bonnerknows that this was subsequently changed to suit areas in particular States -

That the number of electoral regions be as follows: Queensland, 9; Western Australia, 8; Northern Territory, 8; New South Wales, 8; South Australia, 4; Victoria, 3; Tasmania, 1; Australian Capital Territory incorporated in New South Wales.

Some minor changes were made to this. It was decided that the eligibility for voting be the minimum age of eighteen and that the Commonwealth definition of 'an Aboriginal' be utilised for eligibility. Of course, the Commonwealth definition is that anyone who claims to be an Aboriginal or Islander shall be accepted as such. The ballot papers were to be filled in on the first past the post system. This decision was taken by the Aboriginals themselves.

It was further resolved that members of the steering committee, with the assistance of the

Aboriginal and Island people and the Commonwealth Electoral Office, be responsible to compile and maintain the electoral rolls. The electoral boundaries were drawn up in conjunction with the Commonwealth Electoral Office and the Attorney-General's Department, and followed fairly distinct lines. I might say here that the boundaries that were drawn up took into consideration community of interest, tribal ties and various other factors that were relative to the wishes of the Aboriginals. The method of voting was a combination of polling, postal, roving and absentee. There were some problems because of the unavailability of the ballot boxes in the first week but with the co-operation of Papua New Guinea and the electoral office there and State electoral offices sufficient ballot boxes have since been obtained. The balloting is now well under way. From memory, the timetable was changed twice in order to give the maximum amount of time for proper organisation. I will not go through all the propositions but I am quite convinced that if there are 40,000 people enrolled- I believe it is close to that number- this is a pretty fair representation under very difficult circumstances on this the first occasion.

It is public knowledge, I think, that the people who will be elected to these various districts will not be sitting down in big flash offices. I do not think that any member of this Commonwealth Parliament has a big flash office. If Senator Bonner has one, I certainly have not got one. It is considered that there ought to be an office or some central location where the headquarters for each representative can be situated. I hope that the rather damaging statements which were made here tonight by Senator Bonner be withdrawn at some future date. I hope that the NACC is successful; but to be successful it needs the co-operation, assistance and support of every member of the Australian community regardless of colour, race or anything else. If that is given then after 204 or 205 years the Aboriginal people of this country will at last have their voice heard.

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