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Thursday, 14 November 1974
Page: 2436

Senator WEBSTER (Victoria) - When one holds parliamentary office one must face the slings and arrows that are used by one's fellow members of Parliament. Senator Milliner did not rise to speak on matters relating to Aboriginal affairs but rose in an attempt to slate Dr Glen Sheil. I say that that is his parliamentary privilege and perhaps the honourable senator's character is revealed by that type of move in a debate on Aboriginal affairs. He is more interested in slating one of his fellow senators than he is in debating Aboriginal affairs. He criticised a building that is owned by Dr Glen Sheil apparently because the Brisbane Fire Brigade has not approved a building of some years as having an up to date standard of fire protection. As a member of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Public Accounts I read reports of the Commonwealth Fire Board on many occasions which showed that buildings owned by the Commonwealth and the Australian Government would not be approved by the Commonwealth Fire Board because they did not meet the up to date standards of fire protection. Senator Milliner might well take that into account and perhaps be a little truthful when he speaks on matters such as this. I do not doubt that hundreds of hospitals throughout Australia, including my own State of Victoria, which were built years ago could not, having regard to the costs which are applicable today, meet the appropriate fire standards and ratings that are set today. I suggest that the large majority of those buildings are owned by the Commonwealth or the Australian Government.

The matter that we are discussing is one of importance. The States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bill appropriates some $40,790,000, in a way in which the Australian Government feels it should be appropriated, for Aboriginal affairs. It is useless our saying, as Australians, that we are not a racist nation. I refer to a question answered by Senator Cavanagh. It is a matter of great interest. He was asked by Senator McManus whether he would accept the definition of Aboriginal. Senator Cavanagh replied and put on record in Hansard what we all feel is the definition today apparently of an Aboriginal, not what should be the definition of an Aboriginal. Senator Cavanagh said:

The accepted definition- the definition accepted by the McMahon Government-was a person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait descent who accepts himself as an Aborigine or Torres Strait Islander and is accepted as such by the community in which he lives. This Government has accepted that definition which, as I have said, was the one accepted by the previous Government.

I believe I recall correctly an answer to another question asked of Senator Cavanagh since that time in which he stated that he was dissatisfied with that definition. I think I am correct in saying that.

Senator Cavanagh - You are not correct.

Senator WEBSTER - Well, I beg you pardon. To me the definition seems most inappropriate for an Aboriginal. I thought I could remember some comment by Senator Cavanagh that the official definition should be changed.

Senator Cavanagh - No. One of your colleagues was to ask me whether we had considered it and he backed out of it.

Senator WEBSTER - I see. I know there was something that went into Hansard on this matter. If it could be found it would be interesting. The Australian society apparently is willing to have one group within its community which, if that group wishes to declare itself as being of a particular race, will be accepted by the Australian society as being of that race. If that occurs an appropriation similar to the one before the House would then be directed to those people. Aboriginals, at least in the 1971 census, were counted as people separate from the Australian community. The population statistics for Aboriginals in 1971 show that, of some 106,290 individuals, 53,919 were male adults and children and 52,371 were females. I imagine that it would be our aim to encourage all the finance that is available to be appropriated by this Government to assist the less fortunate of the Aboriginal race. Some of us, and I myself, feel that there are instances where persons who have declared themselves Aboriginals over the years perhaps do not require the special race assistance which is being meted out by this Government today. The most important matter which should face us under the States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bill- this is of particular importance to the Senate- is that the amount of $40,790,000 was allocated as set out by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) at page 74 of Budget Paper No. 7. The volume of money which would be paid to the 6 States is there set out. Senator Hall when he spoke this evening prompted the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) twice. I prompt the Minister again because I know him to be an honest man. Senator Hall said that he would support the Bill because the Minister had given a promise that the money which had been denied Queensland in the allocation made under this Bill- that is the amount of $3,190,000 which had been taken away from Queensland- would be allocated in Queensland in various forms to assist Aboriginal groups. Senator Hall twice got the Minister's promise that that money would be spent in this year. I hope that if the Minister does not hold to that promise he will have sufficient fortitude to resign at the end of this year.

Senator McLaren - Oh, what nonsense.

Senator WEBSTER -We hear the comment from Senator McLaren: 'Oh, what rubbish'. I think that is typical of a Labor man. You can say one thing today and if you do not keep to it, it 's a case of 'Oh, rubbish'. That is a typical comment by Senator McLaren. I know that he often comes out with that sort of thing. The honourable senator may think that. I do not believe that of the Minister. Perhaps that is the reason why some members of the Labor Party are Ministers and some are backbenchers. But I believe the Minister. He has given a promise to a senator that the $3, 190,000 which has been taken away from the Queensland Government will be applied in other areas of Queensland. I hope that promise will be adhered to. The Minister has said that and he has encouraged an honourable senator to vote with the Government against the amendment.

Senator Cavanagh - If I keep my promise will the honourable senator resign? Now he is doubting my word. It should be a reciprocal arrangement.

Senator WEBSTER -One can never tell. I am at risk at the next election so I might have to resign. I do not think the Minister is necessarily at risk. I may have a forced resignation; the Minister may not.

The PRESIDENT - Order! Earlier attention was drawn to relevancy. I would like the honourable senator to connect his remarks to the matter which is before the Senate.

Senator WEBSTER -Mr President,I acknowledge your comment. Having let Senator Milliner go on while he slated Senator Sheil I believe that you will allow me the liberty of talking on Aboriginal affairs.

The PRESIDENT - On a previous occasion someone made the mistake of saying that 2 wrongs do not make a right. I ask Senator Webster to please bear that in mind.

Senator WEBSTER - I am speaking on Aboriginal affairs. I am speaking about an allocation of $40m. Nothing could be more closely associated with this Bill. The fact is that an honourable senator has said that he will vote for this Bill provided the Minister gives a promise that the $3,190,000 which has been taken away from the Queensland Government- although promised to it in the appropriate Budget paperwill be expended in Queensland in this year. The Minister has twice given that promise. I draw to the attention of the Senate the fact that the $3,190,000 which has been taken away from Queensland has, under this Bill, been reallocated in other amounts to the other States. The amount of $3,190,000 has been taken away from Queensland. The original grant in the Budget was $13,552,000. It has now been downgraded to $10,362,000 which is a decrease of $3,190,000. That money has been allocated to the other States. I draw the attention of the Minister to that. I hope he will tell us whence the $3, 1 90,000 will now come.

Under the Bill with which we are dealing an extra $1,877,000 has been allocated to New South Wales, $730,000 has been allocated to Victoria and $583,000 has been allocated to South Australia. That makes a total of $3,190,000. The Minister might well chew the butt of his pen. I think it is a very serious matter that a Minister would encourage an honourable senator to believe that that money which has been taken away from the Queensland Government will be spent within Queensland with various Aboriginal housing societies and other groups. I point out to the Minister that this cannot be done. I believe that he should get Senator Hall to come back into this chamber. Perhaps he is working in his room and listening. I believe that the Minister should say to Senator Hall that there is another area and point out to the honourable senator from where this $3,190,000 will come because in truth, Minister, you have allocated it to the other States.

Senator Rae - What about the breach of faith aspect? Apparently Senator Hall does not mind that undertakings were given by this Minister to the Queensland Government authorising it to spend the money and now he is not giving it. It is a total breach of faith.

Senator WEBSTER - I take the 2 points made by Senator Rae. I again say that I have every faith in the Minister.

Senator McLaren - The way the honourable senator talks he could have fooled me.

Senator WEBSTER -Senator McLaren, that would be one of the easiest things to do in this chamber. I do not take any pride in it if that has happened. I ask for leave to table the figures which I have mentioned. They are in columns indicating the amount allocated by the Treasurer as shown in Budget Paper No. 7 at page 74. I really believe that this is not new to the Minister. He knows that that money has been reallocated to other States. I know that the Minister will allocate this $3, 1 90,000 before the end of this year. It will be allocated and paid to other areas of Queensland. My interest and the interest of Senator Steele Hall is: 'From where will the Government get that money? Will the Minister tell us from where it is coming so that we will know? Undoubtedly we will see a new allocation of money for Aboriginal assistance. I think this is an important point.

Another important point is that if ever there were a Bill before the Senate for rejection on constitutional grounds it should be this Bill. I am not aware of another Bill which has come before the Senate during my time here in which the Australian Government in an attempt to force its view on a State has said to that State: 'Unless you accept lock, stock and barrel the Federal Government's policy you will get less money.' I say for those honourable senators who may be listening and for those who are here that the fact is that that is why the Senate was constituted- to protect State rights. If ever there were a reason, not to deny Aboriginals this benefit, but to maintain State rights that is why this Bill should be defeated. I say to honourable senators from other States that this could happen to them. I say to other State Premiers that this will happen to them. They will see this happen under a dominant socialist Labor Government in Canberra. Unless the States agree with what the Government wants them to do- of course we have seen this in many instances- they will be denied funds. We have heard the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) and other Ministers demonstrating the way they feel. I think it is probably their inexperience that makes them act this way. As I have said, this legislation is a disaster for Australia.

I make the point that constitutionally this Bill should be thrown out. We as senators will not be performing our proper task unless we throw this Bill out. We are all enamoured of the idea of $40m being made available as quickly as possible to assist Aborigines. Because this assistance is to be given, the Bill in general will be supported by the Opposition but an amendment will be moved to indicate that we feel the Government's proposal to reduce by $3m the allocation which was promised to Queensland should not be implemented because it is contrary to the interests of the Aboriginal people in Queensland. The amendment was moved by Senator Rae. I have high regard for him and also for Senator Steele Hall. But I cannot understand why every time Senator Steele Hall speaks on a matter in this Senate the first thing he does is to slate a member of the Liberal Party. I say to Senator Steele Hall, who has been here for some four or five months, that if he can during the time that he is in this place elevate himself to the position and gain the reputation that Senator Rae has achieved amongst his fellow senators in the time that he has been here, he will be very pleased with himself. The comments made by Senator Steele Hall do not reflect my view of Senator Rae.

I have said that the application of the Australian Government's desire to dominate the States has been a disaster. The word 'disaster' is a good word to use when considering the attitude that has been taken to Aboriginal affairs by the Minister. In the adjournment debate on 29 October I raised 2 matters. Honourable senators may recall that I raised the issue of the double standards that were being applied by the Australian Government and consequently we, as Australian citizens, were being carried along with them. We have clothed ourselves with the spite of many people in the world because we voted in favour of South Africa's expulsion from the United Nations on the basis that South Africa had an apartheid policy and because it practised discrimination. Let me read how Senator Cavanagh is reported at page 2095 of Senate Hansard. He said:

I admit that there are sections of discrimination against Aborigines.

I would have thought that the Minister might have conveyed that information to those who were voting at the United Nations. After all, while we have discrimination and indeed apartheid in this country, we wanted to push out South Africa if we could without taking notice of the other black countries in the world today which practise apartheid. To me it seems to be a most unsatisfactory double standard for us to have. I think that the actions of the Australian Government will not elevate Australia's position in this and in many other spheres.

Let me turn to the reason that this Government's POliCY on Aboriginal affairs is a disaster. In the adjournment debate to which I have already referred I mentioned that Senator Cavanagh had said that Labor's policy on Aboriginal affairs was a disaster. In his speech Senator Cavanagh said that it was not the policy that was a disaster but that it was the implementation of the pOliCY that was a disaster. I know that newspapers misinterpret things but I would like to quote a few headlines which appeared in the newspapers in February this year. The Melbourne 'Herald' contains an article headed 'Disaster, Says Cavanagh'. Another newspaper article is headed 'Cavangah lashes policy on blacks '. Still another is 'This bungle is a disaster'.

Senator Mulvihill - You must keep a scrap book on the Minister.

Senator WEBSTER -No, I do not. The Parliamentary Library keeps it for me. The 'West Australian' of 27 February contains an article headed 'We've bungled native policy, says Cavanagh'. An article in another newspaper is headed 'Tattered shreds of a mess go on painful show'. The 'Canberra Times' on 27 February contains an article headed 'Policy implementaton a disaster Cavanagh'. The Adelaide 'Advertiser' contains an editorial headed 'What a mess'. An article in the same newspaper is headed 'We bungled policy, says Cavanagh'.

Senator McLaren - Now read Hansard of a fortnight ago and see what Senator Cavanagh really said. You are misrepresenting him in quoting from newspapers.

Senator WEBSTER - I am misrepresenting the Minister, says our good friend from the other side. Let me read what the 'Financial Review' of 27 February had to say. I do not think that is the proper one to quote, I think it is the 'Melbourne Herald'.

Senator McLaren - That is typical of you.

Senator Cavanagh - Why not quote from the statement that was issued. It is available.

Senator WEBSTER - I have some quotations here and they are the best I can get. This newspaper states:

Above everything, Senator Cavanagh is a capable politician. He demonstrated a high degree of courage in his Canberra address yesterday when he admitted in his opening words that Labor's Aboriginal policy had been disastrous.

On this same matter the 'Melbourne Herald' reported:

Senator Cavanaghsaid that the Government's policy had injured some aspects of Aboriginal culture.

It -

That is, Labor's policy- has created in Australia a white man 's hatred in many areas against Aboriginals', he said.

It has had a very big effect on members of the public service who work in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, possibly affecting them physically and mentally. '

That article went on to read:

He said that there was developing in the Australian community a section of people who saw a career 'in championing the cause of the oppressed '.

That same article goes on to read:

From the actions that were taken, decisions were made that would not have been taken if we had sat down and reasoned it out thoroughly, ' Senator Cavanagh said.

I have referred to those articles because I wonder whether, if earlier this year when the Minister was making known to the Australian public that Labor Party policy had been disastrous in the early days, the public can have any confidence that the same mess does not exist today. Mr President, in raising this comparison you may think that I am getting away from the point but I just quickly draw this comparison in an attempt to show that if there was a mess running earlier this year when the Minister admitted that the Government's policy was disastrous, it may be that there is still a mess today in this area. To illustrate my point let me refer to the economy which Mr Whitlam said, prior to May, was right and that we are on the up turn.

Senator Cavanagh - I raise a point of order, Mr President. I object to this on the ground that it is irrelevant. What has what Mr Whitlam said on the economy to do with grants to the States for Aboriginal advancement?

The PRESIDENT - I ask Senator Webster to connect his remarks to the subject before the Chair.

Senator WEBSTER - I was attempting to connect them before Senator Cavanagh got to his feet. I was drawing a comparison when I asked how could we be confident that Aboriginal affairs were being handled correctly today. The Minister made a statement six or seven months ago in which he said it was a disaster.

Senator Cavanagh - I did not. It is as truthful as the rest of your speech.

Senator WEBSTER -The implementation of the policy was a disaster.

Senator Cavanagh - Why do you not quote the statement?

Senator WEBSTER - The implementation of the policy was a disaster. Do I hear the Minister say anything?

Senator Cavanagh - No, you do not.

Senator WEBSTER -Thank you. The implementation of Labor's policy on Aborigines was a disaster. What is there to which we can turn today to say that it is not? Under this Bill, the Government is taking certain steps. If one likes to re-read and re-quote what I have just said, one will see that some little time ago Senator Cavanagh was saying that if the Government had stopped and thought it out a different approach would have been taken. I believe that that is what the Government should be doing under this Bill, and not denying Queensland $3,190,000. The Government promised that the housing societies, which in many instances are yet to be formed, will spend this money within six or seven months. With 2 months of close down ahead of us, it would be almost a physical impossibility to do so. I was getting to the point that Mr Whitlam told the people before May that everything was right with the economy. We know that today it is worse than it was before May.

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - You are straying again. Get back to the point.

Senator WEBSTER - I am making a point. I am glad that Senator James McClelland has come in to listen. It will probably do him good to hear something about Aboriginal affairs. The point in relation to the matter is that there has been great sorrow over a period. I do not know whether it is the shame of what was brought out at the Public Accounts Committee meeting in relation to the former Minister and the correspondence that he sent to every member of Parliament telling them to take no notice of what the administrative officers of the Department had said on Aboriginal affairs. One can rest assured that Aboriginal Affairs was in a complete mess. I have some confidence in the present Minister. He is a fairly hard handed sort of Minister. He may be getting the Department on to a better basis. I feel that what he is doing under this Bill -

Senator Cavanagh - For God's sake, sit down. You are driving all of us crazy,

Senator WEBSTER - I do not doubt that I am driving you crazy.

The PRESIDENT - There is a standing order that refers to tedious repetition. I draw Senator Webster's attention to the fact that he is being repetitive. He should deal with the subject before the Chair.

Senator Cavanagh - And tedious.

Senator WEBSTER - I acknowledge that the Minister said that. Undoubtedly we will see that the President's ruling is applied to others. I believe that I am not being tedious, but it might be hurtful and harmful to the majority of those involved in the policies of this disastrous Government.

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - This socialist Government.

Senator WEBSTER -This socialist Government to see what is taking place. In this regard, over the whole series of matters, whether in the statements that were made at the Public Accounts Committee meeting -

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - For God's sake, say something.

Senator WEBSTER - I am saying a great deal.

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - You are saying nothing.

Senator WEBSTER -This famous lawyer-if you would give me the opportunity, Mr President, of saying this- attempted all this afternoon, this man from New South Wales, to hit Senator Greenwood on every occasion that he got under the skin of honourable senators opposite. I do not doubt that that has been a designed attempt by Labor in this place.

Senator McLaren - I rise on a point of order. Mr President, I ask you to bring Senator Webster back to the Bill. I remind the Senate that Senator Webster, as Chairman of Committees, ought to know better. He enforces his will on other senators. He should be the first to set an example. He should stick to the rules of the Senate.

The PRESIDENT - I ask Senator Webster to connect his remarks to the Bill.

Senator WEBSTER - I certainly will. I am speaking about Aboriginal Affairs. The point I was making was that Aboriginal Affairs was a disaster. The matter is pertinent. We are spending $40m of the public's money under this Bill. It was only a few months ago that a cheque for $465,000 was sent to a person in the Northern Territory.

Senator Cavanagh - You are romancing again.

Senator WEBSTER - I am romancing again? It is just a romance if $465,000 of public money is spent. How could the incident have occurred in a properly run department?

Senator Cavanagh - I did not occur. The Press is your informant again.

Senator WEBSTER -Your answer is recorded in Hansard. You said that it was sent to a group. If the Minister wishes me to quote from Hansard I will do so. There was a newspaper article headed 'Cheque is 'back in custody' '. The article states:

A cheque for $465,000 which had erroneously been sent to an Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory was now back in the custody of the Northern Territory division of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Cavanagh, said yesterday.

Do you remember saying it?

Senator Cavanagh - No.

Senator WEBSTER -He does not. That is one reason Aboriginal Affairs may be a disaster. Perhaps it was a slip. Undoubtedly it was. It was meant for a purpose. One cheque was written out. I cannot imagine how it would be. As I understand it, without reading this article further- I do not wish to do so- a fellow tried to cash the cheque at the grocery store. Do not say that I am wrong. I am right.

Senator Cavanagh - You are totally wrong.

Senator WEBSTER - I hope to hear from you.

Senator Cavanagh - Sit down and I will tell you.

Senator WEBSTER - I hope to hear from you on that matter because you said that I was totally wrong about the block of houses at Redfern for Aborigines. During the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate on 29 October I said that this Government was pursuing an apartheid policy in Australia. It is very well demonstrated in Queensland where Senator Cavanagh and the Government apparently wish to see areas of land taken over and handed to the blacks so that there will be black communities only in that area. Rows of houses will be built, and they will be available only to blacks. It may be the correct policy, but it is an apartheid policy. It is a policy of separate development. I brought this matter up when I was speaking on the South African matter. Senator Cavanagh said:

Misstatements have been made about the tying up of a group of Aborigines in one settlement in Sydney. In Redfern, where the Aborigines mostly live, there is a row of attached houses which not a government but an Aboriginal community purchased and is in the process of renovating.

Let me make the point that- the Minister knows he said this- he referred to a row of attached houses. What he meant to say was that there were a few houses. He said to the Senate that there was a row of attached houses. Perhaps he made a mistake. He may be able to correct it, but let me correct it for him.

Senator Cavanagh - It is right.

Senator WEBSTER - It is wrong.

Senator Cavanagh - It is right.

Senator WEBSTER - It is right? When Senator Cavanagh referred in the Senate to a row of attached houses he meant that there is a block containing 74 terraced houses and 2 factories. To date 34 houses and one factory have been purchased. Grants totalling $907,750 will be available for this separate Aboriginal development project. I believe that that is an apartheid policy which the Government is following in that matter. I believe that it is a wrong policy, but it is a policy which the Government is following. I believe that it will be disastrous for Australia. I believe that the Government should stop and rethink its policy relating to Aborigines or it will be doing as it has done in so many other areasstopping, rethinking and doing an about face on policies, as it did on overseas investment and profits for companies. One could go through the whole ambit. This week this great socialist Labor Party has done a complete double flip.

Senator Cavanagh - I raise the point of order which I raised previously. I raised the point of relevancy. Other activities of the Government have nothing to do with the States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bill.

The PRESIDENT - I have asked Senator Webster to connect his remarks to the Bill. I again appeal to him to do so.

Senator WEBSTER - I noted no interruption when Senator Milliner took on Senator Sheil regarding a building of his which may have been a fire hazard. For some we do, for some we do not. That is the position as I see it. My remarks were connected to the Bill. I was saying that the policy of this Government relating to Aboriginal Affairs is a disaster.

Senator Cavanagh - I raise another point of order. Mr President, I suggest that Senator Webster is defying your ruling. He was certainly commenting on the foreign policy or the economic policy of this Government, not on the Bill. He immediately commences where he left off in complete defiance of your ruling.

The PRESIDENT - I have followed the longstanding practice of allowing honourable senators time to connect up their remarks. I have made a number of appeals to Senator Webster to connect his remarks to the Bill and I again ask him to do so. I must say that Senator Webster has not been using offensive words against any honourable senator. I want him now to connect his remarks to the Bill.

Senator Cavanagh - It is the same tedious repetition every time he speaks.

Senator WEBSTER - Thank you very much, Mr President. I note the point. If you will allow me, I again take up the point I was making and Senator Cavanagh may wish to rise and stop me again. But he knows that my remarks are appropriate and are very much on the subject of this Bill under which we are spending $40m because, as the amendment which has been moved indicates, the allocation of funds is unfair to Queensland. This is incorrect and the amendment should have the support of the Senate. The point I was making is that one can see this incorrect policy applied in so many areas and I say to the Minister: If the Government is changing its mind in so many areas then it should change it now in relation to Aboriginal Affairs and support the amendment moved by Senator Rae.

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