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Thursday, 14 November 1974
Page: 2450

Senator RAE (Tasmania) - I have indicated to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) that as far as the amendments were concerned, two out of three were amendments concerned with errors in the Bill to which we had intended to draw attention. We certainly support the other amendment. It appears to improve the Bill. The Bill itself takes further a concept which was introduced by the Liberal-Country Parties when in government. In 1968 the Aboriginal Enterprises (Assistance) Act was enacted by this Parliament, and its objective was to enable Aborigines in Australia to obtain financial assistance from a central fund, provided out of public moneys, upon terms which are not the normal commercial terms but which are those likely to assist people to be able to engage in business enterprises which have a reasonable prospect of success and in respect of which people should be entitled to receive assistance on appropriate terms. As a result of the educational background and as a result of the geographical location of many of the Aboriginal people of Australia it is necessary and desirable that they should be given an opportunity to apply for funds which would not be made available in the normal course of commerce and enterprise within our society.

This scheme is now being taken further by the present Government and we support the action it is taking. The purpose of the Bill is to convert what was the Aboriginal Enterprises Fund into something a little more sophisticated in the Aboriginal Loans Commission, which will be a commission dealing with 2 particular types of funds. The first will be the old Aboriginal

Enterprises Fund and the total concept will be transferred to the new Commission. The second fund, and I believe it a desirable development, will be the Aboriginal Housing and Personal Loans Fund. As my colleague, Senator Bonner, has said to me there are many Aborigines in Australia who would very much like to be able to have the opportunity to obtain a loan upon reasonable terms to improve their houses, their furnishings and their opportunity for some of the material benefits of life, but who do not want to have a handout and be simply getting something for nothing. They rather wish to have access to loan funds so that they are able to purchase items for themselves as do many other members of our society.

Part of what will be happening under the Aboriginal Housing and Personal Loans Fund is that funds for both housing and house equipment will be available. I am cognisant of the time of night and of the desire of the Senate to pass this piece of legislation tonight. So I simply take the opportunity to indicate that this legislation is carrying forward and further a concept which was introduced by the Liberal and Country Parties when in government. We support it. We believe it is desirable for the same reasons as we introduced it originally. We believe it is desirable that it be carried forward in this way. One or two small corrections did arise and have now been rectified. There is one question of the power of the Auditor-General which I will raise in the Committee stage only by way of query. Otherwise I indicate that the Opposition supports the legislation as being in the interests of the Aboriginal people in Australia and in the interests of Australia because it is in those interests. We support the Bill.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee

The Bill.

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