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Thursday, 28 November 1974
Page: 2987

Senator BISHOP (South AustraliaPostmasterGeneral) - I only want to say that the question as to who signed the telegrams can be investigated next week. I cannot do it now. But I put it to honourable senators that what Senator Cavanagh is complaining about is that in relation to an issue which will be debated in this Parliament next week, the Premier of Queensland has sent telegrams to all the chairmen of the Aboriginal councils in Queensland putting words into their mouths as to whether they would like to support this proposition.

Senator Cavanagh - The telegrams were sent in their names.

Senator BISHOP -Of course. What Senator Cavanagh is saying is that the chairmen did not send the telegrams but that the Premier of Queensland or somebody from the Premier's office inspired the chairmen to do so. Because of that it could be- and I will not know until Monday or Tuesday- that even when those chairmen did not react. Senator Cavanagh, as the Minister concerned, received telegrams to this effect. They were addressed to him and also to the Prime Minister. The contents were not contents drafted by the sender of the telegram, by the chairman concerned. They were words put into the mouths of the chairman and not in fact uttered, as far as we can see, by the chairman. These are the words:

My people shocked to hear of new law proposed which will destroy way of life enjoyed by Aboriginal people on this reserve.

Then the message continues. In that regard, surely it must be evident to everbody that even though it may be proved finally that the chairmen did give their consent to such a proposition, this sort of practice is most improper. For the Premier of a State to ask the chairmen -

Senator Sir Magnus Cormack - It is not improper.

Senator BISHOP -Of course it must be improper. As somebody said, it is an inspired idea. The people concerned have had a proposition put before them. They have not been asked their views about the matter. It is a studied telegram. That is Senator Cavanagh 's proposition. As regards the point raised by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, I certainly will inquire on Monday to ascertain who signed the telegrams. But I think that it is most improper that the Premier of a State, or the secretary of his department, should so inspire or attempt to inspire or collude with people to do these things. If he wants to get an expression of opinion, the proper practice is to ask the chairman concerned: 'What is your opinion about the legislation?' That is Senator Cavanagh 's complaint, and I fully support it. As regards the effect of the regulations and the law, I will make proper inquiries about that. Senator Cavanagh has just explained to me that he has 20 telegrams. He thinks that the chairmen never signed the telegrams. I will make inquiries into that aspect.

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