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Wednesday, 4 December 1974
Page: 3090

Senator McLAREN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - My question is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I refer to the tabling yesterday in the Senate by the Postmaster-General of information relating to 23 telegrams which purportedly came from Aboriginal reserve council chairmen in Queensland expressing concern for their future wellbeing. I know that the Minister has already given the Senate some of his views on this matter, but I ask him whether he has had the opportunity to study the material tabled by Senator Bishop. If so, has he any further comment to make?

Senator CAVANAGH (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs) - Yes, I have seen the documents tabled by Senator Bishop. I think they were tabled as a result of a request I made when speaking on the adjournment debate last Thursday. Those documents show clearly that all the telegrams were charged to telephones under the control of the Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs in Queensland.

Senator Milliner - That is the State Department.

Senator CAVANAGH - Yes, the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs. The documents show that telegrams were received by the chairmen of the councils asking them to consent to the forwarding of a telegram in their name. The telegrams received by the chairmen of the councils commenced, as I read out during the adjournment debate the other night, with the words 'Several council chairmen have indicated their desire to send messages to-' and certain people were named. Of course at the time these telegrams were sent out together no chairmen had indicated such a desire. One will recall that the Premier of Queensland had saidthis was a direct use of the Premier's advice for the purpose of achieving the trickery -

Senator Maunsell - What about those telegrams you got today?

Senator CAVANAGH - If the honourable senator asks a question on the telegrams I received today I shall give him an answer. I say definitely that I can give the answer. This shows the trickery operating in Queensland. On false premises the Premier said that some council chairmen had agreed, but at that stage no council had been consulted. There is a false accusation that the Commonwealth wants to stop Aborigines from having the right to say who goes on their reserves. Of course there is no intention on the pan of the Commonwealth to do such a thing. If we give reserves to the Aborigines on those reserves as an entitlement to land rights the Aborigines have the same right as has any owner of private property to say who goes on or off their reserves. This is indicated by what is going on in Queensland, as was vividly shown up on 'This Day Tonight' last evening.

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