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Thursday, 5 December 1974
Page: 3200

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - I want to say a few words about this Bill.

Senator Keeffe - Do you want the telegram?

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - I have some telegrams, thank you, senator. I have mentioned before the position of the Aboriginal reserves in

Queensland and on the Islands. They do have councils democratically elected. Most of them are pretty well run. As I mentioned before, they have their own police force, they have their own native police and the council runs the whole island. The main problem with this Bill is the provision relating to the permit to enter reserves. The position under Queensland law is that no person can enter, visit or reside on a reserve without a permit from the democratically elected council- not from any European or anybody of that nature- and the main purpose of the Bill is to maintain that condition on these reserves and settlements and on the islands. It is easy to understand why the people have their reserves and islands well run. A document which I have states:

Permits to enter Reserve areas specially reserved for the use of Aboriginal people are determined conjointly with the Aboriginal Council. The people themselves require control of access thus an entry permit is required.

If refused the individual has a Right of Appeal against the decision. The desirability of entry permit is based on

(   a ) The propensity of an Aboriginal to virtually 'squat ' in a relative or friend 's home and ethnically the householder is unable to expel him thus, apart from overcrowding in homes . . .

Senator Keeffe - I rise to order for the purpose of asking the honourable senator to table the document he is reading from.

Senator Rae - On the point of order -

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Just before you speak, Senator Rae, I inform Senator Keeffe that at the end of Senator Lawrie 's speech he can ask that the papers from which he is reading be tabled.

Senator Rae - That was the point I was going to make.

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - The document continues.

(a)   The propensity of an Aboriginal to virtually 'squat ' in a relative or friend's home and ethnically the householder is unable to expel him thus, apart from overcrowding in homes, maintenance responsibilities devolve on the householder.

(b)   Entry of undesirable persons to invade the habitat of the residents;

(c)   Unrestricted entry could create slum and/or very sub-standard conditions in Community areas. The Advisory Councils at their recent Conference were adamant that these permits should be retained within their laws.

I think this means the issue of permits. The position is that these people want to keep the right to issue permits and the right to prevent people coming in. Senator Keeffe referred to Palm Island. Palm Island has about 1,200 people on it now but if there was no control of entry we do not know how many people would go there. It could have up to 5,000 or 6,000 and the hospital system, the schools, the water supply and the whole general supply system would break down. There are very good reasons for the people who live on these reserves- the reserve is their home- to have some control and say as to who comes to visit them and who stays there. The document continues:

The Federal Labour administration has always regarded these permits as a barrier to unrestricted access to Queensland reserves by their Ministers officers, or any other Federal advisor-type personnel. The Torres Strait people arc particularly opposed to this form of intrusion.

Early in 1973, the people of Yam Island asked the Commonwealth Department for assistance to buy a new tractor and trailer.

On 27th July, 1973, the Secretary of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Dexter, wrote to the Chairman Yam Island, and I quote the text of that letter. 'I refer to your request for a grant of $4,200 for the purchase of a tractor and trailer for use on Yam Island for general community purposes. I am happy to say that the Minister has approved of this grant and a cheque for the amount will be sent to you in due course.

The Minister has asked me to say that his approval is subject to the proviso that the Minister and his staff, Departmental officers, or Members of Parliament, should be able to visit your Island as the opportunity arises.'

Senator Bonner - That cannot be right.

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - That is what is in the letter. It continues:

No greater insult could have been directed to this proud race. I am advised that the Council Chairman courteously declined the offer and returned the cheque.

I have explained why we are objecting very much to the elimination of permits to visit the reserves. There are 7 million acres of these reserves in Queensland. As has already been mentioned, one bone of contention between the Federal Minister and the Queensland Administration is that Queensland will not give up the reserves, whatever else happens. Some telegrams have been quoted here today. I would like to quote one which is from the opposite point of view. This one is signed by the Minister, J. Cavanagh. It is addressed to Les Stewart, who is the Chairman of the Cherbourg Aboriginal Reserve Council and the Chairman also of the group of councils in Queensland. The text of the telegram from Senator Cavanagh is as follows:

Les, as prisoner on a reserve, you have no right to stop any Aboriginal from re-uniting with their relatives. Support my Government in this and subsequent legislation and upon return of Cherbourg settlement to Aboriginals, with the right of ownership, you will have the right to decide who enters your private property. Cease being an agent of Petersen and fight for the rights and freedom of your people.

This is a unique telegram. The man is being asked to agree to people coming onto the reserve without a permit and yet it is calling the reserve his private property. I do not know how one can get around this sort of thing, but that is what is going on. I am told that on the last occasion on which Senator Cavanagh visited Cherbourg he openly stated that he was happy with the Cherbourg settlement, and he congratulated the Council and the people on that settlement. I have been asked to deliver a message from Mr Les Stewart, the man I have just mentioned as receiving the telegram which I read. The message from Mr Les Stewart of Cherbourg is to Senator Cavanagh, and it is this: 'If this Bill is passed in its present form the first person to be debarred from visiting Cherbourg under our tribal rights will be Senator Cavanagh'. I refer again briefly to the meeting at Weipa. In answer to a second question put to him, the Minister finally came out with the story that about $4,600 had been spent to hire aeroplanes which were used to bring the people to this meeting.

Senator Rae - Even then he did not fully disclose it.

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - That is what I am coming to. He told us in the course of that speech that apart from the use of his VIP aeroplane the only other thing that he knew of was that these people had the use of a car at the Weipa meeting. I have here copies of a couple of receipts. They are signed by a gentleman called Joe Callope. The first receipt is for an amount of $30 and it is concerned with the transportation of ex-Mapoon people to the meeting. Apparently the $30 covers 5 trips made by a 22-seater bus of 12 miles either way. The money was paid by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. The other receipt, which is also signed by Mr Joe Callope, is for money paid to him as chairman of the Weipa South Community Council. That receipt is made out for the sum of $300, According to the receipt the money was paid for 'attendance of ex-Mapoon people at community meeting'. The expenditure of that money is additional to the money spent on the use of the car which, according to Senator Cavanagh 's story, was the only money that was spent. But I am also told that a gentleman called Jerry Hudson received $20 per head to pay to some ex-Mapoon people to attend that meeting.

Senator Sir Magnus Cormack - It sounds like a Whig landlord in the 1 8th century.

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - These are the facts and figures. I have told the Minister before that he should check with his Queensland officers; he is getting the wrong information from somewhere. Everything is not as bad as he tries to make out. We have already found out that most of the people wanted to keep this permit system. This is the main thing that they want to keep. If the Bill goes through as it stands, which I believe is unlikely, it will mean that the people who have their homes on these reserves will have little control. I refer to the people on the reserves as distinct from those who live away from the reserves. Almost half the Aborigines in Queensland live away from the reserves. The passage of this legislation will enable them, if they wish, to visit places where probably in many cases they are not wanted. A person who lives in a particular place might want some say in who can visit him, who can come to see him. He would want some control over that. Such a system applies now. It is working pretty well. Why not let them keep it?

I have with me here a copy of the recent Queensland Act. The Bill before us completely eliminates from the Aboriginal Act and the Torres Strait Islanders Act provisions in relation to the management of Aboriginal and Island affairs. The other matters referred to are, one might say, pretty well redundant, except for this one particular point about which the Minister is so persistent. If he is successful in his endeavours it will have a very disastrous effect on the people on these reserves and particularly on the islands. If the restrictions in relation to visitors are lifted on the islands, anybody can go there. You could start a tourist resort or anything. Whether or not Senator Cavanagh wants Federal laws to apply in relation to this matter, the position will arise where he has to depend on the State laws of Queensland in looking after its Aboriginal reserves and in keeping control of them. Yet he wants everybody to be able to visit them. They are State property. Unless the Commonwealth is prepared to buy them from the State of Queensland- 7 million acres of them- they will remain State property.

Senator Cavanagh - They are not; they are Aboriginal property.

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - They are marked as reserves for the use of the Aboriginal inhabitants of the State, and that can be varied by Act of Parliament from time to time. They are not in perpetuity; they do not go on for ever. They are still the property of the State of Queensland. Unless they are purchased they will remain the property of the State of Queensland. We have the extraordinary position today in which we are dependent upon the State laws to run these councils. Even in the preamble to the Bill mention is made of the fact that the right to enter these reserves is subject to the State laws of Queensland.

So I support some form of postponement of this Bill until we can check with these people. The telegrams which we have already read to the

Senate and which we have explained indicate that they want time to allow the people on the reserves- not the other people- to vote on this matter. They are not interested in the people who do not live on the reserves entering into this matter. These other people are living in places away from the reserves and they are no longer controlled. I think that the Government and the Minister would be well advised to drop or at least to defer that part of the Bill which deals with this matter until an adequate vote or plebiscite of some kind can be taken of all people on all of these reserves and islands.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I call Senator Bonner.

Senator Rae - Mr Deputy President,before Senator Bonner commences to speak may 1 have leave to make a personal explanation in relation to certain allegations made by Senator Keeffe in his speech and which I have now had the opportunity to check?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Senator RAE(Tasmania)- I thank the Senate. I will be very brief. The accusation was made that I had participated in this chamber in supporting the action taken by the then Minister for the Interior, Mr Hunt, in relation to the removal with bloodshed, so it was said, of certain tents and Aboriginal persons from the lawns outside Parliament House. I have checked the Hansard. The debate is recorded in Hansard of 20 September 1972. The Hansard report shows that I neither participated in the debate nor did I participate in the vote. It so happened I was paired on that occasion, and I did not vote. Senator Keeffe, as he did in various other parts of his speech, has made a sweeping statement which was totally inaccurate.

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