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Thursday, 5 December 1974
Page: 3210

Senator CAVANAGH (South AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs) - In closing this debate I do not want to transgress Standing Orders, despite the kind offer of Senator Rae. There is a lot to which I wish to reply in relation to the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Bill. The question now before the Chair is whether further consideration of this Bill should be adjourned. Two questions are involved in this Bill. Firstly, should the people concerned be consulted further? I assure honourable senators that I have been around and consulted the people concerned and no prima facie evidence of any substance has been brought before me as to whether the people want further consultation.

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - Only a lot of telegrams.

Senator CAVANAGH -Twenty-two telegrams were received, but as was exposed the other night, they were sent at the request of the very department which can bring about a resolution of this matter at the conference I am to attend by facilitating the expression of the opinion which one honourable senator said we will get from the Aboriginal people when they get away from the tyranny under which they find themselves. It has been pointed out- I do not want to go into the question of Mapoon- that in an effort to obtain an expression of opinion from the Aborigines I travelled all over Queensland. It has been pointed out also that I have paid out a fortune simply to enable them to attend conferences at which I can meet with them and speak to them. So it cannot be said that I have not been to see the Aborigines and that I have not discussed this matter with them. It has been demonstrated that I have arranged for aeroplanes to bring them to see me and that I have travelled by aeroplane to see them. The whole purpose of that was to obtain an indication of the opinion of the Aborigines of Queensland on the question of what they want.

Senator Bonnerwould know full well that the Aborigines are in favour of my proposition. He mixes with them. He knows about the demonstrations conducted by them. Tents were erected on the lawns of the city square in Brisbane by Aborigines demanding the repeal of the Queensland Act. Senator Bonner knows that one of the demands of the embassy in front of Parliament House is the repeal of the Queensland Act. He knows that the Aborigines throughout

Australia are in favour of the repeal of the Queensland Act. The entry of Aborigines onto reserves is a vital issue that involves the right of the people who came from such reserves and who are not on them now to return to their tribal land. One could not get all of them to express an opinion in a referendum. Some of them may be living in the Northern Territory or Western Australia at present. Therefore what would be the purpose of holding such a mini-referendum?

The attitude of the Liberal Party on this occasion is contrary to the attitude of the Liberal Party on the occasions when Mr Hasluck, on behalf of the Liberal Party, signed the United Nations declaration which was followed by the introduction in 1957 of International Labour Organisation Convention 107. We want to ratify that Convention. The Aborigines on settlements in Queensland are an impediment which is preventing us from becoming part of an international effort to solve an international problem. Convention No. 107 is the convention concerning the protection and integration of indigenous and other tribal and semi-tribal populations in independent countries. Do honourable senators opposite think that we should not sign that Convention? Every State but one has introduced suitable legislation which would permit our ratification of the Convention. The exception is Queensland. The members of the Opposition want a ballot to be conducted to ascertain whether we should be allowed to play our part in relation to the indigenous people of the whole of Australia. The Opposition wants the Aborigines of Queensland to decide this vital issue of whether we should play our part in relation to the indigenous people of the oppressed countries of the world. That is ridiculous. It is not a question of which department is most fitted to deal with the Aborigines of Queensland. It is not a question of whether the Australian Department of Aboriginal Affairs should take over responsibility for Aboriginal affairs in Queensland. All this Bill does is state that an Aboriginal in Queensland should have the same freedom to do on a reserve as he is permitted to do outside a reserve.

Why does the Opposition want to adjourn further debate on this matter until March? Honourable senators opposite should be honest and frank about this matter. Their political interest is greater than their humanitarian interest in the Aborigines in Queensland. Their political interest is in support of their big master in Queensland. They do not want to be exposed for what they are by the Aborigines in Queensland so they have sought to adjourn this matter sine die, knowing that that would be the death knell of the Bill. Honourable senators opposite have sought to kill the Bill for political reasons. They do not give a damn about the people who are suffering under the tyranny of the Queensland legislation. That is their attitude to this matter. They are trying to avoid being found out. Senator Sheil thinks that Aborigines are so stupid that they will say yes to one person and no to another. He thinks that they just want to go around drinking metho. That is his opinion of Aborigines. We are trying to lift them out of the area in which such accusations are made. We recognise that they have enough ability to be able to hit honourable senators opposite on this aspect. The tactics of honourable senators opposite of delaying the passage of this legislation will not be accepted by the Aboriginal communities in Queensland. I hope that the amendment will be defeated.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Rae's amendment) be left out.

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