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Tuesday, 10 December 1974
Page: 3289

Senator CAVANAGH (South AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs) - Senator Sir MagnusCormack said a lot of emotion had been brought into this debate which possibly should not have been. It is an emotional issue because we are dealing with human lives, not with material things. A lot more examination is needed when we are dealing with lives. One of the greatest treasures in life is freedom. The greatest oppressors of human dignity are those who oppose freedom. Naturally Senator Bonner had likewise to get emotional. I agree with all he said. I think he has suffered as the Aboriginal has suffered.

Senator Bonneralso referred to Aborigines being entitled to a better deal. We are attempting to give them a better deal. He cannot get over this: The one who is stopping an Aboriginal who wants to go on to a reserve from having the same freedom as Senator Bonner has is Senator Bonner. He has the cheek and audacity to come here and say that it is we who are persecuting the Aboriginal, and he justifies that by saying: 'Senator Cavanagh did nothing about Wilcannia'. Whether I did or did not is no justification why Senator Bonner should keep his people in Queensland oppressed. There is only one justification for Senator Bonner doing that and it is because he is pledged to a political party that can survive only with oppression. That is why it goes on.

Turning to Wilcannia, it is untrue that we have not looked at the position in Wilcannia. Although it has nothing to do with the Bill before us, in answer to a question recently I informed the Senate that there is money to build 14 houses at Wilcannia at the present time. The position in Wilcannia is not as bad as the position in Normanton at the present time. At least Aboriginals have freedom of entry in Wilcannia, but they have not got it in Normanton at the present time. Senator Bonner should look at his own fowlhouse when he is looking at these questions. Senator Sir Magnus Cormack linked up the position in Queensland with the position at Gove. The Northern Territory Social Welfare Ordinance states:

A person shall not enter or remain on a reserve unless he is an Aboriginal native of Australia.

Therefore, you cannot stop an Aboriginal native from entering or remaining on a reserve. Senator Sir Magnus Cormack may not have been able to go there because there was a doubt whether he was an Aboriginal native. This Bill- and it refers only to Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islandersseeks to give Aboriginals the right to enter a reserve. In the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia there exists a system which gives to an Aboriginal a prima facie right to enter a reserve. Of course, he can be kicked off for any breach of the law, etc. The purpose of this Bill is to give an Aboriginal such a right in the State of Queensland.

Senator Sir Magnus Cormack - And be kicked off.

Senator CAVANAGH - If it is for no other reason than that he has not got a permit to go on the reserve -

Senator Sir Magnus Cormack - And be kicked off.


Senator Sir Magnus Cormack - That is what your ordinance says; you have just said so.

Senator CAVANAGH - The ordinance does not say that. It says:

A person shall not enter or remain on a reserve unless he is an Aboriginal native of Australia.

There are other conditions relating to a police officer, and then there is this condition 'or has a permit '.

Senator Sir Magnus Cormack - Or has a permit.

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - You have to have a permit, apparently.

Senator CAVANAGH - You are not listening. I am reading it out.

Senator Sir Magnus Cormack - Your last words were 'or has a permit'.

Senator CAVANAGH -Listen. Can you understand? The ordinance says:

A person shall not enter or remain on a reserve unless -

Then it sets out the classifications. He can enter and remain on a reserve if he is an Aboriginal native of Australia, if he is a member of the police force or if he is acting in the course of his duty of an officer of the Commonwealth Public Service. Then it sets out the classifications of those who can remain on a reserve, and of course others are subject to a permit.

Senator Sir Magnus Cormack - You should read it out to us, for goodness sake.

Senator CAVANAGH - We are trying to bring the same law to Queensland so that an Aboriginal has the right to go to an area, which is his tribal country and where his relatives live, without having to ask someone whether he can go there and without having to observe a code of conduct which an officer has decided. This is the elementary basis of liberty and freedom, and you are the ones who are stopping it. Go back and tell the Aborigines in Queensland. It is obvious that we cannot get these clauses through. The Opposition, including Senator Bonner, is not prepared to support for Queensland Aborigines conditions which are as high as those relating to Aborigines in every other State of the Commonwealth. Those are the facts of the case.

Senator Sir Magnus Cormack - Would the Minister be kind enough to allow me to look at the ordinance from which he has quoted?


Question put:

That clauses 6 and 7 stand as printed.

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