Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 11 December 1974
Page: 3436

Senator RAE (Tasmania) -The Opposition supports the Aboriginal Land Fund Bill 1 974, the purpose of which is to assist Aboriginal communities to acquire land outside Aboriginal reserves. The Bill had its genesis in an initiative taken by the former Liberal-Country Party Government in 1971 and it is something which we, of course, totally support. We are glad to see that the proposals are being proceeded with. We do not wish to delay the Senate by making long speeches, reiterating the reasons for our support for the legislation. I refer honourable senators to the comments which were made by Mr Hunt when this Bill was being debated in the House of Representatives. I adopt in general the remarks which he made in relation to the Bill. At that time he raised a number of matters in relation to the administration of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I know that that is a matter which, in many ways, is deserving of a lengthy debate at the earliest possible opportunity. I look forward to such a debate taking place upon the resumption of this chamber in the new year. By then the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) will have had a little more time in which to put his house in order and we hope that he will be able to give us some better news than he could if we were to debate the matter tonight.

However, I take the opportunity, in dealing with a matter relating to Aboriginal Affairs, to raise again a matter which I raised during question time today; that is, the rather extraordinary situation which has arisen, namely that a former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and current member of the present Government should, without the present Minister's authority, be prepared to table to a committee, without compulsion, some 250 pages of confidential departmental documents and that he also should be prepared to make against the Secretary of that Department, Mr Dexter, a series of extremely serious charges, including perjury, disloyalty, incapacity to communicate with his ministerial head, and being responsible for financial irregularities in the Department. I want to take the opportunity just to reiterate the seriousness with which the Opposition regards the present situation in which one Minister in the present Government is accusing a departmental head of matters of such seriousness. I do not think it is appropriate for the present Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Cavanagh, to pass this off by saying: 'Well, it is a matter really for the Public Accounts Committee to sort out'. I think it is more serious than that. I do not want to delay the Senate tonight other than to stress to you, Mr Minister, the seriousness with which we view the situation. I call upon you to act one way or another to determine the matter.

Senator Cavanagh - Sack Gordon Bryant?

Senator RAE - I think that one way or another the matter needs to be brought to some sort of finality. I am not going to suggest here tonight the ways in which it could be done. I do not want to provoke a lengthy debate; I simply take the opportunity to stress the seriousness of the situation. It is not something which can be just passed off as if it had not happened.

I return to the Bill by saying that we believe the Bill will achieve desirable objectives in ensuring that the Aboriginal people of Australia will have through this legislation a further opportunity to acquire land- land which is extremely important to them, land for which they have an affinity which many white people do not quite understand, land which has a relationship and a meaning to them which, as I say, many white people do not really understand. I believe it is tremendously important that this opportunity for obtaining land for Aboriginal communities outside the reserves should be pursued. I assure the Minister that he has the total support of the Opposition in pursuing this objective. I also mention that my colleague Senator Bonner has some remarks which he wishes to make in relation to the Bill. The Opposition will support the passage of the Bill.

Suggest corrections