Tuesday, 2 August 2022
Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Repeal of Cashless Debit Card and Other Measures) Bill 2022; Second Reading
I would recommend to the parliament of Australia the reading of The Colonial Fantasy: why white Australia can't solve black problems. I couldn't put it down. I read it in two nights. It sure would be nice if you went out and listened to the people and what they want, not telling them what you want. All the politicians of Australia, everyone who has spoken tonight—I heard it all—ever do is suppress the symptoms. We deal with the symptoms, right?
I was, by mischance, appointed the minister in Queensland—the state that has the biggest First Australian population of any state in Australia, by a fair way, actually—and I would say that the relationships between the Bjelke-Petersen government and First Australians, my brother cousins, could not have been worse. If you went near any communities, there'd be rioting. It couldn't have been worse. But every morning of my life I said: 'Put on the blinkers, just see the light and go to it. Don't see what the reality is. Just see the light and go to it.' So do you know what I did? It's really radical stuff. I went out and said: 'Look, we run the show. Every single person here that's got power at Yarrabah is a white fella. He's from the government, right? Now, we don't want to do this anymore, so you tell us what you want.' So they wanted 'self-management', as they called it, but it was a lot more power than the local government had—for example, there were no regulations at all. They had a responsibility to deliver three services: sewage, garbage, water and transportation, roads and that sort of thing. That was all. Let them do what they like, you know? You make the decisions.
Now, the state government in Queensland, when my government fell, introduced Mr Fitzgerald, a white fella, who was going to go out and tell them what they'd got to do. So a white fella lawyer from an elitist school in Brisbane was going to solve the problems, and this is what this brilliant fellow came up with. He said, 'The problem is drink,' and, 'You've got to ban alcohol.' Oh, geez, he got $3½ million for telling us that! I mean, how profound, how erudite! By the way, he's the same bloke who had the Fitzgerald inquiry, and that Tony Murphy, who was responsible for the murder of 43 people in Queensland—he wasn't going to go near Murphy. There were three books to delineate his cowardice. We suffered as a government, and of course the rest is history. The bloke that was responsible got clean away with it because of the cowardice of this person.
Anyway, let's move on. I've just got a quick story about a bloke and a vacant piece of land on a river in western Queensland. This bloke took up three hectares of this vacant land. He was a young bloke. The council took the position of, 'Yeah, give him a go,' so they recommended to government that he got the three hectares freehold. So when he got the three hectares freehold, he put a fence up and he put a shed up. He was a pretty incompetent bastard. It was a hopeless shed, but, anyway, he put it up. Some racehorse trainer wanted to lease the land off him for his racehorses, and he put a bit of water on it and he made a quid out of it. Then he borrowed money on it and bought some moo cows and he borrowed some money and opened up a copper mine with his partner. Now, it's rather interesting, the copper mine, because his partner was 50 per cent Kalkadoon and 50 per cent white fella. Now, three surrounding mines were owned by—and I'll name them—Mr Fowler, Mr Cummins and another Mr Cummins. They were all First Australians. Three of the five mines that surrounded him and half of his mine were owned by Kalkadoons. The station property, upon which these mines were, was owned by a Kalkadoon. Now there are no mines owned by anyone of Aboriginal descent in that area. There are no cattle stations owned by anyone of Aboriginal descent in that area.
To go back to the young bloke that got the three hectares of freehold title on the river, he got a few head together and he got a few more head together and he produced some copper from his copper mine and, within 13 years, he owned 250,000 acres, had no debt and had about $6 million worth of copper reserves. Now, I know these things to be true because, as probably a lot of you would have worked out, that fellow was me. All I needed was three hectares of freehold title. There are, in North Queensland, three million hectares supposedly owned by my people, the First Australians. They are not allowed to run a moo cow. They are not allowed to put a pot plant in the ground. They are not allowed to do anything with the land. The whitefellas are keeping it to preserve it for our cultural heritage. Well, we'd like to make a quid out of it. We'd like to be able to make food to keep our families alive.
What is not a happy thing to say here is that the life expectancy in the communities in Queensland is around 56 years of age. In the Torres Strait, you live 20 years less if you are a Torres Strait Islander than if you are an Australian in the Australian population. Greg Wallace, who ran for us in the Senate, was the person who got Work for the Dole going. He's very famous in Australian history. He was there the first time 60 Minutes ever did a repeat program, and he said: 'When I was CEO at Napranum, we blackfellas had 30,000 head of cattle in the peninsula. Now we've got none. When I was CEO at Napranum, every CEO was a blackfella. Now they're all whitefellas. All house builders were local blackfellas. Now all the house builders are fly-in whitefellas. I could take up a freehold title and become an owner of land. Now I can't. Every single community had market gardens, which gave us the nutritional value we needed to stay alive, because we can't afford to get fruit and vegetables that go from Cairns to Brisbane and back to Cairns—heaven only knows why—and then by the time they get out to Kowanyama or Pormpuraaw, they've got no shelf life left and they cost a bloody fortune.' This is what he said.
Why don't you just allow them to own a piece of land and do with it what they want? I've got news for you. Please, God, in the next three months, before Christmas, we will be issuing freehold title deeds, because it is our land. We've been there for 40,000 years, and we will issue the title deeds. And, if you don't recognise it, then we will see you in the High Court. We'll have Mabo 2. And we will win. I'm serving notice now that that is what is going to happen.
I'm hoping I'm dealing with an enlightened government that will give us the same rights as everyone else on earth. That's what I hope. In this place I would say we have spent thousands of hours, since I've been a member of the federal parliament, talking about the symptoms. I doubt whether we have ever discussed the causes, but I know this: when I went Yarrabah I said, 'You know, there are no engine drivers, there are no miners, there are no farms, there's no anything, and it's all whitefellas running everything here. What's going on here?' If I were to limit that to a single issue, I would say it is the right to own land. I think one of the most important books in recent world history was written by Hernando de Soto. His cousin is head of Rio Tinto, the second-biggest mining company in the world. De Soto was an economist with the World Bank. In that book, he said, 'Why are Peru'—his home country—'the Philippines and Egypt the poorest countries on earth? It's pretty simple. To get a piece of land in any of those three countries will take you an average of 6½ years and 237 legal processes.' In other words, you can't own land in those countries. What is the difference between Mexico and the United States? Check on the land ownership. De Soto very controversially did not get the Nobel Prize for that year, and he most certainly should have got it. There was international controversy about that.
When I wrote my own history of Australia, I agonised for 3½ years over how I would start it. Then it suddenly occurred to me: where does the story of the modern settlement of Australia start? It starts with the whitefellas coming in. That's how it starts. Of all the places in Australia where it should start, it's in my homeland, my little town of Cloncurry. They talk about the Kalkatungu as being a tribe, but I think it was a generic name for all the tribes, as far as I can make out. Dick Roughsey and Lindsay Roughsey were the greatest keepers of the lore. They went through boring and they had scars across their chest. They were very famous for their kids books and First Australian illustrations. They said that Mornington Island was Kalkatungu, and no-one would argue their knowledge of the lore. Cloncurry is Kalkatungu, and that's 500 kilometres. The Kalkatungu held the British occupation at bay for 60 years. The fighting went on and continued for 60 straight years. I didn't choose to depict them as a conquered, persecuted race; I chose to depict them as great guerrilla fighters who were able to hold the most powerful nation on Earth, the British Empire, at bay for 60 years.
I will conclude on this note, which is very relevant to the current discussions. When we had a smooth-talking ex-official from the teachers union and ALP failed member of parliament come up to Doomadgee, I was there that day. I sat in the audience. He told us that he had talked to the representatives of the people and they had unanimously decided to ban grog in Doomadgee. There were about 150 people there, and they started screaming out a lot of words I wouldn't use in front of ladies. There were five old missionary ladies. I'm a great supporter of the missions. My brother-cousins would have been wiped out if it hadn't been for the protection the missions gave when they put the market gardens in which enabled us to survive to the nineties. They yelled out.
I want to conclude on this note, because this is where I started my book. Clarence Waldron is an outstanding spokesman for the people of Australia—not only the First Australians but the people of Australia. He just quietly said, 'You don't come here and say what's what, and that's that. This is my land. This is my land.' That's how the book starts: 'This is my land.' Would that the people in this place recognised and gave those people a right to put some moo cows there so they could make a quid. Would that they had the right to take up a little bit of land so they could have a farm there to feed themselves and their family. Would that you gave them a future instead of discriminatory laws such as banning alcohol and all your other discriminatory laws.
We're looking after your cultural heritage for you. Yes, we're sick of being looked after. We're sick and tired of being looked after. Just get out of our way and let us look after ourselves. This is my land. This is my land.