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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 7 Hansard (4 June) . . Page.. 1859 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

indigenous Australians sitting in parliaments with us?" That is an incredibly sad reflection on that time.

To avoid vote rigging, we were going to protect indigenous Australians so they could not be dragooned into voting for somebody they might not know. Labor Senator George Pearce from Western Australia remarked:

We have to remember also that in the north-west of Western Australia we have large numbers of aborigines living upon the sheep and cattle stations ... Allow the squatters to get them put upon the roll, and who is the returning officer when the election comes around but the squatter himself? What is to prevent him from enrolling all the blackfellows on his run and manipulating their votes at election times ...

The obvious answer was not to give them a vote. The logic was astounding. This document goes on to say:

In contrast to the much-lauded virtues of 'white' women-variously described as 'the fair sex', 'elevated above [men]', having 'a too refined intelligence' and being endowed with 'sacred functions'-parliamentarians saved their most vituperative comments for indigenous women. 'Surely', said Senator Alexander Matheson (Free Trade, WA) 'it is absolutely repugnant to the greater number of people of the Commonwealth that an aboriginal lubra or gin-a horrible, degraded, dirty creature-should have the same rights, simply by virtue of being 21 years of age, that we have, after some debate to-day, decided to give to our wives and daughters.

When you consider those words, even in the context of the times, we have so much to make up for and we have so much more to do. Our relationship with our indigenous brothers and sisters, our fellow citizens, started from such a low base, because we put them there. The words of Senator Matheson are incredibly sad. Because of such arguments, by a majority of 12 to eight votes, the Senate voted to exclude Aboriginal people from the right to vote.

Then followed World War I, the Depression and World War II, when various states did give Aboriginal people the right to vote. In 1949, as Ms Gallagher mentioned, the Chifley government's Commonwealth Electoral Bill gave Aboriginal people the right to vote at Commonwealth elections, if either they were enfranchised under a state law or they had been a member of the defence forces. In the debate on that bill Arthur Calwell said, "To our eternal shame, we have not treated the Aboriginals properly." He added:

At last, our consciences have been stirred, and we are now admitting some of our obligations to the descendants of the Neanderthal man, whether he be full-blood, half-caste or three-quarter-caste.

The 1949 act said that if Aboriginal people had the right to vote in a state they could have the right to vote at the federal level. Not all jurisdictions had reached that stage. The debate did not go easily. Although the legislation passed, it did not give absolute franchise.

In 1961 the then Labor opposition moved to delete provisions denying Aboriginal people the right to vote. The Menzies government set up a select committee comprising members from both sides of the House of Representatives to report to the parliament on

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