23
Nov 2020

Stolen Wages "a conning of the people" by the Qld Govt

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BOB Katter, Member for Kennedy and former Minister for Indigenous Affairs in the Queensland Government has thrown his support behind the families of the Stolen Wages Class Action who have claimed they have not received their proper share of $190 million settlement with the Queensland Government for three decades of unpaid wages.

Mr Katter slammed Australia’s shameful history, in particular the Queensland “Protection Acts” which meant that all the wages of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers between 1939 and 1972 were paid to “the protector or superintendent” or to the “Torres Strait Islander district, reserve, settlement or mission”.

He said the $190 million was pittance to what was owed and that all 14,000 claimants and their families should be paid what was owed.

“There are two separate issues here; one, is not paying them award wages and quite separate from that is the issue that all their wages went back into a separate welfare fund.

“There is no way they got all their money back out of that fund, if you believe that then you must believe that the abominable snowman comes from Bedourie! 

“Half of them didn’t even really know how to get their wages, another half of them were too scared to go to the police station to get it, and thirdly, before they gave you the money, you had to tell them the reason why you needed the money and what you were going to spend it on. 

“How my country could have had laws like this is so shameful, so disgusting, but they did – those were the laws,” Mr Katter said.

Mr Katter said his office had received several calls from concerned families wondering why they hadn’t been paid or had been paid a miniscule amount.

He spoke to Tony Jonsson from Grant Thornton, the appointed administrators, who said that the amounts to be paid individually had been separated by the Settlement Distribution Scheme (SDS) into four historical generalisations; Torres Strait Islander Males, Torres Strait Islander Females, Mainland Males and Mainland Females.

He said that the SDS would never be able to cover monies owed because of the scarcity and even the non-existence of a lot of records including, payslips and tax returns.

Mr Katter said, “There is no question that up to 60 per cent - almost certainly 30 per cent of our First Australians ever saw the money from the welfare fund and that is a very clear-cut issue.

“It stayed in the Welfare Fund for the Department to use on whatever they wanted to use it for – it may have been used for a road at Kowanyama but it did not go to the people.

“It was not your money to use Mr Government. It was their wages – not your money to use. Well that was not the way it worked, and I can tell you without any doubt in my mind that these people are owed a lot of money.

“But there was another argument and I’ll let the courts to decide that one insofar as that there were a lot of “make believe” jobs out there - but there were also a lot of cases where First Australians were taken advantage of.

“The Government did not pay award wages for a start; they weren’t looking after them at all! In the case of Cloncurry, the Government had them housed in a golden shed with a concrete floor and four walls – it was all open and it was the size of a small cathedral.

“So that was how the Government provided the dwellings. In the hottest town in Australia, this is how they were housed, and the Catholic priest went public in a time when it was very unpopular to go public.

“There is the strongest of strong cases here and the Government should be absolutely ashamed. In my opinion it is nothing less than a conning of the people and I’ll continue fighting to make sure that $60 million a year is set aside for these people to fight these sorts of cases with a fire that burns with such rage and ferocity through the injustice.”

ENDS

Contact Details

Innisfail
P: (07) 4061 6066
F: (07) 4061 6566
Visit: Cnr Edith and Owen St
Post: PO Box 1638
Innisfail, Qld 4860

Mount Isa
P: (07) 4743 3534
F: (07) 4743 0189
Visit: 42-44 Simpson St
Post: PO Box 2130
Mount Isa, Qld 4825

Canberra
(when Parliament is sitting)
P: (02) 6277 4978
F: (02) 6277 8558

Local Call within the electorate
P: 1300 301 942

Email: Bob.Katter.MP@aph.gov.au