Tape details 'fraud'

by Chris Griffith
Published 21 April 1996 in The Sunday Mail


my face


Allegations of corruption, fraud, and financial mismanagement in the Aboriginal community have been supplied to The Sunday Mail in taped telephone conversations also sent to Aboriginal Affairs Minister Senator John Herron.

The tape of 11 conversations was passed to Senator Herron following a request by the source, who asked not to be identified.

After receiving advice from Prime Minister John Howard's office, Senator Herron has forwarded the tape to the Australian Federal Police.

Last week, Senator Herron disclosed the existence of the tape and the criminal nature of some of its allegations.

The tape's more serious allegations were made in a conversation involving veteran Aboriginal campaigner Michael Anderson, a NSW Aboriginal activist for more than 25 years and a member of the National Aboriginal Conference.

From 1981-84 he was the NAC's director of research for the Makarrata Treaty and internal indigenous affairs.

Mr Anderson last week elaborated on some of his allegations in a statutory declaration supplied to The Sunday Mail.

In one conversation Mr Anderson said taxpayers' money had been used to pay gambling debts and there was evidence of the gambling of community money through casinos and the TAB in NSW.

He said it was known within the old Department of Aboriginal Affairs that one high- profile Aboriginal leader had a $20,000 gambling account at Jupiters casino.

There also was concern over another person's $10,000 account at Alice Springs casino.

He said the gambling issue had been tackled as part of an investigation by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Aboriginal Development Commission in 1984.

However inquiries within ATSIC and to Senator Herron's office failed to uncover any report on this issue.

In the tape, he said an investigation into an Aboriginal housing company was dropped after a political deal involving positions on the National Aboriginal Council.

In his statutory declaration, Mr Anderson also said a $300,000 grant from the Aboriginal Development Commission and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs for a Drug and Alcohol program had been diverted.

"The property was never purchased but instead was leased," he said.

He said $145,000 borrowed from the Toowoomba Aboriginal Housing Company in 1986 was not repaid.

Another participant in the conversation said Aboriginal assets had been sold at bargain-basement price to finance gambling, and there were organised rackets involving bird smuggling, drug trafficking, and prostitution. Taxpayers' money had been used to finance personal business trips to the Philippines.

Some of the accusations are very old -- for example two unexplained deaths years ago at the time Aboriginal leaders were attempting to buy kangaroo meat works at Charleville and St George.

"There's corruption going on, there's a Mafia-style operation going on. It's very tight, and they're making a fortune out of it," Mr Anderson said.

A spokesperson for the Australian Federal Police yesterday said federal agents in Brisbane were evaluating and consolidate the allegations before a full investigation began. He said claims involving possible state offences would be passed to state police.

Senator Herron said he was alarmed to discover that only $40 million of ATSIC's $1 billion annual budget had been spent on health, in the 12 months before former Health Minister Carmen Lawrence removed funding of Aboriginal health from ATSIC.

"It was all going on housing, legal services -- enormous sums on legal services, and on native title," he said. "No wonder the health outcome has been appalling."

He said he was also concerned at the use of Aboriginal legal-aid money to sponsor expensive defamation actions.