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Wednesday, 22 August 2001
Page: 26292

Senator CHRIS EVANS (9:49 AM) — On behalf of the Labor Party, I move opposition amendment (2) on sheet No. 2287:

(2) Page [6] (after line 13), after clause 13, insert:

13A Conditions of agreement

Any agreement made under section 9 or 12 must include the following conditions:

(a) the condition that the Foundation or a replacement body must comply with such policies, not inconsistent with any of the purposes referred to in section 3, as the Minister directs should guide the activities of the Foundation or replacement body;

(b) the condition that the Foundation or a replacement body must consult with the following:

(i) the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission; and

(ii) the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation; and

(iii) the National Indigenous Substance Abuse Council;

about priorities for, and ways of funding, indigenous substance abuse programs;

(c) the condition that not less than 20% of funding in any year must be allocated to indigenous substance abuse programs.

The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that the matters which the government signed off on in its memorandum of agreement with the Democrats are actually required to be included in the funding agreement with the foundation. We are very concerned to make sure that those objectives are reflected in the funding agreement. We have had a fairly sad history of agreements made with Democrats and others by the minister for health that have never actually come to pass. The famous letters from the minister that are circulated in the chamber as reasons why we should not legislate matters have become a bit of a standing joke. It is always the case that they never quite get applied in the same way. There is always a reason why the minister cannot quite fulfil the commitments. Quite frankly, the question of who will be the minister for health in three months time is a bit of an open issue.

What Labor says is, `Let us get the legislation right. If we want to do something, if we want this to represent the intention of the parliament, let us include it in the legislation.' Therefore, it is our intention to reflect those matters in the funding agreement. They go to the question of consultation and indigenous substance abuse programs, and we specifically put this in as clause 13A, conditions of agreement. It is all very well to come into the chamber and say, `We have agreement with parties outside the parliament.' What Labor says is, `That is fine, that is part of the political process; at the end of the day, it is our job to reflect the will of the parliament in the legislation.' We have a fairly chequered history when it comes to the success of assurances from ministers circulated in letters or reflected in memorandums of understanding: those things do not have the same authority as parliamentary amendments reflected in legislation. Therefore, I urge the Senate to support this amendment.