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Thursday, 19 June 2003
Page: 17041

Mr PYNE (2:04 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. Would the minister inform the House of the status of the review of Indigenous involvement and participation in government policy making?

Mr RUDDOCK (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Reconciliation) —I thank the honourable member for Sturt for his question. The member for Sturt has written in this area and expressed a good deal of interest in Indigenous issues over a period of time. I know that he would have welcomed yesterday that I announced that a discussion paper had been concluded. That discussion paper concerned Indigenous involvement and participation in government policy making, including the role of ATSIC. It is a review of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. The discussion paper was prepared as a first stage of a process that has involved an independent panel, including the former New South Wales Attorney-General, John Hannaford; a former colleague of many of us, the Hon. Bob Collins; and Ms Jackie Huggins, who is the Co-Chair of Reconciliation Australia. The paper reflects the findings from the panel's initial round of consultations. It identifies issues and options concerning the future of ATSIC and related matters.

The paper observed that ATSIC has reached a crisis point in respect of its public credibility and with its Indigenous constituency, that it lacks vision and strategy and that it does not have the requisite skills and understanding of government policy to drive a policy agenda. The discussion paper also identifies a range of issues for the future to be examined. They include under-representation of women, the tension between ATSIC's internal government policy role and its independent advocacy role. This discussion paper is a very important paper. It will form the focus of further consultation over the next few months. The panel expects to be able to present a final report to the government at the end of September. The government obviously looks forward to receiving that and will address very positively the issues that have been raised in the review and the final report which will canvass a range of options which have been developed to this stage and the conclusions that the panel observed.