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Monday, 12 September 2011
Page: 9671


Mr ANDREWS (Menzies) (18:57): I rise to speak on the Indigenous Affairs Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2011. This bill contains two schedules. Schedule 1 contains three parts that amend the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005. The schedule would amend the title of a number of office holders from 'general manager' to 'chief executive officer'. Presently, a number of statutory positions created by the ATSI Act 2005 are referred to by the term 'general manager'. These roles are deemed to be better reflected in the title 'chief executive officer'. The change is also designed to bring these agencies into line with the majority of other Commonwealth statutory agencies and companies. The change of title from general manager to chief executive officer does not involve any changes to the remuneration package associated with the positions. Aligning the position titles with comparable positions in other authorities is expected to assist the boards of these agencies attract suitably qualified applicants.

The schedule would ensure that information held by Indigenous Business Australia will be appropriately protected but capable of being disclosed by that organisation in carrying out its proper functions, consistent with similar arrangements. The secrecy provisions relating to IBA in section 191 of the act has prevented the disclosure of information to agencies with responsibility for overseeing Commonwealth administrative practices such as the Ombudsman and the Privacy Commissioner. It has also prevented disclosure of information to Commonwealth agencies working in joint initiatives with Indigenous Business Australia. The amended provision will allow disclosure of information in limited circumstances. The changes to the secrecy provisions applicable to Indigenous Business Australia may assist the organisation to carry out its functions while protecting commercial-in-confidence information. The change should also permit scrutiny of IBA activities by the parliament, namely Senate estimates committees.

Schedule 1 would also remove references to the availability of review under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 for two discontinued Aboriginal Hostels Ltd schemes. The two discontinued schemes are not likely to be reinstated, so this item is simply tidying up the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977. Schedule 2 amends the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 and the Coordinator-General for Remote Indigenous Services Act 2009, allowing the minister to delegate the power to appoint a person to act as the Executive Director of Township Leasing or the Coordinator-General for Remote Indigenous Services. Currently the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 and the Coordinator-General for Remote Indigenous Services Act 2009 provide that the minister may appoint a person to the specified position with the acts not allowing a provision for that power to be delegated.

The Executive Director, Township Leasing, is an independent statutory office holder who works with communities to ensure that the township lease is managed effectively and provides a real benefit to the community. The Coordinator-General for Remote Indigenous Services is intended to be independent of government service delivery agencies to drive improvements to the coordination of the development and delivery of Indigenous policies and to facilitate reforms to the development and delivery of such programs. Both of these positions were deliberately designed to remain separate from individual agencies but, however, have been incrementally absorbed into the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. This has resulted in their ability to drive reforms being compromised. These positions must remain appointed by the minister and not delegated to the department. The coalition therefore opposes the passage of schedule 2.

We believe it is important that someone be appointed to act in the role of Coordinator-General for Remote and Service Delivery. The coalition believes that, when a vacancy occurs, the minister fills the position with an acting appointment to preserve the separation from the department so necessary with this position. The coalition believes that the current procedure for making such an appointment is neither onerous nor unworkable when compared to the need to maintain separation of the position and the department charged with coordinating service delivery. The coalition continues to lament the fact that this Labor-Greens alliance continues to fail our Indigenous peoples. It continues to allow program failures and bungled policy responses as well as waste and mismanagement to dominate this important area of policy. Australia's Indigenous population deserve better. They deserve much. much better, but this government just cannot deliver.

In the last sitting fortnight I spoke on the Indigenous Affairs Legislation Amendment (No. 1) Bill 2011. The coalition flagged that it would oppose a schedule of that bill. We indicated that we would seek to amend the bill. Suddenly, however, the government have decided they will pull the schedule. This is part of what is an emerging trend by Labor. The government are so weak that they cannot even stand by their own legislation. If it looks like it might fail, they cut and run. I am advised the government will now amend this bill to remove schedule 2. Given the government's intention to remove schedule 2, the coalition will support the passage of the bill.