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Thursday, 18 August 2011
Page: 8549

Mr ANDREWS (Menzies) (11:11): I rise to speak on the Indigenous Affairs Legislation Amendment Bill 2011. This bill contains three schedules. Schedule 1 and 2 of this bill were originally included in Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Budget and Other Measures) Bill 2010. I note that these schedules were removed from the original bill by the government when concerns were raised by the coalition. In removing the schedules, the government agreed to debate the issues separately from other measures.

The first schedule would see the addition of further parcels of land in the Northern Territory to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. This will enable the land to be granted to Aboriginal Lands Trust. The intertidal zone surrounding the land and islands listed in the schedule includes significant recreational fishing grounds and their scheduling may have made these waters subject to the precedent created by the Blue Mud Bay case, namely resulting in restricted access to those waters. The government has resolved the issue by scheduling those parcels associated to the Borroloola land claim to the high-water mark instead of the low-water mark thus negating the impact of the Blue Mud Bay case. The Port Patterson islands are adjacent to the long-running Kenbi land claim and will become part of the Kenbi land grant. A negotiated deal between the government, the traditional owners and recreational fishing interests has been reached to maintain fishing access. The coalition has successfully negotiated with government to ensure ongoing access to the intertidal zones. The coalition therefore supports this schedule.

The second schedule would make changes to Indigenous land corporations to introduce new powers for the minister to make guidelines that for what such corporations must give regard to in discharging their functions, particularly with respect to native title settlements. This schedule was the subject of a parliamentary inquiry conducted by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs committee, which reported on 9 February 2011. This bill makes a change to the previous bill in that it clarifies that the Indigenous Land Corporation has the discretion to decide whether to perform its functions in support of native title settlements. If the ILC does decide to perform its functions in support of native title settlements it must have regard to any guidelines in force at the time.

In July 2008 the Attorney-General indicated the Commonwealth would provide the states with financial assistance to settle outstanding native title claims. This support was not forthcoming. Instead, in August 2009 the Attorney-General promised the states that the government would propose alternative funding options. This bill provides such an option. Non-government senators recommended in the Senate committee report that a review into the operation and functions of the ILC be conducted to ensure that the ILC continued to meet its objectives. Those senators held that any changes to the land acquisition functions should only be proposed after such a review and not prior to it. he majority Senate committee report also recommended that the government release draft ministerial guidelines before proceeding with this measure. The government has not released any such guidelines. The coalition does not support the passage of this schedule and the coalition notes the government's circulated amendments which seek to omit this schedule.

Schedule 3 is a new measure and would see changes to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 to remove the connection between the election of members to the Torres Strait Regional Authority and the Queensland local government elections and to provide powers for the minister to determine how the Torres Strait Regional Authority is constituted rather than by notice in the Gazette as is the current practice. The Torres Strait Regional Authority has indicated its support for the provisions contained within the schedule. The coalition supports this schedule.

The Labor-Greens alliance have failed in the area of Indigenous affairs. They have failed to deliver and they have failed, unfortunately, to act. They have presided over waste and mismanagement in program after program. Those members of the Labor-Greens alliance should hang their heads in shame in relation to Indigenous affairs, because for all the talk and all the smoke and mirrors they have done little, from the so-called bipartisan commission that the former Prime Minister was to establish to the Indigenous housing programs to Indigenous health programs, such as their failure on dialysis. And let us not forget the way in which this government has bungled the Northern Territory intervention, failing to deliver the desired outcomes to Indigenous communities. Regrettably, the legacy this minister will leave in this area is one of hollow promises, one of inaction and, worst of all, one of failure and neglect.