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Wednesday, 17 August 2011
Page: 8277


Ms MACKLIN (JagajagaMinister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs) (09:28): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill makes minor amendments to certain governance and business arrangements for portfolio bodies under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005.

At present, several statutory positions established under that act are referred to by the term 'general manager'—that is, the heads of Indigenous Business Australia, the Indigenous Land Corporation, Aboriginal Hostels Limited and the Torres Strait Regional Authority.

However, the roles undertaken by occupants of those positions have changed in nature since the positions were created. The term 'general manager' will be changed to 'chief executive officer' as a better reflection of the responsibilities and expectations of these agency heads.

The change will bring these agencies into line with the majority of other Commonwealth statutory authorities and companies, whose agency heads have the title of chief executive officer. This includes, for instance, the Australia Council for the Arts, Screen Australia, the Australian Film, Television and Radio School and the Australian Sports Commission. The chief executive officer title is a more appropriate term for agencies that have a board of directors—as each of these agencies do—and meets the general expectation that a chief executive officer is more senior than a general manager. We expect that this change will help the boards of these agencies to attract a higher calibre of candidate for agency head positions.

A further minor amendment will remove a redundant reference to review under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 for two discontinued Aboriginal Hostels Limited schemes—the Community Support Hostel Grant Scheme and the Student Rent Subsidy Scheme. These schemes have not existed for a number of years, so the reference to them is no longer appropriate.

The provision for handling of information held by Indigenous Business Australia is also being amended. The narrow focus of this provision has, in the past, prevented information from being disclosed to agencies with responsibility for overseeing Commonwealth administrative practices—such as the Ombudsman and the Privacy Commissioner.

It has also prevented information being given to Commonwealth agencies working in joint initiatives with Indigenous Business Australia, and state and territory agencies seeking to work more closely with Indigenous Business Australia to achieve better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.

The amended provision aims to overcome these difficulties—but only with the continued appropriate protection of sensitive information. The relationship of confidence between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the agencies established for their benefit is an important public interest that we need to preserve.

The new provision is also consistent with established information-handling arrangements, such as in the family assistance law and the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010, that protect information while still permitting the proper work of the Commonwealth and its agencies.

Lastly, the bill amends the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 and the Coordinator-General for Remote Indigenous Services Act 2009 in relation to the power to appoint a person to act as the Executive Director of Township Leasing or the Coordinator-General for Remote Indigenous Services.

At present, the power to make these acting appointments must be exercised by the minister personally, with no capacity to delegate the power. It will now be possible for the minister to delegate the power under each act to the secretary or a deputy secretary of the department, without the need for the minister to make acting appointments personally. Appointments can then be made when there is a vacancy in the office, including any period when the executive director or coordinator-general is absent from duty or from Australia, or when the executive director or coordinator-general is, for any reason, unable to perform the duties of the office. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.