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Monday, 9 May 1994
Page: 406

Senator ELLISON —I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs. Is the minister aware that a misappropriation of funds by a recipient of ATSIC funding does not fall within the province of Australian Federal Police investigation? Does he not agree that, in view of recent events as expressed in the Sunday television program on 8 May 1994, there should be some involvement by the Australian Federal Police in these matters?

Senator COLLINS —That, I would imagine, would depend entirely on the circumstances of any individual case, rather than simply saying as a blanket proposition that we would want to involve the Federal Police: it would depend on the circumstances.

  Just to give one example—and if Senator Ellison can advise me of any particular concerns that he might have, I would be able to pursue this in some detail and give him a more complete answer—a matter of current concern to me is the question of the Anyinginyi Congress in Tennant Creek, which has also been raised by Senator Tambling. I was recently advised in a letter, in response to one I sent to the minister, that the minister has accepted the advice of the Registrar of Aboriginal Corporations and appointed an administrator to the corporation. Under those circumstances, it may well be that that is a far more appropriate and effective response than simply jumping in immediately and saying that we should call in the Federal Police. At the end of the day, in every case of which I am aware where evidence has been disclosed of misappropriation, appropriate charges are at that point in time laid and prosecuted.

Senator ELLISON —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the minister aware of recent opinions of the Director of Public Prosecutions in Western Australia outlining deficiencies in Commonwealth law in so far as section 29C of the Crimes Act deals with misrepresentation for application for funding but does not cover what happens to that funding after it has been given to the body concerned?

Senator COLLINS —Leaving aside the technical issue that standing orders preclude putting questions that seek legal opinions—and I am not a lawyer anyway—the answer is no, I am not aware of that particular concern. I am sure that the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs is. I will refer Senator Ellison's question to him and provide the honourable senator with an answer.