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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 7823


Senator JOHNSTON (9:57 AM) —I present the report of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Native Title and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land Fund on the examination of the annual reports for 2000-2001 in fulfilment of the committee's duties pursuant to section 206(c) of the Native Title Act 1993, together with the Hansard record of proceedings.

Ordered that the report be printed.


Senator JOHNSTON —I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

I seek leave to incorporate my tabling statement in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The statement read as follows—

The Report of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Native Title and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land Fund, on the examination of Annual Reports for 2000-2001 reviews the performance of the National Native Title Tribunal, the Indigenous Land Corporation and the Land Fund in the reporting period.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Native Title and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Fund has a statutory duty to examine the Annual Report of the National Native Title Tribunal. This report is prepared pursuant to s 206(c) of the Native Title Act 1993.

Section 206(c) of the Act requires the Committee to report at its discretion to both Houses of Parliament on matters concerning annual reports to which Parliament's attention should be directed. This, the eighth annual report of the Tribunal, covers the financial year 2000-2001. It was presented out of session on 5 October 2001, tabled in the Senate on 12 February 2002 and in the House of Representatives on 13 February 2002.

To assist in its evaluation, the committee held public hearings on 25 June 2002 (National Native Title Tribunal) and 17 June (Indigenous Land Corporation), in Canberra.

National Native Title Tribunal

Mr Deputy President, I would like to outline briefly, some of the issues which have arisen in the course of the Committee's perusal of the annual report for the National Native Title Tribunal:

Consultants

On the last occasion the Committee expressed some disquiet about the number and level of consultants retained by the Tribunal. The Committee is pleased to note that the expenditure on consultants has been reduced by $700,000, and there has been a decrease from 43 to 15 consultants over the period 2001-2002.

Indigenous Land Use Agreements

The Tribunal has taken steps to increase the number of Indigenous Land Agreements registered. In the previous reporting period, the Committee noted that a number of ILUAs presented for registration did not comply with the Act. The Tribunal has taken a number of initiatives, including the issuing of guidelines, and early compliance checking to increase the compliance rate. The Committee notes that these improvements have increased the cost to the Tribunal of registering an ILUA but have increased the efficiency with which applications are moved through the process.

The Committee also notes the efforts made by the Tribunal to inform parties about native title generally and to provide appropriate material to assist this process. This material included a CD ROM, a videotape and a number of question and answer booklets.

The Committee noted that the National Native Title Tribunal Annual Report covers the required reporting areas, and complies with the legislative and other formal requirements concerning the provision of Annual Reports.

Overall I am pleased to report that the Tribunal has again produced an informative and accessible Annual Report.

Indigenous Land Corporation, and the Land Fund

Mr President, I now turn to the Annual Report of the Indigenous Land Corporation, which also includes the report on the operation of the Indigenous Land Fund.

The Corporation has a primary responsibility to assist indigenous Australians to purchase land and also to assist in the management of Indigenous- held land. The Corporation's Annual reporting requirements can be found in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Act 1989.

This report, for the year 2000-2001 was provided to the Minister on 27 August 2001 and tabled in the Senate on 15 February 2002 and the House of Representatives on 13 February 2002.

Committee suggestions: previous report

The Committee notes that the ILC has adopted suggestions made by the Committee in its eighteenth report. These include a suggestion that the ILC return to previous report format, and include information about the factors to be accorded priority when the ILC exercises its land acquisition and management functions.

Decline in properties approved

The ILC report notes that there was a decline in the number of properties approved for purchase, purchased and divested. The ILC explained that this was due to a revision of its major policies during the reporting period.

However there was also a decline in this activity in the period 1999-2000, and the Committee expressed some concern on that occasion. The Committee will continue to monitor this aspect of the ILC's work, and notes that the revised National Indigenous Land Strategy, and the Land Acquisition and Land Management Programs guide were launched on 4 December 2002. In the light of this, the Committee expects that the ILC will be able to devote more of its resources to these responsibilities.

The Committee notes that the 2000-2001 Annual Report confirms the Committee's concerns regarding the ILC's financial performance over the last two years. The Committee hopes that this trend has been reversed, with the appointment of a new Chairperson, and that the 2001-2002 Annual Report demonstrates an improvement in the performance of the Corporation.

The Committee notes that the presentation of the Annual Report of the Indigenous Land Corporation complies with the legislative and other formal requirements.

The Land Fund

Finally Mr President, I refer to the Land Fund Report 2000-2001. The requirements for this report are established by s193I of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Act 1989. The Report was provided to the Minister on 15 October 2001 and was tabled in the Senate on 12 February 2002 and in the House of Representatives on 13 February 2002.

The Land Fund was established in the 1994-95 Budget. In 2004 Government allocations to the Fund will cease, and the intention was that the capital base of the Fund would be sufficient to guarantee ongoing operational funding for the ILC. The return on investment may not yet be sufficient to allow this to occur. The Committee has noted that the target amount is assured by the Commonwealth.