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Thursday, 22 March 2012
Page: 2665


Senator HEFFERNAN (New South Wales) (18:28): I wish to talk today about government document No. 6: The Torres Strait Regional Authority Annual Report 2010-11. The TSRA generally do a very good job. Their report that is before the chair today is a good example of how they cooperate with each other and it outlines what they have achieved for their people. They look after Indigenous issues in the Torres Strait and Northern Cape York area, but other organisations that are supposed to be assisting Indigenous people are not quite so good. One such organisation is Indigenous Business Australia. Indigenous Business Australia's mission statement states:

Our vision is for a nation in which the First Australians are economically independent and an integral part of the economy.

Our programs provide the means for Indigenous Australians to create wealth and accumulate assets, take up mainstream investment opportunities, create business enterprises that provide additional employment opportunities, and purchase homes.

And that would include the aspiration of leaving a home in your will to your kids. I have a copy of a letter dated 10 March 2012 which is addressed to, among other people, the minister, the Hon. Jenny Macklin. The letter, from a staffer at IBA, states:

Dear Minister

I write as an employee of Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) for many years, and with the support of staff who are prepared to put their hand up as whistleblowers to expose alleged misuse of funds, failure to declare conflict of interest, and interference in administration of IBA by its Chair.

You will not be aware of the sense of relief in the corridors of IBA around the country when the Senate Estimates Committee recently sought to establish the facts surrounding some twelve IBA staff spending the day at Movie World, at the Gold Coast at taxpayers' expense. That Committee also questioned the circumstances surrounding the substantial funding (many millions of dollars) going to Tjapukai Cultural Centre in Cairns when independent advice found it was a marginal proposition at best. These matters warrant serious … investigation.

This is a four-page document that I will not have time to read into Hansard. I failed to get permission to table it, so I will go to the last couple of paragraphs and will then ask to continue my remarks later so that I can read the letter into Hansard. The last two paragraphs state:

Finally, I can tell you there is no joy in being a whistleblower but it is the only way our voice will be heard and for attention to ultimately be given to ensuring that the resources of IBA are spent wisely and in accordance with its policy and guidelines, with due regard for the provisions of the ATSI and CAC Acts. This letter has been prepared in the knowledge that there is a witch hunt occurring to find the leaks emanating from IBA, the sole purpose of which are to promote good governance and protect the integrity and reputation of IBA.

Please note that I have written to the Clerk of the Senate and the Australian Federal Police Commissioner requesting they investigate issues relating to Mr Fry's evidence at the Senate Committee hearing—

where it is alleged he lied to the committee—

and alleged breaches of the CAC Act to see what avenues of follow up may be warranted under their respective jurisdictional responsibilities.

I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Moore ): Senator Heffernan, that was an interesting contribution under the Torres Strait Regional Authority document as opposed to a document that mentioned IBA.