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Constitutional Recognition Relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples
05/07/2018
Matters relating to constitutional change

MAHER, the Hon. Kyam, Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, South Australian Parliament

Committee met at 08:08

CHAIR ( Mr Leeser ): Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I declare open the Joint Committee on Constitutional Recognition Relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay respects to their elders past and present. I acknowledge my co-chair, Senator Pat Dodson, Labor senator from Western Australia. Also joining us this morning is Mr Llew O'Brien, a National Party member from Queensland. Sitting to my right is Dr Ashley Stephens, the inquiry secretary. Also here today are Elise Williamson from the secretariat and people from broadcasting.

This committee was established by the Australian parliament to progress the national recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Our work is informed by the regional dialogues undertaken by the Referendum Council last year, which culminated in the Uluru Statement from the Heart. As people would be aware, the Uluru statement recommended a First Nation's voice to advise the Australian parliament. Our work is also informed by the earlier work of the 2015 parliamentary committee and the 2012 expert panel on constitutional recognition.

This hearing will be broadcast on the parliament's website and a transcript of proceedings will be made available. Those present here today are advised that filming and recording are permitted during the hearing. I also advise members of the media who may be present or listening on the web of the need to fairly and accurately report proceedings of the committee.

It's now my pleasure to welcome the Hon. Kyam Maher to give evidence today. Do you have any comments to make on the capacity in which you appear today?

Mr Maher : I'm currently the shadow minister for Aboriginal affairs in the South Australian parliament. Prior to the March state election I was the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation for South Australia.

CHAIR: Although the committee doesn't require you to give evidence under oath, I advise you that this hearing is a legal proceeding of the parliament and therefore has the same standing as proceedings of the respective houses. The giving of false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as contempt of parliament. The evidence given today will be recorded by Hansard and attracts parliamentary privilege. I now invite you to make a brief opening statement before we proceed to discussion.

Mr Maher : Thank you, Mr Co-chair. I too wish to recognise the traditional owners of the land that we meet on today—the Kaurna people, who've occupied this land for tens of thousands of years. Where we are today always has been and always will be Aboriginal land.

I thank you for the opportunity to appear before the committee. The work that this committee is doing is exceptionally important—in fact, I view it as some of the most important policy work that's being undertaken in Australia at the moment. For the last couple of centuries since the colonisation of this country, Aboriginal people's voices have not been heard and the wishes of Aboriginal people have consistently not been acted on. I think even more than that, for a lot of the last 230 years, successive governments—colonial governments, federal governments and state governments—have implemented policies with the design to disadvantage Aboriginal people, whether it's the deliberate removal of children or other policies that have entrenched disadvantage in this country.

I think we're at a remarkable point in time at the moment. I think there is an opportunity now to fundamentally change the way Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia interact with each other and to fundamentally change the way the voices of Indigenous people across Australia are heard. What's come before—the expert panels, the previous joint select committee and the Referendum Council—have made important contributions. I think recognition is important. Constitutional recognition is important. Addressing what areas of our Constitution, such as 51(xxiv), ought to be changed is important. I know other states have turned their minds to this. In 2013 we changed our Constitution Act in South Australia to recognise Aboriginal people as the original custodians of the lands and waterways of SA. I know a few years before that New South Wales did the same, and other states have been moving towards that. But I think there are other things that are equally, if not more, important. Having asked Indigenous Australia what's important through the consultations and the groups that were held over the last couple of years culminating in the statement from Uluru it's now important to listen to that statement and act on it.

I thought it might be useful to outline just for a couple of minutes some of the areas and lessons that we've learned in South Australia over the last couple of years. Just over two years ago in South Australia we announced we were going to start a process of discussing a state-based treaty with Aboriginal South Australia. We embarked on the most comprehensive consultation any South Australian government has had with Aboriginal South Australia—some thousands of interactions. I think there were 700 direct face-to-face meetings and the treaties commissioner's team clocked up 11,000 kilometres over six months consulting right around South Australia.

What came out of that consultation about treaty was an overwhelming majority—over 80 per cent—of those consulted with through the South Australian Aboriginal community thought a treaty was important and that the state government ought to pursue that. In the South Australian context, the majority of those consulted with thought place-based or nation-based agreements were what were appropriate for South Australia, so that was the policy that we undertook in South Australia. There was a recommendation from the treaty commissioner. We undertook an expression of interest process and then commenced direct negotiations of government with three Aboriginal nations in South Australia—the Ngarrindjeri, Adnyamathanha and Narungga nations, which culminated just before the election in the signing of a first agreement towards treaty with the Narungga nation: the Buthera agreement.

I've been working in and out of Aboriginal affairs in South Australia for almost 20 years. The process we went through with our state-based treaty reinforced to me that policies in this area only work or only have a chance of working well when Aboriginal people are at the forefront of the process and the decision making. I think that's where we find ourselves now nationally. We've asked questions. How do we move forward in these areas of recognition? Indigenous Australians come back with a statement from Uluru. I think there is at least a moral imperative that that is acted on. If we had commenced our treaty discussions in South Australia and had an overall majority and a clear path forward and then ignored them, I think it would have been disappointing and difficult to justify, having started the process and not doing enough. I think that's where we are federally now. We have a pretty clear statement. It's not without difficulties in the way the statement from Uluru and the three main components are implemented, but I think, having asked the question and received the answer, there is now an imperative to act on it.

CHAIR: Thanks, Mr Maher. I want to explore your agreement-making process in a moment. I just want to ask you a little bit about the voice, because that's one of the key components we've been looking at. What do you see as the purpose of the voice? What problem is it trying to solve? What you think it can potentially do that other bodies are not necessarily doing?

Mr Maher : I think a voice in the parliament or in the decision-making process of government, at its very heart, goes to what I outlined in my experience. Policies designed in a vacuum, without input from those that they affect in Aboriginal affairs, are almost designed to fail. A voice to parliament provides a formal mechanism where you're ensuring that decisions that government takes, laws that parliament passes that affect Aboriginal people, have input from Aboriginal people. At its simplest essence, I think that's what a voice can and should be able to provide.

CHAIR: As minister, you would have had a range of different bodies that were giving you advice. How is this body to be different to other bodies?

Mr Maher : I don't want presuppose exactly how that will work. I reckon the best way to do that is further consultation on exactly how that looks. Obviously, there will be various models, models of appointing a body, a direct election of a body, which may be a better, more representative way to go. In terms of the implementation of a voice it's my view that it ought to be enshrined in the Constitution. I recognise difficulties with getting a referendum passed in Australia and that history, but just because something is not immediately easy to do is not a reason not to do it. In a lot of cases, that's exactly the reason to do it, because it's so difficult. I'm not sure that it's necessarily an all-or-nothing process. I would have thought that a voice to parliament could be legislated for before being constitutionally enshrined, and that could possibly be a step towards constitutionally enshrining it, after legislating for it.

CHAIR: There's been quite a bit of discussion in the committee about having local and regional voices. I want to ask you a question both as a former state minister and a current state parliamentarian. One of the suggestions that has been made is that whatever we design should be available for use by state and local government as well. If we were to design a voice that had a local component, regional component and a national component and we were to say to the states and territories, 'Look, we have this structure; we'd love you to use it as well; it should be for the benefit of policies that affect people that are made at the state and local level'—do you have any advice for us about dealing with states in relation to that and bringing them into the tent, as it were?

Mr Maher : That's not something I've turned my mind to, but it's a reasonable question. There are models in the past. The ATSIC model had zones. Then there were state bodies. It's not something that would be brand new in terms of the way it's set up. I think that's an entirely reasonable way to go, to have something that can provide that. One thing that I do know is that getting agreement from all states to do something is not an easy thing to do. If that were a precondition of setting up a national voice to the federal parliament, that all states were agreeing to it, it might end up in failure. It could work, and I think it's a good thing, but—

CHAIR: That's not what I'm suggesting. It's looking at ways that the states could buy into the process, because so many of the issues that confront Indigenous people are actually state and territory issues. If you could take that on notice, I'd be happy.

Mr Maher : I can see pros and cons for such a suggestion. I can take it on notice and give it a bit more thought and provide a written submission to the committee.

CHAIR: That would be great. I'd like to move to the treaty-making process and the agreement making. I think you have something really useful to tell the committee about that process. In terms of the outcomes you are looking for from the treaty process, what was to be the end point, as it were, particularly in those treaties that you got so far to see the initial agreement with those three nations?

Mr Maher : Firstly, when we started the process, we didn't have an end point. That was very specific and by design. We didn't have a preconceived notion of how we wanted to end up. Certainly in agreement making or treaty, 230 years on most people, both from Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia, have very different ideas about what they mean by retrofitting a treaty to a society as it is now. There were a few things that became apparent as we started that state-wide consultation and as we started direct discussions and negotiations with the first three Aboriginal nations. It would be different in a state-based treaty from what a federal treaty might be. For a state-based treaty, I think there were probably three components that were discussed regularly. Firstly, it's important to recognise the past. There were statements about what has occurred in the past that informed where we are now and how we move forward. I think that's part of the statement from Uluru, in some way to allow truth telling to occur formally in some sort of document.

CHAIR: Did that come through in some of the discussions?

Mr Maher : Absolutely. It was pretty universal that any document or agreement that was signed needed to have in there recognition of what's occurred in the past. That was one component. Another component was formal and legally binding ways that Aboriginal communities are involved in government decision making—so having agreements set out very specifically and having it binding on government how those Aboriginal communities are involved in areas that the state government particularly delivers services, like health, education, child protection, justice—having formal and binding ways for Aboriginal people to be involved in decisions that affect their lives.

The other big component from the first three discussions and negotiations was economic independence and economic development. What levers does a state government have to help with that in the areas that we regulate and provide contracts in? How can we make sure that Aboriginal people, communities and companies are best placed to take advantage of those? For different communities that's different things. Aboriginal nations on the coast are particularly interested in aquaculture licences and fishing licences. Others have landholdings in primary industries; others are interested in forming companies to help traffic management and win transport projects. I guess they were some of the very big issues. Of course it raised the issue of sovereignty and how it that co-exists with where we are today and, to a lesser extent, compensation for land and culture.

CHAIR: Did you leave anything off the table, as it were?

Mr Maher : When we started, nothing was off the table.

CHAIR: And as you progressed?

Mr Maher : Nothing was off the table when we started. We came in with a blank slate and a very open mind. From those initial consultations and negotiations, those three areas, with lots of nuances, were the areas that came up particularly. I think also, importantly, there is a great desire to see us federally move towards some sort of agreement-making process. I think a lot of people recognise that, whilst it's important for a state like South Australia, or things are moving in Victoria, and there are things that states can do in terms of agreements with Aboriginal people and Aboriginal communities, I don't think that has diminished the desire for some sort of agreement-making process at a federal level.

CHAIR: It seems that one of the key learnings from your process is that there is not just one treaty. We are talking about a whole series of treaties with different nations.

Mr Maher : Yes. That was a result of those initial consultations as to what Aboriginal people in South Australia thought was appropriate for a state-based treaty in South Australia. I know Victoria are moving towards an agreement with Aboriginal Victoria. That's obviously what is appropriate for Victoria. I would be quite sure that there is not one model that would suit everywhere in Australia, but I think what different states are doing provides a foundation to move federally on this. That is a fundamental question and one that can only be answered by Aboriginal people. At a federal level I think it would be extraordinarily difficult to have one agreement with Aboriginal Australia. That doesn't mean that there couldn't be minimum principles and then place-based agreements or an overarching agreement or document that the federal government could be engaged in.

Mr LLEW O'BRIEN: Mr Maher, with your experience of 20-odd years in Aboriginal affairs and also as a minister—we've heard evidence about how a voice would interface with government. From those experiences that you've had, and probably particularly in government as the Aboriginal affairs minister, have you any views on what would be the best and most effective way for a voice to interface with the mechanics of how it would interface with government?

Mr Maher : I guess your question is, how would it be set up? What would it be required to do? What would be the obligations on a government once it's set up?

Mr LLEW O'BRIEN: And how the decisions the voice would make actually land on the minister's desk and how that person or the government would deal with those in an effective and accountable way.

Mr Maher : I haven't given that a huge amount of thought. I would not want to set down a lot of prescriptions. Again, I reckon this is an area where, if we did move towards this, you would want a lot more consultation with Aboriginal people. You might start with a group of people who might give further recommendations about how it would work.

Mr LLEW O'BRIEN: I suppose what I'm looking for is your experience as a politician.

Mr Maher : In most states we have some form of advisory council. I know the federal government has a similar thing. When ATSIC was abolished that left a vacuum in advice that all levels of government received. I know that when I started working in Aboriginal affairs in South Australia ATSIC was still around, and at a state level this was a very useful body to seek advice from. Solicited or unsolicited advice was often given by ATSIC to state governments. That was useful. When ATSIC was abolished it left a void in the space where all levels of government were able to easily and recognisably go to seek advice or even to receive advice when governments didn't necessarily ask for advice.

After the abolition of ATSIC a lot of states moved towards some form of advisory council. We have a South Australian Aboriginal Advisory Council that is appointed by the minister of Aboriginal affairs of the day to receive advice on issues dealing with Aboriginal affairs policy. That works okay. I think there's a better way. What's been suggested in terms of hopefully, eventually, a constitutional voice to parliament, and that may be directly elected or it may be something like what ATSIC was in terms of providing that advice and a voice on issues when they come up. I'm not sure if I have answered your question.

Mr LLEW O'BRIEN: What I'm really looking for is, how we can ensure that if there's a voice the advice of that voice is dealt with in an appropriate way and not just neglected. We've had some suggestions on possibly tabling documents when advice is given so it's basically not swept under the carpet. I'm looking for suggestions on how to make this as robust as possible and as useful as possible.

Mr Maher : Before you said that that was something that had occurred to me; tabling is a reasonably powerful thing to do. My initial thought would be to not table after legislation has passed, but, if there is a body that's an Indigenous voice to federal parliament, that it be required and that if there's any advice it be tabled at the same time as tabling the legislation, for instance. That would probably be even more desirable than having to table that sometime during or after the process. Again, if I can take that on notice and give that particular question more thought and consider what mechanisms I've seen work and what may be considered by this committee to recommend, in terms of ensuring that voice is heard.

Senator DODSON: What's the state of play, now that there's been a change of government, with the treaty process that you were promoting and had entered into arrangements with the Narungga people and others on? Where's that all at now? Is it progressing according to that agreement, or is it in abeyance or rejected by the current government?

Mr Maher : That's a good question. What was then the Liberal opposition, in the middle of last year, announced that they were sceptical of the treaty process, and that they saw it as, in their words, 'mere symbolism'. Since the change of government it has been officially announced—about a fortnight ago—that the new government has scrapped the treaty process and that they won't be taking any more steps towards that. It was announced in South Australia that the Buthera agreement with Narungga would be honoured, which is good. It is very disappointing.

I guess it gets to what we are talking about here with the statement from Uluru. I think it's been a very disappointing feature of successive governments of all persuasions over our history: the stop-start nature of policy in Aboriginal affairs. Regularly, things are started then stopped, done in a different way then stopped or not done at all after having started. At a federal level there's a pretty clear statement from Uluru to act on, and, at a state level, from our consultations it was exceptionally clear that a treaty was important for Aboriginal South Australia. I think it's another disappointing step in what governments have done wrong in the past to stop something that has got such overwhelming support.

In terms of the specifics, the new government has said they will honour the Buthera agreement with Narungga. So we'll wait and see how that goes. There were some very specific things in terms of what state government departments were going to do in terms of economic development and the formal mechanisms to consult in policy areas. One of the areas that will be interesting is that the Buthera agreement formally committed the state government to continuation to full treaty with Narungga, so to honour that agreement they going to have to continue the treaty process.

Senator DODSON: How's the current government being advised about Aboriginal affairs in order to get the effectiveness out of their public sector outlays or to pursue these reform policies?

Mr Maher : That would have to be something the new Liberal government in South Australia would talk about. There's still the South Australian Aboriginal Advisory Council, which, as I said, is good, but I think there needs to be better and more informative ways to be informed by Aboriginal people in South Australia about the policies in this state.

Senator DODSON: The co-chair was asking you some questions previously about Commonwealth-state relationships. One of the things we often hear about is this tension between an advisory body to the federal parliament, yet we have many of the challenges to the First Nations communities at a state level, whether it's incarceration rates, children in out-of-home care, mandatory sentencing, housing programs or in terms of Commonwealth-state relationships on funding. I think we're just searching around to see how, if we establish an entity at the national level, it can be effective to respond to those sorts of challenges and then, secondly, what kind of reactions we may get from the states. I take the point you mentioned earlier about how difficult it is to get consensus amongst the states, but how difficult would it be for the states to see that as being a contribution of value, as it were?

Mr Maher : The very simple answer is that the Commonwealth could fund states to a much higher degree to deliver the services, because you're right: many of the services that have the biggest impact on Aboriginal people's lives are delivered through the states, whether it be health or education. The justice system is a function of the states. For dramatic change, I don't think we can escape the fact that more funding is needed. A decade ago, when the then federal government introduced the targets under the original Closing the Gap statement, I think the targets were exceptionally useful, and we shouldn't shy away from them. But I think what didn't follow as well as it could have is funding to achieve some of those targets. A necessary part of moving forward with what was proposed in the statement from Uluru will be looking at how funding works and funding for states to provide the services.

On the models that might work, I know that Queensland and South Australia, before starting a treaty process, started a regional authorities policy and process, designating for specific geographical areas, upon the application of Aboriginal groups, a regional authority who was the first port of call to speak to and help with the service delivery or contact with government. You may have some representatives here today. Ngarrindjeri were leaders—certainly in South Australia and, I think, Australia—on that sort of regional authority model. If there were federal agreements and states didn't have a place based treaty model, a regional authority model might be something that would be very useful.

Senator DODSON: Has that got some synergy with, say, the Torres Strait Regional Authority? Is that where people were trying to go with that?

Mr Maher : It wasn't modelled on the Torres Strait Islander model. It was modelled on what Ngarrindjeri were already moving towards in terms of all the different bodies—the native title claimant body and the heritage bodies.

Senator DODSON: An affiliation of all those entities coming together—

Mr Maher : Yes. Each group sent two representatives to an overarching regional authority. But it shares some similarities. I can remember spending half a day a couple of years ago at ANU where another Dodson was going through the Torres Strait Regional Authority model when we were just starting to contemplate a treaty in South Australia. Yes, there are a lot of similarities between the forerunner to our treaty model—that is, the regional authority model in South Australia—and what is happening in the Torres Strait.

Senator DODSON: Another question at the voice level is that it's not meant to replace peak organisations or other entities in their roles and functions. It's a question of how best to get their experience and knowledge aggregated at the national level in order to be effective with their voices.

Mr Maher : Yes. That's probably a good analogy with how a voice federally won't and shouldn't cut across specific areas in Aboriginal affairs. With how the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority worked, all the constituent bodies, I think, had two representatives each on the overarching regional authority. They still kept their expertise, whether it be in heritage, native title or the different areas those bodies were responsible for, but were able to come together and speak with one voice and be a first port of call for all areas of government or other companies to interact with.

Senator DODSON: What is your take on the mood? This may be a difficult question. I acknowledge the chop-change, chop-change approach of First Nations affairs. Now we're in the middle of one, by the looks of it, in terms of this state where a new government is taking a different attitude to the one your government took. What's the impact that you see on the First Nations communities here?

Mr Maher : When the then opposition announced that, if they got into government, they weren't going to continue with the treaty, I reckon I had 40 phone calls that weekend from various leaders in the Aboriginal community. It's a disappointment that history seems to be repeating herself—that Aboriginal people are asked about what's important and what's the best way forward and then are unduly ignored. I go back to where we are now after the statement from Uluru. I think there are a lot of similarities. We've asked questions, we've got answers and it's something we should act on.

Senator DODSON: Yesterday we asked a whole range of lawyers questions about what comes first: the referendum matter or whether you incorporate some kind of legislation or an entity by way of legislation, et cetera. On the question of entrenchment of a voice in the Constitution, there are terms like 'constitutional guarantee' that the voice would be heard. I'm still at a loss as to what that really means in the political context or even in the legal context. If there's a constitutional guarantee, I'm not sure how that's given when parliaments are operating in their own sovereign positions. Do you have any comment on that or is it just me not understanding the terminology or the legal relationship between the Constitution and the parliament?

Mr Maher : It's been a decade and a half since I practised as a lawyer, so I won't try to give too much legal advice. I have heard in discussion and commentary on the matter of the voice a whole lot of different views about why you can't do it, why there will be unintended consequences, why it would become a third chamber of parliament and why it couldn't be enshrined constitutionally. I find it difficult to understand some of the criticism. Certainly, as I think Mr O'Brien was referring to, there can be mechanisms about how, functionally, a voice could work—what its role is and how that advice needs to be considered by government. I don't have a clear view on how it should be established initially. If there were to be a body to provide a voice to parliament, perhaps the first step is a legislative mechanism for that to happen and then for it to be constitutionally enshrined. I can see disadvantages with doing that. Once you take half the step, it's very easy not to take the full step. There's a bit of incentive to say, 'It's working okay, so let's not take that next step to constitutionally enshrine it.' You could almost do both. You could provide for a model constitutionally and then the specifics of how it works can be done by legislation. I think that's a possibility.

Senator DODSON: We had a proposal put to us about a potential committee of the parliament that could involve nonparliamentarians in trying to progress negotiations or consultations with First Nations peoples, possibly even including First Nations peoples on the committee. Is there a mechanism that you're aware of in the state system that would allow that sort of participation, where nonpoliticians could participate in a state committee of some type? We're still grappling with whether that's possible at the federal level, but some of us think that it is. We're not clear, but we'll get clarity about it.

Mr Maher : In different areas of policy, we've had committees of our cabinet that have included nonpoliticians—

CHAIR: You had Robert Champion de Crespigny in your cabinet—

Mr Maher : Yes, and in the social policy area there was David Cappo. They were part of cabinet committees but from business or from social justice areas. There are mechanisms where you can have things that are that hybrid of representatives—

Senator DODSON: So it's not a new idea that's going to—

Mr Maher : It's not a new idea at all. From my experience, you're setting up for failure if you have something that's recommending how to implement some of these things that excludes non-parliamentary Aboriginal voices. I think that that would be an undesirable thing.

Senator DODSON: The truth-telling that you mentioned arose as a consequence of the treaty process.

Mr Maher : Yes.

Senator DODSON: You said that it was recorded in the agreement?

Mr Maher : Yes.

Senator DODSON: How valuable is that for Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people?

Mr Maher : I think it's exceptionally valuable for both. Unless we recognise our past and how that informs where we are today in terms of Aboriginal people, it's very hard to move forward. In the context of our treaty discussions and negotiations, it was exceptionally important. It was exceptionally important that there were lines in the agreement recognising dispossession, what happened during colonisation and the effects of deliberate policies to the detriment of Aboriginal people. Everything that we're talking about is finding ways to move on and to improve the lives of Aboriginal people without that recognition of the past, of where we are now and why we need to do that. I think it's very difficult to do that forward-looking if you don't have some looking at where we are now.

Senator DODSON: The reason I ask is that part of the Uluru statement talks about truth-telling. We haven't had a lot of input on mechanisms as to how to facilitate that. One idea would be something like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa or the sort of experience that you've had here in working with the people at a regional and local level, very clear of their perceptions on the history that they've gone through, as opposed to a more, 'Let's root out the perpetrators of these evils and bring them to court.' If there's some advice about that, that would be useful. Whether it's to work in a more collaborative way at a local, regional level, and at the national level there are things that could be done symbolically to recognise the history, it seems an important feature that is part of the reconciliation process.

Mr Maher : Yes, it is an important feature. On a very local, micro level, a big debate occurred in South Australia in the last 12 months. On the west coast of South Australia a monument recognising a massacre in 1849 used the word 'massacre', which was controversial but exceptionally important not only for local Aboriginal people but also recognising some of our difficult past. For non-Indigenous people, I think we are now seeing much more of a move about, 'My white forebears in Australia were involved in things that are a difficult part of our past, but we need to recognise that that happened and move on.'

Senator DODSON: Thank you.

CHAIR: Mr Maher, thanks for your attendance here today. If you've been asked to provide additional information, and I think you have been, could you please forward it to the secretary by Monday 16 July? You'll be sent a copy of the transcript of your evidence and will have an opportunity to request corrections to transcription errors. Thanks so much for your attendance here today.

Mr Maher : Thank you, committee.