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Thursday, 15 November 2018
Page: 8325

Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (15:11): I thank the senator for clarifying that we hadn't actually got the documents in time. We have clarified with the senator that we have provided those documents. There are three documents, which are the funding applications. Until we can ascertain that there are no commercial-in-confidence issues with those three organisations, we can't provide them those documents. We indicated that, as soon as that process has been finished and as soon as we have clarified that, we will add those to the tabled documents. This is a standard process and a process that we would always follow.

The senator made a number of remarks about this, and it does give me an opportunity to perhaps clarify the sorts of matters that the land commissioner is considering. First of all, as a principle, I am very, very keen to make sure that these land claims are advanced. The senators opposite may know—I know Senator McCarthy would know—that the longest-standing land claim in the Northern Territory was the Kenbi land claim, and I am very proud to be the minister who signed off on it, eventually. That was a bit of a struggle at the last minute. Aboriginal people who are the beneficiaries of the declaration of that grant are so happy that it was eventually granted. As Senator McCarthy would also acknowledge, I'm sure, many people say that the lands rights process takes so long that many of the people who champion a claim actually pass away.

There are two things that a land commissioner would take into consideration when dealing with these matters. The first is: 'When I make the determination to grant this land, what do those people impacted understand about it? What do they understand about what happens to their rights and what happens to them? Do they know about what I'm about to determine?' The second matter he takes into consideration is: 'What impact am I going to have on those stakeholders?' It's usually referred to as detriment. One is fundamentally an education process and one is a legal process. Let's say you take native title—it's just a legal process. But with both of the processes in this case—particularly the Beds and Banks case, because it's a precedent case and hasn't been dealt with under ALRA before—it is essential that we have both elements. I recall the senator referring to, I think, 52C of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, under which the Attorney-General may make grants. But, if you look deeper, it is only for legal elements; it is not for where we have an education package because of those two matters.

It is useful to understand what else I have done in these matters. I know Senator McCarthy knows that all the land councils have said, 'We want this advanced as quickly as possible.' There is only a suite now remaining, and we can deal with that suite. I want them dealt with as quickly as possible, and I have committed to resolving those land claims. So I have provided $8 million to the Northern Land Council. I've provided an additional million dollars to the Office of the Aboriginal Land Commissioner because they're going to have more hearings and those sorts of processes, knowing that the land commissioner will ask himself two questions, as I said. The first is: 'Do they understand the legislation around my determination over whatever rights and interests they may have?' The second is: 'Are these stakeholders able to tell me what impact it will have on them?' They are the two fundamental things the land commissioner will actually consider. These grants have been specifically for that. They have been specifically to do that. And I can tell you I'll make sure that it is done in a way that they are not wasted. We put a lot of time and thought into making sure that these investments will advance those processes.

I'll go to some comments that Senator McCarthy made about some associated IAS funding to NARMCO—a very hurtful 'to your mates' at the end. I don't know who writes your speeches, Senator, but you should keep less of that. So we're supporting NARMCO, which is supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses. As I've indicated in an answer to a question today, we should add to that; there are a great deal more. There's $18 million to CatholicCare, $2 million to Australian Red Cross and $1.1 million to World Vision. I know that Senator McCarthy would wish that we ensure that we lift the capacity of Aboriginal businesses to provide services to themselves—in fact, I've done it, because, frankly, they do it better. They can do it as efficiently and they do it better. And I have, in my time here, got the biggest jump ever in Aboriginal businesses providing those services. But, for some time, it will be the case that others do them.

I indicate that I don't know a great deal of detail in terms of NARMCO, but my general understanding is that this is an organisation that specialises in providing back-of-house, principally advocacy services around accounting and finance. They do applications on behalf of people. People want to apply for a particular grant in a particular area, so they go and do those grant applications for them. I understand they have been highly commended by many of the Aboriginal businesses they work for. My understanding is that they predominantly provide a very focused piece of work for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses. I look very carefully at every element of this funding. Every element of this funding is provided under the guidance of the department and under the IAS guidelines. I haven't shifted from those guidelines.

With regard to the opportunity that the senator took to make some comments today and say that we haven't produced the documents, the documents were produced with a statement that said, 'There are three remaining documents, but the process is, because there is a connection between the people who gave us those documents, that we simply need to check.' I expect they will be with the Senate very shortly—within days. It's up to them. I can't see that they would be anywhere else. I'm not sure if someone's held them up. The adviser indicates no. Okay. They should be here very shortly. There are six documents that meet the terms of Senator McCarthy's request—three briefs to me seeking approval for funding in a direct funding application from each organisation. All of those briefs have been tabled. Now, if there's some relevant information—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Minister, I might just correct that, because you've come back to it a few times. They are with the Table Office, so you can seek to table those.

Senator SCULLION: I wasn't aware at all.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Yes. No, that's fine.

Senator SCULLION: So I can table those remaining documents now. Thank you, Madam Deputy President.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Yes. So we're talking about the initial three documents.

Senator SCULLION: No; those have already been tabled, I understand.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: No; they haven't been tabled in the Senate.

Senator SCULLION: So the original documents I can table now. I assumed they were tabled. They were with the Table Office this morning; they haven't been tabled. My apologies. With regard to the other application, the hold-up would only be a matter of days, but it is a convention. I'm advised by the department that I have to seek the okay from those three organisations. I can't see it being any material matter. I've actually given a fixed date. I've said the department has to consult with these organisations by 21 November. I've also instructed them just to get it done as quickly as they can, and I'm quite sure the documents will be tabled with the Senate as soon as possible.

Question agreed to.