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Tuesday, 14 October 2003
Page: 21396

Mr McClelland asked the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, upon notice, on 12 August 2003:

(1) Has a decision been taken to hold a public tender for Aboriginal legal aid services in South Australia; if so, (a) when was that decision taken, (b) by whom, and (c) what were the reasons for this decision.

(2) Who is responsible for conducting the tender and what is its budgeted cost.

(3) What was the original timetable for the tender and how has the timetable been varied, if at all, since it was originally set.

(4) What requirements must the tenderers meet and will tenderers be required to be from the Aboriginal community.

(5) Will tenders be invited to provide legal services across the State or only in particular regions.

(6) What are the Seven Principles for implementation of Aboriginal legal aid services reforms.

(7) What does the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services contestability policy provide.

(8) What are the State Direction Strategy and Funding Allocation Method in accordance with which the contestability policy must be implemented.

Mr Ruddock (Attorney-General) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) The decision to proceed to tender for Indigenous Legal Aid Service Delivery was determined on a National basis, rather than targeting any specific State or Zone. The ATSIC Board of Commissioners decided on 17 June 2003 to adopt a policy direction to tender for the provision of Indigenous Legal Aid Service Delivery across Australia. The decision built upon the ATSIC Board's 2001 existing contestability policy and the need to look for opportunities for enhanced service delivery.

ATSIS is also required to comply with the Ministerial Directions that were handed down by me to the CEO of ATSIS on 1 July this year, requiring the choice of and relationship with individual service providers for all Indigenous services (not just legal aid) to be based on best practice, including:

- outcome-based funding and performance-based contracts for service delivery; and

- market testing and competitive tendering wherever appropriate.

(2) ATSIS is responsible for conducting the tender. The detailed budgeted cost is yet to be determined.

(3) The original proposed timetable was for tenders to be called on a State by State basis commencing during the 2003-04 financial year. This decision was made prior to the Separation of Powers coming into existence on 1 July 2003. Since that date, although the decision of the ATSIC Board of Commissioners has been taken into account, ATSIS has reviewed the proposed timetable to ensure that the tender process is conducted properly.

(4) The tender specifications have not yet been finalised. It is expected that a draft of Tender specifications will be produced and circulated for comments before drawing up final specifications. The objective will be to have services provided by organisations which have a commitment to Indigenous people.

(5) It is envisaged that Tenders will be invited for the provision of legal services to the State of South Australia, rather than on a regional basis.

(6) The Seven Principles approved by the ATSIC Board were agreed to before the Separation of Powers came in on 1 July 2003. The Principles inform ATSIS as to the Board's position at that time but it is up to ATSIS to determine how the reforms will be implemented and what strategies will be used. The Principles are as follows:

1. That Future Directions reforms progress wisely and surely to ensure that service delivery models best fit actual needs and circumstances and avoid the `one size fits all' approach.

2. That the Future Directions reforms are to be based on quality information from census, survey and research and ATSIS is currently reviewing the:

- Funding Allocation Method (reform to determine funding on the basis of needs); and

- State Directions Strategy (reform on the basis of performance and efficiency).

3. That the ATSIC Legal Aid program is effective now in meeting needs of Indigenous clients within very constrained funding and requires gradual adjustment for efficiency but not major change. Any change will have to ensure that Indigenous clients are not further disadvantaged in gaining true access to the critical services for law and justice.

4. That the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS) are best placed for effective delivery of services for Indigenous clients who place a high value on cultural awareness of the service provider as an element of program efficiency.

5. That the implementation of any changes be consistent with the ATSIC ATSILS contestability policy which provides for legal aid services being open to contest with tenders sought from as many Indigenous organisations as possible and selection made in an open and fair manner. (Refer to Answer to Question 7 below)

6. That all Legal Aid Service providers must comply with the relevant State or Territory authorising legislation which enables them to practice and provide legal services.

7. That legal aid services continue to be delivered to Indigenous people by Indigenous governed organisations that have a commitment to and understanding of the communities they serve.

(7) It should be noted that the answer to this question is qualified by the fact that since 1 July 2003, when the Separation of Powers came into existence, the ATSIC Board of Commissioners determines its policies while ATSIS determines how these policies will be implemented. The contestability policy provided for the performance of incumbent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS) to be monitored and assessed against clear service specifications and output-based performance measures. At the end of an incumbency, provision of Indigenous legal aid services would be open to contest from other potential service providers.

(8) The answer to this question is qualified by the introduction of the Separation of Powers from 1 July 2003. The State Direction Strategy is the principal method for advancing the ATSIC Board and Cabinet approved Indigenous Legal Aid Services reforms in each State. The aim is to ensure that ATSILS achieve optimum efficiency and effectiveness in client service delivery.

The Funding Allocation Method indicates the share of ATSIC's total legal aid budget that each State and Territory should ideally receive, based on a set of factors relevant to Indigenous peoples' need for legal services.