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Wednesday, 17 April 1985
Page: 1266

Mr HOLDING (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs) —I present the report, dated 24 September 1984, provided to me by the Auditor-General pursuant to section 63P of the Audit Act, on the conduct of the audit of accounts and records of the National Aboriginal Conference. I seek leave to make a statement in respect of the report.

Leave granted.

Mr HOLDING —Yesterday, the report of the Auditor-General was tabled in this place. On pages 223 to 224 of that report the Auditor-General has informed the Parliament of an Audit he conducted last year of the records and accounts of the National Aboriginal Conference. That audit was made at my request because I became aware of serious deficiencies in the financial and related procedures of the NAC. The Auditor-General's report confirms the concerns I then had. However, I now feel it appropriate to provide to the Parliament the full text of the Auditor-General's report to me so that the public and all National Aboriginal Conference members may be completely informed of the nature of his inquiries and their outcome.

Consistent with the principles of Aboriginal self-management, to which both this Government and honourable members opposite have subscribed, I have supported the NAC to the maximum and have been most reluctant to look behind its conduct of its own affairs. However, when it became apparent last year that severe deficiencies in financial administration were being experienced, I arranged with the NAC an agency arrangement under which officers of my Department were provided to the NAC. These officers assumed a shared responsibility for financial and administrative matters. The report which I have just presented to the House shows quite clearly that the financial administration of the NAC commenced to improve substantially once my Department's agency arrangement was in place.

I announced on 2 April that the NAC would be terminated as from 30 June this year. Necessary administrative and financial arrangements to give effect to that decision are now being made. The administrative and financial difficulties experienced by the NAC were of course a factor in the Government's decision to terminate the NAC, but other factors were of more importance. A prime consideration was the finding by Dr Coombs, in his report which I presented to this House on 27 February this year, that the NAC was not adequately representative of Aboriginal community opinions and aspirations. As I said in my statement of 2 April, the new organisation to replace the NAC will be more closely based on Aboriginal community aspirations. Consultations with Aboriginal community groups and organisations now under way are devoted to that end. I present the following paper:

National Aboriginal Conference-Report and Ministerial Statement, 17 April 1985.

Motion (by Mr Young) proposed:

That the House take note of the paper.