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Wednesday, 29 November 2000
Page: 22937

Mr RUDDOCK (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Reconciliation) (9:50 AM) —I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Amendment Bill 2000 establishes a new body known as Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) by expanding the functions of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commercial Development Corporation (CDC).

The bill reflects the government's commitment to increasing opportunities for indigenous Australians to participate in commercial development. Participation in business enables more indigenous Australians to escape the cycle of welfare dependency and provides opportunities for employment and the creation of wealth and capital to generate further economic development opportunities.

In March 1998 the government released a discussion paper, `Removing the Welfare Shackles', proposing the establishment of IBA to rationalise existing programs. A commitment to establish IBA was given in the September 1998 coalition election statement `Beyond Welfare' and reaffirmed in the 1999 budget statement `A Better Future for Indigenous Australians'.

The government is committed to ensuring that outcomes from indigenous business support programs are optimised. Accordingly, the government is commissioning an independent review of indigenous business programs to recommend mechanisms for the most appropriate and effective delivery of such programs.

The bill is also designed to improve current services and contains three key aspects.

The first aspect is changing the name of the CDC to IBA. The establishment of a new organisation, with a new name, will provide an opportunity to refocus business client expectations on commercial objectives clearly differentiated from the broad social and economic objectives of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, ATSIC.

The second aspect is expressly allowing ATSIC to outsource its commercial functions. ATSIC will be enabled to use IBA or other organisations to deliver its commercial services, such as the provision of loans, to indigenous businesses. These changes are designed to encourage a shift in culture surrounding indigenous business support and, in particular, to help bring the public and private sector closer to an effective partnership.

The final aspect provides the option of appointing a full-time chairperson to IBA. Currently the chairperson of the CDC is appointed on a part-time basis. The option to appoint a full-time chairperson is in recognition of the significant role that IBA will play in stimulating the economic advancement of indigenous Australians and will help to ensure that IBA can maintain and expand the successful joint venture arrangements the CDC has established with a wide range of Australian companies.

In conclusion, I would like to say that an important means for addressing indigenous employment and economic disadvantage is to promote growth in indigenous business. The bill is a significant step towards improving indigenous participation in viable businesses, and is part of the government's ongoing commitment to assist indigenous Australians achieve economic independence.

I commend the bill to the House and present the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Mr Horne) adjourned.