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Wednesday, 13 March 2002
Page: 1109

Mr RUDDOCK (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Reconciliation) (9:49 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill proposes certain amendments to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Act 1989—the ATSIC Act.

The amendments follow a number of recommendations from the 1997 and 1998 reviews conducted under sections 26 and 141 of the ATSIC Act in relation to the electoral systems and boundaries and the general operation of the ATSIC Act.

The bill was developed in close consultation with ATSIC and has the support of its commissioners.

The amendments contained in the bill relate largely to provisions in the ATSIC Act affecting the elected statutory office holders of ATSIC. ATSIC regional council and office holder elections must take place in the second half of 2002. The amendments that are proposed to the bill will permit greater certainty in regard to the position of current office holders and their eligibility for election.

The amendments include:

· adjustments to the term of office of the commission chair and the regional council chair to provide continuity in these offices throughout an election period;

· a provision for the appointment of an additional regional councillor to a regional council from which a commissioner has been elected;

· a provision to guarantee the appointment of an independent chair of the review panel which is convened after a round of zone elections to conduct a review of the electoral system and electoral rules and the augmented review panel which is convened to review objections to the draft electoral boundaries recommended by the review panel;

· to clarify that the effect of penalties for multiple criminal convictions on eligibility for, and termination of, office holder positions is the same as penalties for single convictions.

· to allow the outgoing commissioner to stand for election as an incoming regional council chair without having to resign as commissioner;

· to provide for the payment of nomination fees by candidates to be included as matters dealt with in the regional council election rules; and, finally

· to prevent a commissioner or a regional councillor who has been removed from office for misbehaviour from standing for the next round of regional council elections.

In addition, the bill seeks to amend certain provisions of the ATSIC Act relating to financial management within the commission.

Accrual accounting has been introduced in accordance with government policy and a number of amendments are required to make the ATSIC Act consistent with current practice. The bill aligns the terminology in the ATSIC Act with the Commonwealth accrual based outcomes and outputs framework. For example, `budget estimates' is substituted for the words `estimates of the receipts and expenditure'. In addition, with the introduction of accrual budgeting each agency is appropriated its own money. As such, the bill removes references to appropriations by ATSIC to Indigenous Business Australia and Aboriginal Hostels Ltd. The bill also repeals certain provisions of the act which are no longer required.

Finally, the bill will allow clarification and enhancement of the internal review process. Amendments will entitle a body corporate or an unincorporated body to request review by the commission and the Administrative Review Tribunal—the AAT—of a decision to refuse a loan or guarantee made under the ATSIC Act. At present the ATSIC Act only allows for review of decisions in relation to an individual.

The bill will enable the commission to delegate its power to review delegates' decisions allowing for a more efficient reconsideration of a refusal to provide a loan or guarantee within ATSIC.

At present the ATSIC Act provides for a delegate's decision to be reviewed directly by the AAT with the effect of circumventing the existing internal review process. In order to allow a comprehensive internal review process the bill will require internal review processes to be exhausted before access to review by the AAT of the merits of a decision to refuse a loan or guarantee.

There are no financial implications arising from this bill. I commend the bill and present the explanatory memorandum to the bill.

Debate (on motion by Ms Ellis) adjourned.