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Wednesday, 11 October 2006
Page: 130

Mr WAKELIN (5:56 PM) —The Corporations Amendment (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporations) Bill 2006 and cognate bills are important pieces of legislation updating the Aboriginal Councils Association Act 1976. As no doubt just about every other speaker would have said, the legal environment for corporate regulation has changed very significantly in the last 30 years. The legislative package is very specific and there are a series of bills. The reforms largely replicate modern standards. In a general sense it is important, in my view, not only to update but also to recognise the challenges that are within Indigenous organisations. They are charged with very difficult and unique tasks, and the level of governance is always going to be challenging. This is an important step to encourage, protect and develop the integrity of the capacity of Indigenous governance.

I have a great interest in this subject, as I am sure just about all members would, in terms of wellbeing, development and, as the previous Labor speaker, Dr Emerson, mentioned, education. We have huge challenges there which just seem to bedevil us. The innovation that is needed is something that is all before us. In other words, whilst it is predominantly a state matter, working it in with the federal system is a great challenge, particularly in education, so I compliment the previous speaker on that.

Going back to the bills, the importance of accountability and the importance of a transparent, practical approach within modern corporations law is something that cannot be overstated. We in this place pass a lot of legislation, and it is a very difficult legal environment. To relate that back to on-the-ground strategies is not always easy.

I also note that a minor amendment to the Native Title Act 1993 to correct a technical problem prevents replacement agent prescribed bodies corporate—which is a type of corporation that can be formed to hold or manage native title—being recognised as registered native title bodies corporate under the Native Title Act. It is important to note that. In terms of the parliamentary amendments to be introduced in the CATSI bill by the government, one amendment is to correct a technical oversight, such as ensuring that all CATSI corporations fall into the categories of small, medium and large to create a more tailored reporting scheme. This makes sure that corporations can give reports that are appropriately targeted to their size and purpose, removing the one-size-fits-all approach, which is what I was endeavouring to say a while ago about the practical results that need to come from this legislation. The amendment corrects an error that has meant that some corporations may have fallen outside these three categories.

I note that the minister is at the table. I do not intend to go on, because a lot of this material has been well and truly stated. But this evening I needed to make the general observation that the future of Indigenous affairs, in my view, will rely on good corporate governance, on appropriate training and on transparency that will match the modern day need for the outcomes that we are looking for in Indigenous affairs. This is not just a matter of legal technicality; it is so that we have the foundation stone for the legal framework that will meet the practical needs of Indigenous affairs. The minister is at the table, and I do not intend to go on any longer. I wish the bills speedy passage.