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Friday, 26 May 1989
Page: 2805

Senator ROBERT RAY (Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs)(9.12) —I table the revised explanatory memoranda relating to these Bills and move:

That these Bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows-


As a consequence of a recommendation of the Senate Select Committee into the Administration of Aboriginal Affairs, the Government has agreed to introduce this Bill as separate legislation, rather than as a component part of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Bill 1989.

The Bill establishes a new body to replace the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies (AIAS) established by an Act of this Parliament in 1964.

In large measure, the legislation enables the new Institute to operate very much as the AIAS currently operates, but with a new emphasis on the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons with an interest and involvement in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies.

In essence, the Institute's functions are to undertake and promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies, to encourage and train research workers, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers, and to undertake research in its own right. The Institute also has a role in encouraging greater understanding in the general community of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies.

Membership of the new Institute will be made up of those persons who are now either full, associate, or corresponding members of the AIAS, plus such other persons appointed by the Council to be members.

The Council of the new Institute will consist of four persons elected by the members of the Institute, one person who is a Torres Strait Islander appointed by the Minister, and four other Aboriginal persons or Torres Strait Islanders appointed by the Minister, of whom at least three will be members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.

As a consequence, the Council will henceforth comprise a majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members. As at present, the Council will determine the policy of the Institute with respect to all matters.

There will be a Research Advisory Committee with a majority elected by the membership of the Institute. The functions of the Committee will be to advise the Council in relation to research matters, applications for research grants, and applications for Institute membership.

The staff of the new Institute will be engaged under the Public Service Act 1922. Provision will be made for the Institute to engage research fellows as consultants to undertake research as at present.

The Government, in formulating this Bill, consulted with representatives of the Council, and has attempted to meet the various concerns articulated where consistent with its overall objectives. For example, in response to concerns regarding the status of information held by the Institute, the legislation now provides that the Institute, in providing advice to the Commission or the Minister, is not required to disclose information which is either held sacred by Aboriginal persons or Torres Strait Islanders or which infringes the privacy of particular persons.

It is the Government's firm intention that the provisions of the Bill maintain the scholastic excellence and independent research capability which is very much a part of the operation and history of the AIAS. The Government is confident that the new Institute will remain an internationally recognised focus for study and research related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies.

I commend the Bill to the Senate, and present the Explanatory Memorandum.


This Bill was foreshadowed by the Prime Minister in his Statement on 11 April, when in referring to the recommendations of the various inquiries, he stated:

``We have, moreover, considered to what extent the thrust of those recommendations should apply to the ADC while it continues to function in the lead up to ATSIC.''

The main elements of this Bill which I will outline will ensure that the ADC, during its remaining life, operates in a similar basis to ATSIC and in a manner that properly reflects Government priorities.

The functions of the Commission will be amended to enable the Commission, upon request, to provide information or advice to the Minister, including information regarding the Commission's expenditure. This will clarify the Minister's right to request information from the Commission.

The business enterprise provisions in section 24 of the Principal Act will be modified to take into account the concerns identified by the Auditor-General in his recent report. In particular, the Commission will be required to satisfy itself that the enterprise is likely to become or continue to be commercially successful. This criterion replaces the previous criterion which merely referred to the capability of the Aboriginal persons involved to engage in the enterprise. The capability criterion is inadequate, because it leaves open the possibility that an enterprise may be funded notwithstanding that it has no prospects of commercial viability. In the Government's view, the `commercial viability' criterion is much more appropriate, focussing as it does on outputs rather than inputs; in effect, it encompasses the capability criterion without the paternalistic undertones.

The Bill also provides for a number of changes to the financial provisions of the Principal Act. The Minister will be given the power to approve the Commission's estimates of expenditure and to issue financial administration guidelines and directions. This will ensure that appropriate ministerial oversight can occur, and that the Commission operates within the parameters of Government policy. The Bill also extends the potential role of the Auditor-General to the audit of subsidiary companies controlled by the Commission. Section 24 (4) of the Principal Act already provides for the recovery of business enterprise loans and grants where the terms and conditions of funding are breached; this provision is to be extended to cover all grants/loans of the Commission.

Finally, a number of changes are proposed to staffing arrangements. The Commission currently determines terms and conditions of employment in consultation with the Public Service Commission under section 33. In fact, the approved terms and conditions are almost identical to Public Service Act terms and conditions. The Amendment Bill will formalise this by providing that all ADC staff be engaged under the Public Service Act 1922. Staff currently employed will be transferred into the Public Service under s 81b of the Public Service Act 1922.

The Amendment Bill will also provide for the appointment by the Minister, after consultation with the Commission, of a General Manager with responsibility for managing the day to day administration of the Commission. The ancillary provisions relating to appointment, remuneration, leave of absence etc. are consistent with the analogous provisions proposed for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.

In conclusion, let me state once again that this Bill is directed toward remedying the administrative defects in the legislation which established the Aboriginal Development Commission, while maintaining an appropriate balance between accountability and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-management and self-determination.

I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Reid) adjourned.