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Friday, 1 September 1989
Page: 793


Senator PETER BAUME(10.41) —I move:

(13) Pages 7 and 8, clause 15, line 26 (page 7) to line 4 (page 8), leave out the clause, insert the following clause:

``15. After section 39 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted:

Finance Directions

`39a. (1) The Commission shall prepare and submit to the Minister written directions, not inconsistent with this Act or the regulations, about the administration of the Commission's finances.

`(2) The directions may apply, adopt or incorporate, with or without modifications, directions given under the Audit Act 1902 by the Minister for Finance, or the Secretary to the Department of Finance, being such directions as in force at a particular time or as in force from time to time.

`(3) The Minister may approve directions prepared under subsection (1).

`(4) The Commission shall comply with an approved Finance Direction even if it is inconsistent with the corporate plan.

`(5) Without limiting the operation of the Freedom of Information Act 1982, the Commission shall ensure that copies of the approved Finance Directions are available for inspection and purchase at each office of the Commission.

`(6) The General Manager shall cause notice of the approval of Finance Directions under this section to be published in the Gazette.

`(7) In this section, ``approved Finance Direction'' means a direction approved by the Minister under subsection (3).'.''.

This amendment seeks to leave out clause 15 which appears at page 7 of the Bill, for the purpose of inserting thereafter a new section. Clause 15, as drafted, relates to ministerial finance directions. It provides that the Minister shall give to the Commission written directions not inconsistent with this Act about the administration of the Commission's finances. It goes on to say certain things about the finance directions. The Opposition has no objection to appropriate finance directions being given to the Aboriginal Development Commission. The question arises: what should be the structure under which they are given? How should they be given and what should happen to the lines of authority?

We believe it is desirable, consistent with the principle of Aboriginal self-management, that the finance directions should be acceptable to government. We have no objection to that, but consistent with Aboriginal self-management we believe the Commission itself should be asked to prepare its finance directions and seek to have them accepted. That would require the Commission to prepare finance directions which complied with the general structure of finance directions. The Commission would then present them to the Minister and would have them approved by government. It seems that if that were done the aims of the Government would be met-that is, the Commission would operate under a proper set of finance directions, but in the name of self-management it could have had a proper role in preparing those directions.

The section we seek to have inserted is designed to give the ADC some say in the kind of ministerial finance directions that could be made to it. Again, the issue is one of just how serious the Government is about Aboriginal self-management. We are quite serious that the Commission should have proper finance directions. I draw to the attention of the Committee that the proposed section to be added by the Opposition, which is contained in the circulated amendments, is quite extensive. The first part of our proposed amendment is in these terms:

`39A. (1) The Commission shall prepare and submit to the Minister written directions, not inconsistent with this Act or the regulations, about the administration of the Commission's finances.

I think that is a proper role to play. The second part of our proposed amendment is as follows:

`(2) The directions may apply, adopt or incorporate, with or without modifications, directions given under the Audit Act 1902 by the Minister for Finance, or the Secretary to the Department of Finance . . .

So the Commission will have a point of reference to which to go when it is preparing those finance directions. Then we provide:

`(3) The Minister may approve directions prepared under subsection (1).

Because we wish to be appropriately responsible in this matter, we then provide:

`(4) The Commission shall comply with an approved Finance Direction even if it is inconsistent with the corporate plan.

We have done that to make sure that we pick up the point made earlier by the Minister for Justice (Senator Tate), that it is not appropriate for a corporate plan to be brought up which in some way is inconsistent with proper accountability within government.

Then we provide that the Commission should ensure that copies of the approved finance directions should be publicly available for inspection and purchase at each office. There should be nothing secret about them. We also provide:

`(6) The General Manager shall cause notice of the approval of Finance Directions under this section to be published in the Gazette.

So the directions would be published in the most official organ of government. We then say what we mean by `approved finance direction'. We have tried to ensure that the finance directions which are prepared shall be adequate, proper and consistent with those required elsewhere in government. But we have tried to say, in the name of Aboriginal self-management, `Let them be prepared by the Commission and approved by the Minister-by the government of the day'. We believe that it is a very proper goal of government that there should be finance directions and that they should provide, as it were, a set of standards against which the Commission shall operate. We believe that they should be present but that they should be prepared, if possible, from within the Commission. That is the purpose of the amendment which I have moved on behalf of the Opposition.