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Tuesday, 5 September 1989
Page: 967

Senator COULTER(4.42) —As Senator Boswell indicated, last night we were discussing the fact that there is both an up side and a down side to what is included in clause 10 (2)(b). The Minister has indicated that it certainly is potentially possible for all grants eventually to be channelled through the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC). I suspect that that would happen over some years under circumstances in which ATSIC established that it was capable of doing that and that the consequences of the movement of funds through ATSIC to the States and Territories were in the interests of Aboriginal people. As the Minister for Justice (Senator Tate) has pointed out, the actual grants of money to ATSIC will remain under the control of this Government.

Another point I did not mention last night-and it is something that has concerned me in my State of South Australia-is that it seems as though the State Department of Aboriginal Affairs is moving more towards mainstreaming services to Aboriginal people, which is really running counter to the direction in which ATSIC is going. I understand that the same situation obtains in New South Wales, where the tendency at the State level has been to mainstream services to Aboriginal people. I suppose to some extent that will be a counterweight to the fears I expressed last night.

Another matter which is evident to me-and I was waiting until Senator Peter Baume had completed his questioning of the Minister on clause 10 (2)(b)-relates to clauses 10 (2) and 10 (3). Clause 10 (2)(c) states:

to enter into an agreement (other than an agreement referred to in paragraph (b)) with a State or Territory;

The only difference between paragraphs (b) and (c) is that (b) says that it is `an agreement for the payment of a grant' and (c) says `to enter into an agreement (other than an agreement referred to in paragraph (b))'. Presumably the agreement refers to an agreement which does not involve an agreement for the payment of a grant and is, therefore, an agreement in relation to something which does not involve money. Yet that particular matter is one on which the Government is choosing to impose an overview of the Minister. I am referring to clause 10 (3), which the Opposition is seeking to remove. It states:

The power of the Commission to enter into agreements of the kind referred to in paragraph (2)(c) shall not be exercised without the written approval of the Minister.

In line with what the Minister is saying, it seems to me that potentially he is seeking very wide powers for ATSIC-something which I am supporting. It is a little surprising that in those agreements in which grants are not involved, agreements of a different kind, the Government is seeking to have an overview by the Minister to the extent that those agreements can be entered into only with the written approval of the Minister. If the intention is to impose some sort of accountability, I could understand clause 10 (3) referring to clause 10 (2)(b). But, in fact, it does not. It refers to paragraph 10 (2)(c) where, as I read it, money is not involved. I would like the Minister's comment on why he sees subclause (3) as so essential if it is not a matter of financial accountability. If the Opposition is seeking to delete paragraph 10 (2)(c), why is it deleting subclause 10 (3)? Is it simply a consequence that if the clause to which it refers is deleted--

Senator Peter Baume —Yes.

Senator COULTER —So there is nothing further than that?

Senator Peter Baume —It is consequential.

Senator COULTER —I thank Senator Baume. If paragraph 10 (2) (c) stays in, I would like to know from the Minister what strong reason there is to keep subclause 10 (3) in if it is not financial and if it is not, therefore, a matter of accountability. What is the risk of the Commission entering into agreements without the written approval of the Minister?