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Tuesday, 5 September 1989
Page: 976

Senator PETER BAUME(5.44) —The Minister has not responded to a number of matters which I raised and to which the Opposition would like some response. However, may I begin by returning to the Minister's reference to clause 3 (d). The words he used came from the following passage:

to ensure co-ordination in the formulation and implementation of policies affecting Aboriginal persons and Torres Strait Islanders by the Commonwealth, State, Territory and local governments,

I note the words `Australian Capital Territory' have not been added there, and perhaps they need to be. The passage continues:

without detracting from the responsibilities of State, Territory and local governments to provide services to their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents.

I just note those words. In fact, that is not relevant. No-one is suggesting that this clause would, in some way, require the States to detract from the responsibilities of State governments to provide their own services. Senator Tate-That it would have that effect was Senator Boswell's theory.

Senator PETER BAUME —It would, if the States grants programs were unilaterally discontinued by ATSIC. I will suggest to the Minister how that might happen. ATSIC might well decide that the State of Tasmania received so much by way of States grants money, but it could be better applied if ATSIC spent it directly. ATSIC might make that decision and say that it was a proper exercise of its power. It might discontinue that money. If that happens, the programs in that State which are dependent upon States grants will be put in jeopardy. That is not inconsistent with the objects clause. That money has been provided to the State of Tasmania, as it were, in addition to money it might spend to discharge its own responsibilities as set out in that clause.

The points which I was making and to which I sought answers from the Minister remain unanswered. First of all, is it correct that, if this clause stood, moneys which are now provided for by way of States grants Bills and moneys which appear in Appropriation Bill (No. 2) will no longer do so? The Minister said in response to earlier questions, I think yesterday, that the moneys would appear in the ATSIC estimates and was asked whether they would not appear in Appropriation Bill (No. 1). I want that made clear because it has a consequence for the capacities of this chamber, because of other provisions in the Constitution with which the Minister is much more familiar than am I. That should at least be answered so it is on the record. A number of people will want to read the record, and we want a statement on the record here for the future.

Senator Tate —Yes, okay.

Senator PETER BAUME —Further, I would like confirmation of our concern that, given a less advantageous scenario, clauses 10 and 18 together might well lead to a States grants program being discontinued, because there is nothing here to require ATSIC to continue with States grants programs. These are merely enabling clauses to provide ATSIC to do so if it wishes, but the programs, which have been very considerable over a number of years-perhaps 15 or 20-may well be discontinued by the Commission in the exercise of its powers and the pursuit of its functions. The concern has been expressed to us that the refusal by a State to negotiate the ATSIC terms could easily be met with a refusal to pay anything to that State.

The last point on which the Opposition would like some comment is this: Are we correct in assuming that this clause was not discussed with State and Territory Ministers prior to its appearance in the Parliament in the draft of the Bill last year, and that it was part of the material about which the Ministers expressed their concern at the Australian Aboriginal Affairs Council meeting in November to which the Minister has already referred?