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Thursday, 25 June 2009
Page: 4308

Senator FAULKNER (Minister for Defence) (12:51 PM) —I will be brief in my response. I thank Senator Scullion for his contribution, but he has asked me to briefly deal with some matters—I will do that as best I can briefly in summing up.

The Coordinator-General for Remote Indigenous Services Bill 2009, as you would realise, Mr Acting Deputy President Forshaw, allows for government investment to be prioritised and coordinated to ensure that each priority location has the infrastructure and services to support and sustain healthy social norms so that people can reach their potential and communities can thrive. This position has been established to address the practical problems associated with designing, sequencing and rolling out myriad programs in remote communities. The bill provides for consultation with relevant state or territory governments before the minister specifies a remote location in a particular state or territory. The bill also makes provision for the coordinator-general to arrange with the Secretary of the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs for the services of APS employees from the department to be made available. The state or territory coordinator-general for remote Indigenous services will be the first point of contact when the coordinator-general is exercising his or her powers in relation to a specified remote community in that state or territory.

To move specifically to the issues that Senator Scullion raised in his speech on the second reading—or those I am able to address at the moment—I can say that, when there is an issue requiring urgent remedy, this bill will give the coordinator-general the powers to require people to provide information and/or documents, to require people to attend meetings, and to request assistance from Commonwealth, state and territory agencies. If the coordinator-general is not satisfied with the response from the head of the agency, the coordinator-general may report the matter to the minister and also to the Prime Minister, if necessary. The coordinator-general’s approach will be to work with other parties collaboratively. The coordinator-general will provide regular reports to the minister on progress made by all Commonwealth, state and territory agencies. The coordinator-general will ensure that the delivery of all government programs in the specified remote communities is coordinated between governments, instead of being planned and delivered in isolation. If the coordinator-general fails to receive an adequate response from an agency official, this bill allows for the matter to be reported to the head of the relevant Commonwealth state or territory agency.

In conclusion, again, I thank Senator Scullion for his speech on the second reading. I will make sure that his comments are referred to Minister Macklin so that she is aware of the views that he has expressed in the chamber today.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.