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Thursday, 30 September 2010
Page: 359

Senator LUDWIG (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) (9:34 AM) —I table an explanatory memorandum relating to the bill and move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

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

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

The Government has a genuine commitment to improving the lives of Indigenous Australians through progressing an agenda that aims to close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage. Housing is at the centre of this commitment.

It is vital to achieving the advances needed in health, education, and employment participation outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

The Native Title Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2010 contains an important measure to complement and assist the agenda to close the gap by facilitating the timely provision of quality public housing and associated infrastructure.

It will facilitate the construction of housing on land in indigenous communities which is, or may be, subject to native title.

The Government has committed an unprecedented $5.5 billion over 10 years to address historic under-funding of housing in remote Indigenous communities.

To ensure the new delivery model for Indigenous housing avoids the pitfalls of the past, secure tenure arrangements are now a requirement of all major investment in housing and other infrastructure. This makes government responsible and accountable for effective management and maintenance of these assets.

However, some state governments have indicated that uncertainty in relation to native title could be a barrier to meeting housing and service delivery targets. There is a risk this will create delays in the delivery of housing.

This Bill introduces a new process specifically for public housing and a limited class of community facilities including education, health and emergency services facilities, and staff housing associated with these facilities.

It will apply primarily to acts of State, Territory and local government bodies.

The new process strikes a balance between the need for these services and the need to engage meaningfully with native title parties and protect native title rights and interests.

It also contains important safeguards to ensure genuine consultation with native title parties.

It sets in place a framework for meaningful engagement with key stakeholders in decisions about housing and other services for Indigenous communities.

The new process sets out reasonable and specific periods for comment and consultation, and provides flexibility to allow native title parties to choose the level of engagement they feel is appropriate for each individual project.

It will be subject to State and Territory heritage processes.

The Bill also enables the Attorney-General to prescribe how consultations with native title parties should occur, including general guidance on the issues to be included in consultation. This includes the capacity to set more detailed requirements such as face to face meetings and provision of interpreters.

The Bill also requires that reports on consultation be provided to the Attorney-General. The Commonwealth may make these reports public, providing for public scrutiny on the new process.

Acts covered by the new process will be invalid if there is a failure to notify, provide a consultation report or observe the minimum specified time periods. This ensures that a proper process is followed and that governments can then be certain that the investment has been validly applied.

Finally, the new process will sunset after 10 years.

The 10 year period approximates the duration of the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing under which $5.5 billion has been committed.

The Government is determined to continue on the course of resetting the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and to recognise and respect native title.

Alleviating poverty and improving housing and infrastructure in Indigenous communities is paramount to this effort.

The PRESIDENT —In accordance with standing order 111(6), further consideration of this bill is adjourned to the next day of sitting which is more than 14 days after today.