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Chairman welcomes offer



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June 30, 1998

CHAIRMAN WELCOMES OFFER

ATSIC Chairman Gatjil Djerrkura has welcomed the Federal Government’s offer to brief the Member for Oxley on the operation o f the Indigenous Business Incentive Programme.

However, he does not believe Pauline Hanson will accept the offer.

Mr Djerrkura says he believes Ms Hanson and those who run the One Nation Party are not interested in being presented with any facts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs issues.

“They appear committed to spreading fear and ignorance in the community. You cannot do that if you are faced with the facts,” he said.

“I welcome the statement from the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Senator John Herron, making the offer to Ms Hanson following her false claims about this programme in the Parliament,

“The Minister’s offer should be taken up so that Ms Hanson and those who push this misinformation within One Nation can understand the way Indigenous business programs operate and why they are important....... but I won’t be holding my breath.”

Mr Djerrkura said the clear intent of Ms Hanson and her followers was to create the impression that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people received more advtanges than other Australians.

“This is a nonsense,” he added.

“As for cheap loans... .the facts are that o f the 74 loans approved under ATSIC’s Business Funding Scheme this financial year 23 (rpt 23) received interest rates of 1.5 per cent on loans o f up to $50,000.”

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ATSIC’s Enterprise Programs

ATSIC’s Business Development Program promotes the economic independence o f Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people by helping them to acquire and develop successful business.

The Business Development Program is made up of:

• the Business Funding Scheme (BFS), a low-interest loans scheme, and • the Indigenous Business Incentive Program (IBIP), a grant scheme created this financial year.

Many Aboriginal people wanting to go into business find it difficult to get loans from banks and other sources, because o f a low asset base. Currently about 6% of the Indigenous population are self-employed, as against 18% of the overall Australian population.

Some special business-assistance schemes are available for the wider community.

Business Funding Scheme The BFS provides: • concessional finance, mainly through loans or loan guarantees, and • access to professional, independent business advice and expertise, through ATSIC's

Business Agents.

The BFS operates according to commercial criteria. Applicants are expected to contribute at least 20 per cent equity to the enterprise, they must demonstrate some aptitude for management, and the business itself must be judged as likely to be commercially successful.

Interest rates for loans under the BFS are set at 1.5% for loans less than $50,000; 3% for loans between $50,000 and $100,000; 6.5% for loans between $100,000 and $500,000, and 10% for loans greater than $500,000 (making the latter loans more expensive than those from commercial lenders).

O f the 74 loans made in 1997-98, 27 were made at 6.5%, 24 at 3%, and 23 at 1.5%. Total expenditure was $16.2 million.

Since the BFS was reviewed in 1993, 339 loans have been made and the average size loan was $94,164.

Indigenous Business Incentive Program This grant program assists people or groups who fail to meet commercial lending or BFS criteria, and targets rural and remote areas. Expenditure in 1997-98 was $18.8 million.

Other expenditure In 1997-98 $3 million was also provided for joint ventures with the Commercial Development Corporation and $4 million allocated to the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) Business Preparation Scheme - in line with the

recommendations of an independent CDEP review. (CDEP is ATSIC’s largest program,

whereby 31,000 Indigenous Australians work for their communities for the equivalent of their unemployment entitlements.)