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Social Welfare - Senate Standing Committee - Reports - Annual Reports referred to the Committee, November 1979, together with Transcript of Evidence [Report only printed]


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The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia

SENATE STANDING CO:MMI'ITEE ON SOCIAL WELFARE

Report on Annual Reports Referred to the Committee

November 1979

Brought up and ordered to be printed 15 November 1979

Parliamentary Paper No. '1B4/l979

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Parliamentary Paper No. 284/1979

The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia

SENATE STANDING COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL WELFARE

Report on Annual Reports Referred to the Committee

November 1979

The Commonwealth Government Printer Canberra 1979

Commonwealth of Australia 1979

MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE

Senator Peter Baume (New South Wales) , Chairman

Senator N.T. Bonner (Queensland)

Senator R.C. Elstob (South Australia)

Senator G. Georges (Queensland)*

Senator J.I. Melzer (Victoria)

Senator S. Walters (Tasmania)

FORMER MEMBER OF THE COMMITTEE

Senator D.J. Grimes (Tasmania) (to 16 October 1979)

* Appointed 16 October 1979

Acting Secretary

P. Barsdell The Senate Parliament House Canberra

Printed by C.J. Thompson, Commonwealth Government Printer, Canberra

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I I

Annual Reports Re:fSerred to theCornmittee

In accordance with the terms of Resolution of the Senate

dated 1 March 1978, a total of 44 annual reports were referred

to the Standing Committee on Social Welfare between March 1978

and May 1979. These reports are listed below:

*1. Aboriginal Hostels Limited 1976-77

*2. Australian Capital Territory Police Force 1976-77

*3. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies 1976-77

*4. Commissioner for Employees' Compensation 1976-77

*5. Hospitals and Health Services Commission 1976-77

*6. Department of Aboriginal Affairs 1976-77

*7. Health Insurance Commission 1976-77

*8. Aboriginal Land Fund Commission 1976-77

*9. Aboriginal Loans Commission 1976-77

*10. Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Authority 1976-77

11. National Advisory Council for the Handicapped 1977

*12. National Committee on Discrimination in Employment and Occupation 1976-77

**13. National Health and Medical Research Council 1976

**14. Road Safety and Standards Authority 1 May 1975 -9 June 1976

*15. Royal Australian Air Force Veterans' Residences Trust 1976-77

**16. Norfolk Island 1976-77

*17. National Health and Medical Research Council 1977

**18. Operations of the Registered Medical and Hospital Benefits Organizationsl976-77

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19. Department o f the Capital Territory 1977-78

20. Repatriation Commission 1977-78

**21. Albury-Wodonga Develo pment Corporation 1976-77

22. Norfolk Isla nd 19 7 7- 7 8

23. Commissioner for Community Relations 1977-78

24. Director-General o f Health 1977-78

**25. National Fitness i n Australia 1975- 76

**26. National Fitness in Australia 1976-77

27. Department of Immigra tion and Ethnic Affairs 1977-78

**28. Australian Housing Corpor ation 1975-76

29. Australi an Institute of Aboriginal Studies 1977-78

**30. Defence Service Homes Corporation 1976-77

31. Aboriginal Hostels Limited 1977-78

32. Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Authority 1977-78

33. Aboriginal Land Commissioner 1977-78

34. Housing Loans Insurance Corporation 1977-78

35. Department of Aboriginal Affairs 1977-78

36. Department of Social Security 1977-78

37. Family Law Council 1977-78

38. Papua New Guinea Superannuation Scheme and the Contract Officers Retirement Benefits Scheme 1977-78

*39. Aboriginal Land Fund Commission 1977-78

*40. Aboriginal Loans Commission 1977-78

*41. Australian Capital Territory Police Force 1977-78

**42. Capital Territory Health Commission 1975-76

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*43. Commissioner for Employees' Compensation 1977-78

**44. Capital Territory Health Commission 1976-77 * Report tabled in Parliament more than six months after the end of the period reported on. ** Report tabled in Parliament more than 12 months

after the end of the period reported on.

General Observations

Almost two-thirds of the above annual r e ports were tabled

in the Parliament more than six months after the completion of

the per iods to which they referred. Moreove r , i t took more

than one year for 11 of them to b e t a bled.

Annual reports are supposed to inform the Parliament and

the public of the activities of Commonwealth departments and

instrumentalities. Their usefulness diminishes, however, the

longer their presentation is delayed. In our report on annual

reports of May 1978 we expressed our concern at the lateness in

of many of the annual reports referred to us.

Despite this, there has been no noticeable improvement in the

intervening period.

Other developments have, however, taken place.

In its first report on statutory authorities tabled in the

Senate in December 1978, the Senate Standing Committee on

Finance and Government Operations criticised t h e lateness in

the presentation of many annual reports of statutory authorities.

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In that report it reiterated a suggestion it had made in an

earlier report that:

'If the report of an authority is not ready for

presentation in a complete form to the Parliament within 9 months of the end of the previous financial year, then the authority shall, before the end of that 9 month period, prepare and furnish to the Minister an interim report on the activities of the

authority, together with an explanation for the unavailability of the complete report. The Minister shall cause the interim report and the explanation to be laid before each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after their receipt by

the Minister.'

The Committee supports this suggestion as it allows earlier

scrutiny of most of what will be contained in the final report.

The Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations

has also had referred to it six annual reports of statutory

authorities for inquiries into the reasons for their late presentation.

These included annual reports of the Capital Territory

Health Commission and the Australian Housing Corporation

together with the Defence Service Homes Corporation.

The Committee is of the opinion that departments and

authorities which are persistently late in presenting their annual reports should be required to explain to the Parliament

why their reports are late. In this regard, the Committee

RECOMMENDS that the following annual reports should be referred

to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations:

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National Health and Medical Research Council 1976 and 1977

National Fitness in Australia 1975-76 and 1976-77

Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation 1976-77

Operations of .the Registered Medical and Hospital Benefits Organizations 1976-77

The Presiding Officers of the Parliament have also accepted

the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Publications in its

report of August 1977:

'That the Clerks of the Parliament advise the Chairman (of the Joint Committee on Publications) on any occasion where an author body has failed to meet a statutory requirement to table its annual report,

return or other document within the stated statutory period, or within a reasonable period of time following the completion of the period to which the report refers. '

The Presiding Officers interpreted a 'reasonable period of time'

as being three months. The first such advice was submitted to

the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Publications on 6 June

1979 for annual reports of the calendar year 1978.

In another development, the Government responded on

28 March 1979 to the recommendations of the Joint Committee on

Publications stating, inter alia, that:

'While the Government is anxious to eliminate the fundamental causes of delays in the tabling of reports, it may not be possible to overcome delays completely. The Department of the Prime Minister

and Cabinet, in consultation with other departments as necessary, will be undertaking an eKamination to identify delays and to formulate recommendations t o the Government on how they might be overcome. The

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet should

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thus be in a position to obtain an overall picture of the situat ion in r espect of the tabling

requirements and per fJ r ma nce o f all departments and reporting bod ies. '

Delays are someti mes i n e v i t able, but not to the e x tent to

which they have been occurring . Although the Government's

decision to do somethi ng about the lateness in presentation of

annual reports is a s t ep in t h e right di r ect ion, the examination

of the problem by the Department of the Prime Minister and

Cabinet needs to be done, e xpeditiously.

The Committee the refore that the Department of

the Prime Minister and Cabinet expedite its examination of this

problem and that the Government inform the Parliament as soon as

possible on the measures it proposes to take ·to obviate

unnecessary delays in the tabling of annual reports.

Aboriginal Land Fund Commission Annual Reports 1976-77 and 1977-78

Under the Aboriginal Land Fund Act 1974, the Aboriginal Land

Fund Commission can buy land for Aboriginal communities but not

the non-fixed assets, such as vehicles and stock, on that land.

These assets have to be bought through the Enterprise vote

administered by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. As the

Commission normally buys properties on a 'walk-in-walk-out' basis,

the division of responsibility in purchasing properties has led

to delays which have jeopardised negotiations with vendors.

On 10 February 1978 a ministerial directive was issued which

required the Commission to inform the Minister for Aboriginal

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Affairs of its intentions to enter into negotiations for a

property before an initial approach is made to a vendor, to

supply the Minister with information about the intended

purchase and to be. in receipt of the Minister's views before

taking a decision to purcha se a property. This directive was

also criticised for sometimes c ausing undue delays in the purchase of properties.

The Committee s ought the advice o f the Department of

Aboriginal Affairs about these criticisms.

In a letter of 5 October 1979 t o the Commi t t ee, the

Department acknowled g ed the diff i culties fac i ng the Commission

in the purchase of non-fixed assets. It also drew attention to

a further division of responsibilities in that the Commission

can acquire land but the Department has to fund its development

through the Department's Enterprise vote. The directive of

10 February 1978 was issued to ensure that the Department would

not be committed to developmental costs arising from a purchase

made by the Commission without having the opportunity to

evaluate them beforehand.

The Department also pointed out that the Government intends

to introduce legislation later this year to create a new

statutory authority, the Australian Aboriginal Development Commission, to take over the roles of the Aboriginal Land Fund

Commission, the Aboriginal Loans Commission and the Enterprise

program of ' the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. The

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legislation would be drafted in a way which should largely overcome these difficulties.

On 28 June 1979 the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs acted

to alleviate the current difficulties by revoking the directive

of 10 February 1978 and substituting new arrangements to cover

the period until the new statutory authority is established.

Copies of the Department's letter of 5 October 1979 and the

Minister's letter of 28 June 1979 are appended to this report.

It appears that the difficulties which the Commission has faced have as far as practicable been resolved. The Committee

will, however, examine future annual reports of the Commission and of the proposed statutory authority to see whether similar

problems recur.

The Commission also raised the matter of the purchase by a

largely foreign-owned mining company of Bing Bong Station, a

property the Commission was interested in acquiring for some

local aboriginal people. As has been its practice, the Foreign

Investment Review Board consulted the Department of Aboriginal

Affairs about the effects of the proposed purchase on the

Aboriginal communities nearby. The Department did not in turn

consult the Commission because of the commercial confidentiality

of information on foreign investment proposals and for the fact

that the Commission operates in the market place for rural properties. It did not want to give the Commission an unfair ·

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As a result, the Commission did not know about the proposed

sale to a mining company until it was too late to try to acquire

the property for local Aboriginal groups.

At the request of the Committee, the Department supplied

further information on the purchase of Bing Bong Station in a

letter of 31 October 1979, which is appended to this report . . The letter showed that although the Department did not know

until l May 1978 of the Commission's resolution of 16 March 1978 to try to buy Bing Bong Station, it had been aware of the

interest of Aboriginal communities in the Station for some time. The Department also told the Committee in the letter that it

considered that the 'purchase of Bing Bong Station by a partly

foreign owned company rather than an Australian owned company

would appear to have no direct effects on Aboriginal communities

as any purchase would be required to comply with the laws of the

Commonwealth and the Northern Territory regarding access by

Aboriginals to the property, protection of sacred sites, etc.'

This statement by the Department fails to address itself to the

question of what effects the proposed purchase of Bing Bong

Station by a non-Aboriginal company would have had on the Aboriginal communities and simply confines itself to comparing

the likely effects of the proposed purchase by an Australian­

owned and a foreign-owned company.

The Committee is of the opinion that as the Department knew

of the interest of Aboriginal communities in Bing Bong Station

and of the traditional Aboriginal association with that land, it

might have done more to look after the interests of the

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Aboriginal communities. At the same time, it would have been

helpful to the Department if the Commission had liaised more

closely with it on possible purchases.

It should be remembered that although the Commission is operating in the market place to acquire properties for

Aboriginal communities, it is the communities and not the

Commission which are ultimately disadvantaged if the Commission

is not successful in the purchase of particular properties.

Aboriginal Hostels Limited

Representatives of Aboriginal Hostels Limited appeared

before the Committee on 5 June 1979 to elaborate on the

criticisms Aboriginal Hostels made in its annual report for 1977-78 about the method of its funding.

Aboriginal Hostels drew attention to the limitations which

a system of annual funding imposes on a company operating in the

market place to buy, renovate and build temporary accommodation

for Aboriginal people.

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs informed the Committee

in its letter of 5 October 1979 that it had consistently

provided Aboriginal Hostels with forward commitment capacity.

The forward commitment limits provided to Aboriginal Hostels

have usually fallen short of its bids 'but these forward

commitment limits have been carefully determined by officers of

the Department and the Department of Finance after consideration

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of the ability of both the Department and the Government to

respond to the consequential additional funds required in future

years. Ongoing funding requirements related to hostel

acquisitions are iny ariably of a high order.' In conclusion,

the Department considered it 'neither possible nor desirable to

change the current system of funding Aboriginal Hostels Ltd.'

Aboriginal Hostels is not alone in its criticism of the

system of annual funding for commercially oriented government

bodies. For example, the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission also

advocated funding over a longer period in its annual report.

The Australian Broadcasting Commission had argued for a long

time for longer term funding before the Government announced

earlier this year that it would receive a guaranteed level of funding each year over the next three years.

The Committee sought information from the Department of

Finance on Commonwealth authorities and corporations which have

special funding arrangements which allow them to know the levels

of funding they can expect to receive from the Government over a

period of two or more years and to make commitments against

those funds. The - Department's reply is appended.

The Committee believes that it is time to review the

arrangements of commercially oriented government bodies which

are dependent partially or solely on government funding, to

determine whether the current system of annual funding and

forward commitment procedures is satisfactory for them. As such

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a review transcends the scope of this Committee's area of

activity, the Committee believes that it would be more appropriately carried out, for example, by the Senate Standing

Committee on Finance and Government Operations. That Committee

is not limited in its inquiries to a particular sphere of government activity and is currently examining various aspects

of statutory authorities.

The Committee therefore RECOMMENDS that the Senate Standing

Committee on Finance and Government Operations undertake a review

of the funding arrangements of all commercially oriented

Government bodies as part of its reference on statutory authorities . ,

Commissioner for Community Relations Third Annual Report 1978

The Commissioner once again pointed to a lack of

co-operation by the Queensland Government while the Commissioner

was inquiring into matters of racial discrimination in

Queensland. He stated in his report:

'It is my duty under the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 to report to the Attorney-General and through him to the Parliament of the Commonwealth, and I would be failing in this duty if I did not outline

the situation which I find existing in Queensland and which has been brought to my attention for action under the Act. I would also be wanting in my duty

if I did not indicate the lack of co-operation of the Queensland Government in relation to my inquiries into matters of racial discrimination. In addition I have to report upon deficiencies in commonwealth legislation, principally the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, in achieving even a proper inquiry into matters associated with the exercise of fundamental freedoms and human rights for all racial groups in Queensland.

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It is my conclusion, after considering all the matters referred to me, reviewing my actions and taking into account the expressed wishes of various communities in Queensland, that the Queensland

Government presents a serious problem not only for the racial groups which have complained in Queensland itself but for the whole of Australia. It is obvious that a new series of initiatives is

required, if equality for all people, regardless of their race or colour, is to achieved.'

The Committee is concerned that it must in successive years

bring to the attention of the Senate the allegations of lack of

co-operation of the Queensland Government with the Commissioner.

Although the Committee did not make any recommendations on

the matter when it raised it last year, the continuation of the

problem requires a stronger response.

The Committee therefore RECOMMENDS that the Government acts

to investigate the allegations made by the Commissioner, and if

they are verified, to institute appropriate action.

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Dear Sir,

DEPARTMENT OF ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS CANBERRA. A.C.T. 2600

5 OCT 1979

Annual Reports - Aboriginal Land Fund Commission

- Aboriginal Hostels Ltd.

I refer to your letter of 21 August requesting comments concerning the annual reports of Aboriginal Hostels Ltd. and the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission and on the views expressed to the Committee concerning certain aspects of these reports.

As a preface to specific comments concerning the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission's report I would mention that the functions of the Commission are to be embodied in the new Australian Aboriginal Development Commission which it is proposed will be operational by 1980/81. This should largely overcome a number of difficulties, some of which are mentioned in the annual report of the Commission, relating to the acquisition of land for Aboriginals by an authority which does not have responsibility for ongoing development.

Aboriginal Land Fund Act (1974) (possible amendments)

It is confirmed that the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission Act has not been amended to enable the Commission to purchase non fixed assets. By way of background it had always been the intention of the- Act {as understood by senior departmental officers) that it would enable the Commission to acquire properties on a walk-in-walk-out basis. Until legal opinion was received in June 1975 indicating that this was not possible

the Department had assumed the purchase of non fixed assets by the Commission was within the Act. The possibility of a legislative solution was discussed with the Commission in July 1975.

Subsequent to the change of Government in November 1975 a review of the Commission was instigated. Under these circumstances it was considered inappropriate to pursue legislative changes until the future of the Commission had been determined. A new element was introduced into deliberations consequent upon the joint parties policy statement of 1975 which the establishment of an Aboriginals Entitlement Capital

Account.

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A decision was to consider matters affecting the future of

the Commission in conjunction with moves to establish the Entitlement account. In October 1978 then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs

announced the establishment of the Australian Aboriginal Development Agency {now and that it would include functions previously

carried out by the Land Fund. Legislation is foreshadowed for the Autumn session 1979. In drafting this legislation the Department is ensuring that the problems concerning the definition of 'land' do not reoccur.

Administrative Delays

The relationship between the Commission and the Department has since the inception of the Commission been generally unsatisfactory. A fundamental weakness arises not only from difficulties concerning purchase of non fixed assets but also as a consequence of a division of

responsibilities which makes the , Commission responsible for acquisition and the Department responsible for funding development of properties. Under these circumstances the Commission can enter into purchases which commit the Department and at the same time remain largely unaccountable

for the financial implications of its decisions.

It was primarily for these reasons that the Directive of 10 February 1978 was introduced. This required the Commission to be in receipt of the views of the Minister prior to proceeding to purchase. There have been occasions when the Department considered the information

forwarded by the Commission in accordance with the directive has been inadequate to enable the Minister to give an informed view without further consultation with the departmental Regional and Area staff and the Commission.

This has of course involved some time lags. Towards the end of 1978/79 when the Commission attempted to speed up its acquisition program in order to spend its allocation by 30 June the Commission was particularly concerned when the Department sought further clarification

concerning implications for the Department of a number of proposals.

Ministerial Directive of 28 June 1979

A new Ministerial was introduced on 28 June in order to

overcome a number of the problems and difficulties mentioned above and to enable the Commission to operate in a way which would reflect the Minister's intentions concerning the Australian Aboriginal Development Commission. In particular it is intended to provide the Commission with the capacity

to make its own decisions concerning non fixed assets and, in conjunction with the Aboriginal community concerned, initial development of the property purchased.

The directive (a copy of which is attached) requires the Commission to minimise forward commitments and to consult with the Minister concerning pastoral lease acquisitions because of their sensitivity. Otherwise the Commission is to have complete discretion concerning its

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purchasing program and access to a bulk allocation of enterprise funds for the acquisition of the non fixed assets and ongoing development costs. This has of course required the Commission to apply similar procedures for accounting for funds provided as the Department itself applies.

Foreign Investment Review Board

The Treasury has provided the following comments in respect of this item.

The Foreign Investment Review Board is responsible for foreign .investment proposals and for advising the Government

on these and other foreign investment matters. It is the Board's practice to consult the Department of Aboriginal Affairs on proposals involving the acquisition of rural properties by foreign persons where these are likely to affect Aboriginal interests. The Board does not consult the Land Fund Commission because of the commercial confidentiality of .information on foreign investment proposals and the fact that the Commission operates in the market for rural properties. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs is not authorised to pass such information on to the Commission.

In response to concern expressed by the Land Fund Commission regarding the Bing Bong Station proposal, the question of consultation with the Commission on foreign investment matters was discussed at a meeting at which the Commission, the Treasury and the Department were represented. The matter was also considered by the Foreign

Investment Review Board and was the subject of correspondence between the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the Treasurer, who indicated that it would not be appropriate to inform the Commission directly of proposals before the Foreign Investment Review Board. It was agreed by the respective Departments and the Board that the foreign investment review process should not be used in a manner which would give the Commission a special advantage in the market.

It is, however, the present general practice of the Board in considering any proposal for the sale of a rural property to a foreign person to establish that opportunities have been provided to Australians to purchase the property. Usually this requires the vendor to have advertised the property for sale or to have demonstrated that it had been widely known to be available for sale. Given the current practice, the Commission would have eqoal opportunity

with any other prospective Australian purchasers to make an offer for it.

It has further been suggested to the Commission that it would be helpful for it to keep the Board informed, through the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, of any properties in which it has a particular interest.

Five Year Funding and Forward Commitments

Both Aboriginal Hostels Ltd. and the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission question the appropriateness of the current system of annual appropriations and limited forward commitments (although there do appear to be some misunderstandings concerning forward commitments).

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Commonwealth budgeting procedures provide for the forward commitment of expenditure and the Department has consistently provided both the A.L.F.C. and A.H.L. with forward commitment capacity to enable them to properly plan and implement their acquisition programs. The forward commitment limits provided to each organisation have

usually fallen short of their bids, but these forward commitment limits have been carefully determined by officers of the Department and the Department of Finance after consideration of the ability of both the Department and the Government to respond to the consequential additional funds required in future years. Ongoing funding requirements

related to hostel and land acquisitions are invariably of a high order. One pastoral property which the Commission was recently seeking to purchase would for example have required over $1,000,000 in operating subsidies in the first three years.

Any increases in firm commitments for operational costs without additional departmental appropriations would necessarily imply decreased flexibility for the Department in the of its

own programs. Whilst forward commitment limits are established at the commencement of each financial year, there always remains an ability to have them increased should there be reason to do this. This would certainly be the case if the Minister approved acquisition proposals,

the total cost of which exceeded the combined totals of available cash and forward commitment.

In the case of Aboriginal Hostels Ltd. additional flexibility is provided by enabling the company to restructure its assets in the context of changed priorities.

It is recognized that organisations involved in substantial acquisitions need to plan with certainty not only for capital expenditure but also for consequent operational costs. To some extent this is a limitation of the current Commonwealth budgeting system although

careful evaluation of forward commitments ensures operational consequences of the acquisitions are considered.

Given the directives issued by the Minister in relation to acquisitions, and the current Commonwealth Budgeting systems, it is considered neither possible nor desirable to change the current system of funding Aboriginal Hostels Ltd. and the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission.

Secretary Senate Standir Social Welfare Parliament House

CANBERRA A.C.T. 2600

ee on

Yours faithfully,

./ (A. J. Ayers) ----.. / J,Asecretary

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28 June 1979

MINISTER FOR ABORIGINAL. AFFAIRS

Dear Dr". Rowley,

I refer to my discussions with the Commission on the afternoon of 26 June 1979 and write to confirm the arrangements upon which we agreed.

In view of the proposal to establish an Australian Aboriginal Development Agency in about 12 months time, I wish to revise present administrative arrangements applying to the Commission's transactions to reflect during the next 12 months the manner in which I see the Australian Aboriginal Development Authority carrying out its land purchase functions. To achieve this, I am hereby formally withdrawing the previous Ministerial Directive of 10 February 1978. In its place, pursuant to the powers vested in me under Section 5(2) of the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission Act, I hereby direct that:

(a) the Conunission be in receipt of the views of the

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs before taking a decision to purchase a pastoral lease,, and provide such information as the Minister requires to enable him to reach an informed view on any such proposed purchase; and

(b) the Commission minimise new forward commitments for the development of property acquisitions so that the proposed new statutory authority, once established, will have maximum flexibility to apply its monies

to the purchase of additional land and development of existing holdings consistent with the legislation.

As indicated I would like the Commission to continue providing the Department with an updated schedule of planned acquisitions, if necessary by geographic area rather than specific property, indicating the purposes and priorities of the proposed purchases.

The Commission will have access to a bulk allocation of monies, determined by me, in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs' Enterprise vote. While the intention is that access to these funds will allow the Commission to operate essentially as an autonomous entity, it must be recognised that these monies legally the responsibility of the Department of Aboriginal

Affairs. Accordingly they may be applied only for purposes consistent with those for which the Parliament appropriates Enterprise vote monies. Disbursement and acquittal arrangements 18

2.

- which will be the responsibility of the Commission -must conform to normal departmental requirements and Government regulations in respect of grants-in-aid. As in the early years of the Commission's operation, it is

envisaged that these complementary funds will facilitate purchase of moveable assets and thus facilitate negotiations on a "walk-in-walk-out" basis. The first year's operational . expenses for enterprises established consequent upon acquisitions will also be met from this allocation. Whilst it is hoped at this stage that the

proposed new statutory authority will commence operations from 1 July 1980, and thus be responsible for ongoing allocations to properties, in the event that commencement of operations by the new authority is delayed for any reason,

I envisage that ongoing allocations in respect of Commission acquisitions would be found from successive allocations to the Cowmission of Enterprise vote monies.

Consistent with normal practice in respect of bringing down the Government's Budget, Enterprise vote monies will be available to the Commission during the Supply Period. To ensure that the Commission's needs in this respect can be met, I would be grateful if you could arrange for my

Department to be provided with an estimate of requirements. Once the Supply allocation has been agreed upon, officers of my Department will confirm the amount available in writing and, at the same time, advise the Commission of

standard terms and conditions applying to all grants-in-aid.

The allocation for the full year will be made known as soon as the allocation to the Department is known.

As we discussed, the aim of these revised arrangements is to allow the Commission to operate as far as possible in the way it is envisaged the Australian Aboriginal Development

Agency will operate in relation to land purchases. If the arrangements do not seem to be working satisfactorily, please let me know. I have asked my officers to contact the Commission's staff

about the administrative arrangements. In particular, it will be necessary to ensure that there is no uncertainty about the purposes for which Enterprise program monies can properly be applied and the requirements in respect of

grants-in-aid disbursements as well as to reach an understanding of the major points which I will need to consider before giving my views to the Commission on proposed purchase of pastoral leases.

I trust that these new arrangements will facilitate the work of the Commission as well as help in the subsequent establishment of the Australian Aboriginal Development Agency.

Prof. C.D. Rowley, Chairman, Aboriginal Land Fund Commission,

PO Box 322,

WODEN. A.C.T. 2606.

Yours sincerely,

(F .M. CHANEY)

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DEPARTMENT OF ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS M.L.C .. Tower Building, PHILLIP. A.C.T. 2606

P.O. Box 17, WODEN . A.C.T. 2606

Telephone: 891222 Telex : 62471

In reply please q.uote: 78/1393

77/258

The Secretary, Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare, Parliament Ho4se,

" 1 OCT 1979

CANBERRA. A.C.T. 2600

Purchase of Bing Bong Station

I refer to your memorandum of 23 October which asked a number of questions regarding the purchase of Bing Bong Station.

2. The following answers will, I hope, assist your

Committee.

(i) The interest of Aboriginal communities in Bing Bong Station was first known to the Department from advice from the Minister's Private Secretary on 11 July 1973. Knowledge of the interest of the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission in purchasing the property was restricted to the fact that Bing Bong was a property which the Land Fund Commission listed in its submission to the Department of estimates for the financial year 1978/79 as a property in which it was interested. The Commission's decision of 16 March to resolve to attempt to purchase Bing Bong was not known by this Department until 1 May 1978.

(ii) Because of the confidentiality of the proposal, an assessment of the effects of the purchase was done within the Central Office of the Department on the basis of what was known regarding Aboriginal interests in acquiring land in the area.

(iii) The purchase of Bing Bong Station by a partly foreign owned company rather than an Australian owned company would appear to have no direct effects on Aboriginal communities as any purchaser would be required to comply with the laws of the Commonwealth and the Northern Territory regarding access by Aboriginals to the property, protection of sacred sites etc.

(iv} The Department's advice to the FIRS noted that the purchase of Bing Bong would have given MIM an alternative route to the coast from its McArthur River mine, pointed out the traditional Aboriginal

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association with the land as evidenced the

Borroloola land claim, and suggested that MIM should be asked to consider surrendering part of the property to enable its acquisition by traditional owners.

For the confidential information of the Committee, I attach a copy of the Department's advice to the Department of Treasury of 17 March 1978.

(L. A. J. Malone) for Secretary

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Reference:

·.' .

Mr P. Barsdell Acting Secretary Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare

Parliament House CANBERRA ACT 2600

Dear Mr Barsdell

DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE NEWLANDS STREET, PARKES, A.C.T. 2600

Telephone: CANBERRA 63 9111

OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY

_ 1 7 OCT 1979

I refer to your letter of 23 August 1979 concerning flexibility in funding arrangements for some Commonwealth ins t rumentalities and asking for details of any special funding arrangements which allow Commonweal t h departments and other bodies to know the levels of funding they can expect to receive from

the Government over two or more years and to make commitments against t hose funds.

2. I should perhaps begin by saying that, given the importance which

the Government has, over recent years , attached .to restraining publi c sector spending, it necessarily follows that multi-year expenditure commitments are avoided as much as possible. Nevertheless there are some approved special funding arrangements and illustrative of these are set out below.

SPECIAL FUNDING ARRANGEMENTS

3. In the example of the ABC, to which you referred, the Government has

agreed that the Commission's appropriations for ordinary operational and capital expenditure in the period up to 1981-82, subject to review as necessa1 will not be less than its 1979-80 appropriation plus adjustments for subsequent increases in costs. Any proposal for increased funding from the Budget over and above this would have to be considered on its merits. In addition, increases in revenue from the ABC's entrepreneurial activities over estimated revenue for 1979-80, up to a maximum of $7 million in any one year, will also be available to the Commission for expenditure on its other activities. These arrangements are intended to provide an incentive for the ABC to significantly increase the level of available funds and to increase

its production and distribution of high quality programs.

4. In relation to the calendar year progt·ams of the Tertiary Education Commission and the Schools Commission the following procedures apply -(a) University and Colleges of Advanced Education recurrent assistance (excluding equipment) is made available under triennial calendar

year funding arrangements. The level of assistance is expressed in real and is increased in later years of the triennium to

take account of increased cost levels, in accordance with approved formulae.

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(b) for non-Government schools there is an advance guarantee scheme operating in respect of capital grants, where up to 75% and 50% of year one capital expenditure can be committed in respect of years two and three respectively.

(c) Planning guidelines for two years ahead are issued for the Schools Commission program.

5. Some Commonwealth statutory authorities in the tertiary education sphere ie, the Australian National University, the Canberra College of Advanced Education and the Australian Maritime College, operate within this framework of indexed triennial funding with respect to recurrent expenditures. On the

capital side, funds are committed annually for specific capital projects and specific major equipment items, in the normal way.

6. All other Commonwealth education bodies operate under the normal system of annual appropriations and forward cornmibment approval.

7. In the urban and regional affairs area, the funding arrangements for

the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation have certain unique features. From its establishment in May 1974 until the end of the financial year 1976-77, the Corporation was funded on an annual basis. In June 1977 the then Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development made a commitment to the

provision of Commonwealth funding involving at least $5 million in loans each year for the five year period 1977-78 to 1981-82. What is to happen after that period has not yet been decided. This amount comprises only part of the funds available annually to the Corporiation. Other funds are obtained

from internally generated revenues and from relatively smaller amounts that have been made available for particular purposes by New South Wales and Victoria.

8. In other areas, there are programs which extend over a number of years

under which undertakings have been given to provide financial assistance either by special appropriation or by Government commitment.

9. The Commonwealth has for a number of years provided financial assistance to the States for water resources management and development. The National Water Resources (Financial Assistance) Act provides the legislative basis for the ·current National Water Resources Program under

which the Commonwealth has undertaken to $200 million over the five

years 1978-79 to 1982-83. Funds are, mwever, appropriated in the annual .Appropriation Acts, or in special appropriations relating to particular projects. Although the Government is committed to provide $200 million over a five year period, Cabinet specifically appro ·es the projects to be

admitted to the program, and the overall level of funding allocated in each year is decided in the context of the Budget.

10. In 1977 the Commonwealth gave an undertaking to maintain its expenditure on the programs of projects approved under the Transport Planning and Research (Financial Assistance) Act at the same real level over the 1977-78 to 1979-80 triennium.

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11. Under the States Grants (Roads) Act, the Commonwealth has undertaken to provide grants to the States over the three years 1977-78 to 1979-80 for various broad categories of road construction. The States are, in turn, required to meet a certain level of expenditure from their own resources. The Commonwealth agreed to provide an amount of $475 million in 1977-78 which would be maintained in real terms in the two subsequent years in accordance with forecast movements in the implicit price index for private non­

residential construction. Funds are appropriated under the States Grants (Roads) Act, and any increases in the allocation as a result of the indexation factor require an amendment to the Act each year. The States are required to submit their annual road programs to the Minister for Transport for approval.

12. The Commonwealth has agreed to provide $300 million by way of financial assistance to the States under the States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Act 1975 over the period 1978-79 to 1982-83 to meet two thirds of the cost of approved urban public transport projects. The Act initially provided for

payments to the States at a rate of $60 million a year of which $40 million was to be allocated in fixed guaranteed amounts, with the remaining $20 million to be allocated annually on the basis of needs and priorities assessed in the light of proposals submitted by the States. Decisions regarding the

level of funds available in the current program have been ma.de annually in the Budget The Minister for Transport is responsible for approving

projects comprising State Programs.

13. The Government recently decided it would fund, by way of special grant, the full cost of the second Hobart Bridge. The cost of the bridge

together with its immediate approach roads, is $32 million in

June 1979 prices. An amount of $1 million will be made available in 1979-80 with the balance being made available over succeeding years.

14. The Government has approved multi-year commitments for particular major components of the Overseas Aid Program. For example, the Government has recently approved a three year pledge to the South Pacific area and has already specified the level of budgetary support for PNG in 1980-81.

In addition, the commitment limits for other components of the aid program are also set in the context ot the forward commitments exercise.

CONTROL OF FORWARD COMMITMENTS

15. The importance of the need for departments and authorities to be able to enter into forward commitments and for forward commitments to be known for budgetary oontrol purposes was recognised by the Government in the procedures which it introduced in April 1976. Under these procedures departments and authorities are required to submit, in conjunction with

their annual estimates of receipts and expenditure, particulars of existing and proposed commitments which are expected to remain undischarged at the end of the next financial year and for which appropriations will be sought in subsequent years. These particulars are examined in discussions between the Department of Finance and each department and relevant authority and are

then considered by Cabinet as part of the regular budgetary processes each year.

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16. To ensure that Cabinet is provided with relevant infonnation,

the forward commitment programming procedures apply not only to commitments of expenditure financed from annual appropriations but also to commitments for expenditure from special appropriations, except where the amounts and timing of expenditures are finnly predetennined by the provisions of the

relevant legislation. •

17. As soon as the Budget is introduced, departments and relevant authorities are advised of limits approved by Cabinet within which they should contain commitments which will be outstanding at the end of the financial year. They are then authorised, subject to any qualifications

that may be laid down by Cabinet or the Minister for Finance, and subject to any particular action required under procedures such as the Civil Works Program, to enter into commitments within these limits without any further specific approvals.

18. The prior approval of Cabinet or the Minister for :&'l.i.nance is required before any commitment is made which could result in the approved commitment limit being exceeded.

19. The forward commitment procedures do, of also extend to

statutory authorities which are financed in whole or part from Budget appropriations.

20. For those authorities which are financed wholly or from

appropriations, the relevant procedures essentially parallel those applying to departments of state.

21. Hhere an authority's capital program is partly financed from internal resources and partly from the Budget the relevant authority is required to provide data justifying commitments against budget appropriations and to control its commitment program in such a way that the limits of appropriations and end of year carry-over approvals are not exceeded. In a few special cases where statutory authorities have large commitment programs,

particularly for capital purposes, and/ or '.:rhere it is difficult to forecast contributions from various funding sources for a number of years ahead (eg Postal, Telecommunications and Australian Railways Commissionsand the Defence Service Homes Corporation) commitment levels are set for the total

capital programs of the ·authorities irrespective of whethPr the relevant funding is derived from the Budget or from other sources.

22. It might be noted that forward commitment approval procedures do apply to the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission and Aboriginal Hostels Ltd, both of which are largely funded from Budget appropriations.

Yours sincerely

I. CASTLES

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