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Wednesday, 28 March 2018
Page: 2379

Senator SIEWERT (Western AustraliaAustralian Greens Whip) (12:36): I would like to make a relatively short contribution to this debate. I want to put it on the record that the Australian Greens support the provisions of the bill relating to the Productivity Commission Act 1998—those contained in schedule 2. We strongly support the appointment of another commissioner to the Productivity Commission to oversee its work in relation to the evaluation of policies and programs that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Also, we understand the need for at least one commissioner of the Productivity Commission to have extensive skills and expertise in dealing with policies and programs that impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and to have experience in dealing with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. That is absolutely critical if we are going to address the issues that significantly impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their communities that are the underlying causes of disadvantage.

We were going to indicate our support for the ALP's amendments to change the definition of 'indigenous person'. But, now that the government has brought in their amendment, we will be supporting the government's amendment. We were deeply concerned that we were going with the old race-based definition of 'indigenous person' which was used in section 3 of the bill. We are glad to see that the government is now moving an amendment to at least partly deal with that issue. We do support the three-part definition that is most commonly used now. As I understand it, Aboriginal communities, certainly the ones I have spoken to—and people are probably aware that I have extensive consultation processes with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities—support the three-part definition. That definition involves Aboriginal descent, self-identification as an Aboriginal person and acceptance by the community. We understand that this is the definition that is accepted by the Treasurer's office but not by the Prime Minister's office—that is, that you are accepted as an Indigenous person by the Aboriginal community. That is the definition that I understand the Treasurer's office has been using and, as I said, it is the definition that a lot of Aboriginal organisations and communities use. We are pleased to see that the old definition has been removed, so we will be supporting that amendment. And we would have expressed strong support for the ALP's amendment had there been a need to move that amendment. Having the commissioner with extensive skills and experience in dealing with policies and programs that impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their communities is a really important change and we support that.