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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 5 Hansard (6 May) . . Page.. 1406..


MR SESELJA (continuing):

imprisonment for one year or longer for a conviction for an indictable offence. Voting is not compulsory.

In supporting the bill, though, I need to address the following. The Chief Minister in his presentation speech, like in many speeches he delivers in this place, has ingrained yet again an unnecessary sense of bitterness in the debate. In this instance the Chief Minister likens this bill to "the disgraceful abolition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission by the former federal coalition government". Of course, that did have bipartisan support. Much debate surrounds the abolition of ATSIC and I totally object to the Chief Minister's linkage of ATSIC to this new elected body.

There is nothing disgraceful about stamping out nepotism, nothing disgraceful about dealing with corporate mismanagement, and I am sure the Chief Minister on the day of the budget will agree that there is nothing disgraceful about dealing with financial mismanagement. I say this because, rather than unnecessarily dwelling on the past with regard to the abolition of ATSIC, we need to learn from the circumstances and issues that predicated the decision. Only then will this be seen as a historic occasion.

Moreover, in support of this position, many Indigenous leaders have since argued that the abolition of ATSIC was absolutely necessary. Only last month, in fact, with respect to Kevin Rudd's 2020 summit and the suggestion that the Rudd federal government would establish a peak Indigenous body, Warren Mundine was quoted in the national media as saying that money should be spent where it is needed, not on a "bunch of people flying business-class around Australia".

In the ACT we have a perfect opportunity in such a small jurisdiction to get this Indigenous board right. If we do, it certainly will be a historical moment. If we do not, it will be yet another failure and the only people that will suffer will be the very people that the board is meant to represent.

I need to raise another point. In looking through the bill from an initial perspective there seem to be sufficient checks and balances in place to hold this board accountable to measure success. However, as legislators, we can do little about those who nominate to be candidates and then, if elected, become members of the board. That will be the responsibility of electors and that will be the responsibility of board members.

Mr Mundine has talked about why ATSIC failed Indigenous Australians. He was quoted as saying that ATSIC had demonstrated the problems of poor-quality candidates being elected by a small number of voters. We trust that this will not happen with this board. My strong view is that this process cannot be dominated purely by the noisy or by the bully. We need to get this right. This is an opportunity. We in the Liberal Party in the ACT support both practical measures to support Indigenous people in the ACT and, indeed, symbolic measures, as was evidenced by the fact that we led an apology to the stolen generations back in 1997, an apology which, of course, was reiterated in this place this year.

Of course, we know that there was a significant amount of division on this issue in the Labor Party, because we saw only one side of the Labor Party speaking to the apology,


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