Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 05 Hansard (Tuesday, 6 May 2008) . . Page.. 1407 ..
which was disappointing. So there is clearly some disaffection and disunity on the issue of Indigenous affairs and on the issue of the apology within the Labor Party. We saw that clearly when we saw members of the left faction avoiding supporting the motion put forward by the Chief Minister which reaffirmed the apology to the stolen generations.
In fact, I was very disappointed that on that day, when I asked the Chief Minister a question about a bipartisan approach to this issue, he rejected that. I also wrote to the Chief Minister separately and he came back to me on 25 March 2008, in response to my request for a bipartisan approach. Unfortunately, the Chief Minister has chosen to play politics with the issue of Indigenous affairs and to reject the approach. This is a different approach from what has been taken at the federal level where it is seen that a bipartisan approach is the best way to get real, practical outcomes for Indigenous people; that we should not be having partisan political debates where bipartisanship is possible on the issue of Indigenous affairs.
We can all agree that we can do better, that we must do better. We have bipartisanship in the ACT, and we have had it for a long time, on the issue of an apology to the stolen generations, on the issue of addressing Indigenous disadvantage, and I was disappointed with the response of the Chief Minister in the chamber and I was disappointed with the response of the Chief Minister in his letter of 25 March 2008 rejecting my calls for a bipartisan approach on this issue.
That said, we will be supporting this bill. We believe in reasonable representation for Indigenous people in the ACT. We believe that the money that has been allocated for this body is reasonable and we will examine the outcomes as time goes by. The number one test will be that issues of Indigenous disadvantage, issues of Indigenous representation, are addressed by this body.
DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (10.59): I am glad to make the support for this bill at least 16 out of 17 members, and I would certainly like to thank Mr Stanhope for all the work that has gone into bringing this bill to this stage. I would also like to thank his office for responding to my staff’s questions about the bill.
Even prior to the abolition of ATSIC, the ACT and other jurisdictions nationally and internationally have been looking for ways to expand the voice of Indigenous people in politics and policy—some with more commitment than others, I might add. In 1999 the Select Committee on the Report of the Review of Governance of the ACT recommended that the ACT government establish a select committee to examine the most appropriate means of Indigenous participation in government in the ACT and to examine ways of progressing the reconciliation process. This was prompted by a submission to the government requesting that the Assembly consider reserving a seat for an Indigenous member.
It would seem that the select committee was not established and that the debate has moved on. It would have been interesting to see what recommendations would have been made if the committee had been formed and if having an elected body such as the one proposed by this bill would have been considered the best option for political representation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT.