Page 1419 - Week 05 - Tuesday, 6 May 2008
I think that is unfortunate because, for instance, as you would be well aware, Madam Assistant Speaker, from your efforts at estimates committees over the years, we have this game: “you have to ask the other minister; that is not in my portfolio”. I think if this place, the Assembly, through the estimates, has difficulty getting to the nub of what is going on inside Indigenous affairs in the Stanhope Labor government, then what hope have the Indigenous people themselves? We often see at estimates the Labor two-step: “Not in my portfolio. Ask the other minister.”
One can be cynical and say that the arrangements have been set up this way to avoid scrutiny—and the Chief Minister can answer for himself on that—but I think, for the community, it is important there is one minister that they know has at heart their interests and control of the acts that govern them and control of the money that will come to their assistance. That would certainly make things a lot better. I think the community itself would welcome that.
The second point is the amount of support that is being put to this project and the time taken to get it to this place. Indeed, I dust off my copy of last year’s budget paper and there on page 66 is the ACT Indigenous elected body. I think it is a shame that, if you believe the Chief Minister’s speech that he had done the consultation and that people had said to him in the lead-up to the 2007-08 budget, “This is the format that we want,” it has now taken another year before this place is actually discussing this issue.
As the Chief Minister says in his introduction, “The Assembly will recall the disgraceful abolition of ATSIC.” He is pleased. “This is an historic occasion; this is the first such elected body.” I cannot help but hear in those words that it is about the Chief Minister and not about Indigenous people. “This is about me, another historic occasion.” We make the speech, but it has taken us a year since it was announced in the budget for it to come to fruition. That is a year of further disadvantage; it is a year of further neglect; and it is a year of potentially further favouritism. And that is a shame.
The money that is allocated for the financial year 2008-09 is $200,000. That $200,000 is a substantial sum of money to run this body effectively and to carry out the functions that are listed in the introduction. I note the proposed amendment by Dr Foskey to extend those, and it is a reasonable extension. Part 2, clause 8, says that it is:
(a) to receive, and pass on to the Minister, the views of Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders … ;
(b) to represent Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders … ;
(c) to conduct regular forums …;
(d) to conduct research and community consultation … ;
(e) to propose programs and design services … ;
(f) to monitor and report on the effectiveness of programs … ;