Source: Patricia Karvelas , The Australian
THE Coalition wants to overhaul the two main indigenous economic development agencies and has called on Labor not to replace the leadership of one before the September 14 election.
Opposition indigenous affairs spokesman Nigel Scullion wants minister Jenny Macklin to direct the Indigenous Land Corporation board not to fill the vacant position of chief executive till after the election, given the major changes Coalition intends for the ILC and Indigenous Business Australia. Senator Scullion has previously called for an inquiry into IBA by a retired judge and Ms Macklin has since called a review of the IBA’s governance, but the Nationals deputy leader says it would no longer be enough.
“We now need more than a review. I am proposing a major overhaul. I call on Jenny Macklin to protect taxpayer money and tell the ILC board not to proceed to fill the currently vacant position of CEO of the ILC till after the election,” he said.
“Staff morale and the public credibility of the organisations is slipping. A half-hearted review commissioned by Macklin last year entirely missed the point.
“We need credible and effective agencies at arm’s length from government to advance the economic interests of indigenous people and we need to protect and ensure the long-term viability of the iconic indigenous land fund.”
The position of ILC chief executive David Galvin was terminated last August. Mr Galvin had warned new ILC chairwoman Dawn Casey, in a letter on July 23, that moves to terminate his position were unfair and would disrupt or quash ILC programs.
Scrutiny has centred on the IBA’s 2010 investment in two Darwin hotels valued at $50 million and its $14m redevelopment of the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park near Cairns. IBA sources have confirmed the Vibe and Adina hotels in Darwin now employ four indigenous people. Another Aborigine will be employed mid-year, taking the indigenous employment participation rate to 12 per cent.
Dr Casey was appointed chairwoman of the IBA in 2009 and the ILC in 2011. Insiders say the single-chair arrangement risks undermining confidence in the statutory bodies.
There have also been a number of departures from indigenous bodies. Former head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Peter Shergold resigned from ILC subsidiary the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence, along with Investec chairman Richard Longes. Neither linked their resignations to Dr Casey or disappointment at governance issues.
Senator Scullion said responses to his questions at Senate Estimates hearings had been disturbing. “There are cases of major investments not producing any employment outcomes, questionable funding decisions that do not appear to stack up commercially,” he said.
“We want agencies to have an impact by harnessing indigenous land for economic development in a much more aggressive way. I want less bureaucracy, a more commercial approach, greater flexibility and organisations that make life simpler for indigenous customers.”