I rise to make the coalition’s contribution on amendments to the Indigenous Affairs Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2011. This bill contains one schedule that effectively makes three sets of amendments to Indigenous affairs legislation. The first is to change the title of a number of office holders, the second is to ensure that information held by Indigenous Business Australia will be appropriately protected and the third is to remove some references to the availability of review under the Judicial Review Act 1977.
The first set of changes are the changes to job titles. Presently, a number of statutory positions created under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 refer to the term ‘general manager’. These roles are deemed to be better reflected with the title ‘chief executive officer’. This brings it into line with other agencies. While it does not seem particularly important on the face of it, the change in the titles from ‘general manager’ to ‘chief executive officer’ does not involve any changes to remuneration packages associated with the positions, and aligning the position titles with comparable positions in other authorities is expected to assist these boards in attracting suitably qualified applicants.
The second area of amendment deals with the Indigenous Business Australia. Currently, there are secrecy provisions relating to Indigenous Business Australia in section 191 of the act. This has at times prevented disclosure of information to agencies responsible for overseeing Commonwealth administrative practices, such as the Ombudsman and the Privacy Commissioner. It is clearly preventing disclosure when that was not intended. They would have been quite happy, apparently, to have provided that information but were unable to because of these provisions. This amendment will allow for the disclosure of information in limited circumstances and hopefully will indeed also allow further scrutiny by this place.
The last area relates to two discontinued Aboriginal hostel schemes that are unlikely to be reinstated that are currently subject to the normal processes that take place in terms of auditing and compliance procedures, which are not only onerous and unnecessary but expensive. Clearly, this is just a tidying up process. We support those three sets of amendments. We think that they are sensible amendments.
When this bill was originally introduced in the other place, there was in fact a second schedule that involved procedures for making acting or temporary appointments for the Executive Director of Township Leasing and the Coordinator-General for Remote Indigenous Services. We have advised the government that we oppose this schedule for the reason that we think that both these positions were designed to remain completely separate from those individual agencies. We still remain concerned that both these positions are being incrementally absorbed into FaHCSIA. We think that that independence is absolutely essential in directing some of those very important changes. Rather than having these changes compromised, we believe that these positions must remain appointments by the minister and not delegates of a government department.
The government moved an amendment in the other place to remove schedule 2 of the original bill, which acknowledged and satisfied the opposition’s concerns in this regard. That leaves the Indigenous Affairs Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2011 as it is presented today. I thank the government for supporting the very sensible coalition amendments. The coalition supports the bill as printed.
Download media release:
Second Reading – Indigenous Affairs Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2011.pdf