Wednesday, 16 August 2006
Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 2006
The government, of course, has consulted very extensively on this bill. Senator Siewert, I think the way you define consultation means that you have to reach agreement. There can be extensive consultation without reaching agreement on every single point. I would not want the record to go uncorrected: there has been extensive consultation on very wide aspects of this bill, as I think has been repeated ad nauseam during this debate. What you are aiming for is that we should reach agreement. Sometimes it is just difficult to reach agreement on these matters, as I have indicated, and people of goodwill will differ.
My advisers tell me there was perhaps a misconception in one of the remarks made by Senator Siewert in relation to headleases. The advice I have received on the headleases is that funds used to start up a headlease are not land council funds. It is Commonwealth money equivalent to royalty payments administered by the Commonwealth. I think there may have been some confusion in your remarks, and I hope that may clarify it.
We can see no reason to retain what everyone around this chamber has agreed is an arbitrary figure of 40 per cent for payments, having regard to population rather than the functions performed. Land councils have regularly received more than the minimum 40 per cent of Aboriginals Benefit Account moneys to which they are entitled under the current legislation. They have been funded to enable them to perform their statutory functions on the basis of work to be done and outcomes to be achieved, and this will continue. Any money not required for land council administrative costs will continue to be used for the benefit of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. We therefore cannot agree with the Labor Party’s opposition to these items. I further point out that retaining the funding guarantee is really completely inconsistent with normal performance based funding, and my advice is that that is the basis on which all other statutory authorities are funded. Despite the arguments that have been put forward, of which the government have been aware and which we have listened to, we will not be supporting the Labor Party’s opposition to these items.