Monday, 2 May 2016
Questions without Notice
Indigenous Land Corporation
My question is to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Scullion. I refer to documents, released under freedom of information legislation, relating to the Indigenous Land Corporation's annual report 2014–15, which confirmed the minister's refusal to table the annual report unless criticism of the government was removed. I note that the ILC's annual report was tabled six months late. Did the minister refuse to table the ILC report until the changes he wanted had been made?
I thank the senator for the question. I have put out a statement on this matter because a number of allegations were made that were completely without foundation. I would refer you to that statement, Senator. To be helpful to the Senate, what happened was that, as in the normal course of events, a draft report was made and put forward to be tabled. In it was a foreword from the then chair. I provided information to the ILC that there were some inaccuracies in that. The new chair of the ILC then decided not to redact any other part of that but in fact to add their own foreword, which ensured that those inaccuracies were dealt with.
This is an annual report of a very important organisation, and the chair was a very important individual. The former chair presented things as facts in such a way as to imply there had been a conspiracy or, in fact, a cover-up involving me in the original purchase of Ayers Rock Resort. Can I say that there are some contradictory elements in this. The chair herself, in an ABC opinion piece, said:
I'm not suggesting for one minute at all that there is corruption, because I have no evidence of that.
I am not actually sure where I was, Senator, in 2010. I was grovelling around in opposition and, in fact, the Labor Party were in power. It was under the Labor Party, under Minister Macklin, that the sale of Ayers Rock Resort occurred. As I say, I had— (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer to notes prepared for the new ILC chair, Mr Eddie Fry, for the ILC board meeting to amend the annual report released under FOI. They note that Mr Fry suggested to the minister that he write a letter defending the government's actions to be tabled with the report, but this approach was not good enough for the minister. Why did the minister interfere with the report?
I am not sure what you are quoting from, Senator. I made no such direction, nor did I have any conversations to that extent. What actually happened seems to defy what you are suggesting. None of the previous chair's comments were redacted in any way and they remain there to be seen as evidence. If you read the report you will find there is a completely unredacted version of the letter. As I said, I put out a statement on the matter. One of the things I think we should really focus on is that the ILC is a very, very important organisation which has thus far—certainly under the previous administration—focused on some conspiracy that happened years ago. What I very much commend to those people involved with the ILC is that they just really start focusing on benefits for Aboriginal people through their investments. (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I refer to the minister's answer to questions on notice 254 and 255, following additional budget estimates earlier this year, which deny that the minister or his office raised concerns about the previous board or asked the new ILC chair and board to amend the annual report. Can the minister explain why his answers to the Senate are contrary to the documentary record?
There is no inconsistency. We did not ask the board or the chair to amend anything. As part of the process I was provided with a document that had clear factual inaccuracies. I pointed those inaccuracies out. The board made every other determination with regard to the matter, which is entirely appropriate.