On August 31 this year the President of the Senate Paul Calvert received two letters. The first, brief and formal, was from Labor Senator Trish Crossin, in her capacity as Chairperson of the Senate Select Committee on the Administration of Indigenous Affairs.
Pursuant to Standing Order 38 (7) I present an Interim Report of the Committee. On 16th June 2004 the Senate appointed the Selection Committee to inquire into and report by October 31, 2004 on the following matters:
- The provisions of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Amendment Bill 2004
- The proposed administration of Indigenous programs and services by mainstream government departments and agencies
- Related matters. The committee has now received a total of one hundred and eighty nine submissions and has held the following public hearings:
- Canberra 29 June
- Alice Springs 20 July
- Broome 22 July
- Darwin 24 August
- Gove 25 August
- Thursday Island 26 August
- Cairns 27 August
Due to the prorogation of the Parliament the Committee will not be able to complete its report as intended.
The second letter was from Territory Liberal Senator Nigel Scullion. It was dispatched on behalf of himself, and the other two Government senators on the committee - Bill Heffernan and David Johnston.
It was headed: Government Senators Dissenting Report. This is what he wrote:
The Government members of the Committee are pleased to present their interim report on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Amendment Bill 2004.
The Government members are disappointed that the majority interim report provides no information other than the number of submissions received and public hearings conducted.
The majority interim report does not mention that in the submissions received and hearings there has been little support expressed for ATSIC. The Chairman has already made this finding public through the media.
The Leader of the ALP has said that ATSIC should be abolished and therefore agrees with the Government position as outlined in the bill.
The bill does nothing more than abolish the ATSIC Board and provide a year of consultation to arrive at more acceptable representative arrangements to replace ATSIC at the regional level.
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