House of Assembly: Wednesday, April 10, 2024


Parliamentary Committees (Aboriginal Affairs Committee) Amendment Bill

Second Reading

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 6 March 2024.)

Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (10:49): I rise on this proposal to replace what was an excellent committee in this parliament, the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee. The Parliamentary Committees (Aboriginal Affairs Committee) Amendment Bill should be voted through so that we can reach out to our Aboriginal communities and have the ability to visit communities under the auspices of the parliament and look at issues, as we did. I certainly did so in the time that I was on the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee, and I learnt some interesting information along the way.

As I said, this would introduce a new Aboriginal affairs standing committee by amending the Parliamentary Committees Act 1991. The First Nations Voice Act 2023 repealed the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee Act 2003, and that act—the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee Act—established the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee, whose functions were:

(a) to review the operation of the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act 2013, the Maralinga Tjarutja Land Rights Act 1984 and the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights Act 1981; and

(b) to inquire into matters affecting the interests of the traditional owners of the lands; and

(c) to inquire into the manner in which the lands are being managed, used and controlled; and

(d) to inquire into matters concerning the health, housing, education, economic development, employment or training of Aboriginal people—

among other matters.

The recommendation, and what we are saying here from our side of the house, is to re-establish this Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee with an expanded scope to cover all Aboriginal affairs, and this bill would put into effect that outcome.

Clause 2 of the bill would insert new part 5F into the act to establish the Aboriginal Affairs Committee, its membership and its functions. Section 15Q would provide for the committee to be comprised of three members of the House of Assembly (two government and one opposition) and three members of the Legislative Council (one government, one opposition and one crossbench) so it would be a tripartisan committee as it was previously.

Section 15R would establish the functions of the committee to review the operations of the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act 2013, the Maralinga Tjarutja Land Rights Act 1984 and the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights Act 1981 and to inquire into matters affecting Aboriginal Australians, and any other matters or functions referred to it by the parliament.

What we saw in the government's haste to legislate for the First Nations Voice is that it failed to amend the Parliamentary Remuneration Act 1990, to remove reference to the additional salary for the Presiding Member of the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee, and schedule 1 of the bill would amend the Parliamentary Remuneration Act 1990 to refer to the proposed Aboriginal affairs committee.

In my time that I had—and I wish it had been longer—with the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee, we had some great insights into how communities are operated, their governance or lack thereof, because we were certainly doing an inquiry into governance of Aboriginal corporations and Aboriginal communities. We certainly had some great trips around to see people on site.

Sadly, I have not had the opportunity go right into the lands, apart from obviously living in a community where there is quite a large Aboriginal population around Coomandook, Meningie and Murray Bridge—I played footy against them, with them. Certainly, the Aboriginal population were very respectful during the federal Voice campaign; in fact, they were the most respectful people I had dealt with over that campaign, whereas some others were a little bit out of control in my mind, but we will leave that there.

In regard to communities, we visited the community of Yalata out on the Far West Coast on Eyre Peninsula, and saw the great work that is being done there in establishing education facilities for children, new homes being built and other facilities. We talked to people at Koonibba, and I think they had one of the better governance models in place. Certainly, they have been embracing the ability, with Southern Launch, to be part of the rocket launch program, and I commend them for working alongside people in the development of science.

They, like other communities, were concerned about the lack of population and the splitting up of footy leagues, where less population meant that, at times, they would have to travel 100 kilometres. One of the concerns they brought to me was the simple fact of, 'How would we get all of the kids, in the first instance, to the games that far away?' I am sure they have worked through some proposals to work through that.

I think the most concerning thing I learned during my time on the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee was around the governance inquiry, where we saw communities that have not had meetings for their elected bodies for maybe 20 or 25 years. I note that under the Voice proposal they are supposed to be a form of governance as well, and I wonder whether that will be upheld into the future. You would never get away with that anywhere else, and I found that frustrating. Sadly, these community groups probably just need assistance, but they are not brought to order. If any of us are in a company or a business and something is up, I am sure ASIC or the tax department or someone would be coming at us like a tonne of bricks. I found that very frustrating.

Another thing I find frustrating, and I think it is where the Voice is going to fall apart in the state parliament—and we note that it literally fell apart with the federal referendum, with 64 per cent no versus 36 per cent yes—is that people with, and I hate using this term and am not trying to use it in a negative way, lived experience voted against the Voice. The issue I have is that Aboriginal groups have been split on various decisions over time. I can see trouble coming with representation. It has happened forever; it does not matter whether you have a Voice or not. I have seen it in my community. I have seen a smoking ceremony that has been interrupted because someone else thought they should be doing it. It is quite embarrassing when you are there seeing it live in front of you.

Apart from the governance matters in relation to committee annual meetings and annual reports, it is the reporting to the committee about—I probably should use the word 'alleged', but I have privilege, I guess—missing tens of millions of dollars in relation to mining and other royalties that have not been distributed to whole communities. I find that really alarming. What we need to do, as part of the $40 billion that is spent annually on our Aboriginal population, is make sure that it gets to the ground level.

We have seen the trouble in Ceduna, we have seen it in Alice Springs, it is in Port Augusta and it is in Katherine. Where we need that support is on the ground, and I think the best way to focus on on-the-ground support for our Aboriginal communities is when parliamentarians can, in a tripartisan way, visit those communities, see the reality and get the real work done that needs to be done on the ground to make sure that taxpayer dollars—because it is not government money, it is taxpayers' money—are used in a meaningful way to get meaningful outcomes for all of our Aboriginal communities.

Mr ODENWALDER (Elizabeth) (10:59): I move:

That the debate be adjourned.

The house divided on the motion:

Ayes 25

Noes 17

Majority 8


Andrews, S.E. Bettison, Z.L. Bignell, L.W.K.
Boyer, B.I. Brown, M.E. Champion, N.D.
Clancy, N.P. Cook, N.F. Fulbrook, J.P.
Hildyard, K.A. Hood, L.P. Hughes, E.J.
Hutchesson, C.L. Koutsantonis, A. Michaels, A.
Mullighan, S.C. Odenwalder, L.K. (teller) O'Hanlon, C.C.
Pearce, R.K. Piccolo, A. Picton, C.J.
Savvas, O.M. Szakacs, J.K. Thompson, E.L.
Wortley, D.J.


Basham, D.K.B. Batty, J.A. Bell, T.S.
Brock, G.G. Cowdrey, M.J. Ellis, F.J.
Gardner, J.A.W. (teller) Hurn, A.M. McBride, P.N.
Patterson, S.J.R. Pederick, A.S. Pisoni, D.G.
Pratt, P.K. Tarzia, V.A. Teague, J.B.
Telfer, S.J. Whetstone, T.J.


Stinson, J.M. Speirs, D.J.

Motion thus carried; debate adjourned.