Legislative Council: Tuesday, July 05, 2022


Indigenous Communities, Electricity

The Hon. C. BONAROS (15:26): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs a question about electricity consumption in remote Aboriginal communities in South Australia.

Leave granted.

The Hon. C. BONAROS: As at 1 July this year, people living in community housing on the APY lands and some other remote Aboriginal settlements in SA, namely, Yalata and Oak Valley, are being charged for the first time for electricity consumption following new regulations made under the Electricity Act 1996. In addition to being charged for electricity usage for the first time, concerns have been raised around mandated prepayment as the only payment option for certain customers and the ability for self-disconnection. I am advised that this new system impacts about 10 townships and 15 Aboriginal communities in SA. My questions to the minister are:

1. Have you consulted all of the communities and other key stakeholders impacted by this decision in your capacity as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs?

2. Have concerns been raised with you in your capacity as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and if so, what are these concerns?

3. Are any other electricity customers in South Australia subject to the same mandatory prepayment method of payment being proposed under the changes?

4. Whilst, again, not made under your portfolio, are you concerned about the detrimental impacts these regulations will have on Indigenous communities on the lands?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Attorney-General, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:27): I thank the honourable member for her questions. They are important questions. The regulations that are made in the scheme, as the honourable member has pointed out, do not fall under my ministerial portfolio areas, they are under the Minister for Energy, but certainly it is something that over the winter break I will be taking some time and consulting with a number of the communities affected.

I anticipate I will be visiting probably a majority of the communities that are affected in the APY and Maralinga Tjarutja lands over the course of the winter break, and it is certainly something I will raise to take some advice on. I know that there are different views on this in Aboriginal communities and among those who look at and assess policies in not just energy but the Aboriginal affairs setting, and I certainly will be keen to undertake consultation with those directly affected but also those that provide services.