Legislative Council: Thursday, November 17, 2022


First Nations Voice to Parliament

The Hon. S.G. WADE (15:02): My questions are to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs:

1. What is the estimated cost of local First Nations Voice elections across the state under the proposed First Nations Voice Bill 2022?

2. What is the estimated cost of the ongoing operation of the local First Nations Voices and the state First Nations Voice under the proposed bill, including remuneration allowances for members?

3. Will these costs be able to be covered by the $500,000 annual indexed allocation currently in the forward estimates?

4. When does the minister intend to introduce the bill?

5. When does the minister intend that the first elections will be held?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:03): I thank the honourable member for his questions and his interest in this area. They are important questions. The draft bill that was released last week to create a directly elected First Nations Voice to the South Australian parliament would be an historic Australian first, to have a fully elected Aboriginal representative body that has a voice directly to our parliament. It's something this government is proud of and I am personally extremely proud of being involved in

I will answer, I think, the last part of the questions first in relation to the timing. We have said publicly we are very keen to see this introduced to this parliament as quickly as possible in the next sitting year. The Commissioner for First Nations Voice has undertaken almost three months of consultation to date, from August to October, covering some 30 public community meetings and meetings with organisations, right from the APY lands to Ceduna to Mount Gambier and all points in between.

I can't remember the exact figures, but some hundreds of participants took part in those meetings, but also other communications via websites, emails and other ways. As a result of those consultations, we have translated as best we can the views that were heard into a draft piece of legislation that is now up for further public consultation.

In that further round of meetings, I think the first one is on today at Elizabeth, and then there are further meetings this week and over the next, I think, about six weeks, again right around South Australia. I think the itinerary sees the meetings that had occurred earlier in this year being repeated. The idea is that the Commissioner for First Nations Voice will take the bill out to the Aboriginal community and Aboriginal people round South Australia to show, 'This is what we heard in the initial round of consultation. This is how we have reflected it in a draft bill. What do you think?' I am sure that there will be feedback and potential changes in relation to that bill that occur over this second round of consultation.

As I said, that second round of consultation with the draft of the bill is starting as we speak. Once we have the views of that consultation, we will look to see what changes may need to be made and have the bill into parliament as soon as we possibly can next year. Of course, there is a balance. I think we have achieved a great deal in terms of as full a consultation as possible, but a couple of the comments that I know the commissioner received during the first round of consultation were comments like: 'We have been talking about this for decades, how our voices can be better heard. This has been since May 2017, the formal request for Voices to Parliament as a result of the Uluru Statement. Please get on with it.'

With that in mind, we don't want to unduly delay this. We want to be doing this as efficiently but effectively as possible, to make sure as many people's voices are heard as possible, so the idea is an introduction early in our sitting calendar next year. I have said publicly that I would like to see—and I don't think it is unrealistic—this body established and up and running by the end of next year, to have that first round of elections, under whatever the final format of the bill is, sometime during the course of next year, if this parliament should see fit to pass it. Under the bill thereafter, the proposal is that the elections for the First Nations Voice in South Australia would be held contemporaneously with state elections every four years.

The honourable member asked questions in relation to two parts in terms of the costs of a First Nations Voice to the South Australian parliament, in relation to the ongoing administration costs, and also the costs for conducting elections. I think the best way I can answer that is that that will depend on exactly the model that we end up with. We don't want to presuppose that there are going to be no changes, but it will depend on the model that we end up with.

I think the final question was the provision that there is currently in the budget, in the forward estimates, for $500,000 a year for a state-based implementation of the Uluru Statement under the model that is currently proposed. I am sure, whatever changes, there will be a provision for further funding to make sure it is adequately resourced. Part of the draft bill specifically provides that the First Nations Voice is adequately resourced. I think it would be unrealistic not to provide some funding for people who participate in that First Nations Voice. The model anticipates local First Nations Voices around Australia, but then representatives of those make up the statewide First Nations Voice.

All other boards and committees of its type involve some form of remuneration for the participants. I would envisage that will happen here. There will be administrative costs and also, as the honourable member correctly points out, even if it coincides with state elections, there will be additional costs. Once we settle the final model they will need to be worked out.