Legislative Council: Wednesday, September 13, 2023


First Nations Voice to Parliament

The Hon. S.L. GAME (14:35): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before directing a question to the Attorney-General regarding the First Nations Voice.

Leave granted.

The Hon. S.L. GAME: With the national Voice campaign ramping up as we head to the 14 October referendum, it is important to remain focused on the state-based Voice as the Malinauskas government continues to build its latest arm of bureaucracy. On 1 September this year, the I Work for SA website posted an advertisement for the executive position of Director, Voice Secretariat, a role which I understand can attract a salary package of over $270,000. This represents an opportunity cost investing in administration instead of tangible solutions for First Nations people.

The Voice Secretariat is established to support the Local First Nations Voices and the State First Nations Voice. The director is responsible for the operation and management of the secretariat. The application period remained open for 10 days. My questions to the Attorney-General are:

1. How much will it cost to operate the Voice Secretariat for the first 12 months, and how much of this cost will be in the form of staff and executive salaries and consultancy fees?

2. How many staff will be employed in the Voice Secretariat and which consultancies will be engaged to assist in the running of this agency?

3. How will the effectiveness of this agency be measured in terms of providing tangible solutions for First Nations people?

4. Given the short application period, has the government or the consultancies it engages made direct approaches to potential staff, executive or otherwise?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:37): I thank the honourable member for her question. I don't have the details of the cost of administration each year, but certainly during the second reading debate, when we had the First Nations bill before this parliament earlier this year, I outlined in quite some detail what the anticipated costs would be, so I refer the honourable member to the second reading and committee stage of the debate when the bill was in the chamber.

In relation to the opportunity costs, I have said it before and I will say it again: I completely and utterly don't accept the basis of the honourable member's assertion that the idea that a relatively small amount of money setting up a Voice, whereby we can hear directly from the Aboriginal community about how we best tailor programs and best tailor services, is a waste of money. If you accept that we shouldn't do this, then you are accepting that what we are doing is fine, that the status quo is working. I don't accept that whatsoever, and I think that an opportunity to do something different is a wholeheartedly good thing.