I rise to speak on behalf of the opposition on the Aboriginal Lands Trust Bill 2013, which replaces the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act 1966. The intention of this bill is to improve the use of trust land for the ultimate benefit of the Aboriginal people in this state.
The minister’s explanation went into the history of the bill and the philosophy around it, and I will not go into that again. I will, however, talk about the practical changes this bill makes and the potential it unlocks for Aboriginal people. This bill looks to change the structure of the trust board in order to better prepare the trust to be self managed. The current structure of appointment by the Governor of community representatives does not maximise the trust in its pursuit of commercial operations and economic opportunities as the proposed structure would.
The new structure binds the minister to select board members based on set criteria of merit and expertise, allowing the board to better coordinate the commercial operations of the trust. This will allow the trust to fully realise commercial opportunities which more traditional board members may not recognise. I do have a concern that where there was a confirmed geographical representation on the board previously, there may not be now, and this may lead to potential disenfranchising of some groups. This will mean that extensive and genuine consultation will be needed in order for the minds of the many represented to be put at ease. I trust that the selection process of these board members will be rigorous and merit based.
Removing much of the day-to-day operations from the administrative burden of the minister will allow the trust to operate much more independently and efficiently. Under the provisions of this bill, the trust will have complete autonomy over the operation of its lands and it will have the power to grant leases and licences. This autonomy extends to dealings with mining. This bill suggests that the trust will act as custodian of the land for traditional owners as native title is considered suppressed on trust-owned land. Therefore, it is expected that the trust will act in the interests of the local Aboriginal people affected by any mining lease granted and that those people will be in the same position as those on the APY and NT lands and have the same rights afforded as those realised in the APY and NT acts.
Further to this, on the subject of royalties, which was brought up during the briefing the minister’s office was kind enough to provide this morning, the Treasurer will be bound to transfer two-thirds of the royalties received from any trust land-based mining operation to the trust subject to any limit imposed by the Treasurer. As I mentioned earlier, we have only small areas of concern with this bill and we wholeheartedly support it. It is good to see that on something as important as the management of Aboriginal lands, there is some bipartisanship. I can only hope that in areas of Aboriginal affairs the government can come up with worthy solutions that will lead to the real benefit of our first nation peoples.
Finally, I want to quickly congratulate the previously constituted boards on their efforts to run the trust and all that they have done over the previous four decades. I would like to thank the myriad people involved in the long process of consulting and bringing all aspects of this bill together. I urge the support and swift passage of this bill.