I rise to speak for the opposition on this particular bill.
It would be no surprise to you, given that you have been a member of this place for some time, to
know that I have been asking questions about some of the proprietary performances of the APY
Executive for some period of time. In fact, my first question of this issue was in October last year.
Today in question time we learned that the minister has not been to the APY lands for more than
12 months. Given that I have been raising issues in this place since well before that, I just find it
incredible that a minister who is supposed to have his hands on the wheel would not be there to look
with his own eyes to see what the situation was and also to form his own opinions rather than be told
I have to convey to the chamber my party room's disappointment, and in fact disgust, at the
late notice and the serious pressure put upon my party to participate in the passage of this bill, given
the amount of time and effort that we have spent talking about the particular problems that have been
brought to our attention on the lands, as I said, since October last year. There has been plenty of
time to bring a bill before this chamber and for us to be able to have a proper discussion about exactly
what is happening on the lands.
That aside, we are asked this week to pass this in both chambers of the South Australian
parliament. I must say, again, that my party is extremely angry that it has been put under that
particular pressure. I have been a member of the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing
Committee, as have you and a number of other members in this place and the other place. It is one
of the privileges of that committee to travel widely throughout South Australia and at different times
visit people and look at their situation, talk to them about their problems and see exactly what is going
I have been privileged to visit the lands on a number of occasions. I must say that during my
time on the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee I have struggled to see a lot of
improvement in the lives of the 3,000 Anangu people who live on the lands. I am determined not to
leave this place without seeing some improvement, otherwise I will take it personally, that I have
failed in my duties as a member of parliament, where the whole state is my electorate. Not to see
any improvement in the lives of people would be, to me, deplorable.
As the minister has said, we have had seven chief executive officers in the space of four
years. I must say that when some of these people started turning over initially, the alarm bells did
not go off immediately because it is perhaps not for everybody to live on the lands. I know that the
Anangu have their traditional ties, and I respect that, but other people may not find the lifestyle there
something they can become accustomed to. With a few CEOs coming and going, I thought it was
perhaps not for them, but there has been a consistent pattern. We have lost seven CEOs in four
After spending time talking to a number of those CEOs it has become quite apparent to me
that the primary reason for their departure has been that they have not been given the freedom to
carry out their functions in a right and proper manner, as they should. I have heard stories of
intimidation and bullying. I have heard consistent stories about probationary periods being extended
so that any CEO who did not fulfil the wishes (whether they were proper or not) of some people on
the APY Executive would be put on notice that, unless it was done their way, it would be the highway,
and that was not always necessarily the proper way.
Accountability and transparency has been sadly lacking. From an opposition person's point
of view, I know that the shadow minister in the other place, the member for Morphett, Duncan
McFetridge, has found it extremely difficult to get even the most basic information. That is not always
unusual from an opposition perspective but, given that we have constantly given the government a commitment to work in a multi-partisan way to try to advance the well-being and the lives of Aboriginal
people, we have been extremely disappointed that we seem to have very little cooperation with even
basic things, such as seeing the minutes of proper meetings that have been carried out.
I have visited the lands with the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee at
different times, and it is a vast area of land. We always try to visit as many communities as we
possibly can in the shortest possible time. Sir, as you would know, trying to get five, six or seven
members of parliament together at short notice is like herding cats. It is very difficult. There is always
a tight time frame when trying to fit in as much as possible.
I can distinctly remember on a number of occasions trying to have a courteous meeting with
the APY Executive. The last time I was there, or the time before, I remember sitting out at the front
when we had a scheduled meeting. At their pleasure, we eventually got a very short period of time
to discuss some of the issues. I just thought it was an incredibly different way to operate, given that
a number of members of parliament had made the effort to go and listen to people's particular stories.
I will not name names at this point, but I am sure that it would not be a problem. One lady in particular is what you would almost call an icon in South Australia. I have seen an email that was sent to the member for Morphett imploring the Liberal Party to support this legislation. This particular person has long said that an administrator needs to be appointed so they can act without fear or favour and in the best interests of all Anangu people.
This is not something that white men are imposing: this is something that many Aboriginal
people I know are looking to get some clarity and some transparency on. We need to have a proper
audit process by which someone with unfettered access to documents—if they continue to exist—
can forensically look at what has happened in the past, and let us establish a strong track record of
proper administration going into the future. The Liberal Party certainly wants to see transparency and
wants to see all Anangu people being treated equally, without any fear or favour.
As I said, having access to information has been a source of incredible frustration from the
opposition's perspective. The member for Morphett has constantly had to resort to sending numerous
FOIs to try to get information, and most of time we have been unsuccessful in that regard. We are
desperately keen to see some transparency.
I reiterate that the timing of this is deplorable. We understand the urgency; in fact, for more
than 12 months I have been calling for urgent action to be taken, so it is very difficult for me to say
that we would not be able to support the bill in the time frame, but I do have to say that my colleagues
are extremely angry at being forced into this situation.
I have a number of questions for the minister that I will probably ask at clause 1. I also have
an amendment to be tabled that would ask an administrator, within six months of being appointed,
to report directly to the parliament. We want an open and transparent process and I am hoping the
government will support that amendment. I suspect that a number of my crossbench colleagues
would also be keen to ensure there is a reporting mechanism that comes straight to the parliament.
We do not want a sanitised report that has been through any particular office; we want to know
exactly what has been going on, and we want to see an open and proper process.
With those words, we look forward to the committee stage of the bill. There will be questions
I will need to put on the record, and I know a number of my colleagues will want to make a
contribution. They will put, in their own words, their view on the timing and the disrespect we have
been shown by being asked to deal with this bill in such a hasty fashion.