ABORIGINAL LAND COUNCIL ELECTIONS
Mr FRASER: I direct my question without notice to the Premier, Treasurer and Minister for Ethnic Affairs. What action has the Government taken to ensure that Aboriginal people will be able to cast their vote in an informed and democratic manner in the forthcoming Aboriginal Land Council elections?
Mr GREINER: I thank the honourable member for his question. As the House knows, on 19th October last year Parliament passed unanimously the Aboriginal Land Rights Amendment Bill 1990 which, amongst other things, provided for members of local Aboriginal land councils to elect by popular vote 13 councillors in direct elections conducted by the Electoral Commission. The 13 councillors will form the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council and represent their regions for four years. For the first time these will be full-time positions and the councillors will be suitably remunerated. This is appropriate because the functions of the Land Council have been greatly expanded under the provisions of the 1990 Act. In particular, they now include, first, a greater role in overseeing compliance with financial and accounting provisions of the Act. The council is itself managing, for example, the operations of the uniform accounting system and has established an internal audit branch.
Second, although funding of a local Aboriginal land council must cease if that council fails to obtain a satisfactory audit, the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council may continue to make payments on behalf of that council so that the whole community does not suffer because of the failure of good administration. Third, the Act now provides for the sale of land that is not culturally significant so as to enable local land councils to make better economic use of their lands, including mortgaging lands to obtain loans for economic enterprises, provided certain requirements are met. I am sure all members of the House will be pleased to note that 90 Aboriginal people have nominated to stand for election as councillors for the 13 regional areas in the elections to be held tomorrow, Saturday, 16th November. About 13,000 members of local Aboriginal land councils are eligible to vote. This week, as Minister responsible, I wrote to all members of the 117 local land councils encouraging them to participate in the election to ensure that the best possible leadership is elected. I pointed out to the Aboriginal electors that the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council will become the most important Aboriginal body in New South Wales. The letter said:
In our efforts to make sure that the elections will proceed smoothly, a task force comprising officers from the Electoral Commission, the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council and the Office of Aboriginal Affairs has been formed to monitor the election processes, publicity and timing procedures. The New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council has so far organised information days in each of the 13 regions and provided appropriate publicity material. The office of Aboriginal Affairs has participated in the information processes and an amount of $400,000 is in the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council's budget for the conduct of the election. Also, the Office of Aboriginal Affairs has provided $486,000 towards the cost, specifically to acquaint local Aboriginal land councils with electoral information.
I look forward to the outcome of the election tomorrow and to working with the newly elected councillors for the betterment of Aboriginal people in the same spirit of co-operation that has been so clearly evident during the past year. I would like to pay tribute to the efforts of my assistant Minister, the honourable member for Strathfield, in bringing about this new partnership between the Government and the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council, and indeed to pay a compliment to Mr David Clark, the chairman of that council, for his contribution. I think that tomorrow's election, if it is run in the way that it appears it will be run and if it is implemented with the co-operation and substantial understanding and good will of Aboriginals in New South Wales, will be the largest step forward that Aboriginals in this State have made.
It will have a large budget and important responsibilities. I will be looking to the council more and more for advice on all matters affecting the Aboriginal people of New South Wales.