APY Lands Governance

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 15:20 :05 ): I address my question, on the topic of the APY lands and the upcoming election for the APY Executive, to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation, and I seek leave to make a brief explanation.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Yesterday in the InDaily online publication, in the article by Bension Siebert, it was reported that the shadow minister for Aboriginal affairs and reconciliation, Dr McFetridge, has called on the minister to suspend the APY elections, due under the act in May, for at least 12 months and appoint an administrator, without sacking the executive board. My question to the minister is: is that legal; is that possible under the act; and do you have any intentions of changing the act within the next day, given the electoral commissioner has already issued the election dates?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Manufacturing and Innovation, Minister for Automotive Transformation, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) ( 15:21 :04 ): I thank the honourable member for her question and her demonstrated continuing interest in these matters. It is a very important question, and I have had discussions with the honourable member about these matters in the last few weeks. As many would know, the APY Land Rights Act requires an election of the executive board to occur within three months after the third anniversary of the previous election. The previous election was held on 28 February 2012, which means an election is due to be held before the end of May this year.

As I have previously informed this place, between late 2013 and early 2014 a review of the APY Act was undertaken focusing on options for more contemporary governance and accountability. The review, in particular, covered the current election system including electorates and the composition and capacity of the executive board.

The review panel, chaired by the Hon. Dr Robyn Layton, consulted broadly with Anangu communities across the APY lands and with the executive board. The recommendations in the final report included both changing the electorates and the composition of the executive board to ensure both gender balance on the board and a better proportional representation of all Anangu across the lands.

I was asked in the last sitting week a question by the Hon. Stephen Wade about whether the Layton review constituted a review under the act. This might be an opportune time to indicate that I am advised that review did meet the requirements of the review provisions as outlined in section 9(8) of the APY Land Rights Act. So, the honourable member can take that as a response to the question I took on notice in the last sitting week.

I have met and had discussions with members of the APY executive board about this matter. I have also received a letter previously from the APY executive board requesting elections be held as they would in due course in May. I am also advised that my department has been in contact with the electoral commissioner about the APY election. I recently received a letter from the electoral commissioner outlining her intention to hold the elections on 25 May 2014, so I have taken advice from the APY Executive.

There has been correspondence from the electoral commissioner. I have had a number of discussions with the department and many people, including members here and in the other place who have an interest in this matter, and it is my intention that the interests of APY and all Anangu are best served by holding an election as scheduled in May this year. This will be on the basis—as in all the discussions I have had—that we will be considering later this year changes that reflect the Layton review recommendations and are implementing a new system and the intention is that fresh elections will be held sooner than the next three years after that.

In relation to the very specific questions of the honourable member, I will take it on notice to check that I am correct, but I think it is the case that if an administrator is appointed the board does not have its statutory functions as they have them now. I will double check that is correct, but that's, I think, the advice.

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