Family Responsibilities Commission Amendment Bill 2013

Hon. GW ELMES (Noosa—LNP) (Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs and Minister Assisting the Premier) (3.42 pm), in reply: I would like to thank all of the members of the House for their contributions to the debate on this bill and the new amendment that the bill contains. This bill seeks to extend the operation of the Family Responsibilities Commission for a further 12 months to 1 January 2015. Currently, the Family Responsibilities Commission Act 2008 is due to expire on 1 January 2014. This means that the FRC and its orders expire on that date. The FRC is a critical part of the Cape York Welfare Reform, which will operate until 31 December 2014.

To ensure the continued operation of the Cape York Welfare Reform, the FRC must continue to operate throughout the calendar year 2014. An additional amendment has been made to the bill to enable local commissioners to conference a client and recommend income management in the absence of the commissioner. The amendment requires that the commissioner approves the recommendations before a conditional income management order is made. This is an important amendment. It represents one more step towards giving Indigenous people a real say in their futures and restoring local authority. I would really like to thank Commissioner Glasgow, the 19 local commissioners and all of the FRC staff for their continuing work to improve the lives of people living in the four Cape York Welfare Reform communities.

As the member for Mulgrave pointed out, I stated in a media release earlier this year that the Cape York Welfare Reform trial in its current form cannot continue. I also said that in its present state the trial will end on 31 December 2013. Let me repeat: I used the terms ‘in its current form’ and ‘in its present state’. I stand by those statements. Nothing has happened subsequently to prove them wrong. The state government has committed a further $5.65 million to continue the trial in 2014, but it will not continue in the same form as for this year and previous years. We are planning to implement key changes to the program based on discussions with our trial partners. The trial will continue into 2014 but, as I said, it will not be the same as for 2013.

The Manager of Opposition Business also raised the question as to why the explanatory notes needed to be amended. As the member for Mulgrave surmised, this was simply due to a typographical error in the original explanatory notes. The explanatory notes were amended to reflect the fact that the Australian government has committed up to $2 million towards the operating costs of the FRC for 2014. The Australian government’s overall financial commitment to Cape York Welfare Reform has not changed.

I will also pick up a couple of other points that some of the speakers mentioned during the course of the debate. I am sorry that the member for Gladstone is not here at the moment. A couple of weeks ago I had the great opportunity to go to a number of communities in the cape. Hope Vale, being one of the reform communities, was one I visited. I also went to Wujul Wujul, up into the northern peninsula area, and also to Yarrabah. Having been through Hope Vale, I started to refer to Hope Vale as the ‘Gladstone of the cape’ because of the development and the pride that is occurring in that community. 

The member for Capalaba talked about the banana farm that they have in Hope Vale, which has just finished giving off its first crop. As I understand it, a case of bananas is about 13½ kilos. This year there will be something like 30,000 cases of bananas delivered to market from Hope Vale. That will grow to 110,000 cases next year and at full production it will be about 200,000 cases of bananas. At the moment there are 27 full-time jobs at the banana farm. I found out about the process and so forth when I was in Hope Vale a couple of weeks ago. Combine what they are doing in the banana farm with the new town centre that is being developed at Hope Vale. Then go out to what they still call Miller’s Block but, more specifically, what is now referred to as Hope Valley Estate. It is a new estate which has a couple of homes at the moment but about another 14 will either have commenced by now or are about to commence. A couple of those are being built by the Queensland government but the rest are being built for local people, and this is on freehold title.

When I came away from Hope Vale after that visit I felt supercharged. The leadership of Greg McLean, the Mayor of Hope Vale, and his council is just exceptional. The way that that community in particular is progressing is just exceptional. It is one of those communities that stands out as a shining example to all of the other Indigenous communities in our state.

The member for Townsville talked about Palm Island and how beautiful it is. He talked about its wonderful position, having untold natural beauty from the point of view of its tourism potential. As I said, the tourism minister, Jann Stuckey, and I were there about four weeks ago. Two weeks ago I was at Yarrabah, and the same thing applies there. It has absolutely pristine and beautiful countryside. There are two communities there that have a lot of opportunity for them in that particular area. I know both communities are working very hard towards that. I know that last week the council at Yarrabah was in Melbourne attracting investors for an expansion that they wanted to do in Yarrabah.

Everywhere I go, whether it is these four trial communities, other parts of the cape or areas of the state with Indigenous communities, I see mayors, councils, local justice commissioners, FRC commissioners, elders and communities that really want a better lifestyle and a better future not just for their communities, but particularly the children who are coming through in those communities.

In closing, I would like to thank my staff and the department for their work in putting all of the notes together, and I commend the bill to the House.