Thursday 04 December, 2014

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (16:27): I rise today to support the bill. It is fair to say that this current government has neglected the APY lands for more than 12 years, unfortunately. It has done nothing to solve the endemic problems and corruption in the APY lands and the problems with the APY Executive, and obviously there are problems there. I note that the APY has been through a period of dramatic instability over the past few years. Since 2010 alone, I am told, there have been seven different general managers up there. I understand the ICAC has requested access to the APY lands without the permission of the APY Executive in order to investigate claims of corruption, and that is an area that we need to look into.

To talk a little bit about the APY background and statistics, there are certainly a lot of statistics in the APY lands that the government cannot be proud of. In fact, they should be ashamed of them. Whilst regular statistics may not have been collated every day, in 2004 it was reported that 8.4 per cent of the population was addicted to petrol sniffing. Although I accept this figure has declined steadily from what it once was, it is absolutely shocking to read. For the year until late September 2014 in the Far North LSA, a very sparsely populated area of about 2,500 people, of which the APY lands make up a significant part, the police had recorded offences for the following: acts intended to cause injury, 811; sexual assault and related offences, 44; robbery and related offences, 13; serious criminal trespass, 486; theft and related offences, 770; and property damage and environmental issues, 1,035.

The Children in State Care Commission of Inquiry and Children on APY Lands Commission of Inquiry, delivered in 2008 by former Supreme Court judge Ted Mullighan, over six years ago, stated:

In short these are the problems of poor living conditions in the APY lands communities characterised by unemployment, substance abuse particularly petrol sniffing, inadequate housing capacity, low attendance at school, boredom and inadequate youth initiatives, high violence and crime, rubbish and lack of care for the communities and most notably great fears for personal safety and evidence of much protective wiring, bars and security.

That report actually stated in conclusion that any change to governance of communities on the lands be implemented promptly so as to reduce the extent of dysfunction and possible corruption in the communities.

This was a report done in 2008 and what has this government done since 2008? They have not done enough, it is fair to say. It is an utter disgrace that this report was delivered in 2008 and that the government was well aware of the problems that existed in the APY lands and the problems with its governance, but what have they done? They have done nothing about it. It is absolute hypocrisy. It is an absolute disgrace.

It is incredibly important that the ICAC not be impeded when they conduct an investigation into possible corruption in the APY lands. For all I know, it may have been alleged by certain groups that that may well be the case. It is incumbent upon this parliament and the ICAC to stamp out corruption wherever we find it but, for the case in point, they are there to stamp out corruption if it exists in the APY lands. It is extremely important that we bring these people to justice up there because the statistics speak for themselves.

I have drawn on crime statistics in the Far North LSA, and when you look at 2014 alone (and we are not even at the end of the year) in terms of the current rolling year they show: acts intended to cause injury, 828; sexual assault and related offences, 46; and property damage, over 1,000. It is just absolutely outrageous. I will certainly support this bill and I commend it to the house.