By ERWIN CHLANDA
Rent, royalties and other land related payments are treated as income for social security purposes if the monies are paid to a member of an Indigenous community.
This information was obtained recently from the Department of Social Services by CLP candidate for Lingiari in the last Federal election, Tina MacFarlane (at right).
Royalty issues are also likely to be raised in a special meeting of the Central Land Council (CLC) in Tennant Creek today and tomorrow.
Sources say the meeting will consider the future of CLC chairman Maurie Ryan (above, left), currently on a temporary suspension, who had called for greater transparency in the CLC’s management and investment of royalties.
The email to Ms MacFarlane stated: “However, in the case of royalties, these are not treated as income if paid to the community and used by the community.
“If the royalty was paid directly to an Indigenous community and it was then distributed to individuals in that community it would then be treated as income for any of the individuals receiving social security payments,” the department spokesman says.
“There are a number of instances where a ‘royalty’ payment may actually be compensatory in nature in relation to a Native Title claim, because the payment was received for the loss of use and enjoyment of traditional lands.
“These instances are primarily payments originating from mining companies.
“Centrelink will need to investigate and clarify the purpose of these payments to ensure the appropriate treatment for your [sic] payments. Centrelink may, after investigation, be able to ignore this money as income.”
Royalty income to Aboriginal groups and individuals is massive. For example, in “Real jobs: Spin rules” the Alice Springs News Online reported in July last year than in 2011/12, the royalty association Kurra in Central Australia had total accumulated funds amounting to $33.6m.
In that fiscal year mining royalty income was $6.5m of which $3.7m went to “traditional owner distribution”. A further $688,402 was earned from dividends. (See also related reading below.)
The News put the following questions to Centrelink:
• In the past five years, in Central Australia, for how many people have welfare payments been reduced because the recipients had received royalty payments?
• What was the total saving to Centrelink?
We will report the responses as soon as they are to hand.
Related reading (reports by ERWIN CHLANDA):
Boost royalties, distribute CLC assets: Ryan’s fiery agenda.
Mining millions fuel eight figure deals in desert.
Bush slum millionaires.
Mining royalties and welfare payments: the government view
By ERWIN CHLANDA