By ERWIN CHLANDA
The South Australian Government is stonewalling enquiries about any involvement of APY in agistment of cattle on the APY (Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjnatjara) Lands in the top end of the state.
A financial report dealing with the receipt and spending of the government grant to APY, the organisation providing a range of services in the Lands, is on the public record. However, it does not deal with the business arrangements for agistment of cattle.
The current chairman of APY Council, Frank Young, who is in dispute with Mr King, says Anangu people on the Lands want to know what arrangements are in place for grazing cattle on their land.
The state is funding APY to the tune of just under $2m a year, of which a quarter – $460,028 – goes to Richard King and his wife, Tanya, in employment packages.
Mr King, who was formerly one of six senior executives who ran South Australian corrections, is the general manager of APY, in charge of day to day operations. Ms King is the Manager – Stakeholder Engagement.
The Alice Springs News Online asked Mr King: “Why [in the Monthly Financial Report of June 2017] is there no reference in the total income to payments received for cattle agistment and any other income?” Mr King replied: “The Profit and Loss you have is for SA State funding only. It will not have [any] figures about agistment, because state funding does not relate in any way to agistments.”
A solicitor for APY, Ruth Morley, says further: “Grazing on APY lands is commercially confidential and APY are under no obligation to disclose anything about it publicly.”
Neither Mr King (pictured with Elliott Johnston AO QC) nor Ms Morley gave further details.
The grazing areas in the lands are “as big as the world’s biggest ranches”, according to a source familiar with conditions on the ground. Alice Springs is the nearest regional centre.
It seems clear that the SA Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Minister Kyam Maher, whose government goes to election in March next year, would have the power to find out on behalf of his constituents what is happening with the returns on the cattle agistment enterprise in the Lands.
According to a well-informed source, speaking on the condition of not being named, the facts of APY’s organisational structure are these:-
• The organisation, APY, is a statutory corporation created under the APY Land Rights Act, a South Australian Act. It is run by a statutory board elected under supervision of the SA Electoral Commission.
• APY’s budget is subject to the approval by the Minister.
• APY’s constitution is subject to the Minister’s approval.
• The Minister has power to direct the APY board which has 14 members.
• He or she is empowered to appoint an administrator to APY for any reason he or she thinks fit.
Under these conditions legislation kicks in that regulates FOI and so on.
Photo at top: Dust cloud rolls in over Umawa, the Canberra of the Pit Lands.
By ERWIN CHLANDA