Aboriginal adviser quits in protest
Patricia Karvelas

ONE of John Howard's hand-picked indigenous advisers has quit the National Indigenous Council, arguing that the Government was unwilling to try something new and was "reverting to old policies that have been tried, tested and failed miserably".

Joe Procter, a corporate adviser at an investment bank, has sat on the council for two years since its formation.

But he told The Australian yesterday he had decided not to renew his contract because he was disappointed his ideas on economic development were not being taken seriously.

The Howard Government has had to deal with serious disquiet among NIC members who say they feel marginalised.

The Australian reported yesterday that NIC members considered a mass resignation last weekend, but Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough apologised and invited the Prime Minister to a dinner with them on Tuesday night to reassure them they were a valued arm of indigenous affairs policy development. Mr Brough also asked all the NIC members to stay on.

But Mr Procter and Indigenous Business Australia chairman Joseph Elu decided not to renew their contracts for another two years, although Mr Elu's reasons for doing so are unclear.

A spokesman for Mr Brough said he did not regard Mr Procter's decision not to stand again as a resignation.

"As far as were concerned, he didn't resign - we have his letter," the spokesman said. "And no one can say that Mal Brough doesn't support economic development because, if anything, he has been criticised for the speed (with which) he has pushed reforms like land tenure reforms that underpin economic development."

Mr Procter, the director of Indigenous Energy Ltd and managing director of Indigenous Capital Ltd, said NIC "advice (was) falling on deaf ears" and the council did not have a "genuine two-way relationship" with the Government.

"Indigenous economic development was the No1 priority identified by the NIC yet nothing has been taken on board by the Government - actually it appears to have been ignored by relevant ministers and the Government as a whole," he said.

NIC chairwoman Sue Gordon said yesterday there was "no question" there were reservations about whether the council was being "fully consulted on issues and whether our capacity was being utilised, especially through our dealings with the bureaucracy". "The fact he (Mr Brough) undertook to improve the Government's interaction with the council is very welcome," she added.

But Mr Procter was not convinced that anything would change.

"I'm disappointed in Minister Brough's lack of affirmative action in this area, given smart economic development was NIC's No1 priority," he said.

"Attracting private enterprise into indigenous investment is about involving the market on their own terms."