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ATSIC chairman stands by assets decision

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 5 March 2005

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) chairman Geoff Clark says he is yet to receive a letter from the Indigenous Affairs Minister asking him to justify why he should not be suspended.

The Federal Government is abolishing ATSIC and its board has decided to give assets worth tens of millions of dollars to Aboriginal organisations around Australia.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Amanda Vanstone says the decision is unlawful and is demanding a number of ATSIC commissioners show cause why they should not be suspended for misbehaviour.

Mr Clark says the letter, which he expects to be delivered on Monday, will be the third 'show cause' notice he has received from the Minister.

"I think this can only be described as an abuse of power by this Government," he said.

"The fact is that they've crippled the organisation, that is ATSIC, they are bleeding it dry for resources and continue to vilify us through their actions, which I think is totally unacceptable."

Mr Clark says the board took independent legal advice.

"We got independent legal advice to draft up the motions, that's something we provided ourselves after being refused this legal assistance from the Government," he said.

"This is a two-year process to come to this decision and we believe that we've acted lawfully in doing what we've done."

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