Thursday, 12 November 2020
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2020-2021; Consideration in Detail
Before going to the substance of what I want to say today, I will first put on the record the five questions to the minister that Labor is seeking answers to. The first question is: Minister, given the results published in the RBA's annual report, how confident are you that the target of $150 million in loans will be met, how many loans or houses do you expect will be achieved, and are you confident that the figure will be met? The second question is: given the shortages and the issues facing remote communities, would this money have been better spent in remote housing? The third question is: as part of the co-design consultation process budgeted for in the 2019-20 budget, has the consultation process recommended a makarrata commission or something similar? The fourth question I would like to put on the record goes to the consultation process referred to in question 3. Has a treaty process been recommended? If there is no such recommendation, will the government consider a treaty process? Finally, it has been reported that the government voted down a motion to fly the Aboriginal flag and the Torres Strait Islander flag in the Senate this week. Minister, will you consider joining me in putting forward a motion to change the House Practice and include flying the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags in the House? They are the five questions that I put to the minister. I will now go to some of the points that I wanted to make.
In relation to housing, of course, this pandemic has reminded us of the importance of a home—and you cannot properly self-isolate if a home is overcrowded. Indigenous Australians make up three per cent of the Australian population but account for 20 per cent of all persons who are homeless as at the last census. The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation estimates that, in some parts of Australia, an average of 17 people are living in a single, small dwelling with five or six people to a single bedroom. The high rates of overcrowded dwellings in First Nations communities was included in the recently revised Closing the Gap targets—to increase the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in appropriately sized housing to 88 per cent by the year 2031.
I will now make some specific comments on a voice to the parliament, reconciliation and the flag. The Uluru statement called for three modest asks: a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous voice to the parliament, a makarrata commission to oversee the process of agreement and treaty-making, as well as to oversee the process of truth-telling. Labor remains committed in full to the Uluru statement. We have always said that First Nations people are best placed to address the challenges that face us. This necessarily means First Nations people have a say in the decisions and laws that affect us. It means a voice that represents gender balance and a voice that represents Indigenous Australians in our regions as well as our cities. It means a voice that is secure and certain and cannot simply be removed by the government of the day. A makarrata commission is about treaty and agreement-making, and we know that a number of treaty processes have commenced, as the minister would be aware, in a number of jurisdictions. Proper and meaningful reconciliation means recognising our past, as a nation, and the atrocities faced by First Nations peoples. We must recognise this past if we are truly to unite as one country. It is knowing and acknowledging this past, and healing, that is required to move forward. We've recently heard from the Prime Minister that the singing of the national anthem at rugby league games unites us. What will unite us in recognising and acknowledging our First Nations past? (Time expired)