Thursday, 4 December 2014
The Prime Minister's claim to be the Prime Minister for Indigenous affairs has been exposed as a hollow platitude. The Indigenous affairs portfolio is in an utter shambles at the moment. The situation is that the government cut $534.4 million in the budget directly from PM&C and claimed that it would be only an efficiency dividend. But in fact, in Senate estimates officials from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet have confirmed these are front-line programs which are being cut.
In addition to this $534.4 million, the Abbott government cut $15 million from the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, $9.6 million from Indigenous Languages Support programs, $13.4 million from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service and axed the COAG Reform Council, which measures how we are going in terms of Closing the Gap. It has not renewed its National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Early Childhood Development, leaving 38 children and family centres facing closure without Commonwealth funding, including the Ipswich children and family centre in my electorate. In addition to that, in my electorate we have seen the impacts on organisations such as Five Bridges and the Ipswich Community Justice Group, along with Kambu Medical Centre.
I have written to the minister on their behalf in relation to the funding and lobbying that is necessary, but the minister has not had the grace and humility to respond to my letter, which was dated in February 2014. He has ignored it—refusing to respond—but that is the modus operandi for the Minister for Indigenous Affairs. The Queensland Attorney-General—no friend of mine—recently identified these organisations in my electorate as being standout community justice groups. They enjoy LNP state government support in Queensland, but this government here in Canberra continues to ignore their pleas for funding or even my correspondence on their behalf.
They, along with about 5,000 organisations, have applied for the $2.3 billion allegedly provided in the budget for the Indigenous Advancement Strategy of the coalition government here in Canberra. In fact, the minister said it was $4.8 billion, but we know by the applications that it is only $2.3 billion. So, come February-March next year, many organisations—including the ones I have listed in my electorate—are at risk of losing the funding. Indeed, the portfolio is such a shemozzle that they have had to continue the transitional funding until the middle of next year, because they were not in a position to let those organisations know whether their funding would continue. In other words, staff, services, funding and assistance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities around the country have been at put at risk by this government's shambolic management of this portfolio and the cuts they have perpetrated and continue to perpetuate in this area.