House debates

Thursday, 8 October 2020

Questions without Notice


3:02 pm

Photo of Warren SnowdonWarren Snowdon (Lingiari, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for External Territories) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, Labor welcomed the funding in the budget for Clontarf, the great educational program for boys. Programs like these change lives, as you know. So, why didn't the government provide similar support in the budget for equally important and successful programs for Indigenous girls, despite racking up a trillion dollars in Liberal debt?

Photo of Ken WyattKen Wyatt (Hasluck, Liberal Party, Minister for Indigenous Australians) Share this | | Hansard source

Whilst we increased funding for the Clontarf boys' college and the Clontarf program, we provided a number of other programs across this nation to build the capacity for young Indigenous women. When we think of role models, we think of the netball program that is provided for—

Honourable Member:

An honourable member interjecting

Photo of Ken WyattKen Wyatt (Hasluck, Liberal Party, Minister for Indigenous Australians) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, there is a netball program, to build the capacity of young people. But we also provided a program in which we look at leadership across a range of opportunities to develop the capacity for women. Our women in our community are our strength.

Ms Plibersek interjecting

We fund those, member for Sydney. We fund a number of programs, right across the nation. They're not just one major program. We fund according to a region or a specific need. I can provide you with a much more detailed briefing on some of the programs that exist in places like Roebourne, designed to protect young women, designed to build their capability. Women play a significant role in those pathways through high school, and the funding is significant. We have not lost sight of the need. The Clontarf program commenced in order to deal with school attendance and suicide rates, and giving young men an opportunity to find a place where they were comfortable and that was engaging and that worked through opportunities into league football. But our women's programs are now focusing on the same opportunity and intent, and we are not going to have one prevail over the other.

Your question is important in the sense—and I need you to listen—that these programs are also local-specific. We are doing programs in which we support fashion development by young women in certain regions. They design their own fashions, sell them and make a statement about the importance of their capability to be designers. They have shown what they have done in Japan, through the UAE and through Europe, and they will continue to do that. I look at the work that June Oscar, the commissioner, has done. She is growing the capacity for our women to have voices across a range of opportunities. We should not just have it as a particular program; schools also focus on the needs of our women, and schools I go into are supporting young Indigenous women to be strong and capable. I sat with one group— (Time expired)

3:06 pm

Photo of Melissa McIntoshMelissa McIntosh (Lindsay, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel. Will the minister please outline to the House how the Morrison government's budget commits to supporting the wellbeing of our veterans and their families?

Photo of Darren ChesterDarren Chester (Gippsland, National Party, Deputy Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

I do thank the member for Lindsay for her question and her interest in the more than 1,200 veterans that live in her own electorate. The importance of the Australian Defence Force has been clearly illustrated on the home front over the past 12 months. With Operation Bushfire Assist and Operation COVID-19 Assist we have seen more than 15,000 ADF personnel deployed on a range of tasks to assist our civilian agencies. I think it has given Australians a great deal of comfort to see our Navy, our Army and our Air Force personnel helping out on the ground, in the air and at sea, with activities like the mass evacuation of people from the bushfire impacted communities—the holidaymakers and locals who were evacuated last summer during the bushfires. So, on behalf of the parliament, I say to all the men and women in uniform, who wear the uniform with such great pride: thank you for your service to our nation.

Service in the Australian Defence Force is largely a positive experience for most personnel, but there are certainly risks to their physical and mental health. It's critical that our budget, the federal budget, supports the wellbeing of serving personnel when they make their transition to civilian life. This week, the Treasurer announced $340 million in new measures as part of an $11.7 billion annual allocation to the Department of Veterans' Affairs to support more than 300,000 veterans and their families. Among the highlights this year was $23.7 million to establish a joint transition authority and a range of other measures to support veterans as they make that step into civilian life, into employment or perhaps to start their own business. I take the opportunity to send a message—a simple message—to corporate Australia: hiring a veteran is good for your business. They have resilience, they have teamwork, they have leadership skills and they have problem-solving skills. Hiring a veteran is good for your business.

We believe in a partnership approach to the issue of supporting our veterans and we're working with the Department of Veterans' Affairs and ex-service organisations and aiming to continually improve our performance in that regard. We recognise that there is always more to be done in this area, but we're confident that we are on the right track. I think the approach that we are taking has been well received by the veteran community and certainly this week by the RSL national president Greg Melick, who released a statement after the budget, which I would like to quote from: 'The broadening of the Prime Minister's Veterans' Employment Program and the additional resources being provided to the Department of Veterans' Affairs, as well as the range of Medicare enhancements, will all be of benefit. Australia's veterans and their families have provided great service to our nation, but often this comes at significant mental and other costs, so it's important the appropriate assistance and support is provided. The latest budget initiatives recognise this, and the RSL welcomes them.' The 2010 Australian of the Year, Professor Pat McGorry, from Orygen, wrote: 'Orygen welcomes the Australian government's budget announcements regarding increased support for veterans.'

Finally, can I say to any veteran who is listening today and who is struggling at the moment in these very challenging times: You are not alone. Help is available. Stay in contact with your mates, and, if do you need some help, reach out to Open Arms on 1800011046.

3:09 pm

Photo of Linda BurneyLinda Burney (Barton, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. Women over 55 are the fastest growing group of homeless Australians. Why has the government racked up a trillion dollars of Liberal debt during the Morrison recession but done nothing in this budget to help older women without a permanent home?

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

Under this government, we took the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, which began under the member for Sydney, as I recall—I was the shadow minister for housing at the time and I remember welcoming it and supporting it and commending the minister at the time. That program ran as a year-on-year program. It wasn't a national agreement that was a permanent arrangement. It was an outstanding program, and, when we came to government, we supported it fully. We increased it and we made it permanent. That is now a permanent feature on homelessness that we continue to run in partnership with the states and territories. When I was the social services minister, we made national priorities in that program that focused on women to ensure that the funding we had in the homelessness agreement actually focused on women, particularly those affected by domestic violence—I've already referred to other initiatives today that address that issue—but also young people, that's true. We're all concerned, I have no doubt, about the plight of homeless young people as much as we are about any other person who is homeless in this country.

It was also under our government, and indeed while I was Treasurer, when we established the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation. That was an initiative that was done, again, together, as part of a partnership with the states and territories. The purpose of that was to establish funds that could support, in particular, community housing organisations that could provide affordable housing and other types of housing support in local communities.

In this budget we increase the amount that corporations can provide to assist those projects from $1 billion to $3 billion. It is an important initiative. I think we all agree that it's important—sorry, it is $2 billion to $3 billion. I think we all agree that we want to ensure that Australians don't sleep rough, particularly if they're in the most vulnerable of situations involving domestic violence, or find themselves couch surfing on suburban couches amongst friends because they can't go home—they have a home, but they know they can't go back, so we provide the support that we do, and we do it in partnership with the states and territories. We do, as a federal government, what we believe is an appropriate role of the federal government to provide, whether it's that direct community based program through the homelessness agreement set up originally by the member for Sydney or the credit initiatives that support local community based housing organisations across the country.

Opposition Members:

Opposition members interjecting

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I note the calls that have been made that there should have been a package in this budget for building social housing. That is a responsibility of the state and territory governments. When the Governor of the Reserve Bank came to the national cabinet— (Time expired)

3:13 pm

Photo of Warren EntschWarren Entsch (Leichhardt, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is for the Minister for Indigenous Australians. Will the minister outline to the House how the Morrison government's plan on the economic recovery will support Indigenous Australians, which is of critical importance in the context of the COVID-19 recession?

Photo of Ken WyattKen Wyatt (Hasluck, Liberal Party, Minister for Indigenous Australians) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Leichhardt. Your interest in our people has been significant over a long period of time.

I want to start by saying that this budget, in every facet of every portfolio, has something for Indigenous Australians—across all portfolios. As the Prime Minister said to all of us, 'You are ministers for Indigenous Australians' and so that is now being reflected in the portfolio budget statements. It's reflected in Minister Hunt providing an additional amount of funding for ongoing work around rheumatic heart disease, which takes the lives of Indigenous children. There's the $5.4 billion Indigenous Advancement Strategy. There's the $155 million for the IBA to allow 360 Indigenous Australians to buy their own homes. There's $4 billion in Indigenous health funding, of which there was a significant injection of $975.5 million in the 2020-21 budget. There's $46.5 million over four years to support the national agreement to close the gap, with the states reciprocating and matching the Commonwealth contribution to bring that to $100 million over that period. There's $10.1 million for the return of cultural remains and artefacts from overseas, as the repatriation element is important. There's $4.1 million over two years to create four new Indigenous ranger teams on the Murray-Darling, so we'll have 20 Indigenous rangers employed. There's $27 million, in my colleague's portfolio of the arts, for Indigenous arts, to allow their work to continue to grow. But further there is the tax relief—the funding that will come back into the pockets of Indigenous Australians because of the tax cuts—and the wage subsidies for young workers. We are looking at the opportunities within the apprenticeship schemes to have the outcomes that see young people enter into apprenticeships and play their part in the economic recovery of Australia. For Aboriginal businesses, there's the enhanced asset write-off that will enable them to expand. Even during the COVID period, we provided $19.8 million for a very specific target around supporting our tourism and tourism expansion. In addition to that, there was $123 million, of which $50 million was provided to support and sustain Indigenous businesses to be there at the end of the period and be a part of the recovery of our economy. In addition, there's funding of $10 million to the land councils for homeland movement and to provide support, and a number of other measures. This budget does capture, across all portfolios, opportunities for Indigenous Australians.

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper. It seems that's the only way the shadow Treasurer is ever going to get a question in this place in budget week!