Thursday, 26 June 2014
Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers
Indigenous Affairs, Indigenous Health, Budget
I must admit I thought that Ms Macklin was the champion of politicising and multiplying red tape for vulnerable people. But it would appear that the entire opposition has now jumped on the scaremongering train. I am not quite sure how Senator Scullion could have been clearer when he said that the funding for community legal centres had been extended for 12 months. That includes the Indigenous Women's Legal Program, which is one of the community legal centres. That seems fairly clear. I am not quite sure how he could have been clearer on that point. He also said, 'There will be no cuts to front-line services.' The opposition said that there had been a $530 million cut in services to Aboriginal areas. That is completely inaccurate.
We have perhaps two issues here. Firstly, the propensity of the former government to think up a figure and stick it in the budget and to not provide the funds to go ahead with it, because they were so desperately trying to pretend that they could come up with a surplus sooner or later, which of course we all know was never going to happen under them. And, secondly, to also pretend that they actually cared about the policies that they put in place.
In terms of the FASD program, I do not know how Senator Nash could have been clearer in making the point that, whilst the opposition put up a figure on the day that they went into caretaker mode, of $20 million for the FASD program, there was no backup for this and there was no intention to go ahead with it. It was not in PEFO; it was nowhere else. To suggest that our government are not determined to do as much as possible about the problem of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder is completely inaccurate. It is a gross misstatement, a gross inaccuracy and it plays politics with the needs of the most vulnerable people in Australia.
The entire effort from the opposition in this area is, in my view, despicable. I think it is worth repeating some of those statistics that Senator Fierravanti-Wells gave us, from the Auditor-General, that under the former government there was in fact one government program for every five members of the Aboriginal communities in Australia, that we were spending $44,000 per person on Aboriginal services—'services' is the wrong word. They were not services; it was just money that was spent. There is no issue around whether there will be assistance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia from this government—absolutely none. We are devoted to it. If you cannot see the point of the Prime Minister taking on that ministry per se, as demonstrating how important we see it, then I do not think there is any hope whatsoever for the opposition at all.
But what we are not devoted to is continuing to featherbed the Aboriginal industry that built up more and more under the former Labor government. So few of these funds in fact ever go to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. They go to organisations, many of which do good work, many of which could do their work far more efficiently. You have only to go back to that statistic of there being one government program for every five members, which is one organisation.
I was in Port Hedland recently and, for a population of 500 people, we were told there were 14 government programs. Putting some efficiency into this system, getting money out of inefficiencies and actually getting it back into services that actually benefit the people we are trying to benefit would seem to be an extremely good use of government funds. But, unfortunately, the opposition continue to want to play politics and to laud the red tape that they put in place in this area and so many other areas. (Time expired)