Wednesday, 6 February 2013
Questions without Notice
My question is to Senator Carr, who is the Minister representing the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. Five years ago, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised to the Indigenous people of Australia and committed this nation to a future where all Australians are equal partners with equal opportunities and an equal stake in this great country. So I ask Minister Carr: what progress then has the government made on this most critical national goal?
I thank Senator Crossin for her question and for her ongoing commitment to this very, very important area of policy. A genuinely democratic society recognises the rights of all its citizens.
Honourable senators interjecting—
A genuinely democratic society recognises the rights of all of its citizens to participate fully, and in 2008 the Labor government said that we could no longer tolerate the indignity, the inequity and the injustice that our Indigenous citizens suffer. Australians recognised their rights as citizens in 1967; Australia recognised their rights as traditional owners in 1992. How, then, could we fail to recognise their rights as members of our society?
Honourable senators interjecting—
Senator Kim Carr, just resume your seat. The time for debating this issue is after question time on both sides. Senator Kim Carr is entitled to be heard in silence. Just resume your seat, Senator Kim Carr. When the chamber is ready to proceed, we will proceed.
What we have indicated is that we would mark this journey with clear objectives. We said that we would commit to this path for more than 20 years. We said that we would, of course, make this the great work of this current generation. And so historic funding has been committed to ensure that we do close the gap in this country; historic funding has been committed to ensure that life expectancy can increase and so that we can see increased improvements in housing and in health services and in early childhood development and in jobs and in remote service delivery. Today the Prime Minister has reported to the parliament on the impact of these investments, and there has been clear evidence of success in four of our targets: we promised to deliver access to early childhood education for all four year olds in remote communities, and that has been done; we promised to halve the gap in the child mortality rates by 2010, and we are on target; we promised to halve the gap in year 12 attainment by 2020, and we are ahead of schedule; and we promised to halve the gap in employment, and real progress has been made. (Time expired)
Education is the pillar on which this strategy stands or falls and it is the key to all life chances. It is the gateway to quality jobs and it is the only way to break the cycle of exclusion. It must be the focus of all governments and all communities—and we have not stood idly on this.
Take the Northern Territory, where Labor governments—federal and Territory—have brought seven new high schools and 200 additional teachers to the bush. We support the parents and teachers who support the kids, and our plan for school improvement is the next critical step. We will fund schools according to their need and we will measure them by their success. We will ensure that all of our children get a decent crack of life, and we want to ensure that, in one area where we are lagging in terms of our objectives on literacy and numeracy, determined action is taken to overcome this deficiency.
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Finally, then, I ask: in this rollout of these crucial programs, what is the role of the state and territory governments in the delivery of these national goals to complement what is happening at the national level?
Senator Crossin, I am sure you are aware that, as a nation, we will only be successful if all governments play their part. Now, this is a massive agenda, crossing core areas of shared responsibility, and that is why it has been developed, and that is why it must be delivered, in partnership. Today the Prime Minister has urged all parties to make true the commitments that they have made. There is a bipartisan concern in this parliament about attempts to walk away from alcohol restrictions, and, on this side of the chamber, we are also concerned by the savage funding cuts of Premier Newman and Chief Minister Mills. We are concerned by their determination to sack public servants—public servants who we need to ensure that these objectives are met and who make up the front line in the fight. Of course, we know that every one of these cuts has a social cost, and I trust that that is also remembered today: that every one of the cuts that are occurring in social security arrangements in Queensland— (Time expired)