Senate debates

Tuesday, 7 February 2017


Indigenous Advancement Strategy; Consideration

6:34 pm

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

I must say that the Auditor-General's quite scathing and damning report on the Indigenous Advancement Strategy does not come as a surprise given (a) that we had a Senate inquiry and (b)—in fact I should reverse these—most importantly, the level of angst that the IAS has caused to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and other organisations that in fact work with Aboriginal organisations to try to close the gap and address Aboriginal disadvantage in this country. Look at the damning report and the damning findings, where the ANAO report talks about the supporting findings and establishment. They say:

The five programs under the Strategy reflect the Government’s five priority investment areas …

That was not up for debate in this report, but I have to say that even those are disastrous and not supported by the community, particularly the way that they were established, and then Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda made a comment on how that strategy was developed. They say:

Clearer links could be established between funded activities and the program outcomes.

They then go on to talk about implementation and, again, the report highlights how it failed. If you go to 'Grants Administration' in the report and look at paragraph 20, it says:

Approximately half of the applicants did not meet the application documentation requirements and there may be benefit in the department testing its application process with potential applicants in future rounds.

We know that many of these did not, but the strategy is so bad that organisations could not meet these requirements. They go on to say:

The department provided adequate guidance to staff undertaking the assessment process. The department developed mandatory training for staff, but cannot provide assurance that staff attended the training.

They say:

The department’s assessment process was inconsistent with the guidelines and internal guidance.

In other words, they were assessing these applications but they were not even assessing them against the guidelines.

They go on to say:

The department did not maintain sufficient records throughout the assessment and decision-making process. In particular, the basis for the committee’s recommendations is not documented …

It takes me back to around 1994 when there was the Ros Kelly whiteboard assessment of Landcare grants. Then they go on to say:

… it is not possible to determine how the committee arrived at its funding recommendations. The department did not record compliance with probity requirements.

The department said that they did in estimates and to the committee inquiry into IAS. They said that they did.

The ANAO go on to say:

Further, the department did not maintain adequate records of Ministerial approval of grant funding.

They say:

The list of recommended projects provided to the Minister did not provide sufficient information to comply with the mandatory requirements of the Commonwealth Grants Rules and Guidelines, or support informed decision-making, and contained administrative errors.

For crying out loud! Sorry, I know that I am forcing my voice here.

Photo of Christopher BackChristopher Back (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

You can't cry out loud, Rachel!

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I cannot cry out loud, but I really want to! This report is damning of this process. This is one of the most fundamental funding processes to address Aboriginal disadvantage. The government got it so wrong. This is why Aboriginal organisations were saying at the time, 'This is a flawed process.' Aboriginal leaders were talking about it. Community organisations were talking about it. This is a damning report. The government needs a total rethink about the strategy from the start. The government have said of the recommendations, like they always do, that they agree with them. But I am not at all confident that they are going to sufficiently reform this process to give any confidence that the IAS is going to deliver. One of the things this report says is that with the process as set up there is no sense that the objectives are being met. I for one am not confident that they will be. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.