Senate debates

Wednesday, 6 December 2017


Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory

3:41 pm

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

I seek leave to make a statement of no more than three minutes.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President, Special Minister of State) Share this | | Hansard source

Leave is granted for three minutes.

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

Senator Bernardi took the crossbench spot—

An honourable senator interjecting

It's normally the crossbench spot—when he didn't have a question today. I asked a question about a very important matter, which was the royal commission inquiry into the child protection and youth detention systems of the Northern Territory, known as the Don Dale inquiry, which the government unfortunately didn't answer. While Senator Brandis repeated some of the comments that the Prime Minister had made in the other place on Monday, which I had actually read, it did not help inform the chamber as to what I asked, which was: is the government going to implement all of the recommendations from the royal commission? There are at least 17 that are specifically targeted at the Commonwealth, and there are others that we expect the Commonwealth to work on with the Northern Territory. I would have thought that the Commonwealth could have got a fairly good idea about those by now, given that it's been a number of weeks since the royal commission recommendations were handed down. The government also squibbed on telling us a time line for when we can expect their response and what it's going to look like. There are a number of really important issues here.

The second question I asked was specifically about recommendation 7.3, which was about immediate engagement with Aboriginal community representatives to negotiate the broad terms of a partnership between the communities and the government to boost better outcomes for children and young people. The reason I asked about this is that it's absolutely critical. It's at the foundation of most of the recommendations—certainly the recommendations from the Family Matters report, which I talked about in this place just last night, and also the Change the Record report, which is: anything to do with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples has to be done in partnership and where the community is taking the lead on these important issues. That's why I asked about that. And, again, the government did not answer that question. They squibbed it again when it came to their answer to my final supplementary, which was: what's happening in the rest of Australia? We went to the same old 'states and territories' and that old backwards and forwards between states and territories and the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth clearly has a role of leadership here and, as articulated in these recommendations, a lot of responsibility. There are a number of recommendations particularly for the Commonwealth to take up, and that needs to happen around Australia, not just in the Northern Territory.

Photo of Cory BernardiCory Bernardi (SA, Australian Conservatives) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, for the sake of accuracy: I didn't take a crossbench spot. As a crossbencher, I sought to contribute to a debate that was in order.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President, Special Minister of State) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Bernardi, there are other opportunities in the chamber to deal with this.