Senate debates

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Questions without Notice

Indigenous Housing

2:50 pm

Photo of Dean SmithDean Smith (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is also to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Scullion. What is the Liberal-National government doing to address the urgent and immediate housing need in the Northern Territory community of Borroloola?

Photo of Nigel ScullionNigel Scullion (NT, Country Liberal Party, Minister for Indigenous Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the senator for that question. It's a very important one, and we're aware that Senator McCarthy made a number of assertions to Senator Cormann, representing the Prime Minister, yesterday. I don't think Senator McCarthy has a mischievous bone in her body. These matters were 10 years ago, and some things can slip your mind, so she asked the question. But let me tell the Senate about the people of Borroloola. They have been waiting 10 years for $15 million from the federal government to provide housing—$14.6 million, actually. So, if I can just correct the senator: it was sent to the Northern Territory 10 years ago. And I know senators will find this a bit more difficult to swallow: Senator McCarthy has forgotten that she was a cabinet minister in the very same government!

Photo of Malarndirri McCarthyMalarndirri McCarthy (NT, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

For the last five years it's been under Minister Nigel Scullion.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

That isn't a point of order, Senator McCarthy; that is a point of debate. There's an opportunity for that after question time.

Photo of Nigel ScullionNigel Scullion (NT, Country Liberal Party, Minister for Indigenous Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

So, we're all pretty interested in how that slipped her mind when she was asking the question yesterday. The $14.6 million was sent to Senator McCarthy's government, and it has been the Northern Territory government's entire responsibility to build those houses—nothing to do with the Commonwealth; no-one's ever suggested that it is anything to do with the Commonwealth government. But they should be commended: they did build houses, in the 2009-10—

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator McCarthy, what is your point of order?

Photo of Malarndirri McCarthyMalarndirri McCarthy (NT, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The point of order is that it is incorrect. The leasing is with Nigel Scullion.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Please resume your seat. I will not entertain a further point. I will frown strongly upon a further point of order that is a point of debate for after question time.

Photo of Nigel ScullionNigel Scullion (NT, Country Liberal Party, Minister for Indigenous Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

In 2009-10 they built 67 houses, none in Borroloola; 257 in 2010-11, none in Borroloola—sorry about that, Borroloola; 356 in 2011-12—sorry, none in Borroloola; 261 in 2012-13—sorry, none in Borroloola. That is a total of 941 houses in the four years that she was in government, a part of the executive of the Northern Territory government, and not one in Borroloola—not a single skerrick of a house in Borroloola. So, I think it's pretty nauseating to take a lecture from those opposite.

An opposition senator: Shameful!

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Scullion, a point of order?

Photo of Nigel ScullionNigel Scullion (NT, Country Liberal Party, Minister for Indigenous Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I've just been harassed by the senator opposite. She's calling me shameful. She's misled the Senate. She should be rising to her feet and apologising.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Wong, are you rising on this point of order? I was about to rule that it wasn't a point of order.

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

A point of order: if there's anyone who is shameful, it's this minister, who's presided over cuts to Aboriginal services.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

This is not the place. You know better than that, Senator Wong. Senator Cormann?

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Wong should withdraw that.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

I don't deem the language to be unparliamentary. It is inappropriate to use a point of order for points of debate. Senator Smith, a supplementary question.

2:53 pm

Photo of Dean SmithDean Smith (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Why is it necessary for the Commonwealth to step in and deliver this important support for residents of this remote community?

2:54 pm

Photo of Nigel ScullionNigel Scullion (NT, Country Liberal Party, Minister for Indigenous Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

The reason we're stepping in is that the Northern Territory government has failed—still, today—to deliver a single house in Borroloola.

Honourable senators interjecting

I'm not sure if they have any interest in this matter, particularly Senator McCarthy, but, in partnership with the community of Borroloola and the community of the Northern Territory, we have the support of the Northern Land Council. Let me tell you what hasn't happened: Senator McCarthy has never come to me with—

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Scullion, please resume your seat. Senator O'Sullivan, on a point of order?

Photo of Barry O'SullivanBarry O'Sullivan (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I've previously advised the chamber of my sensitive-ear syndrome. This is a workplace health and safety issue, and they need to conduct themselves in a quieter manner.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

I had asked Senator Scullion to resume his seat because I couldn't hear a word he was saying.

Photo of Jacinta CollinsJacinta Collins (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Cabinet Secretary) Share this | | Hansard source

That's because his microphone was turned off!

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

No, the microphone was on.

Honourable senators interjecting

Everyone, please be quiet while I'm talking! It is not too much to ask. There were too many interjections during that. It was very hard for anyone to hear.

Photo of Nigel ScullionNigel Scullion (NT, Country Liberal Party, Minister for Indigenous Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I was told, by the community of Borroloola, that there were particular issues that were going to occur over this wet season and asked if we would be able to do something about it, given that the Territory government are not intending to build any houses until next year. That's the reason we're working with the Northern Territory government and the Northern Land Council—to provide some relief in the way that the Northern Territory government will not.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Smith, a final supplementary question.

2:56 pm

Photo of Dean SmithDean Smith (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

What other action is the government taking to deliver better housing for residents of remote communities across the Northern Territory?

Photo of Nigel ScullionNigel Scullion (NT, Country Liberal Party, Minister for Indigenous Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

We've put $550 million on the table for remote housing in the Northern Territory, and I commend the Northern Territory for matching that. I commend a relatively small jurisdiction for matching that. Most importantly, we're making sure that Aboriginal people are there to make sure that the funding isn't raided, to make sure that the administration costs are down, to make sure that Indigenous businesses get the procurement, and to make sure that the Indigenous people make sure that there is Indigenous employment as part of this. Unfortunately, Mr Gunner and the Labor Party have written to the Prime Minister indicating they don't want the Northern Land Council, the Central Land Council, the Anindilyakwa Land Council or the Tiwi Land Council to be a part of that process. We're doing what remote communities have asked us to do. The advice I'd give to Senator McCarthy is that she'd be far better acting on the advice of her constituents.