Thursday, 15 November 2018
Questions without Notice
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!
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—
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!
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—
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.
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.