Tuesday, 2 April 2019
Questions without Notice
Thank you, Mr President. Yes, they're a rowdy lot, aren't they? My question is to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Scullion. How is the Liberal-National government's plan for a stronger economy and a more secure future allowing it to make record investments in the supply of housing for Indigenous communities in the bush?
I thank Senator Williams for that very important question. Senator Williams in his 12 years in this place has fought very hard for the bush and the regions, and I would particularly like to acknowledge that record of service.
Thanks to the coalition bringing the budget back under control—we're in surplus for the first time in 12 years—we're able to reinvest in the vital services that Australians rely on. This has meant we were able invest $550 million in remote Indigenous housing in the Northern Territory, which, combined with matched funding from the Northern Territory government, means there will be record funding in remote Territory communities. Unfortunately for remote Territory communities, the Gunner Labor government refused and resisted signing the national partnership agreement we proposed. However, due to the immense pressure placed on the Territory government by the four land councils, common sense has prevailed and Michael Gunner has performed yet another backflip. The deal the Morrison government has delivered will ensure Aboriginal people and their representative bodies get a genuine say in the delivery of this housing, in setting employment targets and in making sure that the houses deliver what communities need and want.
But did senators opposite speak up once in support of the land councils? Not a word. Senator McCarthy, and in the other place the member for Lingiari and the member for Solomon, did not stand up for their Territory constituents; they merely listened to their weak Labor leadership. They all ignored the calls from the land councils to be involved in the delivery of housing. They never once refuted Michael Gunner's statement that Aboriginal land councils were not representative of Aboriginal people—divisive and hateful commentary from the Chief Minister. I'm pleased to report that, despite the inaction from the Territory's Labor representatives in this place, we have got a deal done and Aboriginal people are now at the table in the delivery of their own future.
The Commonwealth will ensure that all of the housing we are funding will employ and train Aboriginal workers and procure goods and services for Aboriginal businesses. Ensuring more Indigenous participation in delivering government projects has been a key priority for this government. While the Territory Labor government and those opposite don't appear to want to give Aboriginal people jobs and to build their own houses, this government disagrees. We're committed to ensuring that the hundreds of millions of dollars we're investing in remote housing and other projects deliver a long-term legacy of economic development and capacity building to truly sustainable rural and remote communities. That's why our economic and employment policies absolutely leave Labor for dead. Only a coalition government can be trusted to deliver better economic opportunities for our first Australians.
I thank the senator for the question. We are changing the way we do business by insisting that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses and workers get the opportunity to win government contracts. This is how we're doing it across the government already through our game-changing Indigenous Procurement Policy, and now we're starting to demand that projects we fund via the states also include strong Indigenous participation requirements.
Labor have been silent on this. They've made announcements on a whole range of procurement policies but said absolutely nothing about Indigenous involvement. The record speaks for itself. Under Labor, only $6 million worth of government contracts went to Indigenous businesses in the last year of government. Under the coalition, we're now up to $1.8 billion under the Indigenous Procurement Policy. If you're an Indigenous Australian and you want to have the dignity of work and being able to provide for your family and your community, what I say is: don't vote for Labor, because Labor would rather give you a welfare cheque than a well-paid job. (Time expired)