Tuesday, 17 October 2023
Questions without Notice
First Nations Australians
My question today is to the Minister representing the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Senator Gallagher. Minister, more than $4 billion goes to the National Indigenous Australians Agency. Can you give us a real, practical example of a policy that your government has initiated through the NIAA that is improving the lives of our most marginalised Indigenous Australians?
I thank Senator Nampijinpa Price for the question. I just want to acknowledge the coverage I saw in the paper this morning about the vandalism attacks on your family and just acknowledge that that is completely unacceptable. I just wanted to register that. It is not nice to see. It is not Australian to see things like that happening.
In relation to the question, the NIAA, as Senator Nampijinpa Price knows, runs a range of programs, including through the Indigenous Advancement Strategy. There are a range of programs across health, education, community services, family support services that that agency runs. In addition to that, there are a range of programs that we are currently consulting with First Nations communities around. Those are some of the packages that we announced earlier through the October budget and the budget that we have just had around making sure that we are putting in place new programs that have the support of the local community. I am happy to provide a list of those programs to Senator Nampijinpa Price.
I accept there are significant amounts of public dollars going into this part of government service delivery. It's always important to know and expect that we are getting good value for those public funds, which is why I think some of the outcomes of the audit into that agency by ANAO are important to implement.
Minister, the Australian National Audit Office said that the Northern Land Council is not fully implementing its fraud and corruption policy and the Central Land Council's fraud control arrangements fall short of the minimum requirements. How can the government reassure the Australian taxpayer that their hard-earned dollars are not being wasted or misused rather than improving the lives of our most marginalised Indigenous Australians?
I thank you for the question. I think one thing that was very clear from the discussion and debate that we had in the lead-up to the referendum was that Australians want to ensure there is a better future and to drive better outcomes across First Nations communities, and that is a key priority for this government. The NIAA has accepted all seven recommendations from the Audit Office report. It covered a period of time. I think it was from 2020 to 2021. The recommendations about ensuring that there is a focus on compliance and fraud prevention were fully accepted by NIAA. I have no doubt that they are doing that, and I would expect that they would be ready and available to discuss this at estimates when they appear next week. It is important, and that is why we have audits. That is why we have the Audit Office doing that work and highlighting those deficiencies where they exist.
Minister, on 4 October you wrote in the Financial Review that the current approach simply is not delivering value for money. Given you refused to commit to an audit of spending on Indigenous programs to ensure that taxpayer money is being spent appropriately and getting to communities that need it most, can you guarantee that every taxpayer dollar is being used as efficiently as possible?
I thank Senator Nampijinpa Price for the question. The point I was making in that opinion piece is that whilst we are making appropriate investments, as each government has and as governments of all political persuasions have, we aren't seeing the improvement in outcomes. That's the point I was making. We had been arguing that the Voice was a mechanism to change that—that the status quo wasn't working and that by listening and working and taking advice from First Nations people through a Voice, we would be able to improve on those outcomes, through the process the Voice would allow. As the referendum has been held, we respect the outcome of that referendum. We will continue to listen and to work on that, and we'll use the Central Australian strategy and the work that Minister Burney is doing through that as a model of how to ensure that we are getting better outcomes for the money that's being invested in First Nations communities.