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Thursday, 19 June 2014
Page: 6811


Mr TUDGE (AstonParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister) (12:00): I believe there were probably about 60 questions in his four minutes there, and in my allotted time I would have to allocate only five seconds per question to answer every single one. Can I say at the outset that—

An opposition member: Take them on notice.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The more interjections, the fewer answers you will get. Move on.

Mr TUDGE: I outlined in my opening remarks some of the significant issues which confront Indigenous Australia. I talked about the appalling attendance rates, where only a quarter of remote Indigenous students in the Northern Territory are attending at a rate which would even make it possible for them to advance and to learn at a reasonable level. I referred to the fact that the Indigenous employment rate is 30 per cent below the non-Indigenous employment rate, and the gap is actually widening. I could have gone on to mention all sorts of other statistics in relation to how Indigenous people are tracking against non-Indigenous people.

I frankly find it surprising that, despite all of those issues, the first 60 questions from the shadow spokesperson for Indigenous affairs are almost entirely centred on Warren Mundine and what he is getting paid, what he is doing, which meetings he is having. I know Warren Mundine was a former president of the Australian Labor Party, and the fact that he is now chairing the Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council should not cloud the types of decisions, questions and advocacy which the shadow spokesperson for Indigenous affairs engages in in this chamber and indeed in his role. I would encourage him to focus on the big picture, to focus on the issues which are facing Aboriginal people today and the issues which are faced in this budget, rather than being entirely focused on the activities of Warren Mundine.

I will say, though, about the chair of our Indigenous advisory council and indeed the Indigenous advisory council more broadly that it is an outstanding advisory council. Members would be aware of who the chair is—Mr Mundine—and his activities over decades now, advocating on behalf of Aboriginal people. They would be aware of the other members of the Indigenous advisory council: Ngiare Brown; Mr Peever, the former CEO of Rio Tinto; and Gail Kelly. We have other very substantial Indigenous leaders who are providing advice to the Prime Minister and to the government as a whole.

Their role is an advisory role. Their terms of reference and their role is outlined on the website. Mr Neumann can look at that website and understand that. He can understand when they are meeting. The Indigenous advisory council puts out a communique after each meeting, and so he can understand what their function and what their role is, but it is an advisory role. At the end of the day, decisions are made by the government and we accept responsibility for those decisions, but of course we consult with the Indigenous advisory council before making those decisions.

In relation to the overall cost of running the Indigenous advisory council, I understand that those questions were asked in the Senate estimates process. I have been informed that that information will be provided through the Senate estimates process in due course. Of course, it will be a very small amount compared to the overall $4.8 billion which this government is investing in Indigenous specific programs over the next four years—$4.8 billion. I would suspect that the costs of the operation of the Indigenous advisory council will be a very, very small fraction of that $4.8 billion. That information, in detail, will be provided to the Senate and will therefore be publicly accessible to Mr Neumann, who has been asking these 60 questions in his four minutes.

In relation to the overall budget, I outlined some of those measures in my opening statement. Yes, we have made some savings but we are still investing $4.8 billion over the forward estimates. And we have consolidated 150 programs into five. When you do that you can eliminate red tape and duplications and you can make administrative savings. That is exactly the intent of our budget. Our intention is to provide greater focus on the core areas of employment, school attendance and community safety and, of course, it is to provide efficiencies where we can do so.