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Thursday, 19 June 2014
Page: 6816

Mr TUDGE (AstonParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister) (12:19): I commend the member for Blair, who has got it down to 40 questions per session, rather than 60, which means that I probably have about 7½ seconds per question rather than the five seconds I had in the previous session. Overall, the questions that he had concerned a few points, so let me touch on those few points. The most substantial points which the member for Blair asked about were the savings decisions made in the budget.

There is $4.8 billion worth of Indigenous-specific programs for which appropriations are made in this budget over four years. There was a 4.5 per cent savings being made there. That is on the public record and the member for Blair has outlined that. How has that come about and why is this occurring? In part, every portfolio has had to make savings. My friend the member for Kooyong outlined the rationale for that. The public finances were a mess. We are spending $1 billion a month just on the interest payments on the Labor government debt and that is forecast to grow to $3 billion per month, so decisions had to be made across the board to make savings.

In the Indigenous portfolio, what had been occurring over the years was a proliferation of programs, increasing and increasing.

Mr Snowdon: Talk about the health funds.

Mr TUDGE: From the federal perspective—

Mr Snowdon: Talk about the health funds.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Whiteley ): Order! I warn the member!

Mr TUDGE: There were 150 federal programs which were funded. If you went to any particular location you would likely find a similar number at the state level. What that has meant is a proliferation of individual activities and programs at a localised level, sometimes creating a whirlwind of activity of programs but very little progress being made. The Auditor-General looked this at the end of last year and did a case study on the community of Wilcannia. It is a typical community, predominantly Indigenous. He found that in this community of 474 Indigenous people there were 102 funded activities from 18 different agencies and a further 17 activities proposed. So in that place alone there was more than one program per five individuals.

If you listen to the member for Blair and, indeed, the opposition leader you would think that that is not enough, that we now need one program for one individual, possibly even more. We do not believe that is the case. In fact, what we have suggested through this budget process is that we need to sharpen the focus around a few core areas—school attendance, employment, community safety—and we have to streamline the activity so that as much as possible, from the Commonwealth's perspective, there is a single interface into a community rather than 15 or 30 or 50 interfaces into a community. So this budget does that. The first decision we made in order to facilitate that was to bring the programs from eight different departments into one department, the most important department: the Prime Minister's department. The second decision was to amalgamate 150 separate federal programs into five broad flexible programs. The third decision was that we will be devolving power to the local level so that a local empowered SES officer can negotiate with Indigenous community leaders over what is required in those communities against some of the national priorities which we have.

The effect of this will be to stop having that proliferation of activities of 100 programs in a community of 500 and instead have focused programs with empowered local leaders who can negotiate with a single Commonwealth officer over what is required in those communities. Of course in the process of doing that efficiencies can be made—of course they can because there is an overlap in activities. For example, the Smith Family has 10 individual contracts across Australia. Why do we need 10 contracts there instead of only one or two which could cover all activities? There are things which, frankly, are not working, and those things can be brought to a halt. As we go through these programs over the forward estimates, we will be stopping, evaluating initiatives, funding the ones which are working and halting the ones which are not.