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Wednesday, 6 July 2011
Page: 7871

Mr SLIPPER (FisherDeputy Speaker) (10:00): It is always reassuring when those of us in this parliament are able to look at legislation and realise that we are at one in seeking to achieve better outcomes for all sections of the Australian community, including Indigenous Australians. While there has been some criticism by the opposition of elements of the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Amendment Bill, all members believe it is absolutely vital that Indigenous Australians be given the same educational opportunities as other Australians and when we do see areas of disadvantage we as a parliament have a responsibility to provide the resources, to give a helping hand, to Indigenous Australians to make sure that they are able to achieve in the same way as other Australians are. To fail to do so would not be equitable; it would not be an appropriate action by a First World country in 2011.

The Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Amendment Bill 2011 is supported by both sides of the House. It relates to programs which were instituted by the former Howard government—the Indigenous Youth Mobility Program, which aims to help young Indigenous people move away from home to gain the skills they need to get a job in their community or elsewhere, and the Sporting Chance Program, which is an Australian government initiative which started operating in schools in 2007. Its aim is to encourage positive educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

These are good initiatives; they are initiatives that have worked. There is broad acceptance in the community that they are desirable and that they should continue. However, the situation is that, while this bill enables these programs to have additional funding and to continue, it regrettably does not give permanence to them. The government says that the programs are under review, and I suspect that most people would agree that this is a government by review. There are excessive reviews by this government. By all means review those matters which need to be reviewed but, when there is bipartisan agreement on the very successful nature of the programs mentioned in the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Amendment Bill, why investigate something that everyone agrees is going well?

It is regrettable that the one-year extension of funding for the second year in a row does not give certainty, does not give confidence, to Indigenous Australians, although it does give a measure of reassurance that at least for the time being these important programs will continue to be funded. I suspect that, while a review is underway, ultimately the government will support the ongoing nature of these programs, but since there seems to be a community consensus and certainly a consensus in the parliament, and the results are clear on the board, about these programs they ought not continue to be 'reviewed'; they ought to be the subject of a statement by the minister saying these are good programs, these are programs which will be funded indefinitely into the future. Frankly, as a nation we do not have a lot to be proud of in the area of Indigenous affairs. As I was saying yesterday, we sought to throw money at the problem; we tried to salve the nation's collective conscience by throwing money at the problem without focusing on necessary outcomes.

Like other honourable members I was enormously proud when the member for Hasluck was elected. He is the first member of the House of Representatives to identify as Indigenous. I was really impressed when the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs crossed the chamber and congratulated the member for Hasluck, who is a role model for all Indigenous Australians. The member for Hasluck—and I do not really like to talk about someone else's philosophy—sees education as being the way forward and the way to address disadvantage. When one sees the success that the member for Hasluck has been in his life, starting from a position of relative disadvantage, it is very clear that education is extraordinarily important.

That is why the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Amendment Bill 2011, which continues funding, at least for the time being, for these programs, is a very important bill. It is a bill that I commend and support, but I ask the government to cease reviewing these programs and give them a tick of permanence. They deserve it, they have got outcomes and they are achieving what they seek to achieve. The result is that young Indigenous Australians have a better chance of taking their place as people who are able to be successful Australians in every sphere of endeavour. So this is a good bill and these are good programs with which good outcomes are being achieved. I think, though, that the community and the parliament need reassurance from the government that these programs are going to be permanently funded and permanently supported, because they are doing such a wonderful job for those Australians who for too long have been disadvantaged. I commend the bill to the House.