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Monday, 9 February 2015
Page: 37


Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (12:11): I commend the member for Perth for this motion. When we were in government, in our last budget we provided $44.1 million to assist 340 remote communities with power, water, sewage services, garbage collection and road maintenance. These are tiny little communities around the country in places like Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania. The truth is that all Australians expect essential services to be provided in these communities as well as in major capital cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. This was in addition to the $221 million we committed over 10 years under the Stronger Futures package. These kinds of services include dog control, accounting administration services, electricity, garden and road maintenance, animal control, and environmental health services.

But what has this government done since they came to power? What they have done here is undertake what they call a historic deal by the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, who should hang his head in shame. What he did—let's not mince words—was put a financial gun to the heads of the states and territories. That is what he did. He said, 'We will give you some money and you are on your own.' He said to the Western Australians, 'Here is $90 million and we will let you do whatever you want'—with no conditionality whatsoever, no consultation with homeland communities, no consultation with these remote communities which absolutely need this funding. The Abbott government have redrawn federal funding for municipal services. This type of funding was provided by both sides of politics, by Labor and the coalition, for decades and decades. It is a disgrace and they have done it without adequate consultation with these communities.

When the Western Australian government announced that they were closing about 164 communities across remote areas like the Pilbara and the Kimberley there was a hue and cry, not just from Indigenous leaders on the left but also from the right. So we have seen this procrastination, but we know that that is the decision that they have made. They are going to engage in forced removal and relocation, and the federal minister said, 'It's not my responsibility.' What do people in the urban areas expect but good services in these remote communities. In these Indigenous communities, 38,000 indigenous Australians are at risk of forcible removal and relocation because of the Abbott government's decision, the lack of consultation and the lack of conditionality on this funding—leaving Western Australian communities and remote areas at the mercy of the Barnett government. That is what has happened as a result of this decision.

So this is a government that cut $534 million from Indigenous affairs in their first budget. This decision has to be seen in context, and then they have completely messed up the Indigenous Advancement Strategy and cut funding everywhere: family violence prevention centres, Prisoner ThroughCare, antirecidivism programs; the National Congress of Australia' First Peoples defunded; and the National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Program utterly defunded.

The shambolic way they have conducted Indigenous affairs is clearly evident by the decisions they have made. What have they done? Particularly relevant to Western Australia and this motion before the chamber today, they have reneged on a commitment to justice targets to reduce Indigenous incarceration rates and improve community safety. What about these communities that are now at risk in Western Australia?

They want to get the kids to school—we support getting kids to school. We want to make sure kids go to school, finish primary and high school and get good jobs; and that skills and talents are fostered to make sure they participate in community. But you cannot do that if you are cutting the funding and forcibly relocating communities. People have lived for millennia in parts of Western Australia, and what does the Abbott government do? It says: 'Bye-bye. We'll wash our hands like Pontius Pilate. You can have some money. We'll have nothing to do with this anymore'.

This is a Prime Minister who said he was going to be Prime Minister for Indigenous affairs and would indeed be at the front and heart of the centre of decision making in this government. What have they done? Cut. Cut. Cut, and Closing the Gap is a fiction under this government. We will see in the next couple of days, with the Closing the Gap report and this motion before the chamber—the MUNS funding, the lack of consultation, and the consequences to remote communities in WA—that it is clear the Abbott government has failed Indigenous Australia.