Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 26 March 2014
Page: 3178


Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (12:10): We will support the Omnibus Repeal Day (Autumn 2014) Bill 2014 and associated legislation. Rarely do you see so much political puffery as we have seen in relation to this particular piece of legislation. Most of my speech will deal with the shadow portfolio areas that I have responsibility for: Indigenous affairs and ageing.

I recall in the last six years speaking many, many times on statute law revision bills that were introduced by the former federal Labor government. Most of those speeches were made not here in the House of Representatives chamber but up in what we now call the Federation Chamber. I do not recall many coalition members actually speaking on those bills. We got rid of nearly 16,800 pieces of legislation, legislative instruments and regulations and some of it was minor but necessary. For example, some had problems with hyphens, semicolons and full stops; some were in relation to things like redundant sections, sunset clauses and provisions that needed to be undertaken and got rid of. Some of it was minor. There was a legislative drafting error, for example, referring to a section that did not actually exist.

We did a lot of that clean-up stuff when we were in power, but those opposite are making a huge thing of this. You would think there was a bonfire outside the House of Representatives with flames going up and bills being burned or public servants everywhere in front of computers pressing the delete button, because they have made such a big thing of it.

Where are the major changes they are talking about? Most of this stuff is pretty meaningful, but it is actually quite minor in many ways. We will support a lot of it. It covers a range of portfolio areas. Some of the stuff, if we were on that side of the chamber, we would simply do as well. I do not recall much dissension in relation to that statute law revision. Some of the most entertaining speeches I have heard—especially by the member for Greenway, who made some incredible speeches in relation to this—were pointing out errors that took place in legislative drafting and redundancies.

I think this is important legislation, but the amount of hype that those opposite have created is simply an appalling piece of political point-scoring somewhere else to get away from the fact that what they have made across the portfolio areas is cuts, cuts, cuts. There has been no focus on jobs, which is such an important issue in the life of this country and our economy in the last few years, particularly since those opposite have come into power. I have spoken on this many times, and I will speak on this particular legislation again today.

One of the things that really amazes me is simply the fact that, in the legislation that we have before this place, they are getting rid of appropriation acts from back in 2010-11 where the appropriations have actually taken place. I do not quite get why they have made such a huge thing to set aside a whole day for it. We dealt with this kind of work purposefully, meaningfully and with, to the credit of the now government, the support of the opposition when they were on this side of the chamber.

In relation to the portfolio areas that I have responsibility for in the opposition, Indigenous affairs and ageing, there are a number of changes. We will agree to the schedules, but I want to point out a couple of things in relation to them. First, for example, part 1, schedule 8 of the omnibus repeal day legislation repeals the Coordinator-General for Remote Indigenous Services Act 2009. This, as I said before, has gone on the altar of cuts already. In MYEFO at the end of last year the government said they achieved savings of $7.1 million over three years by ceasing the funding for the Coordinator-General for Remote Indigenous Services—this from the 'Indigenous' Prime Minister, who really was going to look after Indigenous people across the country. This was part of a national partnership agreement on remote service delivery, improving government services across 29 remote Indigenous locations. It is very important in terms of tackling disadvantage in remote Indigenous communities. So the NPA delivered improved services in communities, early childhood centres and programs, new and upgraded school facilities, new and upgraded health clinics, new and refurbished housing and more local employment and training opportunities. But that is not good enough for those opposite, so we will get rid of this position; we will get rid of the coordination.

The former coordinator-general, Mr Brian Gleeson, had worked relentlessly to bring governments, communities and service providers together to effect positive change in these communities. His independent and firsthand experience cannot be denied. He had 149 visits to remote service delivery communities and gathered information through a vast network of stakeholders. He was able to provide an informed and unique view of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs from his perspective. This was an important provision, an important operation. There was positive and strong engagement through six regional operation centres, government business managers and Indigenous engagement officers providing a single point of contact with government—a one-stop shop. Those opposite want to get rid of the Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, a one-stop shop. This also was a one-stop shop. Community governance and local decision making was strengthened through community and local reference groups, and 28 of the 29 communities signed local implementation plans with governments delivering on these commitments. But the government got rid of it just to save $7.1 million. This is consistent with a government that across the area of Indigenous affairs is engaged in cuts systematically. We can expect to see more in the May budget because that is what coalition governments do across the area of Indigenous affairs.

We have already seen $13 million cut in Indigenous legal services and $2 million given back to help those people who fight native title claims. We have seen $1 million ripped from Indigenous health programs, a $15 million cut to the representative body National Congress of Australia's First Peoples and at the same time the implementation of a paternalistic approach with the Indigenous advisory group as well. There is no commitment to fund Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander early education centres. The national partnership agreement expires in the middle of this year, but no commitment has been made to continue. In COAG last year they got rid of the idea of a national partnership agreement that was being negotiated by us on Indigenous health. They have made no commitment to the national strategy for Indigenous health plans, a 10-year strategy that the member for Lingiari was involved in drafting, implementing and announcing in the middle of last year. So this is part of the process.

They have in part 2 repealed section 17A of the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Act 2000, claiming there is duplication. They have stated that the section is no longer required as there are now other reporting arrangements that provide more publicly available information, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education action plan annual reports, the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority National report on schooling reports and the Productivity Commission Overcoming Indigenous disadvantage: key indicators biannual reports. They maintain that those particular aspects and other reports provide the statistical quality information about Indigenous education and wellbeing. We will see whether that is the case. If the information that we need across this space is not released and available publicly then we will know.

This government seems to be very focused on the area of truancy, taking about $46.5 million from a remote jobs plan, programs that they say they supported in opposition, and putting it into a truancy army, Senator Scullion's truancy army. It has mixed reports and mixed outcomes, and that is what has come through in Senate estimates. Those opposite claim they support Indigenous affairs and claim they are represented by a Prime Minister for the Indigenous communities of this country, but all we have seen so far across this space is cuts, cuts and cuts.

Another area of my shadow portfolio responsibility is aged care. Changes the government have made in this legislation relate to an area we agreed to, and that is certification. What they are doing here is getting rid of the certification that is provided in the Aged Care Act 1997 as to the certification of residential care services, which then flows through in terms of funding from the government. Get this, Deputy Speaker: this is legislation of the Howard coalition government they are getting rid of. The Howard coalition government brought in the building certification introduced in a 1997 reform package to improve the physical standards of aged-care facilities across the country because there was real concern in the sector. At that stage I was a lawyer in private practice but I was on the board of what we then called Queensland Baptist Care. I know that across the sector, and I had many clients in the aged-care sector, there was real concern, and there was real concern in the community too. The Howard government did the right thing at the time, because we had to lift up the standards of the aged-care facilities in this country. This was a bipartisan agreement to do it. The Howard government got this well and truly right. It served our country well, but I do accept that what the Productivity Commission has had to say in relation to this and what the stakeholders have said in relation to this mean that it is appropriate now to do away with the certification additional requirement.

It is the case that we have building certification and legal requirements in terms of local government and also in terms of the BCA, the Building Code of Australia, which do duplicate it. But this idea that somehow it is going to save millions and millions of dollars in the aged-care sector is not borne out by the evidence. What the Productivity Commission said in their Caring for older Australians report is that the Australian government will save about $350,000 per year. That money could be used for other purposes, such as supporting the orphans who are going to miss out on the income support bonus. That is $250,000. We could use the $350,000 for that purpose if they wish to. That is an option now. We will support them across both areas if they wish to changes their minds in relation to the income support systems.

The aged-care sector does support this. I note the comments in relation to this by Aged & Community Services Australia CEO, Adjunct Professor John Kelly, who said that this is a significant win for the sector. Leading Age Services Australia have welcomed the announcement because it gets rid of some red tape. Recently, I visited HammondCare and caught up with Dr Stephen Judd, Chief Executive Officer of HammondCare since 1995. He is a very eminent Australian with great knowledge in this area—I am reading one of his books at the moment—he is one of the Australian government's Minister's Dementia Advisory Group. He also has made comments in relation to this and supports it.

We have consulted with the stakeholders across this sector. We see the benefit; we see their argument. The government seems to put a lot of emphasis on getting rid of certification, and we support them in that. But we released our Living Longer, Living Better package on 20 April 2012; legislation last year through the chamber, supported by those opposite. They said that they would not support the workforce supplements. They spent a lot of time today on this legislation; but there is $1.1 billion which is sitting there in the Treasury coffers. The sector wants to know what will happen to that money. That money was put aside by us, with the sector's agreement and the unions' agreement—ACSA, LASA, COTA, United Voice, the Nurses Federation—they all agree, and all the stakeholders across the whole sector agree, that that money should be used for wages and conditions because nurses, carers, IT workers and administrative workers in this sector are not paid enough.

We will lose about one-third of our workers across this sector in the next 10 years. And it is an ageing sector as well. We need that money put aside for that purpose. They are putting a lot of emphasis on getting rid of certification which, according to the Productivity Commission, will save the taxpayer $350,000; but there is $1.1 billion that needs to go back into the sector for the workers in the sector.

There are 14,000 workers in the sector in Western Australia now who are going to vote very shortly in a Senate by-election. They want to know what will happen to that money. So I call on the minister to do the right thing—to concentrate on what the sector needs, and to listen to the sector as we have and as we did in government and in opposition. They also have major reforms coming in on 1 July this year, and the sector has hardly been consulted. There has been a lot of concentration on certification; almost no concentration on the reforms that are going to take place.

I call on the government to get their priorities straight in aged care. Stop the cuts in aged care and stop the cuts in Indigenous affairs as well.