Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Abbott laments torpor of two years -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

SHANE MCLEOD: "Torpor and sloth" are delaying action in dealing with housing needs for Indigenous
Australia according to the Federal Opposition.

A report this week has revealed the scale of the problem. It found that 11,000 homes are needed
just to meet extreme needs.

The Opposition's Indigenous affairs spokesman Tony Abbott has just been on a tour of Central
Australia and says the Federal Government's remote Indigenous housing program for the Northern
Territory is beset by delays.

He blames some of the Federal Government's changes to the intervention for the slow progress.

Sara Everingham reports.

SARA EVERINGHAM: During his visit to Central Australia this week the Opposition's Indigenous
affairs spokesman Tony Abbott visited the community of Santa Teresa south-east of Alice Springs.

There he saw two houses which still have no roofs 11 months after they were damaged in a severe
storm.

TONY ABBOTT: Santa Teresa is not exactly a million miles from Alice. There have been unroofed
houses in that community for almost a year now; $450,000 was pledged to put rooves on those places
and they still stand abandoned and derelict.

Now this is a symptom of utterly dysfunctional government. This is symptomatic of a failed state in
remote Australia.

SARA EVERINGHAM: When the former federal government launched the intervention in the Northern
Territory it put the high profile Major General Dave Chalmers in charge as the operational
commander.

The intervention is now run from the minister's department and Tony Abbott has told Territory
Stateline that change has been detrimental.

TONY ABBOTT: I think that with the appointment of General Chalmers, with the appointment of
government business managers with serious authority to bash heads together, to bring together
people out of the dysfunctional silos that they so often operate, to tell state government,
territory government, local government as well as different arms of the national government that
things have got to work in ways that they haven't previously, as I said kick butt people, I think
they would not have tolerated for a second the kind of situation that we have seen now for almost a
year in Santa Teresa.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Fixing the rooves is the responsibility of Northern Territory authorities. The
Territory's Minister for Housing is Rob Knight.

ROB KNIGHT: Oh look I think it has been too long and I apologise for that. But you know I guess
they were trying to figure out whether they could actually just put two new rooves on there. But
you know there's such structural weakness in the whole building that, you know, it wouldn't have
been worthwhile to actually do it and there would have been problems going forward. So I've asked
the department to demolish those houses and build two new ones.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Tony Abbott has raised other concerns about housing at Santa Teresa related to the
Federal Government's $672 million Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program or SIHIP
which he says is troubled by torpor and sloth.

Mr Abbott says the community was originally promised $5 million under the SIHIP but that the money
has been scaled back to $2.8 million.

Rob Knight again:

ROB KNIGHT: Well look I don't know where Tony Abbott has got his claims from. He's incorrect. I
mean they're totally baseless. $5.2 million which has been allocated to that community will be
delivered in that community as part of the construction program. And you know I look forward to the
final sign-off of that package and we can get work underway.

SARA EVERINGHAM: So how much will actually go on construction in that community?

ROB KNIGHT: Well the $5.2 million have been allocated for that community. It'll be part of the
construction program for that community and all the costs attributed to that will be about getting
the work done.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Do you know how much will be on administration?

ROB KNIGHT: The admin is outside of that. The $5.2 million for Santa Teresa will be spent as part
of the construction program in Santa Teresa.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Santa Teresa is getting refurbishments under the SIHIP.

The Territory Opposition has raised concerns that the Alliance building in Santa Teresa is
assessing houses that the Territory Government has classified as being beyond economic repair. A
Territory government map shows more than 20 houses are in that category.

Rob Knight again:

ROB KNIGHT: Oh look that's what the Alliance team are doing at the moment; scoping that out,
looking at how they could spend that $5.2 million. And I look forward to them coming back with how
they're going to spend it to get the best value for money and improve the conditions as much as
possible.

SARA EVERINGHAM: But are you worried that they might be trying to repair houses that the Territory
Government has already classified as being beyond economic repair?

ROB KNIGHT: Oh look they'll obviously be coming back with us on the best way to spend that money.
We're going to obviously assume some responsibility for those houses going into the future so we
obviously want to be very assured that we're going to get a quality product out of it and we want
to see that $5.2 million spent as wisely as possible.

SHANE MCLEOD: The Northern Territory's Housing Minister Rob Knight ending Sara Everingham's report.