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Thursday, 26 June 2014
Page: 4053

Indigenous Affairs


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (14:00): My question is to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Scullion. Can the minister confirm that the program Belonging to Family, which works with Aboriginal prisoners, and their families, to transition them back into the community, will not receive funding from 1 July 2014? Given the minister's previous statement that government cuts 'are not going to have an impact on the ground', I ask the minister: what will be the impact on the ground due to this funding cut?


Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:01): I thank you for reminding me about my commitment to ensure that there is no impact on the services and my commitment that services would be funded for either six months, if they were in education, or for 12 months if they were not. But the decision about this process was actually made by yourselves, Senator Cameron. This process was not a decision that was made by us. I have looked carefully at your assessments. What happened was that, for people in exactly the same situation, you decided that they would be funded for an extra two years or three years, and some, it was decided, would only be funded for 12 months. But I have to say: I rarely do, but in this case—I have looked at the performance indicators around this—I can understand why you made the decision. But, Senator Cameron, thank you for the reminder—

Senator Kim Carr: You've got the wrong program!

Senator SCULLION: No, not at all.

Senator Cameron: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. Could I draw the minister's attention to the question. There were two issues in this question. The minister has not got to the question. I think he is speaking about the wrong program.

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order at this stage.

Senator SCULLION: Perhaps I can remind them. In 2013-14 the previous government looked carefully at 34 Indigenous justice related services, of which this is one, and then they made their decision, as I have said, that some would have 12 months worth of funding, some would have two years and some would have three years, based on their performance, particularly in terms of recidivist offending. And, as I said earlier, I agree entirely with their position.

Senator Cameron: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. It is on relevance. I asked about funding and I asked about impact, and the minister has not gone to impact.

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order. Minister, you have got 10 seconds remaining.

Senator SCULLION: I think by and large I have answered your question, but, in terms of the impact, the funding was actually linked to whether or not you had an impact on the ground, and clearly you thought that that was not the case.










Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (14:04): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer to the Indigenous Women's Legal Program—I repeat: the Indigenous Women's Legal Program—run for Indigenous women in remote New South Wales, which has just received a $300,000 cut to its funding. What will be the impact on the ground as a result of this funding cut?


Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:04): I would refer you, Senator Cameron—through the President—to my previous answer. This is a suite. You can have as many as you like of the 34. They were decisions made entirely by your government, and we have honoured them. As soon as they say that their funding has been cut, or a decision to cut any service, and the cut to the funding of that service is before December this year—and that comes into that case—then that cannot be us, because, as I have said, we have extended, either by six months or by 12 months. There are some—

Senator Moore: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. My point of order is on direct relevance, and the direct relevance in this question is the impact on the ground as a result of the cut. We have not got anywhere near the impact element.

The PRESIDENT: The minister still has 25 seconds remaining to address that part of the question.

Senator SCULLION: Those opposite made a decision about the continuation of services whilst they were in government. The effect of some of those decisions is now coming to the ground. I have to say that, on those decisions they made about only 12 months funding—so those ones that would actually be ending on 30 June this year, and those funding cuts have been effected by their decisions—by and large, I agree with them.





Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (14:06): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister outline to the Senate how cutting programs that strengthen Indigenous family relationships, reduce reoffending and improve access to justice for Indigenous women will not have any impact on the ground?


Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:06): First of all, there are only a relatively small number of programs that you only decided to fund for a year which end this year. The majority of the 34 programs will still remain. As for their impact on the ground, they were actually judged by you to be not particularly effective on the ground, using issues like the recidivist rate and whether the program's objectives actually worked. As I have indicated to you in my two prior answers, Senator Cameron, I thought, on the balance, that your assessments, the previous government's assessments, were reasonable.