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Thursday, 26 June 2014
Page: 4070


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (15:09): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Indigenous Affairs (Senator Scullion) and the Assistant Minister for Health (Senator Nash) to questions without notice asked by Senators Cameron, Sterle and Collins today relating to funding for Indigenous programs and to the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Action Plan.

The first issue I would like to turn to is the response to Senator Collins' question on foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which is a huge problem in Indigenous communities—as it is in other communities around this country. The response that we had from Senator Nash was that the funding for that program had not been put in place. I want to indicate to the minister that the public release of the 2013 election commitment costings by the Department of Finance and Deregulation and the Treasury—I do not think you can do much better than that in ticking off your commitments—clearly indicate that there was a proposal that had been costed to the amount of $20.2 million for this program to deal with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder. It is really about time the coalition were a bit honest about some of these issues instead of looking back and saying, 'It's all the problem of the Labor Party.' It is not the truth.

The issue here was that there was a clear commitment, and we have a minister standing up, once again, misleading the Senate in relation to her answers. I hope Senator Nash comes back, apologises for misleading the Senate once again and corrects her response. I will draw her attention to the Department of Health background document that went out, released on 5 August 2013. The department had clearly indicated that new funding of $20.2 million over four years—that is for this foetal alcohol spectrum disorder issue—would be in place. You should never be surprised about any response or lack of response either from Senator Nash or from the other ministers when they get up to deal with questions from the opposition.

I thought Senator Scullion was a bit confused in his response today. I am glad that he clearly identified some areas of change to his original answers and clarified the issues that were before us. I am very pleased that the Indigenous Women's Legal Program will be funded. I am very pleased the legal programs generally will be re-funded, because they play a huge role in rural and regional Australia in helping some of the poorest Australians deal with the issues that they are confronting.

As a result of the government's budget, the issues that some poor communities and individuals will be facing will be magnified because of the cruelty of the government's budget cuts against the poorest people in this country. I am pleased that there will be a 12-month expansion. I hope it goes further than that. As I said, I thought Senator Scullion was a bit confused. I thought he was a bit unconcerned about the $500 million cut, trying to justify the $500 million cut and trying to justify this austerity program against some of the poorest communities in our country. The problems that Indigenous Australians have are magnified more than the problems for ordinary Australians. It is about time the Prime Minister and Minister Scullion were a bit honest about the problems that Indigenous Australians face. Stop trying to set yourself up as some kind of supporter of the Indigenous community, when you cut over $500 million out of support programs. The chief adviser to the Prime Minister is saying that there would be another $600 million cut. There is a proposal to cut more. This is over $1 billion of cuts against some of the poorest people in this country.