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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6268

Mr LINDSAY (10:39 AM) —I find myself not completely agreeing with the member for Lyne. I certainly have a very significant Indigenous population in my electorate—much bigger than he would have in his electorate. Over so many years now I have been very closely associated with Indigenous Australia. I have formed a view that perhaps it is time in Australia when we should be calling a spade a spade, in that the world is not black and white; there are shades of grey. When it comes to having a non-discriminatory policy across Australia, that is a fine aspiration but in practice perhaps it is not the right way to go.

I was at Challenger mine two weeks ago, 740 kilometres north-west of Adelaide in the desert. The mine pays Indigenous Australian landowners one million bucks a year. I said to the company, ‘Where does the money go?’ And they said, ‘We don’t ask.’ What actually happens is that it disappears and the terrible plight of some of our Indigenous brothers and sisters never improves. That is wrong. Perhaps under a non-discriminatory policy nothing will ever change. It needs to change. People need to be uplifted from the conditions that they are in. So I do not find myself in complete agreement with my colleague and corridor neighbour the member for Lyne.

In relation to CDEP I think it has been an abject failure, in the main. Where CDEP has been used on Palm Island, a lot of money goes into CDEP but, again, nothing changes. You do not see improvements in the community. The government spends its money—very significant amounts of money—in the Palm Island community but the community does not benefit from it. The participants do not benefit from it. That surely is a waste of taxpayer resources—but, more than that, it is not uplifting the people of Palm Island. It is not getting them a job.

Mr Oakeshott interjecting

Mr LINDSAY —What is your intervention?

Mr Oakeshott —Come and look at my housing development!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr S Georganas)—Order! Members will keep their comments through the chair.

Mr LINDSAY —I am sorry. I concede—and I said this in my contribution—that not all CDEP programs are abject failures. Clearly, the member for Lyne has a good program in his electorate. I would love to have it in Townsville but we need to look very closely at these sorts of things and see that they do deliver outcomes and that taxpayers’ money is spent doing what the object of the exercise really is—and that is to uplift and to help our Indigenous Australians.

The Family Assistance Amendment (Further 2008 Budget Measures) Bill 2009 has a wonderful ideal. It is supported by both sides of the parliament. It wants to help the customers of Centrelink rather than complicating and frustrating their lives with certain overpayment systems. You could not disagree with that. Centrelink just gets better and better. Those of us who have been around a little while would remember the old Department of Social Security. What a bureaucratic nightmare that was! Centrelink is now so customer focused, and this measure is just another example of doing better by the customers. It deserves our unqualified support.

Last week, I had occasion to go to Centrelink. No, it was not to seek an income payment! I went to the families processing centre. Centrelink Townsville—and probably Centrelink North Queensland—constantly wins awards for the best Centrelink service in Australia. And I am really proud of our people and what they do in relation to that. When I visited quite unannounced—because I was just there on a routine matter—I stood in the line with every other customer. It was truly remarkable. There was line of about seven people waiting to be looked after and there were three or four Centrelink staff buzzing around, coming to people in the line and saying: ‘What is it that you need to do?’ or, ‘You shouldn’t be in this line; you should be over there,’ or, ‘You can get the information you need by going immediately to this officer.’ So the line quickly processed through. There was no waiting, no delay. The point was that the customer service element was outstanding.

I want to thank Tracy Bruce, who looked after me in the families processing centre. I had a particular form that I was submitting to Centrelink on behalf of one of my family, and she quickly knew and understood exactly what I was asking and what had to be done. She checked with somebody else, the matter got resolved and I was away. Thank you to the staff of Centrelink in Townsville for the wonderful work that you do for my community. It is very much appreciated. I want to indicate my support for the Family Assistance Amendment (Further 2008 Budget Measures) Bill 2009 that we are debating now and I thank the parliament for the time.