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Wednesday, 12 February 2014
Page: 214


Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongLeader of the Opposition) (14:01): My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to his election promise to visit East Arnhem Land in his first week as Prime Minister. Given that Rio Tinto will close the alumina refinery by the middle of the year and the Prime Minister's commitment today to improve Indigenous employment, why hasn't the Prime Minister been to Gove, and what is his plan to help the 1,200 people losing their jobs there?

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahPrime Minister) (14:01): I should not blame the Leader of the Opposition for the construction that he put on the statement I made at the Garma Festival last year, because some people did put that construction on it, but what I actually said—

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER: We will have silence.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: On my left!

Mr ABBOTT: What I actually said was that the first remote community that I would visit and stay in as Prime Minister would be a community in East Arnhem Land, and that is exactly what I am going to do. I will spend a week in East Arnhem Land later in the year. It will be the first remote Indigenous community that I visit in this way as Prime Minister. I am very much looking forward to it. I am very, very much looking forward to it because, amongst many other things, Galarrwuy Yunupingu has been one of the fathers of Indigenous advancement in this country, and I was particularly honoured that he was so keen, up at the Garma Festival, that East Arnhem Land should be the first Indigenous community that I volunteer in as Prime Minister.

As for the refinery at Gove, like the Leader of the Opposition, I deeply regret the decision that Rio Tinto have made to close that refinery. They have made that decision because the refinery is uneconomic. They have made a commitment that the Indigenous workers will all be found work in the mine that will remain open and operational. My understanding is that they are hoping to provide alternative employment to all of their other workers at the refinery.

Without wishing to be too partisan about this, but given that the Leader of the Opposition has chosen to raise it in this way: if the Leader of the Opposition were as concerned as I believe he is, he might have a word to his senators about passing the carbon tax repeal legislation.