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Thursday, 15 November 2018
Page: 8319

Indigenous Housing

Senator DEAN SMITH (Western AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:50): My question is also to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Scullion. What is the Liberal-National government doing to address the urgent and immediate housing need in the Northern Territory community of Borroloola?

Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:50): I thank the senator for that question. It's a very important one, and we're aware that Senator McCarthy made a number of assertions to Senator Cormann, representing the Prime Minister, yesterday. I don't think Senator McCarthy has a mischievous bone in her body. These matters were 10 years ago, and some things can slip your mind, so she asked the question. But let me tell the Senate about the people of Borroloola. They have been waiting 10 years for $15 million from the federal government to provide housing—$14.6 million, actually. So, if I can just correct the senator: it was sent to the Northern Territory 10 years ago. And I know senators will find this a bit more difficult to swallow: Senator McCarthy has forgotten that she was a cabinet minister in the very same government!

The PRESIDENT: Senator McCarthy on a point of order.

Senator McCarthy: For the last five years it's been under Minister Nigel Scullion.

The PRESIDENT: That isn't a point of order, Senator McCarthy; that is a point of debate. There's an opportunity for that after question time.

Senator SCULLION: So, we're all pretty interested in how that slipped her mind when she was asking the question yesterday. The $14.6 million was sent to Senator McCarthy's government, and it has been the Northern Territory government's entire responsibility to build those houses—nothing to do with the Commonwealth; no-one's ever suggested that it is anything to do with the Commonwealth government. But they should be commended: they did build houses, in the 2009-10—

The PRESIDENT: Senator McCarthy, what is your point of order?

Senator McCarthy: The point of order is that it is incorrect. The leasing is with Nigel Scullion.

The PRESIDENT: Please resume your seat. I will not entertain a further point. I will frown strongly upon a further point of order that is a point of debate for after question time.

Senator SCULLION: In 2009-10 they built 67 houses, none in Borroloola; 257 in 2010-11, none in Borroloola—sorry about that, Borroloola; 356 in 2011-12—sorry, none in Borroloola; 261 in 2012-13—sorry, none in Borroloola. That is a total of 941 houses in the four years that she was in government, a part of the executive of the Northern Territory government, and not one in Borroloola—not a single skerrick of a house in Borroloola. So, I think it's pretty nauseating to take a lecture from those opposite.

An opposition senator: Shameful!

The PRESIDENT: Senator Scullion, a point of order?

Senator Scullion: I've just been harassed by the senator opposite. She's calling me shameful. She's misled the Senate. She should be rising to her feet and apologising.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, are you rising on this point of order? I was about to rule that it wasn't a point of order.

Senator Wong: A point of order: if there's anyone who is shameful, it's this minister, who's presided over cuts to Aboriginal services.

The PRESIDENT: This is not the place. You know better than that, Senator Wong. Senator Cormann?

Senator Cormann: Senator Wong should withdraw that.

The PRESIDENT: I don't deem the language to be unparliamentary. It is inappropriate to use a point of order for points of debate. Senator Smith, a supplementary question.

Senator DEAN SMITH (Western AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:53): Why is it necessary for the Commonwealth to step in and deliver this important support for residents of this remote community?

Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:54): The reason we're stepping in is that the Northern Territory government has failed—still, today—to deliver a single house in Borroloola.

Honourable senators interjecting

Senator SCULLION: I'm not sure if they have any interest in this matter, particularly Senator McCarthy, but, in partnership with the community of Borroloola and the community of the Northern Territory, we have the support of the Northern Land Council. Let me tell you what hasn't happened: Senator McCarthy has never come to me with—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Scullion, please resume your seat. Senator O'Sullivan, on a point of order?

Senator O'Sullivan: I've previously advised the chamber of my sensitive-ear syndrome. This is a workplace health and safety issue, and they need to conduct themselves in a quieter manner.

The PRESIDENT: I had asked Senator Scullion to resume his seat because I couldn't hear a word he was saying.

Senator Jacinta Collins: That's because his microphone was turned off!

The PRESIDENT: No, the microphone was on.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Everyone, please be quiet while I'm talking! It is not too much to ask. There were too many interjections during that. It was very hard for anyone to hear.

Senator SCULLION: I was told, by the community of Borroloola, that there were particular issues that were going to occur over this wet season and asked if we would be able to do something about it, given that the Territory government are not intending to build any houses until next year. That's the reason we're working with the Northern Territory government and the Northern Land Council—to provide some relief in the way that the Northern Territory government will not.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Smith, a final supplementary question.

Senator DEAN SMITH (Western AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:56): What other action is the government taking to deliver better housing for residents of remote communities across the Northern Territory?

Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:56): We've put $550 million on the table for remote housing in the Northern Territory, and I commend the Northern Territory for matching that. I commend a relatively small jurisdiction for matching that. Most importantly, we're making sure that Aboriginal people are there to make sure that the funding isn't raided, to make sure that the administration costs are down, to make sure that Indigenous businesses get the procurement, and to make sure that the Indigenous people make sure that there is Indigenous employment as part of this. Unfortunately, Mr Gunner and the Labor Party have written to the Prime Minister indicating they don't want the Northern Land Council, the Central Land Council, the Anindilyakwa Land Council or the Tiwi Land Council to be a part of that process. We're doing what remote communities have asked us to do. The advice I'd give to Senator McCarthy is that she'd be far better acting on the advice of her constituents.