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Thursday, 13 August 2009
Page: 4942

Senator BERNARDI (5:49 PM) —In rising to contribute to this debate I feel compelled to respond to some of the allegations, comments and contributions that Senator Sterle has made. One of the incredible claims is that Senator Sterle said he will happily stand condemned for doing it properly. Senator Sterle has never, ever been condemned for doing it properly. No one has ever accused him of doing it properly. The government that he is a part of certainly are condemned for their lack of action in fulfilling their promises and providing the houses that they promised to Indigenous communities.

In reflecting on what Senator Sterle said, I will acknowledge that Senator Sterle is a true journeyman. His rambling, incoherent and, quite frankly, disingenuous attacks on members of the opposition, because we dared to disagree with some of the things that he said, did him no credit at all. Senator Sterle used a number of emotive words in describing the opposition’s contribution, questioning whether we had been to visit Indigenous communities, as he detailed his extensive travels around the world and into many other communities. This is not a chamber in which to boast of one’s travel logs or to boast about how many people you visited to promote the shameful emperor who has no clothes who now leads the Labor Party. It was a clamour to ingratiate himself with the emperor of the Labor Party—Red Rudd—because Senator Sterle, as I said, is a journeyman and he is interested in promotion. So he tries to ingratiate himself by abusing and attacking the opposition, rather than accept the very necessary facts.

The disappointment is manifest because the Labor Party clearly refuse to confront reality. I will tell you about the reality of this case. They made a number of grandiloquent promises, promises that they have simply failed to deliver upon. That is beyond deniability.

Senator Cormann —It is beyond question.

Senator BERNARDI —Yes, it is beyond question, Senator Cormann. We have a Labor administration in the Northern Territory in tatters, with their own former ministers resigning from Labor, saying they do not want any part of all this because it has been so poorly and shamefully administered. There are estimates of hundreds of millions of dollars being wasted on administration and bureaucracy and on feathering the nest of Labor mates. I am hearing these reports all the time. And what is the aim of these $673 million worth of funds? The aim is to build houses. The simple question is: how many houses do we have more than 12 months after they were promised? We have nary a one. As Senator Sterle and his comrades have been travelling around the world and have been visiting Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory claiming righteousness and saying they feel indignation over the opposition, he has never said, ‘Gee, why hasn’t a house been delivered there where it’s meant to be?’ Senator Sterle claims that one house is not enough and says that you have got to build a whole community. By goodness, I tell you what: you should start with one house. If you could get one house built in 12 months by the time you are out of government you will have three houses built—but clearly you cannot even do that. I see Senator Sterle smirking over there because he has done his bit. He has got this smirk going because he has got up there and he has tried to rough up the opposition. What Senator Sterle has done is simply muddy and grubby and it is to dumb down this debate.

That is a very unfortunate thing and it is something that I really want to resist getting into because this debate needs more attention than that. We have got to deal with some realities here. The realities are that hundreds of millions of dollars were promised to build homes and no homes have been delivered—none. We have a government in the Northern Territory in disarray. Quite frankly, we have a government down here in disarray because they do not know what to do. They are justifying it all through their spin and media releases. They are justifying giving $100 million to their mates to administer a program that is not actually operating or delivering anything that it is meant to. And they want us to feel guilty about raising this in the Senate! If anyone is to stand condemned it is not for doing the right thing; it is for doing the wrong thing. It is for misleading Indigenous communities. It is for misleading the people of Australia. Quite rightly, I will stand and condemn those whose lack of action and whose wilful disregard for producing actual results are disappointing so many Indigenous communities and letting down the hopes and dreams of these communities and of so many people who want to contribute to make a difference.

Make no mistake: there are many people in this chamber and in this parliament and all around Australia who actually do want to make a difference. There are some as well who reside on the other side of the chamber but they have been cowered into silence, it would appear, because under the Big Brother mantra of the emperor you are not actually allowed to criticise, you are not allowed to question and you are not allowed to stand up and say, ‘Hang on, maybe we’ve got this wrong.’ Otherwise, we would have heard from Senator Sterle, the noted climate sceptic during the debate on the CPRS. But we did not. He was cowered into silence. I only hope the camera is on him now when shame and humiliation are so apparent on his face.

But let us go back to the substantive matter here, which is the history of this lack of administration. Seven hundred and fifty new houses were promised including a new subdivision. How many have been delivered? None. Two hundred and thirty new houses were promised to replace houses that were to be demolished. How many have been delivered? None. Over 2,500 housing upgrades were promised. How many have been delivered? None. It is a shameful record that has failed to improve the living conditions of people in some very difficult circumstances. People in the Northern Territory and other parts of the country feel so strongly about this that they have actually resigned and quit from a Labor administration or a Labor cabinet in disgust over Labor’s lack of action.

What do we have when this is raised in the national parliament? We have the hubris, the ego and the arrogance of a government that believes it can spin its way out of anything. It believes that by putting out a few press releases and working 24/7, not in the interests of the Australian community but on managing the media cycle, it can actually achieve some sort of outcome. The only outcome this arrogant government wants is its re-election. It does not care who it has to hurt in the process. It does not care about the lack of results. It only wants to get itself re-elected despite more underperformance.

Senator Pratt interjecting—

Senator BERNARDI —There are a number of interjections from the other side. I cannot quite understand them, just more incoherent babble I guess.

Senator Pratt —Try listening to your own speech!

Senator BERNARDI —What I find quite fascinating is that the true journeymen of the Senate and those that are actually committed to making a difference were not asked to speak in this debate. We only get the abuse.

Senator Pratt —You haven’t talked about any of the real issues.

Senator BERNARDI —The interjection I can hear now and understand is that we are not talking about any of the real issues. The real issue—through you, Mr Acting Deputy President, to Senator Pratt, who is being quite a prat—is the fact that no houses have been delivered. Which part of zero don’t you understand, Senator Pratt? You do not seem to ‘get’ zero. You have spent $100 million on zero, on propping up your Labor mates. That is what has happened and you seem to be proud of it.

Senator Pratt interjecting—

Senator BERNARDI —Hang your head in shame because you do not belong in this place if you are proud of that. It is just abhorrent that you can be supporting such a waste of taxpayers’ money and the nondelivery of your promises. But if that is how you feel, you should go out and celebrate that and put out a press release saying, ‘We have wasted $100 million of taxpayers’ money and have not delivered a single house to where we said we would.’ It is incredible. It is quite extraordinary.

Before I was rudely interjected upon—which is something we all frown upon in this place!—I was speaking to this critical issue. Many of us are committed to doing everything we possibly can to help disadvantage in Indigenous communities, and I am one of those people. Contrary to what Senator Sterle alleges, I have visited Indigenous communities both in my state and in other states. I want to make a difference like so many of us here want to do, but in order to make a difference we have got to see some action. When we see some action, you might find there is a bit bipartisan support for this. The Labor Party has nothing to be proud of. The coalition will continue to fight.

Debate interrupted.