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Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Page: 5192

Senator SCULLION (2:36 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Senator Evans. Is the minister aware of a community that is the subject of a number of media reports, named Corella Creek, in the prescribed intervention area in the Northern Territory, where a number of houses have been without water since January of this year?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —I thank Senator Scullion for the question. I do not have any specific briefing on that particular community. As always, if opposition senators have a particular concern about a specific issue, I am happy to receive that prior to question time and attempt to help them. But I do not have any particular briefing that I am aware of on that particular community.

Senator SCULLION —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Obviously, I am disappointed. That is why I reflected that it had been in the media. I thought it would have been released but, if he has not got that, so be it. I am not sure whether another brief may extend to any knowledge the minister has with regard to a school in the area that has just been reopened for a year, boasts an attendance rate of between 85 and 90 per cent—which is very difficult to achieve in many of the circumstances—but, again, because of water supply problems, has been closed on a number of occasions.

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —I indicated to Senator Scullion that I did not have any particular briefing on the situation at that particular community. I understand the community, from information someone just gave me, is managed by Yirrkala Council, not the Northern Territory government. As to which press this has been in, since you have not made it clear—I do not know whether this is a Northern Territory paper—I certainly have not had the opportunity to see it. I would appreciate it if you could tell me which press, so I could go and look it up. But, as I indicated to you, I am happy to help. If you want to give me some prior notice I can get you more information. But I cannot help you, when I do not have a brief, about a particular community and the circumstances in that particular community in the Northern Territory, as representing minister.

Senator SCULLION —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I can assure the minister that those facts are correct and they have been reported—not widely, but in a number of places. I will get some details to the minister about those reports. The point is: will the minister now admit that, despite the government’s web of media spin and propaganda in an attempt to deceive Australians into the idea that this government is closing the gap, the fact of the matter is that this gap is now clearly widening, under any measure, under the Labor government?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —May I say that I am very disappointed by Senator Scullion’s allegations in that question.

Opposition senators interjecting—

Senator CHRIS EVANS —Well, I just think it is unfortunate. The point I have constantly been making in this chamber for about 10 years is that, under your government or under our government, unless there is some consensus, unless there is some cooperation between the political forces in this country, we will never get any progress in Indigenous affairs. When I was opposition spokesman I made that point very clear and tried at all times to try and build that political consensus. In 12 years the Howard government failed to close the gap—and they know that. They made some genuine attempts, and they failed. What this government has said is that we are absolutely committed to it. We are absolutely committed to putting the resources to it. And I would encourage you to join us because, until we get that political consensus in this effort to closing the gap, we will not succeed.