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Tuesday, 11 September 2018
Page: 6022

Indigenous Affairs

Senator BROCKMAN (Western Australia) (14:48): My question is to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Scullion. It was great to see Senator Scullion in Western Australia last week. Can the minister advise the Senate about how the coalition government is getting more Indigenous job seekers into work and supporting the economic aspirations of Indigenous entrepreneurs?

Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:48): Thank you, Senator Brockman, for that very important question. Everyone on this side of the chamber understands that our No. 1 priority is to help get our fellow Australians into a job if they don't have one, because we know a job is the very best form of help that we can offer. Jobs and economic growth have been our record: one million jobs since we came to government; a record 412,000 jobs last year; an unemployment rate of 5.3 per cent—the lowest since the mining boom; an economy that grew by 3.4 per cent—the best in any G7 country; and the lowest number of Australians on welfare for 25 years. That doesn't happen by accident. It happens because we have been reducing taxes to Australian businesses so they can invest in more staff; but, most importantly, we have brought the budget under control. We can make job-creating investments like the $75 billion in transport infrastructure that's supporting 50,000 jobs.

Most pleasing, we are able to reach our most disadvantaged communities. We've got 40,000 out of 400,000 Indigenous jobseekers. We have had a 23.3 per cent increase in Indigenous Australians employed since we came to the Treasury bench. We have done this because we've had initiatives like the WEX program that brings in young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from across the country. They are up in the gallery. I met many of them this morning. They are doing an absolute cracker job. I say to them: enjoy your time here. I'm sure that they'll be joining the Australian Public Service. It was an absolute privilege to meet them. This government is backing them all the way.

Senator Kim Carr: Do they know why Turnbull was sacked? Have they been told?

The PRESIDENT: Senator Carr, it is not entirely appropriate to direct interjections across the chamber and even less to the gallery. Senator Brockman, a supplementary question?

Senator BROCKMAN (Western Australia) (14:50): Thank you, Minister, for that answer.

Senator Kim Carr interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Carr, take a breath. Continue, Senator Brockman.

Senator BROCKMAN: Can the minister advise how the government's employment and small-business policies are supporting Indigenous Australians in my home state of Western Australia?

Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:51): Last week I had the great privilege of announcing the first in-prison VTEC service in the senator's home state of Western Australia. VTEC, the Vocational Training and Employment Centres program, has broken the cycle of training for training's sake and the churn that's plagued previous governments' employment programs. Under the VTEC program, we have stopped paying providers for just having a bit of a crack and we are paying providers on a 26-week outcome. We know that, if people are there for 26 weeks, 82 per cent of them will be there two years later. That's a fundamental change. Unfortunately, many sneered at this new model. Former Indigenous affairs spokesman Mr Neumann said a model that paid on a 26-week outcome just wouldn't work and that we wouldn't get 5,000 jobs. Well, he was right—we got 9,000 jobs! It has been such a success that we are moving the program into the most difficult places, which are prisons. So we've started working in the Acacia Prison in Perth. This is going to break the cycle of recidivism— (Timeexpired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Brockman, a final supplementary question?

Senator BROCKMAN (Western Australia) (14:52): Can the minister advise what risks there are to these improvements in Indigenous employment outcomes and the Indigenous business sector?

Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:52): We all know what those opposite will do if we ever have the misfortune of a future Labor government. Labor are a risk to the 69,000 jobs that we have created through our Indigenous employment programs. You couldn't trust them with the Indigenous procurement policy. Remember our record is of a thousand companies and a billion dollars in contracts. They had 30 businesses and $6.2 million. Can you trust them to stand up to providers and maintain the integrity of the VTEC program, paying only on 26-week outcomes? Most importantly, can you trust them to keep the budget under control so we can make job-creating investments in small businesses and their opportunities? It is the risk of going with people who simply don't understand the economy. That is a fundamental risk. They don't understand that the best way to help Australians and, in particular, our First Australians isn't through welfare; it's through jobs and small-business opportunities.