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Monday, 17 August 2009
Page: 7980

Mr KATTER (3:20 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. It is our information that the Queensland government still has not set up machinery for enabling First Australians to own their own land—private, deeded land tenure—a right enjoyed by every other Australian. The Queensland government has now promised this right for three, arguably eight, years. Given the 1966 referendum which gave constitutional powers over First Australians to the federal government, would the minister not agree that it is time now for the federal government to exercise its responsibility and undertake the issuance of such deeds, a function already accepted as federal government responsibility in the Northern Territory? Is the minister aware that throughout the latter 1980s 90 per cent of house-building labour in Queensland’s First Australian communities was local and, very importantly, part CDEP? This, along with local concrete block factories, enabled seven houses to be built for every one that is now being built. Finally, occupancy rates in communities were last year averaging around 15 people per home. Could the minister, in line with stated Rudd government policy, implement such policies now? Otherwise, what is already an emergency will become the most serious of crises.

Ms MACKLIN (Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs) —I thank the member for Kennedy for his question. I do know that it is very sincerely put. We have had a number of very good discussions on both of these issues. Could I go to both of them, particularly this issue about the importance of Aboriginal employment in the building of houses, which I know he understands. Like him, the federal government are determined to make sure that, with our historic level of commitment to remote Indigenous housing, we do get very real employment outcomes. So we are insisting on delivering employment as well as making sure that houses are built and refurbished. We are very happy to continue those discussions with the member for Kennedy about the construction that will be happening in the communities in his electorate.

On the other issue of the need for secure tenure, the Australian government do agree with him that it is critical that we have secure tenure over the land on which we build. I understand the point of his question, that the Queensland government moved last year, or the year before I think it was, to 99-year leases to enable the building of housing on Aboriginal land. They, like this government, understand how critical it is that we have secure tenure, that we are in fact able to build houses on land where we have security of tenure. Just like we do in any other part of Australia, when we are building public housing normally we require freehold. In the case of Aboriginal land, we are prepared to go to a lease arrangement but we are going to acquire the security of tenure so that we have the capacity to make sure that the standard of housing into the future is high. I will of course follow up the points that the member for Kennedy has raised and will continue to discuss these issues with him, particularly in relation to his constituency.