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Thursday, 19 March 2015
Page: 1971

Senator SIEWERT (Western AustraliaAustralian Greens Whip) (15:29): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Indigenous Affairs (Senator Scullion) to a question without notice asked by Senator Siewert today relating to the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.

I rise to speak on the motion to take note of answers from the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Scullion. In answer to my first question, about the continued funding of youth services, the minister tried to bat off the question by saying he had spoken to them. As I understand it, he has spoken to one of the organisations involved, or the department has spoken to one of the organisations, the other maybe not. The important thing here is that as far as we are aware they still have not seen any contracts, they still do not know how much funding they will get.

Senator McKenzie interjecting

Senator SIEWERT: The minister was not clear at all. The whole time with the Indigenous Advancement Strategy he has been giving glib answers. Given the mess that has occurred around the Indigenous Advancement Strategy, I can tell him that organisations are not comfortable with the fact that they may or may not get funding. In this case, organisations do not know how much funding they will be getting, they have not seen the contracts, they do not know whether the funding is for 2014-15 and that is it, or whether there are no increases in funding because they are based on 2014-15 funding levels with no indexation—effectively a cut. Using the same strategy, the government tries to slip away from the argument about changing indexation for the age pension and hoodwink people into thinking it is not being cut. This amounts to cuts in funding services, and those sorts of issues are very much in the minds of organisations currently in this funding mess.

The minister has not tabled a document yet about who has received funding and for how much and, very importantly, we still do not know which organisations have not received funding. The minister himself does not know who has not received funding. He says there are under about 12 so far that they have found have not received funding. This was supposed to be a rigorous program that was going through rigorous assessment, and yet organisations that provide what should be considered essential services in communities, like youth services, somehow slipped through the net. In fact, in the minister's own state they have slipped through the net, when I am sure that the department and the minister know how important those youth services are.

One of the questions I asked was about those programs that have missed out through an oversight. The minister said they are still going through looking for those, and that they have until June. Those organisations employ people. They have a responsibility to let their staff know whether they are going to have a job or not, and they also need a satisfactory time to let them go. Very soon those organisations will be starting to have to tell their staff, because they are required to do due diligence, that they may not have a job into the future. No it is not right and it is not fair that the minister thinks he has till June to find other organisations and to fill the gaps. Those gaps are there because this process has not worked effectively and because of the rushed way things have been done and the way that all the programs come together. He thinks he has till June to fill those gaps but he does not. Organisations will have to start letting their staff go in the not too distant future, and staff will be looking for other jobs—they will be thinking they do not know about the security of their position, and they will be going. The minister and the government talk repeatedly about providing good jobs for Aboriginal people. These services provide jobs for a large number of Aboriginal people, and there is a great deal of uncertainty about their future.

Another funding program for which organisations still do not know whether there will be another funding round is Stronger Communities for Children. The tenders closed in July last year but the results still are not known. These organisations do not know what is the status of the rollout of stage 2 of Stronger Communities for Children. There has been a very long day and we do not know if they are going to continue to be funded. Again, that program is regarded as a successful program and they do not know the future of the program. This process is a mess, which is why I have moved a motion to refer this issue to the Finance and Public Administration Committee. I am very pleased that the Senate supported that motion so we can find out just what is going on. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.