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Tuesday, 7 August 2007
Page: 24

Mr BROUGH (Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs) (1:47 PM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Appropriation (Northern Territory National Emergency Response) Bill (No. 2) is the fifth bill that we are introducing today and it completes the package of bills that the Commonwealth is introducing to meet the need for the measures contained within the Little children are sacred report and our intervention into the Northern Territory. This bill provides additional funding to agencies for expenses in relation to grants to the Northern Territory, and capital funding.

The total additional appropriation being sought in this appropriation bill is $85.3 million.

The major components of the bill include:

An additional $14.5 million to the Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs to provide grants for the employment of child protection workers in the Northern Territory, and the provision of safe places for families escaping domestic violence. 

In addition, the Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs will also be provided with an equity injection of $34.3 million to address the short-term accommodation requirements of Australian government and other staff in support of the response.

Total capital funding of $17.7 million is provided for Indigenous Business Australia, which includes funding of $10.2 million to provide for an expansion of outback stores as well as provide support for existing community stores, in conjunction with welfare payments reform.

Finally, Centrelink will receive capital funding of $14.3 million to enhance its information technology and service delivery capacity to implement welfare payments reform.

The remainder of the amount in Appropriation (Northern Territory National Emergency Response) Bill (No. 2) relates to other minor measures associated with the response.

Before commending the bill to the House, I would like to make a couple of brief closing remarks. Today is a momentous occasion. Today is an occasion where the nation stands up and says that as a nation—not as a government—it will answer the call for Aboriginal children in the Territory. There will be those who will disagree with elements in these bills, but they cannot doubt our sincerity to act—to back up our words not just with legislative instruments and cash but also with deeds, people and real commitment.

The children of the Northern Territory deserve nothing less than an intervention of this size. This dramatic intervention will help them in the way that is necessary. Any Australian that has the misfortune to be in the place of those children or to know about their circumstances firsthand could do nothing less than say that this must be done. We as a nation have to take this opportunity to remove this blight from Australian society—and that is what it is. For too long we have tried—all sides of government, all ministers have tried for many years—to do something about it in the traditional forms and normal ways that we attack these problems and it just has not worked. We have to accept that it has not worked. We have to accept that, if we have failed, we have failed those children. Every day we delay, we can be sure that, as a result of our delay, more children will be hurt. That is a sad statement of fact. The fact that we now have people in Western Australia requiring us to do the same thing in the Kimberley shows that this does not finish at the Northern Territory border.

I hope that the leadership and the commitment that the Howard government have shown and presented here in the form of these bills—this financial commitment—show all of our state colleagues that they too should take this issue equally as seriously and make it their No. 1 priority and, in doing so, ensure that Australian kids—regardless of their cultural background, the colour of their skin or where they live—actually have a future. You do not have a future if you are fearful every night of your life and if your fear is turned into the horror of child sexual abuse. That is the horror of the lives that these children live—and it should stop.

 Debate (on motion by Ms Macklin) adjourned.