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Wednesday, 7 September 1983
Page: 477

Mr PORTER —My question is directed to the Treasurer. I refer him to his Budget Speech, in which he stated that in addition to $207m being provided for programs administered by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs:

Other spending specifically to assist Aboriginals will total about $167.

Is the Treasurer aware that on the same evening the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs issued a statement which said that spending by other departments would be 'at least $130m'? That is some $37m less than the Treasurer stated on the same evening. Will the Treasurer explain whether it is he or the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs who has misled the Aboriginal people, and why?

Mr HOLDING —After the Budget was introduced an officer of my staff was telephoned at 12.30 at night by the shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs who had excitedly been thumbing his way through the Budget Papers and believed he had found a discrepancy. The resources of the Department and its officers had been made available to try to explain the matter to him. We were not prepared to visit him late at night, particularly when he had run out of fingers and toes. Nevertheless, so that he can understand and realise that there has been no misleading of Aboriginal people, let me take him through the exercise slowly so that he can comprehend it.

The so-called difference which was referred to concerns a figure of $130m which was the best estimate available at the time. It has since been confirmed that a figure of $133.401m represents the estimated funding of other Commonwealth departments for special programs for Aboriginals in 1983-84, including some $7m under the community development employment program earmarked for Aboriginal employment. The honourable gentleman will realise that that was a significant figure in the Budget allocation for Aboriginal Affairs. It simply involves a reallocation of funds which were otherwise being paid out as unemployment benefits. Other Commonwealth departments' special programs totalled $133.401m. There was a component for payments under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act which total $14.196m and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs salaries and administrative costs which total $19.089m. Those amounts came to a total figure of $166.686m, which, as the officers of my Department would have pointed out, made the Treasurer's estimate of $167m, being the figure available from other sources for the Aboriginal portfolio, very accurate indeed. The difference which has confused the honourable gentleman-

Mr Gear —That is not difficult.

Mr HOLDING —I realise that. The confusion on the part of the honourable gentleman arises from the fact that he did not take into account those significant sums of money which were involved, as I have indicated, in other areas. The funds made available by this Government to Aboriginal people have been welcomed by Aboriginal people throughout Australia and certainly serve as a marked contrast to the mean and penny-pinching attitude of the former Government which the honourable gentleman supports.