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Monday, 14 March 2005
Page: 109

Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs) (8:47 PM) —I will respond very briefly. Senator, with respect you have misunderstood the tenor of my remarks. I am not offended that you raised three particular examples about which you want an explanation, although it is a bit difficult to give you those answers on the run. It is more the latter part of your speech that caused some offence. However, I would not lie awake and shed a second of sleep over it. I have been offended by people before, and it is an—

Senator Carr —Occupational hazard.

Senator VANSTONE —occupational hazard, and one learns to live with it and internalise it, so I would not get too upset. As for programs you say have been successful and have been transferred, there might be some that have done quite well, but there are others that have not. CDEP is a classic example. In your speech you said, ‘Going to a briefing isn’t consulting.’ With respect, I disagree. When you want to explain to people what you want to do and then provide some time to listen to their responses, you must, first up, offer a briefing on the changes that you want to make. I do not know anybody who thinks CDEP has worked perfectly around Australia. I doubt whether there is anyone who says it cannot be improved, and the minister is determined to see that.

As to the Mulan agreement, all I will say about that is that the community put forward a proposal, and that was, unfairly and stupidly, much maligned by some in this place and it became the infotainment of the week for the media. But the plain facts are that the Mulan proposition dealing with the health care of the kids during the day at school was put to us by the community. My advice is that they actually got the idea from the local Catholic school, which was putting in place the same arrangements. The rest of the community saw that that might have some benefit and put the proposition to us. I am advised that the proposition they put reflects the UN guidelines for dealing with trachoma. If that somehow smacks of a paternalistic government, I suppose we should be looking to get rid of the UN, and that is a ridiculous proposition. However, that is the advice I have at this point. The agreement may not be signed, but we and the community are very keen to get on with it. It is a case of listening to what individual communities want.