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Smallwood stunned by government falling over themselves for Pearson

Professor Gracelyn Smallwood raises concerns about Noel Pearson gaining government funding at the expense of other Indigenous communiteis who continue to endure third world living conditions. Image: Rhonda Hagan

by Stephen Hagan Respected north Queensland academic, Professor Gracelyn Smallwood has labelled the State Government as ‘Green’ for doing an about flip on the Cape York Welfare Reform Trial. “Where else in the world would you see an individual citizen change the decision of a State government ... but in Australia,” Professor

Smallwood said. “Well ... Noel Pearson has used his considerable influence in having (Premier) Campbell Newman overrule his Aboriginal Affairs Minister (Glen Elmes) by announcing an extension of the Cape York Welfare Reform Trial.” Queensland Premier Campbell Newman announced last Thursday that the Cabinet Budget Review Committee (CBRC) had decided to extend the trial for 12

months through $5.65 million of funding. The CBRC includes Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney, Treasurer Tim Nicholls and AttorneyGeneral Jarrod Bleijie. Premier Newman said consideration must be given to rolling out the trial to additional Indigenous communities in Cape York and Torres Strait in addition to Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale and Mossman Gorge. State Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

Affairs minister Glen Elmes was not aware of the change. A spokeswoman for Mr Elmes - five minutes before the decision was taken - said the trial was not going to be extended. “We will not fund another trial but that does not mean we are not going to fund the good bits of it as a model for the rest of the state,” she said. “Or as a model for certain communities in the state that need it.” “We are saying the trial

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- in its present state - will not continue beyond 2013.” The trial tests the impact of removing welfare payments from families if their children do not go to school. Mr Newman said the CBRC was keen to see efficiencies in the expenditure of the funding, and that consideration be given to rolling out the trial to additional Indigenous communities in Cape York and Torres Strait. “We will continue to work with all Indigenous communities to improve social outcomes and to ensure Indigenous people are given every opportunity to access good education, training and employment,” he said. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs advocate, Jack Andrew Wilkie-Jans was also critical of Premier Campbell Newman’s back flip. “It seems that the Queensland Government have bowed to mounting pressure from the Federal ALP Government and Minister Macklin. “While $5.65 Million is a drop in the ocean I feel that it is purely appeasement money. “I still look forward to the implementation of sustainable and diverse employment and training opportunities in the Cape which is matched by the nurturing investment necessary. “Welfare assistance will always be necessary and should always be available but to get people off of a dependence on welfare there needs to be something empowering and fulfilling for people to move onto, and welfare payments such as New Start Allowance allows people to transition with financial security.” Mr Wilkie-Jans said there were far too many Page 2

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman. Professor Smallwood said he is an ‘L’ plate Premier for backflipping on funding to Pearson. Image: Rhonda Hagan

concerns raised about the effectiveness of the Cape York Welfare Reform Trial. “The current trials are ineffective and only present statistical progress,” Mr Wilkie-Jans said.

a better process with a focus on genuine capacity building, or find a way that the Cape York Institute’s and the Queensland Government’s vision can work together without future conflict by matching reforms with

Where else in the world would you see an individual citizen change the decision of a State government ... but in Australia: Smallwood “The most ideal outcomes under the current state of the reform trial would be that people still depend on welfare but that the system isn’t being abused. “Either do away with that model and introduce

employment and training opportunities/ventures and by developing a regional Employment, Training and Industry Diversification Strategy.” Professor Smallwood said she was concerned about those discrete

Indigenous communities in the Cape and around the State who endure third world conditions and lack of attention by the State government. “I’m flabbergasted ... to think our mob on Palm Island, Doomadgee, Woorabinda and other communities are having their pleas for financial injection to help alleviate their endemic social problems ignored and on the other hand we see the State Government doing a backflip and falling over themselves to make sure the ‘big brave warrior’ Noel’s pet projects are being funded,” Professor Smallwood said. “The government is getting no bang for their buck ... little tangible outcomes for significant investment. But that seems to matter little to Premier Newman who is still on his L plates as a State Premier.” Queensland finishes its funding - $5.65 million at the end of the trial in December 2013. It has put in more than $40 million since the scheme started in July 2008. Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin last week urged Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to ask Premier Newman to reverse his Minister’s decision to wind back funding. “If Tony Abbott is serious about closing the gap and welfare reform he will get on the phone to Campbell Newman and demand Queensland reverse this bad decision,” Ms Macklin said. Queensland’s Shadow Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Curtis Pitt, said the Premier was showing a stunning lack of leadership by flipflopping on the Cape York welfare reform trial.

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