Scullion warns National Congress not to depend on the goodwill of parliament for funding after December
Senator Nigel Scullion in deep conversation with Traditional Owner Leon Melpi at Fountain Head, near Wadeye. Image supplied
EXCLUSIVE by stephen hagan enator Nigel Scullion, Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Deputy Leader of the Nationals, in an exclusive interview with First Nations Telegraph has warned the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples not to depend on the goodwill of parliament for funding after December. “When the National Congress of Australia’s First peoples was being designed, a vital principle was that the body should be at arm’s length from Government,” Senator Scullion told First Nations Telegraph. “The $30m Gillard Government
establishment grant terminates in 2013 on the clear expectation that Congress would have to raise its own funds from then on.” To further highlight his point the long serving Senator for the Northern Territory referred First Nations Telegraph to the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples website. “The Congress’ own website says it does not ‘depend upon the good will of parliament or the government of the day’ so we’ll take them at their word.” To further complicate the issue of National Congress’ ongoing funding arrangement past December Senator Scullion asked Minister Jenny Macklin to come clean on whether her party will
continue to fund them. “Does Jenny Macklin’s statement (of support of National Congress) mean she has reversed the Gillard Government’s decision to terminate the funding in 2013? Or will they fund Congress in this year’s budget? “She must confirm or deny this.” In a strong statement of response to Minister Macklin’s ‘Closing the Gap’ speech the night prior, Senator Scullion said closing the gap is all about results. “In Closing the Gap, Governments should not be judged simply on good intentions or the amount of money spent, they should be judged on results,” he said. “Minister Macklin’s speech Page 1
about progress in closing the gap as usual focused on the money spent, bureaucratic structures and plans and performance measured against inputs rather than outputs,” Senator Scullion said. “I agree with Macklin when she says that after five years now is an appropriate time to reflect on what Labor has achieved. Arguable progress in only three of the six closing the gap targets is not much of a scorecard. “Closing the gap is a bi-partisan task and we share the Government’s good intentions absolutely, but in all things delivery has never been a strong suit of the Gillard Government. “I also agree with Macklin that we need sustained change over time, but you cannot simply flick the switch to autopilot and walk away. You can’t simply cough up the money and then let the bureaucrats waste it.
“Saying sorry was an important national milestone and generated great expectations. Kevin Rudd himself declared on the day that progress in housing would be his priority,” he said. On the housing issue Senator Scullion was quite scathing of the governments SIHIP housing project. “Their SIHIP housing project in the NT in particular has been a disaster with the task of eliminating overcrowding still ahead of us despite the massive expenditure,” he said. Comparisons on the track record of both governments were highlighted by the Shadow Indigenous Affairs spokesman, especially in infant mortality and education. “The reduction in the infant mortality rate has been on track to achieve the target since 1998 under the Howard government. Halving
the gap for Indigenous students in year 12 was also headed in that direction before the Rudd/Gillard Government came to power. “They say they will achieve the target for access to early education for 4 year olds in remote areas. Frankly I do not believe the spin, it smacks of more bureaucratic smoke and mirrors. The centrepiece of their remote area strategy was to be the construction of 38 preschools – but it turns out that most of these are located in nonremote areas and it is not clear how many have been built. While they praise themselves for the supposed number of enrolments the Prime Minister herself admitted that the results did not indicate the level of actual attendance - and that is what really counts. “The gap in the unemployment rate has only reduced by less than two percent since 2006. Macklin did not mention the abysmal
Senator Nigel Scullion talking to some workers in Hermannsburg. Image supplied
Minister Jenny Macklin with PM Julia Gillard and members of the National Congress. Image: David Foote courtesy AUSPIC
NAPLAN results in her speech as they show the education gap has gone backwards in 14 of the 20 NAPLAN indicators since 2011. Sadly the life expectancy gap appears not to have demonstrably changed. “In the end it is Indigenous people on the ground that experience the reality of delivery not matching the rhetoric. They simply want and deserve value for money and results. That is not too much to ask and that is what all governments must deliver,” Senator Scullion said. Minister Jenny Macklin said it was “Another day, another Indigenous organisation on Abbott’s chopping block” in response to questions First Nations Telegraph and others have raised this week on whether the Indigenous Affairs budget will be slashed should the the Coalition government win office after the September 14 elections. “Yet another Indigenous
organisation faces a savage funding cut if Tony Abbott is elected Prime Minister,” Minister Macklin said. “Shadow Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion has told The Australian all about the Coalition’s plans to cut support for Indigenous Australians. “He also revealed he did not believe the National Congress of Australia’s First peoples should receive commonwealth funding as it made the peak body dependant. “The Gillard Government knows that closing the gap requires a genuine partnership with Indigenous Australians and supports Congress to give Indigenous people a strong national voice on issues and policies that affect them. “The Coalition has also put into doubt its commitment to the national Closing the Gap targets – jeopardising years of progress to reduce Indigenous disadvantage that has been underpinned by
unprecedented investments from this Labor Government. “We have set out a clear pathway to close the gap, and we’re making the investments that are needed to get there. “Without the assurance of long term investments, and the security to plan for the future, we will not close the gap,” Minister Macklins explained. “On Monday Mr Abbott was directly asked if he would cut funding for Indigenous programs and he refused to give an answer. “And today we’ve learnt about yet another Indigenous organisation that is on Tony Abbott’s chopping block. “It’s now crystal clear that Tony Abbott will cut vital funding if he is elected Prime Minister – and Indigenous people won’t be spared. “But Mr Abbott still won’t front up and admit it. “Why are you hiding, Mr Abbott?” Minister Macklin said.