MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE - Budget

 

 I rise to speak on the matter of public importance raised by my colleague Senator O'Neill. The budget plans to give an $80 million tax handout to big business, but there is no commitment to addressing the needs of First Nations peoples inherent in Closing the Gap. There is no fiscal commitment for remote housing in the states of South Australia, Queensland or my own home state of Western Australia. This is a slash of $1.5 billion over four years to these states. The consequences for health, education, employment and family safety will be devastating. To reduce family violence, you must reduce overcrowding. The whole sense of this as an imperative to dealing with the Closing the Gap strategy is highlighted by this neglect. It is an absolute indictment on the Turnbull government for not pursuing this.

Yet again, millions of dollars will be lost to Western Australia, especially in the remote regions, with no Commonwealth commitment to build and maintain houses in our communities. Good progress was being made under the national partnership, particularly in Queensland, where the delivery of homes was taking place, employment was increasing, apprenticeships were being undertaken and small businesses were being achieved. All of this is placed at risk because there is no agreement and there are no outlays being made or committed to by this government to the state of Queensland.

There is no vision, as we have heard from Senator Siewert, on the reform of the CDP, the Community Development Program. There may be an improvement for 6,000 people on a new wage subsidy, but the reform does nothing for the 30,000 mostly First Nations peoples who are subject to the scheme. Penalties are still inbuilt in the reduced hours. The poor will be trapped in poverty and will be punished as a consequence of that poverty and for their noncompliance with the drastic rules that the scheme promotes. The cut of $5 million in the 2014 budget has not been restored. The failure of the IAS program remains, and it seems from the budget documents that some $30 million has been cut over the 2018 year from the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio. This will have severe consequences for legal services. It is not clear which of the services will have the responsibility, in addition to the work that they have now, to deal with the civil matters as well as criminal matters.

The budget sends a message to First Nations peoples that we are, in fact, a dying race, worthy only of support in aged care, in suicide prevention and in poor health. It is good that there is new assistance for patients needing renal care and dialysis. But what good is that if you do not have a house to return to? Supply Nation may create some opportunities for selected organisations and Aboriginal businesses; however, there's no clarity about the governance, the employment and the training commitments of those organisations. This budget for First Nations, is for me—listening to the hype that has been around in this chamber—like being a stolen generation child in a foster home on Christmas night, watching the natural children of the foster parents getting all of the presents while the stolen generation child gets to pick up the wrappers. We await the minister entering and putting coloured balloons on the tree, so that we can clap. We are left out, forgotten, neglected and ignored. The government needs to redress this if we are going to do something that provides justice for the First Nations peoples.

Stay up to date by subscribing to my newsletter.