Cross Portfolio Matters
This chapter contains key issues discussed during the 2012-2013 budget
estimates hearings for cross portfolio Indigenous matters pursuant to
Resolution of the Senate of 26 August 2008.
The following portfolio departments were in attendance:
- Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
- Health and Ageing
- Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
The committee heard evidence from portfolio departments on Friday 1 June
2012. Areas of the portfolios were called in the following order:
- General Financial Matters
Closing the Gap
Northern Territory Emergency Response
- Coordinator General for Remote Indigenous Services
- Health Issues
- Employment and Economic Development
- Aboriginals Benefit Account
Remote Jobs and Communities Program
- Indigenous Business Australia
- Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations
Closing the Gap
Proceedings commenced with questions to the Department of Families,
Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs related to funding of a
range of Indigenous policies and programs, such as Healing Foundation, the
Stronger Futures package, and programs targeted at Closing the Gap.
Officials were reluctant to answer a number of questions about
allocation of funds to programs affected by partnership agreements with other
governments, as negotiations were still underway. Mr Pratt commented that, 'not
to put too fine a point on it, I am sure that our negotiating partners are
observing this and it would be unwise of us to go into too much detail about
what might happen'.
Senator Scullion asked a series of questions about arrangements for
additional police officers in remote Northern Territory communities. Answers
clarified that all Australian Federal Police Officers had now been replaced
with Northern Territory police (apart from a very small number in coordination
roles), but that the Commonwealth was continuing to fund the officers. This
funding was under the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) and the
National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap, and would continue under the
Stronger Futures package.
Questions were asked about the liquor licences. It emerged that, under the
Alice Springs Transformation Plan, Commonwealth funds had been allocated to
purchase two takeaway outlet liquor licences, with negotiations underway for a
third. These licences were then surrendered and cancelled. However, at a
similar time, the Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation received funds through
the Aboriginal benefits Account to contribute to the cost of purchasing three
supermarkets, which they now operate. All three had liquor licences attached to
Mr Coffey, the Regional Director South from the Department of Families,
Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Northern Territory State
Office, explained that the government was working to strengthen alcohol
management plans for the supermarkets. During the questioning, Mr Coffey stated
that the amount for which the liquor licences had been purchased was 'in
confidence'. Senator Scullion flagged that he might pursue this matter further,
subject to advice.
Office of the Coordinator General
for Remote Indigenous Services
Questions for Mr Gleeson, the Coordinator General for Remote Indigenous
Services, began by referring to the recently-release report of the Coordinator
General, which contained some figures about child sexual abuse that were widely
reported in the media.
Mr Gleeson provided a statement to the committee about the report, in
which he emphasised what he saw as the bigger issue, which was the need for
governments to implement all recommendations from the Mullighan inquiry of
He identified six recommendations that he was planning to pursue with the South
Questions were asked about a range of program funding and administration
decisions. Officials indicated that the Australian Nurse-Family Partnership
program, Health @ Home Plus, was not going to be extended beyond three trial
sites, owing to a range of difficulties with the model. They indicated that the
Commonwealth is 'not walking out of the nurse home visiting space, [but is]
just not going to continue with this particular model'.
Committee members continued to pursue the ongoing issue of support for,
and supply of, Aboriginal community health workers,
sought updates on a range of programs such as those for eye and ear health,
and obtained details in relation to recent policy announcements regarding
mental health and suicide prevention.
Senators asked questions about the roll-out of low aromatic ('Opal')
fuel in central Australia, focussing on why a small number of outlets are not
making this fuel available.
The committee is currently conducting an inquiry into a Bill, the Low Aromatic
Fuel Bill 2012, which aims to address some of the issues raised both before and
during the estimates hearing.
Employment and Economic Development
Committee members sought explanations of various aspects of the Remote
Jobs and Communities Program. There was particular attention to tendering
processes, procurement guidelines and the formulation of performance criteria
for the program.
Committee members have had long-standing concerns about progress in
providing new housing and refurbishment of existing housing in Indigenous
Senators had expressed concern about the cost and quality of some work, and how
these related to the scope of works for the projects. The process of getting
information was slowed by the fact that while the program is Commonwealth
funded, the scope of works for each project is managed by the Northern
Territory government. Following a series of questions in previous hearings, the
Commonwealth wrote to the Northern Territory seeking access to the scope of
Officials advised the committee that the scope of works were now going to be
made available, but remain concerned to find a way that they can be examined
without creating excessive work for both Northern Territory and Commonwealth
As in previous hearings, committee members continued to query the value and
effectiveness of aspects of the project.
Questions were asked around progress in the area of homeownership, during
which officials noted that it was a challenging area, and that they had learned
'we should not underestimate the challenges there are in putting the land
tenure system in place'.
Indigenous Business Australia
Evidence given by Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) at the committee's
hearing in February 2012 is the subject of a separate inquiry by this
committee. That evidence related to an IBA conference on the Gold Coast, and
IBA's investments in Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. The committee received
anonymous allegations claiming that the evidence given by IBA on these matters
had been misleading.
During the estimates, these allegations were not discussed. Questions
were asked however about the Tjapukai investment itself, funding spent to date,
planned future investments, and the processes that were used by IBA to support
Office of the Registrar of
There was a short period of questioning of the Office of the Registrar
of Indigenous Corporations, particularly in relation to an organisation called
Gumala. ORIC advised the committee that a case relating to the organisation was
currently before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, prompting Senator
Scullion to indicate that, in those circumstances, he would not pursue access
to the document that arose from a review of Gumala.
Senator Claire Moore
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