ESTIMATES UNCOVERS THE SCOPE OF CUTS TO REMOTE HOUSING

26 Oct 2018

Today’s Senate Estimates have highlighted the failure of Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion to negotiate a new remote Indigenous housing agreement with the states and territories.

SENATOR THE HON DOUG CAMERON
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS
SHADOW MINISTER FOR SKILLS, TAFE AND APPRENTICESHIPS
SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES

ESTIMATES UNCOVERS THE SCOPE OF CUTS TO REMOTE HOUSING
 

Today’s Senate Estimates have highlighted the failure of Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion to negotiate a new remote Indigenous housing agreement with the states and territories.
 
Shadow Housing and Homelessness Minister, Senator Doug Cameron, said today’s hearings also exposed the scale of the Coalition’s cuts to remote housing.
In its May Budget, the Coalition effectively axed the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing (NPARIH), which had invested $5.4 billion over the previous decade to address severe overcrowding.
 
The Government’s own independent review clearly states that “high levels of overcrowding and poor housing condition negatively impact on outcomes in health, education, employment and safety.”
 
The decision left Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia without any ongoing funding arrangement for remote Indigenous housing.
 
Evidence today from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet revealed that contrary to claims by Minister Scullion that “there are no cuts to housing”, no new Commonwealth funds have being delivered this year.
 
“As a matter of urgency, Minister Scullion must establish a program of negotiations with state and territory governments to resolve future Commonwealth funding arrangements for remote Indigenous housing,” Senator Cameron said.
 
“Priority must be given to a building program that assists in reducing the negative health implications of severe overcrowding.”
 
Reports by the ABC just this week have drawn attention to the prevalence of Rheumatic Heart Disease in remote Indigenous communities. RHD is a preventable illness affecting about 6,000 Australians, with Indigenous children 55 times more likely to die from the disease than their non-Indigenous peers.
The causes can be as common as repeated throat and skin infections, caused by living in overcrowded housing conditions, but the consequences can be devastating, leading to permanent heart damage and even death.
“Despite the seriousness of the issues, Minister Scullion’s performance today was aggressive, amateurish and incompetent,” Senator Cameron said.
 
“It’s clear that if the Minister is unable to reach agreements with the states and territories he will be responsible for the ongoing poor health outcomes in remote communities.”
 
Labor believes a committed, ongoing partnership from all levels of government is essential to meet the scale of the need in remote communities.
The Morrison Government should be working cooperatively with Indigenous communities to ensure services are delivered as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Senator Cameron said that in light of Minister’s performance, Prime Minister Morrison should seriously consider whether he has confidence in his ability to carry out his responsibilities in the portfolio.
 
FRIDAY, 26 OCTOBER 2018
Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.