Mr Speaker, I move that so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition from moving the following motion, that the House:
- Calls on the Prime Minister to:
- Support the Opposition’s call for a Royal Commission into child sexual abuse in Indigenous communities;
- Audit spending on Indigenous programs; and
- Support practical policy ideas to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians to help close the gap.
Mr Speaker, there can be no higher priority for this Government or for this nation than taking care of those who are most vulnerable in our society.
As a country, we’ve taken decisions to conduct Royal Commissions in relation to matters around the treatment of people within aged care facilities, the treatment of people with disabilities – and they have all been just and noble causes – and they’ve given rise to recommendations and considerations for our society as to how we might move forward with policy changes, the investments of taxpayers money to make for better outcomes for those people.
It is absolutely unbelievable that this Government would reject now, yet again – by not even taking this motion to discuss it before the Parliament – the prospect of finding a pathway forward to helping young Indigenous kids in communities like in Alice Springs, like in Tennant Creek and elsewhere, these are the most vulnerable of children in the country.
For every person in this House, the thought of a child being sexually assaulted or exploited by any adult, by any other individual is a complete abomination.
The depth and feeling when you speak to people in Alice Springs, as I’ve done with Jacinta Price – it is palpable. When you speak with people who are involved in community services, in policing – they are heartbroken. They are exhausted. The capacity of the Northern Territory Government to respond is limited.
And somehow, we don’t see it as a priority in this Parliament, or at least this Prime Minister doesn’t see it as a priority for this Parliament to call for a Royal Commission, to understand what is happening, to have such a significant prevalence of child sexual abuse within Indigenous communities – not within every Indigenous community – of course not; and where it’s not taking place, where the elders are stepping up, where the leadership is being provided in those communities – let’s replicate that into other communities where that is not the case.
The use of pornographic material, the use of devices, the power imbalance that exists in some of the communities is something that needs to be delved into; and a Royal Commission has the ability to pull people in to provide evidence, to look at the situation as it exists, particularly within those most remote communities, and to provide a way forward.
That’s what the Australian people voted for last Saturday.
Mr Speaker, the Australian people didn’t want a continuation of the window dressing. They didn’t want another committee. They didn’t want another ATSIC. They want practical action.
The Australian public is demanding action on Indigenous policy from their Prime Minister, but they’re not getting it because this Prime Minister is weak, indecisive and when he does make a decision, it’s the wrong decision.
We’ve seen it time over.
We are letting down those most vulnerable in our community because of his inability to deal with this issue.
Now, it might be against the politics of some within land councils or some within communities who have vested interests otherwise. The task of the Prime Minister, the leader of our nation, is to push that to one side and to advance forward in the interests of those who he must serve: the young Indigenous children in these communities.
We know Mr Speaker, that there are billions of dollars written from Canberra, from the states and territories going into the Indigenous funding for programs, for rollout of different community programs and the like.
We do know though, that whilst the billions of dollars come in the funnel from Canberra, in many of these communities it is a trickle when it gets to the people who are most in need.
There was a lady interviewed yesterday morning – just by way of one example – on ABC Breakfast, she lived about 80 kilometres from Alice Springs, and she spoke about the need for her community – and the Government wants to talk about the Voice and how that layer of bureaucracy may have been the panacea – but this woman couldn’t have been any clearer in her advice: they needed water, they need housing, and they needed a road upgrade between that community and Alice Springs.
The Member for Lingiari’s nodding in furious agreement with this. Why isn’t it happening? The money’s there, the money’s been given. The money’s been given, and what’s happened? It’s being diverted away from the causes most in need – and yet those with vested interests, the elites here, including many within the Labor Party, don’t want to shine a light on this problem.
So, if you want to condemn ourselves to the same failure of the past over decades, pretend that there’s nothing wrong here. Pretend that all the money is being spent wisely, pretend that that road is being fixed, that the water is being supplied, pretend that the housing is being built, because it’s not. It’s not.
And when the Labor Party came into government and they immediately removed the restrictions in relation to alcohol management, you know what happened? Violence spiked, domestic violence goes through the roof, the abuse of children spikes.
Now, why would Labor have done that? What was the policy rationale for doing it, Minister? There was none. There was none. It was ideologically driven, because it pleases, as we see in a number of these issues, it pleases their inner-city seat membership of the Labor Party because that’s what the woke brigade want to hear, that everybody can do without the alcohol management, everybody should be treated properly. The problem is in these communities there’s a significant problem.
Now, the Government backtracked on that issue and on that restriction, which was partly reimposed; you know what happened? There was a reduction in the violence because the Minister, the Chief Minister from the Northern Territory was ultimately pressured into a position where she picked the phone up to the Prime Minister and said, ‘you’ve made a dreadful mistake. You’ve made a dreadful mistake, Prime Minister’.
It was one of his early ones, but not the last, but it was certainly a very significant one and an impactful one because there are individuals and families, and women in particular, who suffer because of those policy decisions and in some cases because of the indecision.
So why wouldn’t we, Mr Speaker, support the motion today which calls on an audit to be conducted on spending within Indigenous programs.
That’s not a radical suggestion. It’s not the first time it’s been heard, but this Prime Minister refuses resolutely to even listen to it.
And the treatment of Jacinta Price when she’s made the same suggestion in the Senate, I think has been quite deplorable and should be denounced by the Prime Minister, but I suspect it won’t be.
When you look at the response of the Labor Party in the Senate, you get a bit of a sense of some of the ideological approach within the Labor Party when you listen to the words of Senator Tim Ayres where he said in relation to Senator Jacinta Price’s same motion being moved in the Senate. He said and I quote; ‘like many of the interventions by those opposite, this is all about the politics and not about the solution. What is the content of this motion and the letter really about?’
Here’s what he said: ‘it’s really about an angry pursuit of the people who those opposite don’t like and who didn’t agree with them in the recent Referendum’.
I mean could you be any less sensitive than that? I mean I see Labor members over there nodding their heads in agreement with Senator Ayres. His comments should be condemned. They should be condemned.
This is about protecting children, it’s about protecting vulnerable children in our country who are being sexually abused, and those children, those girls in particular, those girls in particular are the ones who will suffer for a lifetime and the Labor Party who want to show that they’ve got great big hearts, and they’re so much more compassionate than us, that they wouldn’t support this shows what hypocrites they are, shows what hypocrites they are.
These are children who will suffer lifetime mental scarring because of this physical abuse and the police need to act on it, and the agencies in the Northern Territory need to act, and the fact is that they are being hamstrung by the authorities in the Northern Territory to the shame of the Chief Minister.
And that this Prime Minister would be complicit in that ignorance, and in the inability to act, to save those young children is a damning indictment on this Prime Minister and on this hopeless Government.