Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Opposition Whip) (16:01): I will point out a couple of things to the member for Paterson. One is that Senator Nampijinpa Price has been calling for a royal commission since April. It wasn’t just this week. It has been well over six months now since this issue was identified, and it should be acted upon. I was very disappointed today that it was not; the opportunity was not taken.
The other thing I’d point out is that the member for Paterson said that Aboriginal people voted yes in the referendum. I was astounded by the uniformity of in the results from the voting centres in Grey. In the towns that had higher levels of Indigenous populations, the vote was two per cent—of 80; we sit at 78.6 at the moment—and the towns with almost no Indigenous people voted the same. I’ve never seen a referendum or an election that had such a uniform result across the 141 voting booths in Grey. I think that puts the lie to that. Many Aboriginal people voted no in this referendum, and we saw many of them come out publicly to back that point of view.
It’s worth noting that it was identified in the last week, in a very good article in the Australian, that 35 per cent of Aboriginal people sit within the lowest quintile of income in Australia—so 35 per cent of Aboriginals are in the bottom 20 per cent of income earners in Australia—and then it was pinpointed where they are. They are largely in the remote and very remote parts of Australia, and that is where they are in my electorate as well. Probably about 40 per cent of the Indigenous people in the electorate of Grey live in remote and very remote communities. It is in those communities where they are well overrepresented—it’s more than 35 per cent. In fact, over 60 per cent sit within the lowest quintile of income. It is there that we need to address that gap. That is where we need to go to work.
I’m a regular visitor to all those communities, whether it be the APY Lands, the far west Aboriginal lands or the lands of the Arabana, the Adnyamathanha, the Kokatha or many other groups that sit within the electorate of Grey. I make a point of meeting with them and discussing what can help. I’m always amazed when I go to these communities—I meet with NGO after NGO, and I meet with government worker after government worker, and they all explain to me what program they are delivering. I sit down and talk with them, and I think: ‘That sounds alright. That’s a good idea. It sounds like they’re doing a great job.’ And I go along and to talk to the next one, and they’re doing a great job—everybody’s doing a great job, from one end to the other. Then I say to them, ‘If you’re all doing such a great job, why is it getting worse?’ And you can almost see the blood run from their face as they think, ‘Oh, I never thought of that before.’
But the fact of the matter is that, for all the money that’s going into the top of the funnel, we’re not getting much of a result out the bottom. In fact, we are going backwards in many of these communities, and that is why we are calling for an audit. We need to find out why tipping the money in the top isn’t actually making a difference down on the ground. I’m not saying that people are out there scooping up the cash, taking it home and building mansions out on the east coast. What I’m saying is this: whatever programs we are delivering, they’re not delivering the effect that they should be. We should have the guts to examine why that is.
For too long, people of all political persuasions have actually measured their contribution or their effort to close the gap in the number of dollars poured into the top of the funnel—very rarely do we actually examine the programs and look at what they’re producing at the bottom end. Clearly we’re not getting kids into school. We’ve had a go at a number of programs. I’ve seen them work sometimes and not work at other times. But kids are living in houses where they can’t get to bed at night because there are poker games going on all night, there are too many people in the house all-out drunk, there’s violence or they’re getting raped. It’s no wonder they’re not doing well at school. One of the reasons they’re not doing well at school is that their parents don’t make them go to school. All these things are fundamental issues. Unless we can get them an education, we can’t give them the keys to success in modern Australia. It is those people and those programs that we need to have an audit of to find out what works, what doesn’t and where the money’s going.