Legislative Council: Tuesday, May 03, 2022


National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (16:38): I seek leave to make an explanation before directing questions to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The public record shows that Labor, when it was previously in office prior to 2018, refused to put any state funding on the table for the national partnership on remote housing, yet in opposition it was one of the then leader's favourite topics in question time, in effect asking me on a regular basis: how is the Marshall Liberal government fixing Labor's messes? My questions to the minister are:

1. Why did the then minister for housing, the Hon. Zoe Bettison, who in 2017 knew that the agreement was due to expire, as the Hon. Ken Wyatt had stated on 6 February 2018 'refused to put any money on the table as part of those bilateral discussions'?

2. As the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, what role did he play in securing commonwealth funding for NPARIH beyond the agreement?

3. Why did Labor think it was morally responsible—

The Hon. I.K. Hunter interjecting:


The Hon. I.K. Hunter: You sold out the state.

The PRESIDENT: Order! The Hon. Mr Hunter, I think the minister will be able to answer this question.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: —to kick the funding agreement down the road, potentially causing uncertainty for Aboriginal people living in remote communities?

4. Finally, given the minister's comments in the last four years in opposition, how much additional funding will the Malinauskas government contribute to remote housing in South Australia over the next four years?

The Hon. I.K. Hunter: How many houses have you built, Michelle? Not one—not one.

The PRESIDENT: I call the Attorney-General. The Hon. Mr Hunter, I think the Attorney-General will be—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! I want to hear from the Attorney-General.

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Attorney-General, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (16:40): I thank the honourable member for her question. It is a curious question, because as the honourable member admits in her question, the member's abject failure in this area was noted time and time again over the last four years. Prior to the Hon. Michelle Lensink becoming minister for housing, South Australia secured, over 10 years, a $293 million agreement with the commonwealth for remote Aboriginal housing under the NPARIH agreement—$293 million.

During the 10-year life of that agreement of $293 million, South Australia—I think, but I will check if it is incorrect—had the most efficient housing build to give the best bang for buck for Aboriginal housing in South Australia. We know what happened, because we have talked about it in this chamber before. When that ran out, the commonwealth just said, 'Well, we're not going to give that sort of agreement anymore. We're going to drastically cut the funding.'

What's more, the commonwealth said to the new minister coming in, 'We're going to give you a small sum of money and no more ever again.' And do you know what the minister did at the time, the Hon. Michelle Lensink? At the time she said, 'Fine.' She just rolled over and said—

Members interjecting:


The Hon. K.J. MAHER: —'Actually, don't worry about it. Don't worry about any more commonwealth funding.'

Members interjecting:


The Hon. K.J. MAHER: Don't worry about giving us $293 million over 10 years, nearly $30 million a year.

Members interjecting:


The Hon. K.J. MAHER: We know at the time, because we have talked about it here, that members from the commonwealth were talking to the Labor opposition, trying to save the minister at the time from herself. She had agreed in principle to an amount that would have seen us get almost nothing from the commonwealth. The commonwealth had to intervene to protect the minister from herself, and we were told at the time that they had to go above the minister's level to make sure South Australia got even a reasonable amount under an Aboriginal housing agreement.

I will tell you what we will do, sir. We will fight for our share with the commonwealth. What we will do is we won't roll over and say, 'Give us a little bit now and nothing ever again.' That amount that the minister accepted from the commonwealth and then no more in perpetuity has seen the former Liberal government—

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: That is not true.


The Hon. K.J. MAHER: The minister interjects and says that's not true.

Members interjecting:


The Hon. K.J. MAHER: We reserve the right to say. 'Please sir, give us a little more.' The minister says we reserve the right to try to get a little bit more, maybe at some indeterminate time in the future. The measly amount that the former Liberal minister rolled over and accepted from the commonwealth and no more ever again saw the former government have a plan of brand-new builds in the APY lands, for instance, over the next 10 years of nothing—nothing, zero.

That's how the minister treated Aboriginal housing. I will tell you what we will do: we will be fighting for our share. We will be negotiating properly with the commonwealth to make sure Aboriginal South Australians get housing agreements like we have seen in other states, not in South Australia, where the former government rolled over.