Labor’s talk is cheap in Indigenous Affairs. All spin and no substance.
Labor’s hollow announcement that it would work with the Land Councils to reform Aboriginals Benefit Account (ABA) funding processes flies in the face of Labor’s record and wilfully ignores the positive changes the Coalition has made in office.
Labor’s media release does not announce anything. All Labor is committing to is to talk to the Northern Territory Land Councils about the ABA – something that is a part and parcel of being the Minister for Indigenous Affairs. What a commitment!
Labor has a track record of using the ABA as a political slush fund without any respect for the authority of the ABA Advisory Committee and Aboriginal people in the NT.
In 2013, Labor’s then Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin and Warren Snowdon approved funding of $90 million for government staff housing without proper consultation with the ABA Advisory Committee.
Ms Macklin and Mr Snowdon consistently used the ABA to fund projects and programmes that governments should fund, to the point that Labor expenditure from the Account exceeded the revenue that was going in. This is in complete contravention of the intention of the Account to be a fund for the long-term benefit of Aboriginal people in the NT for many generations to come.
Unsurprisingly, Labor ignores the substantial reforms that have been made by the Coalition in the past three years that have seen the value of the Account increase by about $100 million. That is money that will directly improve the lives of Aboriginal people in the NT rather than increasing the funding for Land Councils.
Labor has not even committed to match the Coalition’s policy to only fund grant projects that have been approved by the ABA Advisory Committee – critical to our commitment to work with Aboriginal people.
The ABA media release follows Labor’s announcement regarding the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples in which it criticised me for not funding Congress. That would have more weight if Labor had promised to fund the organisation. Except it didn’t.
I challenge Labor to clarify what specifically it will change to the way ABA funding is allocated and how much, if any, funding it will provide to Congress. Otherwise its announcements are not worth the paper they are written on.