My question is to Senator Evans, the Minister representing the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. A number of houses have been renovated in Ali Curung near Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory under the Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure program. How many houses have been renovated in Ali Curung to date? What was the total cost of these renovations? Who agreed that the little maintenance work that has been completed constituted a renovation and authorised payment?
SENATOR CHRIS EVANS:
I thank the senator for his question. I am not sure whether I have the specific information that the senator requested, but I will try to answer his questions as best I can based on the brief I have. I am not sure that I have specific information on that particular community, but it is true that the Australian government is committed to delivering 750 new houses, 230 rebuilds and 2,500 refurbishments of houses in remote Northern Territory communities by 2013. Work is currently underway in 47 communities and the Alice Springs and Tennant Creek town camps. There are over 60 new houses under construction in a variety of communities, and those include two new houses in Wadeye. There are also 90 existing houses in poor condition being built or refurbished. Over 120 rebuilds and refurbishments have been completed and handed back to the Northern Territory government for allocation to families.
A recent assessment of the program by independent consultants found that the changes in recommendations of the 2009 review had been implemented and had put the program on track to achieve its targets of 750 new houses, 230 rebuilds and 2,500 refurbishments over the period to 2013. The assessment also found that the administration costs of the program are currently below eight per cent and that the end-of-year target of completing 1,000 rebuilds and refurbishments and 150 new houses is achievable.
That is the response that I can give on general matters affecting Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. I do not think that I have a brief on the particular community that the senator referred to, but I am happy to take that part of the question on notice.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for the answer and for taking the particulars of that question on notice. Can the minister explain how houses can be handed back to tenants without glass in the windows and with no cupboards or shelves in the kitchens? Are these houses to be counted in the government’s report as completed renovations?
SENATOR CHRIS EVANS:
Obviously, I am not able to confirm whether the claim implicit in the senator’s question is correct or not. I assume that he is making the allegation that those conditions apply. I did say that the government has had the program assessed by independent consultants, who have found that the program is on track. If the senator has identified particular issues of concern, he ought to make them known to the relevant departmental people or to the minister’s office directly. Clearly, we would want to investigate all of the complaints that he has made. We do, as I say, have a report that says that the program is on track, but any concerns that he has will be addressed. (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Minister, I am sad that you do not have the briefs in front of you. If you could provide the details on notice, I would appreciate it. Today it has been reported that one of the SIHIP alliance partners has been sacked, reportedly for not meeting construction targets. Was the purpose of scaling back the scope of the refurbishments simply designed to cut time and money from the SIHIP so the government can pretend that they have met their promises? Do the government place their own image and rhetoric above the needs and comfort of Aboriginal Australians?
SENATOR CHRIS EVANS:
I am not sure what point Senator Scullion is trying to make, but it is the case that agreement has been reached between the Australian and Northern Territory governments and Earth Connect Alliance that Earth Connect Alliance will cease its operations under SIHIP. Territory Alliance will now take on the work that was being delivered by Earth Connect at Groote Eylandt and a number of other communities. The Australian government has appointed a transition manager to work with local residents, the program directors and alliance partners to ensure that the change is managed in a way that minimises disruption to work in these locations.
As part of the change process, Territory Alliance has already agreed to continue the employment of all locally engaged employees in those communities. The Australian and Northern Territory governments are determined that the SIHIP will deliver high-quality works in a timely and cost-effective way. (Time expired)
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