The Senate will now consider the proposal from Senator Nampijinpa Price:
Pursuant to standing order 75, I give notice that today I propose to move "That, in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:
The need for Prime Minister Albanese 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."
Is consideration of the proposal supported?
More than the number of senators required by the standing orders having risen in their places—
With the concurrence of the Senate, the clerks will set the clock in line with the informal arrangements made by the whips.
Jacinta Nampijinpa Price
That, in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:
The need for Prime Minister Albanese 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.
I rise today to speak on the urgent need for Prime Minister Albanese and the Labor government to support the coalition'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 and to help close the gap.
Earlier this year, I had the privilege of being joined by the Leader of the Opposition, who has on several occasions travelled to spend real time on the ground in the Northern Territory and hear directly from remote and rural Australian communities. While in the Territory, in my home town of Alice Springs, the opposition leader heard stories of what too many people in remote and rural Australia know all too well—stories of child sexual abuse and stories of children being neglected and abused.
Stories of Indigenous Australians are being ignored because their problems and the solutions they are suggesting don’t fit this government's agenda. There are stories like that of my niece known as Ruby, as reported in the_Australian_ in 2022. In the remote Northern Territory town of Yuendumu, Ruby, then just 15, was beaten and raped by her own father. Ruby recounts trying to tell her family in Yuendumu of the horrific abuse she was suffering but says they didn't want to believe her. Incredibly, Ruby found the courage to speak up, and two years later, at just 17 years old, she testified against him. A judge in the case said the abuse had been protracted and prolonged and involved the use of weapons.
I know of a case now being dealt with where, from the age of six, a girl was raped and abused by her cousin, a man 12 years older than her. For seven years this young girl was tortured, frightened and in need of help, with no-one to turn to because too many community and family members turned a blind eye. It was only after leaving her home and moving interstate with a family member that she was able to find an adult who would help her.
But helplessness extends to the hands of organisations funded supposedly to help. The ANAO has found that the Northern Land Council is not fully implementing its fraud and corruption policy and that the Central Land Council's fraud control arrangements fall short of the minimum requirements. As I've said many times before, the gap is more about place than about race. It exists not between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians but between the cities and remote Australia, between those who have easy access to education, medicines and emergency services and those who do not. We need to focus our efforts on our most marginalised.
Over the weekend, Australians sent a loud and clear message that they want real outcomes for Indigenous Australians, and particularly our most marginalised. They do not want more of the same. They don't want more bureaucracy; they don't want an activist talkfest. They want accountability, they want transparency and they want action. We need action for those children in remote communities, our most marginalised, suffering sexual abuse, neglect and other abuse. Labor, the Greens and Senator David Pocock have denied our attempts before and chosen to be silent and overlook these issues. This is the last time. Join us in what Australians overwhelmingly seek or we will do it ourselves and hold you all to account.
Of course child sexual assault is abhorrent, and everybody in this place would condemn it. I notice that the relevant organisation in this space in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, SNAICC, has said another royal commission, another inquiry, is not a solution. Like many of the interventions by those opposite, this is all about the politics and not about the solution. It's always about the politics, never about the solution. What is the content of this motion and the letter really about? 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.
Let me make the government's position on this referendum really clear. We accept the result of the referendum unequivocally—without equivocation. The Prime Minister made that very clear on Saturday evening. I understand that there are those opposite who are not interested in solutions but interested in the politics. They are interested in looking for an argument, not in looking for solutions. What we as a government will do is listen. We will listen carefully. We will, as I said, having accepted what happened over the course of the weekend, listen carefully and continue to proceed in a careful and deliberate way. We will listen carefully to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. There is a difference, of course, between the approaches. The Prime Minister of Australia said many, many times in the lead-up to the last election that we would hold a referendum on the request that was made to us in the Uluru statement. And do you know what the Prime Minister did? He held the referendum.
Everyone sat here and listened to Jacinta! How about some respect!
Order at that end of the chamber! Senator Cox!
We advocated for the argument that we believed in the referendum and we did not prevail—
Order! Senator Hughes?
On a point of order, this is just not relevant. This has absolutely nothing to do with the question. The point of order is on the direct relevance of this contribution, which has nothing to do with the royal commission.
It is a wide-ranging debate, and interjections are disorderly. Senator Ayres, if you could wander back—
I am, of course, responding to the contribution before me, which dealt in substance with these issues. Of course, that's what the Prime Minister did. He did what he said he was going to do, and he advocated for what he believed in. What have we seen from the Leader of the Opposition? In the lead-up to the end of the referendum campaign, he said he wanted a second referendum. And then, in record-breaking time, he flipped over and said we won't have a referendum.
Opposition senators interjecting—
Then, less than 24 hours later, he said we will have one. He changed his mind more quickly and more often than Kamahl. At least Kamahl is popular! What this Leader of the Opposition—
Order! Senator Hughes?
I raise a point of order on relevance. This has nothing to do with the royal commission—it's a wide berth. It's in a different state let alone suburb.
Read the motion!
Do you know what? We have read the motion.
It's child sexual abuse, and you are turning it down. You are turning a blind eye to child sexual assault. You should be ashamed of yourself.
Senator Hughes, please! All interjections are disorderly. I would remind the chamber of that and that speakers should be heard in respectful silence.
We have the Leader of the Opposition—the angriest man in Australian politics and the most extreme leader of the Liberal and National parties in our history, always looking for an argument, never interested in solutions—all of a sudden saying he's interested in a common approach. You'd have to be forgiven for being cynical about what that is all about. Of course, all of the claims will be made and all of the politics played, but what this government will do is continue to listen. (Time expired)
This motion, which calls for a royal commission, has been moved, but it's not in good faith. As someone who's worked with, advocated for and supported victims-survivors, I know the unacceptable statistics for broader Australia but also for First Nations people. This week, the hypocritical attempt to talk up another royal commission into this issue will just be another segue into the intervention-type approach to demonise First Nations people in this country. It will never be framed to understand the real issues, which the opposition have already stated that they don't believe exist for our people, which goes against the plethora of research. It definitely won't focus on the prevalence of white people targeting our communities. It will not be framed in a way that's trauma informed. It won't talk about the systemic failures, most of which have been during the time of their successive governments. It will be dressed up to demonise our communities and our culture, which have sustained us for tens of thousands of years.
Our mob are hurting right now. And I know some people in this chamber don't care. But it's another attempt at their erasure politics—the lack of care, the lack of support and the lack of empathy.
Culture is definitely not the issue here. It is about poverty.
If you're poor, you can rape children? Really?
It is about lack of access to health care, trauma counselling and healing, education, overcrowding—
A point of order—
Honourable senators interjecting—
Order! Order, please! Senator McKim?
Acting Deputy President, since Senator Cox rose to her feet to commence her contribution, there has been a wall of noise coming from Senator Price and Senator Hughes. It is most disrespectful. And, Chair, I remind you: you have just reminded the chamber that all interjections are disorderly. Would you please call them to order.
Thank you, Senator McKim, and I'll remind all senators that all interjections are disorderly. Senator Cox.
How many royal commissions and inquiries are sitting and collecting dust on the shelf? Let me enlighten you. There were four national inquiries between 1997 and 2012, and three of those were Senate community affairs committee inquiries. There were also 15 state-led inquiries between 1990 and 2016. The money that would be spent on a royal commission—because that's what's on show here, in another bloody audit—would have been better spent directly in those communities.
And what is at the core of this is unspeakable. The end goal for that side of the chamber is something completely different from what's written in this motion.
Now I want to read a statement that was given to me today, because those on that side of the chamber who are bringing this motion in here today didn't even go to the national frontline services for sexual assault in this country. And the statement reads: 'NASASV does not support any further inquiries and encourages funding to frontline sexual assault services, to support work in this area across Australia. NASASV does not believe any more inquiries will benefit people and committees. In fact, further inquiries would do more harm. Resources would be better directed to immediate action, including funding frontline sexual assault services. Inquiries will not add any further knowledge base to what we already know, and what we need right now is action.'
Long debate text truncated.
Date and time: 5:50 PM on 2023-10-17
Senator Pocock's vote: No
Total number of "aye" votes: 26
Total number of "no" votes: 31
Total number of abstentions: 19
Adapted from information made available by theyvoteforyou.org.au