Senate Speech: Northern Territory Housing

Jacinta's speech on Northern Territory Housing Issues in the Senate on 7 March, 2023 


I want to talk today about priorities.

There are few matters more fundamental to government than the safety of its citizens. Providing the conditions for safety and prosperity should be number one, but we know that's not the case for this Labor government.

It's been nearly two weeks since a senator from South Australia, my colleague Kerrynne Liddle, who was born in Alice Springs, highlighted the plight of an Aboriginal family living on a concrete slab in town.

The family left the Utopia community, north-west of Alice Springs, and made the 300-kilometre journey to Alice Springs, seeking health care and support for a 30-year-old woman with third-stage kidney failure.

These are good people. They're not drinkers. They're not gamblers. They don't cause problems. They send their kids to school. They try to set a good example and they try to do the right thing, but they're still living on an open concrete slab with nothing but a tarp for protection in the harsh Alice Springs weather.

It got up to 38 degrees over the weekend and down to just 14 degrees at night, but in winter it can get below zero at night.

They've had nothing but a tarp.

It should be considered a national shame that in this country we have families left to live unsheltered on a concrete slab, but, as far as this government is concerned, out of sight equals out of mind.

Two weeks they have known about this and nothing has been done to help the family.

I ask: why aren't they a priority for the Labor government?

Why aren't they a priority for the member for Lingiari?

Why? It's because the member for Lingiari is more focused on Labor's Voice.

That's Labor's priority, but I assure you it's not a priority for the members of the family or anyone like them in the Northern Territory.

Ignoring the voices of her own constituents crying out for help, the member for Lingiari and her Labor colleagues claim to want to correct a system that she believes discriminates against Aboriginal Australians.

What's more discriminatory than neglecting the urgent needs of Australians right now so you can use their plight for political gain while campaigning for your own self-interest?

What's more discriminatory than ignoring Indigenous Australians while telling the rest of the country that they have no voice?

Where are the government funded service providers? They're there to help people in need, but they don't seem to notice the problems. How sad is it that when service providers like Congress and Purple House drop patients off at a concrete slab it seems completely normal? How sad is it that they don't advocate for better housing for these patients?

When Tangentyere Council were asked about the situation, they didn't even know who they were talking about. Why are they taking millions of dollars of taxpayer money if they don't even understand the make-up of town camps?

Referring to them as rough sleepers is outright dismissive and disrespectful. This is a family living together, doing the right thing, sending their children to school.

Australia doesn't need a voice, we just need people to do their jobs.

We need the local members to do their jobs. We need the bureaucrats to do their jobs. We need the taxpayer funded service providers to do their jobs.

Two hundred and fifty million dollars was promised by this Labor government to Central Australia, to Alice Springs. They can make a promise of funding, throwing cash about, but they can't address the immediate issues, the crisis right now on their doorstep.

Do we know where this $250 million is going to go? Do we know how it's going to be spent? The Territory government have demonstrated for some time that they do not spend wisely. They spend everything in Darwin. They spend where they want to support their supporters, not on vulnerable people like this.

We need the government, democratically elected, to stop looking the other way, to stop passing the buck and to actually get on with the job.

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