Shadow Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Curtis Pitt said the LNP Government will not guarantee that important bodies like the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council (QATSIAC) will not be axed.
During Question Time today, Mr Pitt asked Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs Glen Elmes:
“With the Costello audit pending, will the Minister today rule out axing the Just Futures Taskforce as well as other relevant bodies like QATSIAC?”
The Minister responded: “…every service delivery operation in my department is under review.”
“With respect, the Minister has either misunderstood or chosen not to answer the question, as much of his answer related to reviewing areas of service delivery.
“The question was very specific as it referred to the Just Futures Taskforce and the QATSIAC.
“These are not service delivery groups, so if there are no plans to scrap these bodies why wouldn’t he simply say so?”
“I’d be happy to take the Minister on his word but as he couldn’t rule it out, one can only assume that it’s very possible.
“Doing away with these advisory groups would send a very bad message about the Newman Government’s approach to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues.”
Mr Pitt said the QATSIAC, established in 2008, advises the Queensland Government on practical strategies and partnerships to support closing the gap in life outcomes and other Indigenous issues.
“QATSIAC members are a direct link between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and government, providing localised perspectives on issues of regional, state or national importance,” Mr Pitt said.
“Council members come from different walks of life and from all over the state, but all are passionate ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are fairly represented in all government policy.”
Mr Pitt said the council’s major focus was the Queensland Government’s Reconciliation Action Plan, Closing the Gap strategies, and to make an ongoing contribution to ‘Just Futures’ – a Justice Strategy launched in December 2011.
“The independent taskforce was created to advise on and oversee the implementation of the Just Future designed to addresses the causes of Indigenous over-representation in prisons and concentrates government efforts on prevention, early intervention and community -based solutions.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are still close to 12 times more likely to be in prison than non-Indigenous people,” he said.
“If this taskforce and strategy are scrapped, there’s a real danger that the over-representation of Indigenous people in Queensland’s criminal justice system will continue to rise.
“Just Futures includes practical, on-the-ground actions to address the underlying causes and consequences of crime.
“It’s focus is on local community safety planning, more support for families, education and employment strategies, and improving support and Indigenous involvement in law enforcement.
“The taskforce comprised of 12 experienced and respected Queenslanders who have strong connections to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities throughout Queensland, or were themselves Indigenous.”
Mr Pitt said Minister Elmes joined a string of Ministers who dodged questions about likely job cuts and services cuts flowing from the audit headed by the Liberal Party’s Peter Costello.
“Similar audits have been commissioned after the election of other conservative governments at the federal and state levels,” Mr Pitt said.
“They have usually had very predictable outcomes — job cuts, service cuts and higher costs for taxpayers.”