Indigenous housing has become a hot topic in the election campaign, as both sides slug it out in a hearts and mind struggle that may decide the fate of the marginal seat of Leichhardt.
Housing is a hot button issue across Australia and, according to Queensland Deputy Premier and Indigenous Affairs Minister Jackie Trad, the Coalition Federal Government is determined to change a long standing protocol to co-fund Indigenous housing with the state governments. These agreements have been in place for more than 50 years, since the 1967 referendum, through Labor and Coalition governments alike.
Over the most recent ten years, the Closing the Gap strategy formed the National Partnership Agreement for Indigenous Housing (NPARIH) which aimed at reducing overcrowding and maintained housing to a good standard.
The program had created employment opportunities for apprenticeships in the building trades, but now some Mayors, including Wayne Butcher in Lockhart River, are also wondering about the employment sustainability as well.
Mr Butcher said that his concern is that the funding is not in the current budget, and perhaps is not coming at all.
Current Liberal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch says the money is still available for the program but the Federal Government has failed to close a deal with the Queensland Government.
However Jacki Trad has a different perspective, saying that the Commonwealth has not guaranteed funding beyond the end of June. “What they have on the table is an exit program to give the states one last payment and then completely remove themselves from any further responsibility for new housing to be built”, she said.
With the Federal Election battle now on, Ms Trad revealed that Queensland has secured a commitment from Labor for $200 million in the next financial year to build new houses, and a commitment to negotiate a new ten-year funding agreement.to ensure long term funding and sustainability.
Warren Entch says “I have written to Nigel Scullion Minister Indigenous Affairs asking that the money go directly into the communities. “There is no oversight, there is money for social housing in the Budget, there is a significant amount”
It will be interesting to see this issue unfold as we continue through the election campaign.
Listen here for our interview with Jackie Trad.
Black Star has invited Warren Entsch for an interview to update listeners on the Coalition’s position.