Home - Claire Moore - Labor Senator for Queensland

QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE: TAKE NOTE OF ANSWERS - Northern Territory: Juvenile Detention

Senator MOORE (Queensland) (15:06): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Indigenous Affairs (Senator Scullion) to questions without notice asked by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Wong) and Senator Cameron today relating to the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre.

In taking note of Senator Scullion's answers, I note-in words often said by Senator Scullion in answer to questions that I was asking him-there is no malice at all in the questions that I am going to be putting to him again in this period of taking note.

We heard today that the minister was deeply concerned about the issues around the culture of abuse that was seen in the Don Dale centre, but we still do not know, after the answers the minister provided today, just when he became aware of what was going on in that centre. What disturbs me more than anything in this process is that, when we sat in many hours of discussion in the Senate community affairs process, the minister would come in his then role as shadow minister for Indigenous affairs and be fully briefed on every single aspects of Indigenous services that were being taken in the Northern Territory when the Northern Territory government was the Labor government of the Northern Territory. The minister would sit for hours in our committee, asking us chapter and verse about what was going on with expenditure and programs in the Northern Territory at that time. But remember the original processes around what was happening at the centre were at that time, and now this minister says that he really did not know about it and that he was shocked by the Four Corners program.

The Minister for Indigenous Affairs was the opposition minister and more so he is a senator for the Northern Territory, and what was being exposed in the media and in commission reports in the Northern Territory was exactly what was happening at that centre. I have had a look at the media that was being put out in 2015, when the Children's Commissioner put out the report that they did on what was happening in the Territory. There was also the government report at the time, and there were open discussions about individual cases and also the exposed processes that were happening at that centre. That was clearly in debate and discussion. Individual families were coming forward, and the Children's Commissioner at the time was quite clear that there had to be action taken to change the processes and the damage that was occurring at that time.

Now we find out that the senior senator from the Northern Territory, who not only had the long-term responsibility for issues of Indigenous services but also is now the minister for that program, had not had his interest piqued by that process that was going on in the Northern Territory. It defies belief. Today in this place the minister somehow seemed to be able to blame the ABC for not giving him prior knowledge of what was going to occur in the Four Corners program. I do not understand why having a preview of a program was going to provide any more information to the minister from the Northern Territory, who had had open discussion, who had people coming to him, who had discussions with the current Northern Territory government. We know how close Minister Scullion is to the previous Northern Territory government-and we can say that, since last weekend, it is the previous Northern Territory government. We know how closely the minister worked with the ministers of that Country Liberal Party and National Party government in that area. We know how closely he worked on policy. When he came to our Senate committees, consistently talking about issues that should be raised in that area, it seems passing strange that he was not aware of the concerns raised in the community about what was happening at Don Dale.

The good thing now, of course, is that we have a commission process looking into that area. We have strong people who have raised these issues consistently, and we are very relieved that this will be exposed. We can work together on it, but no-one can convince me that this minister was not aware. No-one can convince me that his interest was not piqued, because he did not want his interest piqued. Again I say: no malice, Minister Scullion; no malice.