Home - Claire Moore - Labor Senator for Queensland

Opal fuel in Central Australia

Madam Acting Deputy President Crossin, I am sure that my comments will reflect many of your own ideas on this issue. I am sure that you would have liked to have been speaking at this stage. I also wish to add a couple of comments on this issue. I congratulate the chair of the committee, Senator Humphries, for bringing forward the supplementary comments on this process . As he said in his statement, the role of our committee does not end when we actually put forward a report. In the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs we have been privileged to have involvement with a range of very important social issues over the last couple of years since I have been here. Too often at the end of that process you table your report, there is a focus on the issue for a short time and then, to all intents and purposes, that is the end of the process. We do not accept that statement. In terms of the issues which our committee has been able to look at, we believe that there is a responsibility for the committee and, indeed, the parliament to continue involvement and to have a monitoring role to make sure that the recommendations and the real pain that has been brought forward in so many of our inquiries are continued to be felt by this body. Also, we should celebrate ongoing success. This is the real story out of the information we have before us on petrol sniffing today. In terms of the information that has come forward by reviews of what is happening in Central Australia, it has been an amazingly successful story. The rollout of Opal, which was a strong recommendation of our community affairs committee, has proceeded. As that has proceeded, the scourge of petrol sniffing has been reduced in those communities. Certainly, we encourage ongoing activity around the recommendations of the committee, which means that Opal must be available across all communities in our country that suffer from-and I keep saying this-the scourge of petrol sniffing.
No-one can remain immune to the pain of these issues when you have families, people who have survived this process and mothers come before us. For me-and I have said this before-one of the most impressive parts of our committee activity was having the mothers of Central Australia come to us and talk about their pain for their children.
We have had some success with the rollout of Opal, but that is not the end of the issue. That is indeed the import of the CAYLUS papers that have come before us today. We are talking about what happens next. The success is vulnerable. It needs to be strengthened by ensuring the community programs which are also recommended in the community affairs report and the eight-point plan. It is important that that support infrastructure is funded effectively over a sustained period and community strength is reinforced in these areas so that there will not be any rollback into the issues of petrol sniffing or the finding of other ways of escaping from what we saw as the hopelessness of the people in the communities. They sensed that their educational opportunities, employment opportunities and hope for the future were not there.
In fact, one of the more enjoyable parts of this work is when you can work together across all parties to learn and recommend changes that can be implemented positively. On behalf of all of us, we celebrate the success that has been achieved. Again, we congratulate the amazing work of CAYLUS. The workers of that organisation and their support in that area must be acknowledged. Their role must be effectively resourced by governments.
We must be able to move forward to ensure that the young people of our community do not feel the despair that forces them into taking any option to escape. Petrol sniffing is but one of the options people take up. We have been able to amend that activity through the implementation of Opal. We have much more work to do. We can work effectively across governments, across parties and with the community to ensure that this is a success. But we actually should take some time today to celebrate the hope that has been reinforced by people moving away from petrol sniffing and back into taking active roles in their communities. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

29 March, 2007