Insane spending indeed

June 10th, 2014

The Australian notes that ‘Warren Mundine is angry that critics have remained silent about wasted money in the nation’s remote housing program.’ 

His article in the Australian newspaper describes the ‘wasted money’ involved in the National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Housing.

HH has been a perpetual critic of the way funds were being used in this program since 2009.  We have written articles, produced detailed and disturbing evidence for the Commission that over sighted the National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Housing program (this Commission included Warren Mundine) about the poor design and construction, lack of local community involvement and no follow up maintenance or management. We did all of this not to save money but to improve the housing and health of those that would be ‘forced’ to live in the housing. ‘Forced’ is an appropriate term to use as in remote communities there is a lack of any alternate accommodation.

See the articles in BIG ISSUES that were posted a while ago by clicking on the titles below.

Where is the money going?

A working shower in 2017?

Under the Rudd / Gillard Labor government it was an issue not to be discussed and there were enough other distractions to keep any news about remote Indigenous housing off the front pages, or any pages for that matter. And, after all, it is only a few billion dollars and the lives and health of the poorest, most disadvantaged and most ignored people in the country that are at stake.

Big engineering and building companies were involved in the program. This was the free market, full steam ahead. Discarding small Indigenous housing associations, small building companies and local knowledge the big dogs were there to make big change, quickly. They promised to meet the constantly changing whims and wishes of the state and federal bureaucrats and their political masters, just as long as money was no object. Well money was no object, at the start of the program, but then some early unfavourable press led to belt tightening and a cry for even greater pace. Money was not really saved but re-positioned on budgets.

So what happened under the Abbott coalition Government?  A pink-bat style review, or a Building the Education Revolution rethink? Well, apart from Warren Mundine wishing to save some money, not a word about the mechanics or actual results of the National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Housing program. And when HH uses the words ‘actual results’ we do not mean ‘number of houses built’ figures being rolled out since the program began…. show us that the houses work, are able to be well used by the local people and they are improving health.

HH  proposes a high level independent commission of enquiry into the National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Housing program. It will have to be seriously ‘independent’ because the previous government’s figures were hopelessly inadequate to the point of being fictional. The new story will start with an on site evaluation of:

  • where has the money been spent
  • on what has the money been spent …consultants, new housing, upgrades, infrastructure, local employment
  • the numbers of indigenous people employed and the skills transferred
  • house quality both in the design, specification and construction
  • compliance of all new houses and upgrades with the Building Code of Australia and the National Indigenous Housing Guide, as required by the Program
  • ongoing maintenance provisions
  • ongoing management and tenancy provisions
  • have the houses resulting from the program improved house function and health

This independent review should not focus simply on ‘money for housing’ but on the poor housing and infrastructure that when combined with no maintenance and poor tenancy management – will have a catastrophic impact on the health of Indigenous people.