On the indigenous ranger program

Minister for Indigenous Affairs Senator Nigel Scullion writes: Re. “Leaked docs reveal secret Coalition plans for indigenous rangers” (Friday). Your article gives a totally misleading impression of the Australian Government’s future policy priorities in this important area. This should not be a surprise, given no effort was made by Crikey to seek a response from me or my office in relation to the document that formed the basis of the article.

To be clear, the PowerPoint document relied upon for the article has no formal status. I have not seen it — and nor has my office. It is an internal Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) document drafted by a departmental officer without any request or input from me or my office.

Importantly, the document was created when PM&C was observing caretaker conventions — and as such should have been drafted for discussion with either the Coalition or Labor, depending on which side of politics won the election. Given this, the document should be seen as being as much a document for Labor as the Coalition.

A formal investigation is under way by PM&C to try to determine who leaked the document to the media and any criminal offences that may have been committed.

Your article contains numerous falsehoods that may not have been contained in it had Crikey sought a response from my office. For your readers’ benefit:

  • The Coalition has never suggested limiting ranger positions to Community Development Programme jobseekers or placing any limit on how long rangers can be employed.

I was a fundamental part of the former Howard Government’s decision to transition the ranger programme from a work-for-the-dole scheme into a fully-funded programme with real jobs and I have absolutely no intention of shifting from this policy. I have not discussed time limits on employment and they will not form part of any future arrangements.

  • The report reviewing the impact of government investment in five indigenous protected areas cited in the article was not commissioned by government. It was commissioned by PM&C without my agreement or awareness.
  • The Coalition is committed to working with local organisations to take on the administration of ranger groups to support more jobs for Indigenous Australians in community. The Government has not warned anyone about a lack of organisational capacity on the ground, and is committed to backing in Indigenous organisations and providing support to help them build capacity where necessary. I invite any local ranger groups interested in taking on the administration of the programme to contact my office to discuss a possible transition.

The Coalition has outlined its clear commitment to the Indigenous ranger programme until 2018. No options about how it might operate beyond 2018 have even been put to me, let alone decisions made.

I would encourage Crikey to contact my office in future before publishing stories based on questionable information leaked by people pushing their own agendas.

On narrow wins

John Kotsopoulos writes: Re. “Poll Bludger: Turnbull won seats that Abbott never would” (yesterday). It is true that John Howard won the 1998 election with 80 seats  after losing the popular vote 49/51 with policies that included a GST.

Does this mean he had a mandate for a GST and deserves canonisation for political courage?  Not really.  Only a dirty post election deal with the late and unlamented Democrats gave Howard the Senate numbers for this insidious and regressive impost.

Had a GST been considered even a remote chance I have no doubt  his would have been a one term government by a wide margin.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey