Senator Ian Macdonald has launched an attack against Labor by saying the opposition was more concerned about public servants than indigenous Australians.
His tirade came as the Coalition government he represented was slashing jobs from the department looking after indigenous affairs.
Ian Macdonald in the Senate
Indigenous people don't need public servants in Canberra telling them how to live, says government minister. Video from Senate Hansard.
Mr Macdonald was responding to comments from Labor which was asking questions in the Senate about reports of low morale in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet's indigenous affairs sections.
The department had been dealing with hundreds of redundancies as well as machinery of government restructures in the past year.
"Typical of the ALP, more interested in public servants in Canberra than they are about indigenous Australians who live around the north of our country," Mr Macdonald said.
"What indigenous people want is to be treated like every other Australia. They want a job. They want to be able to own their house.
"As long as you've got Labor around they'll be treated as second class citizens that need someone else to hold their hand.
"They want their child to be educated so they have a chance in this world."
He said the Coalition's plan attempted to give indigenous Australians economic opportunities.
"Given their own resources, indigenous people can look after those issues far better than public servants sitting in their ivory towers in Canberra," he said.
Labor Senator Jan McLucas had previously said PM&C staff were "good public servants" who were used to change "but not like this".
Mr Macdonald responded by saying "we don't want teams of public servants in Canberra trying to tell indigenous people in northern Australia how to run their lives".
"Senator McLucas' concern for sacked public servants in Canberra over the interests of indigenous people just amazes me."
Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said there were no complaints when he had breakfast with PM&C indigenous affairs staff Wednesday morning.
"They're getting on with the job and bouyant," Mr Scullion said.