Abbott's team flying high on indigenous wings, says Minister

Abbott's team flying high on indigenous wings, says Minister

Morale is at an "all-time high" among the public servants working in indigenous affairs for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, according to the federal government.

Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion told Parliament on Tuesday that PM&C bureaucrats were "delighted" at the direction of their department since its takeover of indigenous affairs late last year.

Senator Nigel Scullion during Senate Question Time.

Senator Nigel Scullion during Senate Question Time.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Senator Scullion brushed off Labor questions about the PM&C in Senate question time on Tuesday, telling the Chamber that indigenous Australians were thanking the government and the Prime Minister for the work they were doing.


The Canberra Times recently reported departmental insiders saying Prime Minister Tony Abbott's takeover of indigenous affairs was in "disarray" with hundreds of specialist public servants retrenched, funding and programs stalled and staff morale in the "doldrums".

There was also disquiet about senior leaders in the Prime Minister and Cabinet department's Indigenous Affairs Group basing themselves in Canberra's dress circle, nearly 10 kilometres away from their rank-and-file workers, who are still reeling after repeated restructures to their workplaces.

But in response to questions from his fellow Northern Territory Senator Nova Peris on Tuesday, the minister painted a glowing picture of life at the PM&C.

"I am delighted to report that in terms of our department, not only is morale at an all-time high but they are absolutely delighted that they are now working for a government that has some absolute outcomes in mind," Senator Scullion said.

The minister, who appeared to be unclear on the source of the reports, told the Labor senator he rejected the notion that a public servant from the PM&C would brief the Labor Party on problems within the department.

"I completely reject that one of my very hard-working staff would find the time to ring those on the other side and suggest that it is all a terrible mess and our quiet reform is going nowhere," Senator Scullion said.

"I can tell you right now what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are telling me.

"They are saying, 'Thank you very much, Mr Abbott, for the reforms getting our kids back to school."

Noel Towell is State Political Editor for The Age

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