Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion has once again defended giving almost $500,000 to powerful lobby groups from funding earmarked for Aboriginal disadvantage programs.
Mr Scullion approved grants of $150,000 to the NT Seafood Council, $170,000 to the NT Amateur Fishermen’s Association and $165,000 to the NT Cattlemen’s Association.
He told a senate estimates hearing in October the money was given to the industry groups for legal fees to formally state how they might be negatively affected by land rights claims.
Before claims are granted to Aboriginal people under the NT Land Rights Act, authorities must take into consideration negative impact to others who are using the site.
But the amateur fishing group revealed two weeks ago it received funding from the government without ever asking for it, as calls for a full investigation increased.
In an exclusive interview, Mr Scullion said his motivation was to “start accelerating” the resolution of undetermined land claims in the NT citing the recent settlement 50,000 hectares of land on the outskirts of Darwin,
“Kenbi took 32 years,” the NT senator told NITV.
“So I said, to all the land councils, we can’t have this happen again. We need to have this resolved.”
Mr Scullion was also recently criticised for awarding $1.4 million to a consulting company which employs Country Liberal Party president Ron Kelly.
But he has defended his decision making, saying that he also allocated $8 million to the Northern Land Council, and $1 million the Land Commissioner to expedite land claims.
“They’re the funds that are available to me,” he said. “I’ve spent less than 1 percent.”
Mr Scullion also said he paid millions of dollars to NGOs, such as Red Cross, from the IAS.
“They’re non-Indigenous organisations but the outcomes benefit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” he said.
The IAS was created under the former prime minister Tony Abbott in 2014, and consolidated more than 150 programs.
It was supposed to “improve the way the government does business with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, to ensure funding actually achieves outcomes."
But the scheme has been criticised over how much funding goes towards Indigenous people, and a lack of transparency.