The Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) Portfolio improves the lives of Australians by providing high quality advice and support to the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, Portfolio Ministers and Assistant Ministers. It takes a coordinated and innovative approach to the development and implementation of Australian Government policies, including those that impact on regional and remote communities. The Portfolio coordinates and develops policy across the Australian Government in economic, domestic and international issues, Indigenous affairs, issues pertaining to women, including economic security, safety and leadership and public service stewardship.
As at 30 June 2020, the PM&C Portfolio employed 4,172 staff under the Public Service Act 1999. Of this total, 3,081 staff (74 per cent) are employed in Canberra, central Melbourne and central Sydney, 406 staff (10 per cent) in other capital cities and 685 staff (16 per cent) in regional areas.
The Portfolio’s footprint includes office locations such as Wollongong, Newcastle, Orange, Bendigo, Port Augusta, Junee, Bega, Dubbo, Wagga Wagga, Top End and Tiwi Islands, Alice Springs, Thursday Island, Townsville, Ceduna, Kalgoorlie and Kununurra.
The PM&C Portfolio is responsible for setting Indigenous Affairs policy direction across the Australian Government as well as some specific funding programs. It includes programs aimed at ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are able to take up the full range of opportunities our nation has to offer. This includes measures to encourage workforce participation, economic development, educational success and safety at home – the foundations of successful communities.
The PM&C Portfolio works closely with local service providers and communities to design and deliver services to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians across metropolitan, regional and remote locations. Regionally based staff are important and recognise that 63 per cent of Indigenous Australians live outside the major cities and more than 18 per cent live in remote and very remote locations.
The PM&C Portfolio supports rural and regional communities that have been affected by severe weather events through the National Drought and North Queensland Flood Response and Recovery Agency and the National Bushfire Recovery Agency. The Portfolio works hand-in-hand with communities, all levels of government, charities and agricultural organisations to support farmers and other rural and regional Australians living through the immediate and longer-term effects of drought, the 2019 North Queensland floods and the 2019-20 bushfires. Regional Recovery Officers and Recovery Support Officers are based across Australia to advise people on what support is available to them and how they can access it.
The PM&C Portfolio is supporting regional Australia through new and existing initiatives, as outlined below.
National Bushfire Recovery Agency
On 6 January 2020, the Prime Minister established the National Bushfire Recovery Agency (NBRA) within PM&C to lead and coordinate a national response to the "Black Summer" bushfires of 2019-20, due to the sheer scope of devastation and scale of recovery effort needed.
NBRA is focused on connecting people, communities and businesses with services and assistance to help them heal and rebuild. NBRA works with all levels of government, industry, charities and other stakeholders to ensure those affected by the fires have ready access to meaningful recovery support. It is also responsible for building a long term plan for the recovery, rebuild and future resilience of bushfire affected communities.
NBRA is responsible for administering the National Bushfire Recovery Fund (the Fund), which supports recovery efforts across the country. An initial $2 billion was allocated to this Fund. The NBRA website provides details of where these funds have been used. This is in addition to other services and support available under existing natural disaster support mechanisms. The funding is being used to support primary producers, small business, mental health for first responders and communities, attracting tourists, infrastructure projects and for the protection and recovery of the environment and native wildlife.
On 11 May 2020, the Government announced further measures for bushfire recovery as part of the Fund. This included $448.5 million over three years from 2020-21, in Local Economic Recovery (LER) and Complementary Project Funding, for which NBRA has administrative responsibility. This money will assist bushfire-affected communities to rebuild and restore their local economies.
NBRA has also established Recovery Support Officers in these communities to help support the recovery and provide day-to-day advice on all the assistance available. NBRA also has staff embedded in state government disaster recovery offices to ensure close working relationships with state and local government agencies.
Women@Work Plan: Supporting Women’s Workforce Participation
The Australian Government is funding the $50 million Women@Work Plan (the Plan) as part of the 2020 Women’s Economic Security Statement to support women who have been impacted by COVID-19 and to complement the Government’s JobMaker Plan. Women@Work provides $47.9 million over four years from 2020-21 to 2023-24 to expand the existing Women’s Leadership and Development Program (WLDP), which is administered by PM&C. The objectives of the WLDP are to improve outcomes for Australian women. The expansion of WLDP will: create a new Women’s Job Creation priority under the WLDP to increase employment opportunities for women; boost existing priority areas, including women’s safety by supporting women experiencing family, domestic and sexual violence to return to – and retain – work; and, further expand proven projects such as the Academy for Enterprising Girls and Women Building Australia programs. A grant round will be undertaken to disburse funding, with priority given to projects that complement the JobTrainer Fund. Projects that are scalable, transferable across industries and occupations, and those that focus on supporting women from different backgrounds (including rural, remote and regional women) will be strongly encouraged.
The Deregulation Package will provide benefits to regional Australia by making it easier to do business through legislative reform, using technology to modernise regulatory processes, reducing red tape to assist Australia’s care and support workforce and improving regulator performance and culture. Regional Australia will benefit from the Government’s Deregulation Agenda, which is essential to Australia’s recovery from COVID-19. Investing in a whole-of-government approach to regulation policy will help build an economy that is more resilient to future shocks.
The impacts for individual activities forming part of the Deregulation Package will be reported under each responsible Portfolio’s chapter. The PM&C Portfolio includes the following initiatives:
- The Government will provide the Australian Public Service Commission with $3.1 million over three years from 2020-21 to develop a pilot training program, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, with an initial focus of building capability and professionalising export regulators.
- On 15 June 2020, the Government announced the Deregulation Taskforce within PM&C would focus on two new priority areas to assist the COVID-19 economic recovery, including occupational licensing and registration requirements to allow Australians to take up job opportunities where their skills are needed, and modernising regulations governing business communications. The Government has provided PM&C with $12.2 million over two years from 2020-21 to undertake this work.
The Government is supporting regulatory agencies to improve accountability and transparency, build capability, and drive a culture of regulator excellence, including $2 million over two years from 2020-21 for a Centre of Regulator Excellence within PM&C.
Australia Day 2021 – COVIDSafe and Recognition Events
The Australian Government will provide funding of $15.5 million, from the COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund, to the National Australia Day Council in 2020-21 to support the successful delivery of Australia Day 2021 events and activities in a COVID safe environment. The program includes a grant stream of $7.5 million for organisers of existing or new local events, including in regional locations, at $20,000 per event.
Boosting local events on Australia Day 2021 will support the struggling production and events industry and drive economic activity for local businesses. In addition, it will allow communities to honour and thank the everyday Australian heroes who helped Australia through the challenges of 2020.
National COVID-19 Commission Advisory Board
In line with the Prime Minister’s announcement of the renamed National COVID-19 Advisory Board (NCCAB) in late July 2020, the NCCAB is focused on providing strategic advice from a business perspective on economic recovery for all of Australia. The NCCAB provides advice on harnessing growth opportunities, including in regional Australia, across areas such as workforce and skills development, tourism, small and medium sized enterprises, and increased digital capability.
National Drought and North Queensland Flood Response and Recovery Agency – extension
The Australian Government continues to support and provide assistance to flood affected regions in North Queensland, and areas across Australia impacted by drought, through additional funding of $19.6 million in 2021-22 for the National Drought and North Queensland Flood Response and Recovery Agency (NDNQFRRA).
The NDNQFRRA provides strategic leadership and coordination of the Australian Government’s response and recovery assistance to communities affected by drought and the 2019 Monsoon Trough. It advises Government on the timeliness, effectiveness and delivery of existing programs that enable communities to be better positioned to respond to future droughts and natural disasters. The Australian Government has committed more than $10 billion (since 2018-19) across 25 measures that support farmers, regional businesses and communities experiencing drought. These measures also contribute to the implementation of the National Drought Agreement and the Drought Response, Resilience and Preparedness Plan. To support the long-term recovery from the North Queensland flood event, the NDNQFRRA has developed 2019 Monsoon Trough: A strategy for long-term recovery to guide the recovery process and strengthen the region’s resilience to future disaster events. This blueprint will also enable communities to better prepare for future events – such as flood, drought, fire or other economic disruption such as COVID-19.
NDNQFRRA places a strong emphasis on locally led, locally understood and locally implemented solutions and engages with affected communities through its established Regional Recovery Officer Network, community engagement activities, and whole-of-government events to increase uptake of government assistance. The Regional Recovery Officers have been recruited from, and are based in, regional communities across Australia and work closely on the ground with other Australian Government agencies to assist people impacted by flood and drought. This on the ground presence can be readily leveraged to support broader recovery and preparedness activities in the regions, such as those associated with COVID-19.
National Emergency Medal and Upgrade to Honours System
On 26 January 2020, the Prime Minister announced that the National Emergency Medal (NEM) would be awarded to eligible emergency responders who had given sustained or significant service during the 2019-20 bushfires. In addition to this emergency, on 10 February 2020, the NEM Committee declared two further national emergencies would be recognised: Tropical Cyclone Debbie in 2017 and the North Queensland Floods in 2019.
The Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General will be provided funding of $11.5 million over four years from 2020-21 to facilitate the awarding of these medals and the upgrade and continued operation of the Honours system.
Closing the Gap – Partnering for Delivery
The National Agreement on Closing the Gap came into effect on 27 July 2020, and it commits to building the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled sector, recognising these services delivered by this sector can achieve better results, employ more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and are often preferred over mainstream services. As part of the next phase of Closing the Gap, the Government will contribute $46.5 million over four years from 2020-21 from the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS) to complement co-contributions from state and territory governments. The funds will be used to build the capability and capacity of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled sector to deliver services to support Closing the Gap, some of which will be located in regional Australia.
The funding will be governed by a Strategic Plan which will be developed in partnership with and agreed by parties to the National Agreement. Projects will support sectors identified in the National Agreement including, early childhood care and development, housing, health and disability.
The Strategic Plan will set out a process to determine what support is needed to build the community-controlled sector and identify where funding would be most usefully directed, including national and cross-jurisdictional projects with jurisdictions to retain administrative control of their own funding. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in regional Australia will benefit from high quality services delivered by stronger community-controlled organisations.
There may also be indirect benefits from additional employment opportunities, skills improvement and culturally competent service provision.
COVID-19 Response Package – Support for Indigenous and Remote Communities
The Australian Government will provide the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS) with $19.8 million over two years from 2019-20 to support Commonwealth wholly-owned Indigenous subsidiaries that have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding provides support for the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence in Redfern, New South Wales; Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia Pty Ltd (operator of the Ayers Rock Resort in Yulara, Northern Territory, and the Mossman Gorge Centre in Cairns, Queensland); and the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park in Cairns, Queensland, ensuring continued business viability and securing jobs. A significant proportion of the revenue of these businesses relates to tourism and hospitality and has therefore been impacted by the significant reduction in visitor numbers.
The Government will provide funding in 2020-21 to support the Northern Territory, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland with the cost of implementing COVID-19 related travel restrictions to remote communities. Funding will be provided from the existing resources of the IAS to offset some of the costs incurred by jurisdictions in the implementation of the determination made under the Biosecurity Act 2015 to restrict travel into remote communities to minimise the spread and impact of COVID-19.
Remote Indigenous Housing in Queensland
The Australian Government will provide $100 million to be made as a one-off payment to the Queensland Government in 2020-21. This is in addition to the $5 million already provided from the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS) in 2019-20. This measure implements the Government’s election commitment for remote Indigenous housing in Queensland. The funds will go to 17 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Councils in Queensland to reduce overcrowding in remote Indigenous communities that will be locally-led and delivered by the Councils.
Return of Cultural Heritage
The Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS) will provide the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) $10.1 million over four years from 2020-21 to support the continuation of the Return of Cultural Heritage (RoCH) Initiative. This builds on the highly successful pilot conducted from 2018-19 which demonstrated high demand from both Indigenous Australians and overseas collecting institutions for the safe return of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage material.
The continued funding provides a vital resource for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to exercise decision-making over their cultural heritage and assists with the promotion and resurgence of their cultures, societies, language and knowledge both at regional and national level. During the two year pilot, direct funding of 25 per cent, and a further 50 per cent of indirect funding, went to supporting regional and remote Indigenous communities. It is anticipated that a similar proportion of funding will occur moving forward under the initiative.
The initiative provides all Australians with the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of our nation’s history and promotes learning, healing and reconciliation. Through the return of the culturally significant materials, the initiative will directly and indirectly contribute to the improvement of regional and remote Indigenous Australian’s health and wellbeing.
Indigenous Business Australia – Regional Construction Stimulus
The Australian Government will provide Indigenous Business Australia with an equity injection of $150 million over three years from 2020-21 for new construction home loans in regional Australia. The Australian Government is committed to stimulating economic activity in regional Australia and helping local economies thrive by assisting 360 Indigenous Australians to construct new homes through the Indigenous Home Ownership Program (IHOP). The investment will also support over 1,000 jobs by unlocking financing for pre-approved, shovel-ready construction projects in regional locations. The stimulus initiative will complement existing initiatives such as Home Builder.