Debate has erupted over singer Kamahl’s claim that Indigenous people receive $40 billion a year from the federal government, while a fact check reveals how much is actually spent.
The Malaysian-born Australian artist, 88, appeared on Network 10’s The Project to talk about his stance on Voice to Parliament.
As the hosts asked him about his views, Kamahl argued that Indigenous people already receive $40 billion each year from the federal government.
“All I know is they’re spending $40 billion,” he repeated. “What is the money going to?”
Host Hamish McDonald questioned the accuracy of his statement and asked where he got the statistic from, to which the singer said someone had spoken to him.
Kamahl (pictured), 88, argued that indigenous people were already receiving $40 billion every year during his appearance on The Project. This claim was disputed by the show’s hosts.
Macdonald replied: “This has been verified to be false. The government agency says it never administered $30 billion a year in funding for Indigenous programs, its total budget for 2022-23 was $4.5 billion.
Kamahl’s $40 billion claim was echoed in materials and resources by the “No” campaign in its arguments against The Voice. However, it should be noted that this figure is sometimes also reported as $30 billion.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott fueled this false claim in an interview with 2GB host Ben Fordham in July, which McDonald referenced during his discussion with Kamahl.
Mr. Abbott said hundreds of people employed by the NIAA are responsible for allocating about $30 billion a year.
But the agency’s budget last year, as McDonald pointed out, was $4.5 billion.
Project host Hamish Macdonald (pictured) ‘fact-checked’ Kamahl’s $40 billion claim
However, Sky News host Peta Credlin claimed Kahahl was not talking about specific NIAA spending but a “macro budget number”.
“The project hosts did a good job of trying to make him believe that his $40 billion macro budget was somehow linked to the National Aboriginal Agency in Canberra,” she said.
“He didn’t say that, they said that. In fact, he was talking about the overall budget numbers, every dollar that governments across the country spend on indigenous people.
“And the truth is, Kamahl was right. Taxpayers spend around $40 billion a year on Aboriginal Australians.
Credlin referenced data from the Productivity Commission’s 2017 Indigenous Spending Report, which showed total government spending on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was estimated at $33.4 billion.
This represents an increase from the $27 billion spent between 2008 and 2009.
The Sky News host claimed the 2016 figure adjusted for inflation took the figure to $39.5 billion.
“Adjusting the 2016 figure from the Productivity Commission report for inflation, this now gives us a figure of $39.5 billion in Indigenous spending today.
“So last night Kamahl on The Project was actually spot on with his $40 billion number.”
But Mr Campbell pointed out that about $27.4 billion of 2016 Indigenous spending represented “the share of core spending”, which includes schools, hospitals, defense forces, public order and security, social assistance and other essential services.
He explained that spending on Indigenous people represented 1.1 per cent of total direct spending by all Australians.
This means that neither Kamahl nor Credlin are correct in their assertions.
The figures presented in the report represent “direct spending” by state, territory and federal governments on First Nations people.
In contrast, spending by all Australians totaled $556.1 billion over the same period. The First Nations component represents approximately six percent.
Mr. Campbell noted that the difference between Indigenous and non-Indigenous government spending is the result of “higher levels of disadvantage among First Nations people.”
“Other reasons include the fact that the population is more likely to use government services due to their younger age profile,” he added.
“Demographic differences (also) lead to higher per capita spending on school, university and childcare services…while disadvantage leads to increased spending on, for example, hospitals, prisons and housing social.”