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Subject: New family support program, Northern Territory Emergency Response, Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, budget, poker machine reforms, twitter, Alice Springs.
JENNY MACKLIN: Thanks very much for being here with us today. If I could first of all thank everyone at Uniting Care Wesley for having us here, for giving us the opportunity to meet with parents and with children and to celebrate the outstanding work that everybody at Uniting Care Wesley does. I’m very pleased to be also here with my Parliamentary Colleague, my Parliamentary Secretary Julie Collins.
We are announcing today that we are creating a new family support program right across Australia. This will be worth around 490 million dollars. Here in South Australia it will mean just under 50 million dollars will come over the next three years to support the outstanding work that is going on in places like Uniting Care Wesley, the Salvation Army, Anglicare, supporting families, supporting children who need that extra bit of help and care.
JOURNALIST: What sort of changes are being made?
JENNY MACKLIN: One of the important changes that’s being made is getting rid of as much red tape as we possibly can. Going from annual contracts to three year contracts and of course that has been very welcomed by the staff. It gives them a lot of certainty which in turn makes it much better for the families.
JOURNALIST: Are there three year contracts for staff or are they three year contracts for funding for the centre.
JENNY MACKLIN: Three year contracts, funding for the centre, for the organisations.
JOURNALIST: Is 490 million over three years is that an increase in the usual budget allocation?
JENNY MACKLIN: No this is bringing all of the different programs together into the new Family Support Program. Of course with the budget there will be indexation announced and that will give an increase to the organisations.
JOURNALIST: So what does it mean then for families? How are they going to benefit from this?
JENNY MACKLIN: What this means is that families can look forward to ongoing staff, less red tape, more money being spent on families rather than on paper shuffling.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask you a couple of things… So July this year, is the Australian Federal Police leaving the Northern Territory we are seeing the end of such things as the SEAM trial. In July we will see the Australian Federal Police leave the Northern Territory, we will see the end of things trials such as the SEAM trial, the school attendance is it looking as though this is going to be the end of the intervention?
JENNY MACKLIN: No we haven’t said that at all, and I think that if you look around the Northern Territory we can see that there has been some significant improvements, but I would be the first person to say that there needs to be a really, really serious long term investment by the Commonwealth and the Northern Territory in services and support. We know that this has been an issue for a long, long time in the Northern Territory. Serious under investment, serious need for the Commonwealth to work with the Northern Territory Government to make sure that there are enough Police, to make sure that we have children going to school, children getting the food that they need so that they can grow big and strong. All of these issues are very important to me and very important to the Commonwealth.
JOURNALIST: So you support the second intervention?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well, the legislation for the Northern Territory Emergency Response in fact goes til August next year, so all of these issues will be considered over the next year or so.
JOURNALIST: Minister, today is the twentieth anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and one of the issues which the Government itself has admitted is that alcohol is in fact an issue in Aboriginal interaction with Authority. Has the intervention really been helping that? There have been reports that there has been more alcohol related violence in Alice Springs as people move into town to access alcohol. The Northern Territory Indigenous Development Minister has said himself that it’s a top heavy approach rather than a grassroots approach which needs to be reviewed ahead of the legislation next year. What do you say to these criticisms?
JENNY MACKLIN: First of all it is import to acknowledge the twentieth anniversary of what was a very, very significant report, the investigation into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Deaths in Custody, so I do want to take a moment today to acknowledge the significance of this anniversary. We know that far too many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people do die in custody. We also know that far too many Aboriginal people are in custody and one of the biggest reasons is alcohol abuse. This is a problem right across Australia, not just in the NT and it is incumbent on all of us as leaders in the Federal Parliament, the State and Territory Parliaments, Indigenous people to work together to reduce the level of alcohol abuse and to also deal with the services that are needed to make sure that people wherever they are, Aboriginal people wherever they are, get access to rehabilitation and the support that they need to deal with their alcohol addictions.
JOURNALIST: Is the intervention the right approach? Is it a not authoritarian, these criticisms say that it a very top heavy approach instead rather than engaging with the community?
JENNY MACKLIN: In fact we changed the legislation on alcohol last year. I think it is very important that when you are asking these questions to actually acknowledge what’s already happened. The legislation around the alcohol controls was changed in June last year and what we are doing now is working with Aboriginal people on the ground in their communities to put in place locally relevant alcohol management plans and that’s been done.
JOURNALIST: Minister in relation to Scientists and Doctors are protesting in Darwin today re budget cuts. Can you reassure the Menzies School of Health Research that it’s not going to loose between one and two million dollars in the budget?
JENNY MACKLIN: I’m sure as you would expect I cannot comment on the budget, but I will say that I know the outstanding work that people at Menzies do. It’s absolutely critical to our desire to close the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, but of course I cannot comment on budget speculation.
JOURNALIST: Can you just outline which particular projects may in fact be cut of the seventeen?
JENNY MACKLIN: I’ve just made it very clear I won’t be commenting on budget speculation.
JOURNALIST: In relation to pokies reform. The Government in relation to the pre-commitment scheme what form do you see is the best way of going?
JENNY MACKLIN: We asked the Productivity Commission two years ago to do a major enquiry into the problems associated with poker machine use and abuse. They made very significant recommendations to us last year to introduce a system of full (or mandatory) pre-commitment and to also look at ways in which we might have, what you might call, a safe play method for recreational players. So we are looking at those recommendations that have come from the Productivity Commission, made it clear that we do intend to introduce a system of full (or mandatory) pre-commitment. That is being worked through right now and we are also looking at the options that might apply for recreational players.
JOURNALIST: Do you have any preferences though as to how we will capture those options?
JENNY MACKLIN: We will work through those options. On the system that will apply for the full (or mandatory) system of pre-commitment we have made it clear that it will be a card based system. We won’t be using finger printing or any of those methods.
JOURNALIST: Just in regards to the Twitter story that I’m sure everyone knows about, is it appropriate for someone that is heading a Federal Government Review into indigenous higher education to compare an indigenous woman to an act of bestiality?
JENNY MACKLIN: As you know, the woman concerned has apologised and made clear her position, so I don’t have anything further to say about that.
JOURNALIST: Have you spoken to her, either of the women?
JENNY MACKLIN: No I haven’t.
JOURNALIST: Foetal alcohol syndrome research as well has been on the agenda, and researchers are concerned that funding may not be available ahead of the cuts to medical research ahead of the May budget, can you comment on that at all Minister?
JENNY MACKLIN: Once again I cannot comment on any budget speculation.
JOURNALIST: Is there any changes that are going to be made to the intervention or the approach taken by the intervention ahead of like the legislation changes next year?
JENNY MACKLIN: We have already made some very significant changes. We put legislation through the Federal Parliament last year to reinstate the operation of the Racial Discrimination Act. We also put in place changes to make sure that the alcohol measures are dealt with more at a local level those changes are now being implemented.
JOURNALIST: What do you say about Alice Springs alcohol related crime that is rising in that area because of the fact that people are moving into towns to access alcohol. Is there any (inaudible)
JENNY MACKLIN: There are very significant legislative changes that the Northern Territory Government is putting in place. They recognise as we do that we do have to see much stronger controls over alcohol supply in Alice Springs and in other parts of the Northern Territory. What we have done is recognise that there needs to be more short term accommodation so that people have got safe places to stay and I was in Alice Springs just a couple of months ago opening a new 150 bed transitional accommodation visitor park and that’s certainly being well used.
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