Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Schoolkids Bonus; DisabilityCare Australia; Constitutional recognition – Doorstop, Perth

Subject: Schoolkids Bonus; DisabilityCare Australia; Australian Labor Party; Constitutional recognition

JENNY MACKLIN: Thanks very much everyone for joining us here. And if I can first of all thank the staff here at Best and Less for having us today and congratulate them on making sure that families have access to affordable clothes and other items, so thank you very much for the opportunity to be here with you today. I’m really pleased to be here in Perth with our candidate for Cowan for the coming election, Tristan Cockman, and also Senator for Western Australia, Louise Pratt, and these wonderful families who are with us here today who are benefitting from the Schoolkids Bonus. At the moment, right now, going into families bank accounts, the Schoolkids Bonus is being paid. If you have a child in primary school each child will receive $205, for a child in secondary school, $410. This is the second instalment this year of the Schoolkids Bonus and it’s being paid to make sure that families get that extra help to lighten the load of costs that every family faces with children going to school. What we know is that this money will be a help to parents. What parents also know is that if Tony Abbott is successful at the coming election, he intends to axe the Schoolkids Bonus. Tony Abbott will take this money out of the pockets of parents, leaving them worse off.

JOURNALIST: Minister, firstly, is it acceptable to pat the head of a woman in a wheelchair?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think it’s very important that all of us treat every person with a disability with respect and I know that that’s what the Prime Minister does. And it’s critical that as we really see the development of DisabilityCare and the provision of care and support for people with disability that they so desperately need, that that goes with the respect that people deserve.

JOURNALIST: But that act of patting someone in a wheelchair, is that disrespectful?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I’m indicating to you that it’s important to treat every person with a disability with respect. I think you’d have to look at the particular circumstances and I don’t have any comment about that. What I want to say is how important it is that we treat every single person with a disability with respect at all times.

JOURNALIST: Has the Prime Minister ever patted you on the head?

JENNY MACKLIN: Don’t be silly.

JOURNALIST: On DisabilityCare how do you refute Mr Barnett’s assertions that he doesn’t want it to be centrally organised from Canberra and some people may actually less well off?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well Colin Barnett is taking money away from people with disability here in Western Australia. If Colin Barnett would sign up to DisabilityCare Australia, people with disability here in Western Australia would get extra care and support. There’d be around double the number of people with disability who would get extra care and support if Western Australia joined up to DisabilityCare Australia. Around $1 billion extra would be spent on care and support for people with a significant and permanent disability if Western Australia would sign up. So Colin Barnett should stop saying no, he should join up with DisabilityCare Australia and make sure that people with disability here in WA get the care and support they deserve.

JOURNALIST: But is he right that there would be less localised decision making?

JENNY MACKLIN: No, he’s totally wrong. I’ve just opened the office for DisabilityCare in Launceston, in the northern suburbs of Adelaide, in Newcastle, we’ve got an office in Davenport, we’ve got an office in Geelong, the headquarters for DisabilityCare Australia is going to be in Geelong. If Western Australia would only sign up we could get offices established here in many parts of regional WA and including here in Perth.

JOURNALIST: But he’s seeking some movement from the Federal Government as well. He’s seeking a trial site. Why is there some resistance there in having a trial site set up in WA?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well in fact, if Mr Barnett had wanted to be part of one of the first launch sites in WA, he could have agreed to that but other states got in front of him. We’ve now got every other state in Australia and the two territories agreed to be part of DisabilityCare Australia. We’ve got four states that have agreed to be part of the first stage. That’s already started from the 1st of July. We’ve got individuals in each of those parts of Australia now benefiting from DisabilityCare Australia. Elderly carers seeing their sons or daughters getting supported accommodation that they’ve been so desperately wanting. Seeing parents of young children getting the care and support that they haven’t been able to get before because there just wasn’t’ enough money being spent on the care and support of people with disability. So the reason that Western Australia and people with disability here in WA are missing out is because Mr Barnett will not agree to join the scheme. Everybody else has agreed.

JOURNALIST: So a trial site in WA is definitely off the table?

JENNY MACKLIN: No. Mr Barnett can come in at any time. He can, he knows the conditions, they’re the same as everybody else has signed up to. If he wants to come to the table and finally agree, we’d love him to do so.

JOURNALIST: Minister in Lalor, is Lisa Callaghan Lalor an appropriate candidate for the Prime Minister’s old seat?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well that’s a matter for the voters in Lalor. I won’t be commenting.

JOURNALIST: How can she represent them, the people of Lalor though when she doesn’t know the local issues?

JENNY MACKLIN: I have no intention of commenting on any individual candidate in that seat.

JOURNALIST: Ms Macklin on the Indigenous referendum in the Constitution, you were there yesterday in the Northern Territory…..

JENNY MACKLIN: …it was a wonderful day.

JOURNALIST: And were you consulted before Mr Rudd made his speech in which he said that the Referendum will be held within two years of the next term?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well in fact this fits with our whole approach that we’ve been working on across the Parliament. We put an Act of Recognition through the Parliament with cross-party support earlier this year and we put a sunset clause of two years into that legislation to make sure that we kept the pressure on the whole of the country to get ready for a Constitutional referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. So yes we want to see a referendum, we want to see it within the next two years, and I’m very pleased that the Prime Minister has reiterated Labor’s support for that change.

JOURNALIST: But the Government had delayed the timetable to gain more support and now Mr Rudd’s set out a new timetable. Were you consulted before that speech yesterday?

JENNY MACKLIN: We of course have talked about these issues. He and I have talked about it recently. What I want to indicate to you is that this is of course a very important task for the whole community. We’re funding Reconciliation Australia and the Recognise campaign to make sure that all Australians understand the importance of Constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We won’t get a ‘Yes’ vote which is what we want so much, we won’t get that yes vote until the whole of the Australian population really understands what it’s about. That’s why we want to see the campaign. That’s why we want to take the next two years to spread the word about the importance of this change.

JOURNALIST: But was Cabinet aware of what Mr Rudd said before he said it yesterday?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well as I’ve indicated to you this is actually part of the legislation that we’d already put in place. We have a two year sunset clause so it was always clear that that was our intention.

JOURNALIST: And are you critical of Mr Abbott? Do you think that he’s delaying on this, as Mr Rudd said yesterday?

JENNY MACKLIN: It’s very important that we have a bipartisan approach. We have worked very, very hard to make sure that we get people across the political spectrum participating and working towards a ‘Yes’ vote at the referendum where we really do want to see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people recognised in the Constitution. So that will require of course support across the Parliament and we’ve now got a Joint Select Committee working on what the questions might be, so we’ve got to get the questions right, we’ve got to get a community campaign going, there’s a lot of work to do before this matter can be finalised.

JOURNALIST: But Mr Abbott has said that he would provide bipartisan support on this and that he would move on it within the first year if they were elected in Government. So how can he be delaying as the Prime Minister has said?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think the Prime Minister is reiterating his commitment and the Labor Party’s commitment to Constitutional recognition, indicating that we want to get it done in the timeframe of two years, so that’s our commitment. And we want to see that commitment reinforced right across the political spectrum.

JOURNALIST: You’re not going to repeat the claims that he is delaying then?

JENNY MACKLIN: What I know is that if we’re going to get success in this referendum we need support right across the community and that’s what I intend to continue to build.

JOURNALIST: Has the Government’s decision to politicise the matter though, set it back in the public arena?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I don’t agree with that. I think the Prime Minister was yesterday at a very, very significant event up in Yirrkala indicating the importance of Constitutional recognition to him as Prime Minister, to the Labor Party, and we know how critical it is to build a very strong campaign right across the country.

JOURNALIST: So it’s not fair to say that until yesterday there was bipartisan support and now it’s being politicised?

JENNY MACKLIN: I don’t agree with that, the way you’ve put that at all. I think the Prime Minister was reiterating his support. He had gone to Yirrkala back in 2008 and received a petition from the Aboriginal leaders there, the Yolngu people asking for Constitutional recognition. He was reiterating his support, and he was reiterating the importance of all of us getting on with it.

JOURNALIST: But he’s criticised Mr Abbott for delaying the referendum. It’s obvious it’s a criticism across the political divide. How can you interpret that other than politicising the political process?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I don’t agree that it is. I think we all understand how important it is to get bipartisan support. Mr Rudd, the Prime Minister, indicated yesterday how important it is to have support across the political spectrum and that’s what we’re building. We’re building of course the really critical component which is to get widespread community support and understanding for this big change.

JOURNALIST: Just finally, on Mr Rudd, how he interacted with that person in the wheelchair the other day. It is true that when Stella Young makes that he wouldn’t be patting an able-bodied person on the head, so why should it be acceptable to pat someone in a wheelchair on the head?

JENNY MACKLIN: As I’ve indicated to you, it’s critical that we treat all people with a disability with respect. I didn’t witness the event so you’ll have to ask the people who were there.