Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse; Newstart; Executive remuneration; Drink spiking in Indonesia; Cyber-bullying
E & O E – PROOF ONLY
PM: Good afternoon.
With Ministers Macklin and Roxon who are here with me today, I have just visited the Governor-General, and the Governor-General has agreed to my request to establish a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia.
In November, I announced the Government’s intention to have such a Royal Commission.
Since that announcement in November we’ve been involved in a process of consultation about the terms of reference and Minister Macklin will detail some of the consultations that have been gone through.
In addition, I had the opportunity to speak directly to my State and Territory colleagues about collaborating on this at the Council of Australian Governments meeting towards the end of last year.
Following those consultations and discussions, today we can announce the establishment of the Royal Commission.
I believe our nation needs to have this Royal Commission. Child sexual abuse is a hideous, shocking and vile crime.
And it is clear from what is already in the public domain that too many children were the subject of child sexual abuse in institutions.
That they’ve had to live with the trauma of that child sexual abuse for the rest of their lives; that they weren’t provided with a safe childhood and a safe place to be.
And that too many adults who could’ve assisted them turned a blind eye so that they didn’t get the help that they needed.
The Royal Commission will provide us with recommendations about what we can do better for the future.
The Royal Commission will be recommending to us what we can do to better keep children safe in institutional contexts; what we can do to ensure that child abuse is reported and responded to; what we can do to clear away any impediments to the reporting of child abuse.
I believe our nation needs to learn these lessons and act on them for the future.
In addition, our nation needs to send a very clear message to those who have survived child sexual abuse.
For too many the trauma of that abuse has been compounded by the sense that they have had that their nation doesn’t understand or doesn’t care about what they’ve suffered.
To those survivors of child sexual abuse today, we are able to say we want your voices to be heard.
Even if you felt for all of your life that no-one’s listened to you, that no-one has taken you seriously, that no-one has really cared, the Royal Commission is an opportunity for your voice to be heard.
And in acknowledging that we need to hear those voices, I hope we can provide some measure of comfort to survivors of child sexual abuse, and I hope in having the opportunity to tell their story they will find some opportunity for healing.
I do want to be clear about what the Royal Commission will do and what it won’t do.
The Royal Commission is into child sexual abuse and related matters.
The Royal Commission is into child sexual abuse and related matters in institutional contexts.
It will not deal with child sexual abuse in the family. It also will not deal with abuse of children which is not associated with child sexual abuse.
We have consulted and we’ve made some choices so that the Royal Commission can focus on child sexual abuse and provided advice and recommendations to government in as timely a way as possible.
This is a big task, such a Royal Commission, and we have worked to find people to serve as Royal Commissioners with the right mix of skills and personal attributes to get the job done.
Today I announced the appointment of six Royal Commissioners who will work as this Royal Commission into child sexual abuse in institutional settings.
The Royal Commission will be led by Justice Peter McClellan. He is currently a New South Wales Supreme Court judge.
Justice McClellan brings a wealth of judicial experience to this role and I thank him for making himself available to serve.
He was appointed as a judge in 2005.
Prior to the current judicial appointment he holds, he has held other judicial appointments, including being the Chief Judge of the Land and Environment Court of New South Wales, the Chairman of the Sydney Water inquiry, and he was Assistant Commissioner at the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
He also served as counsel assisting in the Royal Commission into the British nuclear tests at Maralinga.
Justice McClellan will be the Chief Commissioner. He will be assisted by the following Commissioners.
First, Bob Atkinson the former Queensland Police Commissioner, who will bring over 40 years of policing experience to the Royal Commission role, 12 of those years as Police Commissioner.
Justice Jennifer Coate will also serve. Jennifer Coate has served for 20 years as a magistrate and County Court judge in Victoria, including for five years as the President of the Children’s Court and most recently as the Victorian Coroner.
Justice Coate has now also been appointed to the Family Court of Australia.
Robert Fitzgerald. Robert Fitzgerald has served as a Commissioner on the Productivity Commission since 2004.
He also has experience in commerce, law, public policy and community service, including as Community and Disability Services Commissioner and Deputy Ombudsman in New South Wales.
Professor Helen Milroy, who is a consultant psychiatrist with extensive experience in child and adolescent health, including the mental health impacts of child sexual assault.
Helen Milroy is currently Winthrop Professor and Director for the Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health at University of Western Australia.
Former Western Australian Senator, Senator Andrew Murray, who will bring with him his tremendous experience as a legislator and a member of the landmark senate inquiries into children’s experiences in institutional care.
He is certainly well-known for his contributions to our nation’s consideration of the Forgotten Australians of child migrants, so Senator Andrew Murray is the final appointment to the Royal Commission.
All Commissioners have been appointed for a period of three years and will begin their inquiry as soon as possible.
The Commission will prepare an interim report by no later than 30 June 2014 so that governments and organisations can start taking action on the Commission’s early findings and recommendations.
In the interim report, the Commissioners will also identify when their final report will be completed.
The terms of reference do set an end date for the Royal Commission of 31 December 2015, but that end date can be extended if necessary.
Today is the day that we start to create a future, where people who perpetrate child sexual abuse cannot hide in institutions; where we work together to find a better way of keeping our children safe.
I will turn now to Minister Macklin for some comments on the consultations and her work with survivors’ groups.
MINISTER MACKLIN: Thank you very much Prime Minister.
Today is a very significant day for survivors and victims of child sexual abuse and related forms of abuse and I do want to acknowledge and congratulate all of the individuals and organisations who for many, many years have campaigned for this day.
People have campaigned for this day so that they get the opportunity to be heard and to be believed.
I do also want to acknowledge the way in which individuals and organisations have helped us over the last month or so to make sure that we get the terms of reference for this very important Royal Commission right and have also helped in the selection of the Royal Commissioners.
So to all of the victims and also the survivors of child sexual abuse, we do understand just how important this day it for you.
This Royal Commission of course will provide the opportunity for individuals to come forward and share their experiences, and we know that for many, many people it will not be an easy thing to do.
For many people it will open up very old wounds and for that reason the Government will make sure that we provide support for individuals.
We’ll also provide financial resources to those organisations that individual survivors know and trust; the organisations that will be very important in supporting people as they come forward and present their evidence to the Royal Commission.
The Royal Commission will also of course have the capacity to support people as they go through what will be a very, very difficult process of telling their stories and, we hope, healing.
We do hope that this Royal Commission will bring about the systemic changes that people have been wanting for such a long time.
To make sure that people get the justice that they deserve. To make sure that people get the redress that they need so much; that they get the care and support and possibly the treatment that they need.
That the way in which perpetrators are dealt with is done much more quickly and more effectively than it has been done in the past.
To make sure that those things that were previously covered up are uncovered.
This is a very significant Royal Commission, a Royal Commission that will make sure that the terrible wrongs that have been done in the past to children in our country, to the greatest extent, never happens again.
PM: I will now ask the Attorney-General to detail some matters about the way the Royal Commission will work and also some forthcoming legislative amendments.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL ROXON: Thank you Prime Minister.
I just wanted to flag for the media and for the public that the Government intends to introduce some legislation into the parliament in our first week returning to parliament.
The current Royal Commissions Act only provides for evidence to be able to taken by the Commission constituted as a whole.
Part of our purpose of appointing six Commissioners is because we expect that there will be very large numbers of people who may want to present to the Commission.
They may want to do it less formally than would normally be expected and we certainly don’t intend that all evidence would need to be given to every one of the six Commissioners at the one time.
We have spoken to the Opposition about this change and we do hope that it will have the enthusiastic support of all of the parliament.
It is something that I think people can understand will enable the Commission to do its work more thoroughly, more sensitively and more quickly.
I also want to just briefly make a comment about some of the things that the Commission will do and some of the things that the Commission will not do.
It is important to remind the public that this Royal Commission is not a police force. It is not a prosecuting body.
And child sexual abuse is a crime. And we do encourage all people to refer those matters to the police.
We understand, however, that many of these matters are from a long time ago.
Some people have hesitations in going to the police.
And we do think that the importance of the work of the Commission will mean many people will come forward to the Commission and may want and indeed need assistance in referring to the matter to the police.
So we have asked the Commissioners in the terms of reference to consider how they will carefully liaise with police forces across the country.
We’ve suggested the establishment of an investigation unit, so that the Commission itself is able to work with people who bring forward matters that may need to be referred to the police in order to be able to refer it to them perhaps with a more detailed brief or with more information that allows the police to do their work promptly and thoroughly.
There are a range of other matters which we are happy of course to take questions on.
But I did also want to flag that the Commission once established now with the Letters-Patent signed following the recommendation by the Prime Minister to the Governor-General, will now establish itself and decisions of a range of very complex procedural issues will need to be made by the Commission itself.
The Commissioners will meet by phone on Monday and meet in person on Wednesday and I’m sure following time that they need to deliberate with each other will make further comments about these procedural matters.
But I do need to emphasise that a large number of those, and some of the areas that have been speculated in the media, will need to be handled by the Commission once they’ve had the opportunity to work carefully through those issues and talk with each other about how they intend to conduct those particular parts of their inquiry.
PM: This is obviously a very serious matter, so we’ll take questions on this. Then at the end we’ll take questions on any other issues of the day.
JOURNALIST: Will the Commission be looking at the issue of confessions?
PM: All of that, how they want to take evidence, where they’re going to get that evidence from, is a matter for the Royal Commission itself.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, where will the hearings be held? Will they be held around the country?
PM: Once again the Royal Commission will have to, the Commissioners will have to meet and will have to work through how they want to take evidence and the best way of doing that.
There are people around the country who will want to have their voices heard. There are also people who lived in Australia as children but who no longer live in Australia who may want do have their voices heard.
So this is something that will be the subject of very in-detail consideration by the Royal Commissioners.
I would anticipate that they will put in place mechanisms to make sure people can tell their story no matter where they are.
MINISTER MACKLIN: I’d like to add to that because it is a very significant issue, particularly for people who do have special needs.
So there will be people with disabilities who will require particular support. There will be people who don’t speak English who will require particular support.
And we’re also aware that for many, many people who grew up in institutions, they did not get the opportunity to learn to read or write and so they will need support to be able to put their point of view other than by a written submission.
There are former child migrants of course whose parents or relatives may live elsewhere around the world.
So all of these matters we’ve asked the Royal Commission to consider.
JOURNALIST: You mentioned the difference between child abuse and child sexual abuse, and this Royal Commission will be dealing with child sexual abuse. Obviously it’s quite a legal definition, the differences between those.
Can we bit of a layman’s difference between those two for people listening at home. What is the difference?
PM: I think people probably would’ve seen that there’s been debate between some of the groups that represent survivors about how broad this Royal Commission should go.
So whether or not this Royal Commission should direct its attention to physical mistreatment of children or neglect in circumstances where there was no child sexual abuse.
Of course physical mistreatment, neglect, are very evil things. Anything that stops a child having a safe and happy childhood is an evil thing.
But we’ve needed to make some decisions about what makes this process that can be manageable and can be worked through in a timeframe that gives the recommendations real meaning.
So this Royal Commission will focus on child sexual abuse and related matters. Now that is a recognition that in some circumstances where child sexual abuse was occurring, physical mistreatment and neglect was also occurring to the same individuals.
So individuals may want to bring forward their own experience about what happened to them in being sexually abused, but also how that sexual abuse was in the context of broader mistreatment.
JOURNALIST: You mentioned that there’s going to be quite a lot of individual stories. How are you going to actually get through everyone in what does seem like quite a short period of time?
PM: I will go to the Attorney-General, but we have to be very clear here about what the Government does and what the Royal Commission will do.
On my recommendation today, the Governor-General has established the Royal Commission. The Royal Commission consists of the six individuals I’ve described to you.
They will now work independently as is appropriate, making decisions about the best way for them to collect evidence to form their views and to make their recommendations for the future.
They will be meeting first by telephone on Monday, then for the first time face-to-face on Wednesday, to start dealing with a number of these procedural and logistics questions which are terribly important to make sure that people get the access that they want and need to the Royal Commission to have their stories heard.
I will turn to the Attorney-General for some further comments.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL ROXON: I think the Prime Minister has covered all of those issues, other than to emphasise the point I made about the change to legislation which will allow the Commission to take evidence in a manner of different ways, both formally and informally.
We have learnt from other inquiries that have been conducted that having sensitive and innovative approaches to the way you allow people to tell their stories can actually be a significant part of the healing process.
So, for example, the South Australian Mullighan Inquiry will inform the sorts of discussions that the Commissioners will have about the most appropriate way to hear people’s stories and for that to inform the recommendations that the Commissioners also make to the Government.
JOURNALIST: And Attorney-General, what kind of resources will the investigative unit have? Could you describe that, and also, will anyone be offered immunity from prosecution for giving evidence?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL ROXON: Well, a number of these matters you will obviously have to address to the Commission as they work through their procedural issues.
We will need significant resources to establish this Commission as a whole.
You can clearly see by the appointment of six Commissioners that we expect that it will be a far-reaching inquiry that involves a lot of people and a lot of organisations.
The way the resources are divided between legal assistance, support that might need to be undertaken to tell particular stories in different settings, the legal advice or research teams that Commissioners themselves will lead and the investigative units will be a matter for the Commission.
We have had very good offers of support.
For example, the Federal Police have already indicated that they will happily second people to the Commission, which I think is an important step in making sure that the way matters can be investigated and handled and referred on to perhaps state police forces will be significant.
But we’re not in a position today, without the Commission having had the opportunity to talk amongst itself, to give you the detail, other than to say our Government has been committed to provide the resources that are necessary.
Again, with emphasising the point that the Commission will not replace police authorities and that criminal matters still will need to be referred to police to be able to be handled properly.
JOURNALIST: What about the question of immunity from prosecution? It was a big issue in Ireland?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL ROXON: Again, all of these matters will be matters for the Commission. The Commission has very far-reaching powers. It can require people to present before it.
And there are a range of complex issues about concerns people have flagged with confidentiality agreements that might’ve been struck before. These issues will need to be addressed by the Commission.
They do have far-reaching powers that enable them to override those agreements or indeed to issue immunities, but it would be pure speculation which we are not prepared to make now whether the Commission will indeed take that approach or not.
JOURNALIST: But those powers could override those confidentiality agreements.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL ROXON: The Royal Commission has extensive powers.
We have in the terms of reference the Letters-Patent make clear that the Royal Commission does not have to and ought not duplicate the work of previous inquiries.
That they will be able to look at work that’s been done in institutions or in state organisations and accept recommendations that have come from those inquiries or indeed they may ask for more information if they have particular evidence before them that leads them down that path.
I understand why people want to be able to answer these questions now, but we really do need to respect that we’ve just appointed six very eminent Australians.
They need some time to work through these issues.
And as the Commission does its work, they will then address whether any of those issues that people are speculating about will be necessary for them to deal with or not.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you’ve taken national leadership on this issue. Are you expecting the most senior leaders of the churches and institutions to be prepared to give evidence at public hearings?
PM: Who will be asked to give evidence is once again a question for the Royal Commission.
But I would be saying to all of us, to the whole nation that we’ve all got an obligation to shine a light on what’s happened in the past and to learn from it. And to help people heal.
It was a big decision to announce, as I did last November, that we would have this Royal Commission, a big decision.
And I did it because I thought we needed it, as a nation.
And I did it because I thought people would cooperate and assist with the work of the Royal Commission.
Many public statements have been made since by a variety of organisations and indeed State and Territory Governments about their preparedness to cooperate.
So I do want to see this Royal Commission achieve the full mission we’ve set for it. It’s a very big mission; it’s going to take some time.
But I think the terms of reference that we are laying out today are the right terms of reference.
The powers for the Royal Commission are comprehensive, and I think the six Australians that we’ve nominated today to serve as the Royal Commission are very eminent Australians with a great mix of skills for the job.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, has there been any discussion as to whether there will be or what time compensation will be given to victims of child sexual abuse?
PM: When you look at the terms of reference you will see that the Royal Commission can make recommendations on redress for individuals who have suffered child sexual abuse.
The conversation before about confidentiality agreements is an indication that there are some people who have separate to this process received some forms of compensation for child sexual abuse.
But that is open to the commission to make recommendations on.
JOURNALIST: You mentioned new funding for some of the organisations that child abuse survivors trust. Is that new funding, or is it coming from somewhere else?
MINISTER MACKLIN: We’re working through the funding arrangements right now, but we certainly do understand that there will be increased demands on organisations that have been advocates and supporters of those who are victims or survivors of child sexual abuse.
So we will certainly make that funding available through my department.
JOURNALIST: Any idea at the moment as to how much funding?
MINISTER MACKLIN: We’re still working through the actual numbers.
JOURNALIST: So no ballpark figure?
MINISTER MACKLIN: Not yet.
JOURNALIST: Is it fair to say you may never really be able to construct any ballpark figure on that?
MINISTER MACKLIN: No. We will work through the detail with the organisations and you will see those figures in our budgets.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what’s different about this Royal Commission? Australia has a history, particularly over the past 30 years, of some very big-ticket Royal Commissions, Aboriginal Deaths in Custody being one, and recommendations only partly being acted upon.
What makes this Royal Commission different?
PM: I think there have been Royal Commissions in the past dealing with very important topics and the one you refer to, Deaths in Custody, which had five Royal Commissioners, five people serving, did a very comprehensive job in a hugely difficult area.
What we’ve got to do is now work through this, have the Royal Commission work through it, to recommendations that the nation can then absorb and respond to.
I think for this Royal Commission, and I don’t want to be seen to be creating some hierarchy with Royal Commissions past; past Royal Commissions have played important roles for issues in their time.
But this is a tremendously important step; this really is history being made.
And it’s our nation saying, we are prepared to stare in the face some uncomfortable facts and some deeply, deeply troubling truths.
And there have been people, as Minister Macklin has said, people who for all of their life have campaigned to have the opportunity to really be taken seriously and have their voices heard.
And one of the things that certainly has compounded hurt and harm is the sense that doors have been slammed in people’s faces after they individually have sustained so much trauma.
I want, through this process, people to feel that the door is open for them to walk through.
Now, for some that will still be too hard. This is too much, too deep, too hard, too painful, and they will never come and tell anybody what happened to them, because they just can’t.
For some, I think actually sitting with someone who treats them with dignity and respect and who takes them seriously, will in and of itself be a moment of healing and I think that’s very important.
Then there’s what we can learn for the future.
Any child being subject to child sexual abuse is an evil and horrible event.
Apart from the evil and horrible events for individuals, what I think is so confronting about much of what is in the public domain now is the sense that there were systemic issues and that there were eyes averted and children left in harm’s way when changes could have been made and issues of abuse addressed.
We’ve got to learn from that so that we do better in the future.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just quickly to another issue, Kevin Rudd was out this morning-
PM: Let’s deal with all the Royal Commission issues.
JOURNALIST: We know a lot of people who were victims of abuse have ended up homeless or in the prison system. Have your consultations made you wary of the fact that a lot of these victims will be missed? Will you be making efforts to ensure their voices are heard?
PM: The Royal Commission itself will be in charge of its outreach mission, how it gets information into the hands of people.
That will be a question for the Royal Commission, but I do believe because we have worked in such solid consultation with the groups that represent survivors and who are in good contact with them, that through their agencies and networks we will be able to get the message out.
This is the kind of thing people have campaigned for, for a long period of time, and those people who have carried the campaign very bravely over many, many years when perhaps it seemed to them that nothing would ever change.
But for the people who very briefly carried that campaign to now see the Royal Commission happen, I think that they will do everything they can with the extra resources we will provide to reach out to those who need to know that the Royal Commission is in progress.
JOURNALIST: What about the families of the victims? There’s been cases where spouses have committed suicide due to abuse. Will their wives or children or parents be able to give any evidence?
PM: Certainly all of that is open to the Royal Commission.
It’s a question of how it chooses to work through its proceedings.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you believe that the Federal Government may be required to introduced compensation for victims? Or do you believe that compensation should come from the institutions involved?
I don’t want to be speculating about what a Royal Commission that we’re establishing today is going to find.
But when you go to the terms of reference, we have asked the Royal Commission to make recommendations about redress for individuals and will of course be very keen to hear what those recommendations are as the Commission works its way through and does its interim report in 18 months’ time with a view to a final report in three years’ time.
Though of course, the date can be extended if necessary.
JOURNALIST: In that investigations unit, there is a lock of prosecutorial powers. What was the decision making in that? Why not give them far-reaching powers as an investigations unit?
PM: That’s a legal question.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL ROXON: There are very good reasons that we have separate responsibility for these sorts of issues.
We have established police forces and Directors of Public Prosecution across the country, who investigate crimes that are referred to them.
The Commission’s key work is to make recommendations to government and therefore to the community about the processes and procedures that we can improve for the future to better protect children.
And the Commission is it not designed to duplicate or compete with police forces. They’re designed to actually assist, and in certain circumstances we imagine, will help prepare briefs and material that can be provided to police to allow them to do their work even more quickly.
So it’s very important that that separation remains, that’s always been the history of Royal Commissions and there’s some good technical legal and constitutional reasons for it, as well as practical ones, that we don’t need to establish a new police force or a new prosecuting agency.
But we do need to establish the Commission in a way which will complement and liaise well with existing authorities to help victims of child sexual abuse get the sort of justice that they’re looking for.
JOURNALIST: Attorney-General, will the cameras be allowed into the Royal Commission rooms?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL ROXON: That will be a matter for the Commission as well.
It would be my expectation that there would be some hearings that would be public and some that would not.
There will be a number of people who would only be prepared to tell their story in closed circumstances and settings.
But ultimately all those matters will be before the Commission.
And we understand the very complex nature of allegations that can be made and matters that might be before Commissioners, and it’s why we’ve been very careful to include in our six people as well as the chair two senior judicial officers who are well used to dealing with these types of issues and understanding what might be appropriate to do in private and of course the importance of being able to conduct as much as possible in public.
JOURNALIST: How soon will the first hearings be?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL ROXON: It will be a matter for the Commission to identify that.
I think you would appreciate that the work of the Government has been to ensure as soon as the announcement was made, a transition team is available, but the Commission although they’ll have those people, will obviously be doing recruiting.
They do need to make some strategic decisions together as Commissioners and they need to ask the public to come forward.
The Government websites and communications teams have already received lots and lots of submissions on our consultations for the terms of reference but also people who want to give evidence and contact the Commission as soon as it’s established.
I don’t think people should expect those hearings to start in a matter of weeks.
I think there are quite a lot of preliminary things to be resolved, but the Commission will then be able to report to the public when there are hearing dates that have been established.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on the matter of the dole, do you support an increase in the dole and if so, is it on the cards in this budget time?
PM: I’ve dealt with this question publicly before and indicated I understand it’s very, very tough for people on low and fixed incomes to make ends meet.
We keep our focus on creating jobs because the best thing we can do for anybody who’s experiencing unemployment is to make sure that there’s a job available for them.
I would remind that this is the week in which people will see the Schoolkids Bonus.
For the first time the Schoolkids Bonus will be paid and that is about helping people make ends meet with resources for the costs of getting the kids back to primary school and high school as the school year starts.
JOURNALIST: If you were unemployed though Prime Minister, do you think you would have enough on Newstart to be able to go look for work and have a meaningful?
PM: I have dealt with this publicly in the past and as I’ve indicated, of course it’s very tough for people to live on low or fixed income.
If someone is unemployed absolutely the best anything we can do is to be creating job opportunities for them.
JOURNALIST: What Kevin Rudd actually said was this Government needs to have a heart now that you’ve abandoned your budget surplus promise.
Do you take that as Kevin Rudd commenting that this Government doesn’t have a heart and that maybe you do need to think about those less well off?
PM: Well I think you have to put all of that, it’s a question of interpretation, so you will you need to put that question not to me. The Government’s position is just as I’ve outlined it.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, regarding the review conducted by the Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee, do you believe that the legislation around disclosure for executive remuneration is too complex for shareholders, and do you have any thoughts on BHP’s proposal to put a single remuneration figure?
PM: I think it’s important that executive pay is clearly disclosed and that shareholders get an opportunity to have a say.
That’s what we’ve been striving for with the changes that we’ve made.
We’ve tried to make those changes in a way that doesn’t impose too much of a red tape burden.
As for dealing with suggestions from BHP or others about improving the system, that would be a question for the relevant minister.
JOURNALIST: Ms Macklin, I understand that your office has actually received some protest about your Newstart comments in the past, even this morning. What is your comment to those people who are angry about your views on the Newstart allowance?
MINISTER MACKLIN: I can understand that people are angry about what I’ve said. I have heard that message clearly over the last week or so.
I do acknowledge that my remarks were insensitive, that I could’ve been clearer in the way that I expressed myself.
I do understand that it is very hard to live on a very low income, including unemployment benefits.
That’s why, of course, the Government is so determined to do everything we possibly can to support families and also to help people get work.
As the Prime Minister has just indicated, we have just this week started the payments of the new Schoolkids Bonus to help families with their costs of sending their kids to school.
But I do acknowledge that my remarks were insensitive and I’m certainly very sorry for that.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the bar that allegedly served the Western Australian teenager Liam Davies the lethal cocktail with methanol, they’re still selling those drinks.
Is the Federal Government and the Foreign Minister going to be acting and speaking to international authorities to try to ban the sale of these drinks or to do anything about this?
PM: We can make our concerns heard, and what a dreadful tragedy this has been, such a young man losing his life, just a shocking and awful thing to have your young son go overseas for what should be the time of his life and to have this happen, so just awful.
So we can make our concerns heard, but at the end of the day when you are travelling to Indonesia or indeed to any other nation around the world, there’s not the same laws and standards that we’ve come to expect here in Australia.
You can’t assume going into a bar in any country around the world that there is going to be the same licensing and regulation that applies here to food and drink outlets.
So the Foreign Minister has been making some comments about people keeping themselves safe and what they can do with their selection of drinks to try and minimise risks.
For the family involved with this young man, what a dreadful thing and our condolences most sincerely go to that family.
JOURNALIST: Will you follow up at all with the Indonesian authorities?
PM: We can raise our concerns but we don’t make laws for Indonesia.
Indonesia makes laws for Indonesia just the same way in which we would not have Indonesia make laws for Australia.
If you are travelling overseas, you are not in Australia, you are not subject to Australian law and consequently you can’t assume that the sorts of rules and regulations that apply here apply elsewhere.
That, unfortunately, is very routinely true about the safety of food and drink and drinking water.
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) that Twitter is going to be starting up an office in Australia. I was just wondering if you had any reaction to that and if it might help with cyber-bullying and those other joyous things that happen on social media?
PM: Senator Conroy has spent a long period of time liaising with bodies like Twitter and Facebook and others about cyber-bullying, about trolls, about some of the ugly and very hurtful things that get said.
It hasn’t been so much a question of the location of the organisation as opposed to the will to address the issue.
And we will keep urging these bodies that have some control over content to have policies that mean, not to stop people having a genuine conversation or anything like that, but some of the extremes that have caused real harm, to try to deal with that conduct.
JOURNALIST: We’re heading into a hot weekend and there’s been charges placed against particularly younger folk here in New South Wales over arson. Do you have anything to say in terms of that? Have you got any reaction?
PM: My reaction is as any other Australian.
What would possess someone to be stupid enough, reckless enough, evil enough to deliberately start a fire on a high fire risk day, given the damage we know such fires can do?
I can’t understand it, I’ll never understand it and it should be punished with the full force of the law.
Okay, thank you.