Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Support and participation requirements for teen parents, income management, politicians’ pay rises, Toomelah – Doorstop

E & OE – Proof only

JENNY MACKLIN: Thanks very much everyone for joining us today. I’m very pleased to be here in Shepparton. We’ve just been around at The Bridge meeting with a number of young mums here in Shepparton and the staff at The Bridge who are doing a great job making sure that these young mums, teenage parents here in Shepparton are really getting the opportunity to get a good education, make sure their children are getting the best start in life. So I’m very pleased to have had the opportunity this morning to meet directly with the young parents and also to hear about how successful it’s been. All of them are back in some form of education doing courses, getting ready for work. Their children are in childcare, the mothers can see the benefits of childcare for their children. So it was a very, very positive meeting.

I’m also very pleased to be here now at Primary Care Connect to talk about financial management, financial counselling. As you know we’re starting income management here in Shepparton. It started this week, and to make sure that people who want to either volunteer or who are compulsorily income managed, we have extra services available so that they get both support with financial counselling but they also get access to parenting courses and other support for their children. So I’m very pleased to answer any of your questions.

JOURNALIST: Minister can you tell us how many families will be involved?

JENNY MACKLIN: In income management do you mean?


JENNY MACKLIN: We anticipate around 1,000 people eventually here in Shepparton and the other places around Australia will each have a 1,000 people who will either volunteer for income management or who may be compulsorily income managed. The people who are likely to be compulsorily income managed will be people who are recommended by the child protection authorities and it will be where the child protection authorities here in Victoria think it’s in the interests of the children. So where there’s evidence of neglect for example, we want to make sure that a parent’s welfare is being spent in the interests of their children not being spent on alcohol.

JOURNALIST: You’re saying that why was Shepparton selected, are we one of the worst in the State are we?

JENNY MACKLIN: We’ve chosen five places around Australia as part of the trial but we’ve already been operating this form of income management in Western Australia right across Perth, so I don’t think anybody should feel particularly highlighted. But we have chosen areas where there’s very high levels of unemployment where we do have people on long term benefits, but I do want to emphasise it’s been operating across Perth now for a few years, and it’s certainly been demonstrated to be helpful.

JOURNALIST: Do you mind explaining a little bit about the Basics Card and how that operates?

JENNY MACKLIN: Sure. The way that income management works is that it can either be voluntary, so you can say I know I’ve got a problem managing my money, I want to go onto voluntary income management. Alternatively a child protection authority can recommend that in the interests of your children you go onto compulsory income management, or Centrelink may recognise that you’re especially vulnerable. Might be that you’re in danger of becoming homeless because you’re not paying your rent, you might be about to be evicted. So then Centrelink will put you on income management and give you a Basics Card and either 50% or 70% of your welfare payments will go on the Basics Card. You can then use that card to buy the essentials of life.

JOURNALIST: What sort of shops will it operate in?

JENNY MACKLIN: A whole range of shops. So there are many shops here in Shepparton but many, many shops around Australia already take the Basics Card.

JOURNALIST: Can you name any of them at all?

JENNY MACKLIN: So Coles and Woollies for example. So places that sell food and clothes, people need to be able to buy the essentials of life at these shops, butchers, other shops like that. Basically the shop has to be able to demonstrate they take Eftpos and that they’re willing to be part of the scheme. But we’ve had a lot of experience with this now in different parts of Australia and of course, we’re progressively rolling it out. So if there are other shopkeepers in Shepparton or the surrounding towns who’d like to be part of it, then they can apply to Centrelink.

JOURNALIST: If participants are outside their town or city that’s participating in this, you know if they’re on holidays, so they can’t access those funds if you …

JENNY MACKLIN: No, they can. That’s why I’m emphasising that we certainly have shops right around Australia. So we had people move to Adelaide for example. At the moment or at the time there wasn’t any compulsory income management in Adelaide but there were already shops that took the Basics Card, so we’ve set up, set that up around the country.

JOURNALIST: So even if you move away you will remain part of the scheme?

JENNY MACKLIN: You will. So if you’re in Shepparton now and you’re compulsorily income managed, you can, you will continue to be until there’s evidence for example that you’re looking after your children in a better way.

JOURNALIST: What about the stigma attached to the Basics Card if somebody’s in a public place using it?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well as I say we’ve got a lot of experience with the Basics Card now and that really hasn’t been shown to be the case. I think people use a lot of different cards when they buy their food at the supermarket. I think the other thing to remember is that it’s better to have the Child Protection Authorities and Centrelink work with you and use income management so that you can keep your child, rather than have your child removed. It’s better that Centrelink works with you to prevent you being evicted from your house, rather than you becoming homeless. I think that’s the way you need to think about it.

JOURNALIST: Now pollies have just taken another pay rise. Is it a bit rich that you’re here spruiking how other people should be spending their money when you’re earning extra?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think what we’re trying to demonstrate is we want to help people who do have trouble managing their money. That’s really what this is about. We’ve already had people volunteer for income management in some of the places we’ve just started it in the last few days. People who’ve got a gambling problem, who recognise that problem themselves and who want help. It’s certainly our experience that once people get to know about income management they recognise it is a useful tool.

JOURNALIST: What about the concerns that income management doesn’t necessarily tackle the underlying causes of alcoholism and addictions?

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s why it is important that we also make sure there are health services available. That’s why we’re here today at a place that offers financial counselling. That’s why we’re offering additional support for parents. You’re right, we’ve got to make sure that the services are there as well as providing this tool, and that’s how I see it. It’s an additional tool that helps people better manage their money.

JOURNALIST: Just quickly, onto another topic. Last night’s ABC’s 7.30 Report showed the living conditions and abuse in the north-west New South Wales town of Toomelah. What are your thoughts on this?

JENNY MACKLIN: The situation in Toomelah is serious and of course you would have seen the New South Wales Minister responsible for child protection acknowledging that. We’ve been working very closely with the New South Wales Government on the whole range of issues at Toomelah. Child protection is one issue, the upgrade of the houses is another issue which we’re working on with the New South Wales Government, making sure that the sewerage issues are addressed, children attending school. So many, many issues that do need addressing and we’re working very carefully, both with the people on the ground in Toomelah, they’ve been some public meetings take place over the last few weeks, but many of these issues, policing, child protection, housing, all of them requiring attention.

JOURNALIST: And what can the Federal Government do improve this situation?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we’re working as I say with the New South Wales Government, so making sure that in our areas of responsibility, employment for example, that we get in and provide additional support to the Aboriginal people who live in Toomelah, to make sure that they are getting the skills they need to get the jobs that are available in that area.