Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

National Disability Insurance Scheme, Indigenous Constitutional recognition, Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory, Australian Labor Party


JENNY MACKLIN: Thanks very much everyone for joining us here at Northcott. I’m very, very pleased to be here with my colleague, Julie Owens, the Member for Parramatta, and we would first of all like to thank everybody here at Northcott for the wonderful work that they do both here in Parramatta but in many, many regional centres as well, both providing services and support to people with disabilities and their families. As we’ve seen this morning the work they do on wheelchairs, making sure that wheelchairs are appropriately fitted, making sure that shoes and other equipment is appropriately fitted so that people have got the ability to get around and be as independent as possible.

I’d also like to thank them very much for taking us in to the Disability Employment Service. The work that they’re doing helping people with disability to get into employment is very, very important. I think we all know there are many people with disability who want the opportunity to be able to work and to have the support that they get here is very, very important.

We also were very welcomed into the cooking class and terrific to see some of the people here making cupcakes, learning to cook, learning so that they can be more independent so that they’re able to contribute to their own care and support. And of course the highlight was the speech from Greta who really indicated to all of us I think, I’m sure all of you as well, just why it is so important that we have a National Disability Insurance Scheme in Australia.

I think Greta’s remarks really demonstrate very much from her own personal experience why this is so critical. In so many different ways she talked about how the disability support system is letting people down right now. She has an aspiration to go to University. She knows if she’s going to do that that access if very important, she needs support to go to University. She of course needs transport. She needs her chair to be properly fitted for her. All of these things are areas that are critical to her development and her independence, and as she so eloquently said to us today, without a National Disability Insurance Scheme, all of these different areas of her life are very, very difficult. So we are determined, as a Federal Labor Government, to do everything we can to make sure that a National Disability Insurance Scheme becomes a reality.We’re putting the foundations in place right now. We understand that this issue is one of the utmost importance to Australians, particularly Australians with disabilities and their carers and families. We’re getting on with the work of building the foundations for a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

JOURNALIST: Will there be money in the Budget for this?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well of course you’ll have to wait till the Budget. But of course we have already allocated some funds to some of the work that needs to be done.There is a lot of technical work that needs to be done, for example, the development of common assessment tools, so that people can be assessed for their needs. Not have to go and keep answering the same questions when they need different types of services from different providers. We need proper quality assurance processes, they’re being developed. The Prime Minister announced last December that an Agency would be established within my Portfolio to get the work proceeding more quickly so that too is underway.

JOURNALIST: But $10 million surely, it doesn’t spread very far across the amount of needs that we’ve seen this morning?

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s true. And we understand of course from the excellent work that was done by the Productivity Commission that more money will be needed.That is absolutely correct.But there’s also a lot of foundation work, a lot of technical work that needs to be done.

JOURNALIST: Minister, are you concerned of the infighting, the infighting within your Government. At the moment we have Simon Crean attacking Kevin Rudd, you have Doug Cameron attacking Simon Crean for attacks against Kevin Rudd. Should people cool it?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I don’t intend to add to any of that today. We are here at an outstanding service talking and listening to people about what we consider to be the next major reform that Australia faces. We want to deliver it. I intend to do everything I can to make sure that it happens. So that’s what I’m here to talk about today and I don’t intend to engage on the other matters.

JOURNALIST: But how much of a distraction is what’s happening?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think you can see from my point of view, it’s not. We’re getting on with this very important work. It is something that I feel very strongly about. The Government feels very strongly about. The Prime Minister has made a particular effort herself around the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We were in a different service in Sydney just a couple of weeks ago. She’s made two very substantial announcements that demonstrate her personal commitment and her Government’s commitment to a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

JOURNALIST: And do you think she’ll still be the Prime Minister to see that come to fruition?

JENNY MACKLIN: She is the Prime Minister and she’s doing an outstanding job.

JOURNALIST: She is the Prime Minister but do you think there’ll be a spill next week?

JENNY MACKLIN: I’m not entering into any of those conversations. She’s the Prime Minister. She’s doing an outstanding job. She’s committed to us building a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

JOURNALIST: In regards to your Indigenous Affairs Portfolio, now that you’ve had time to read the report on recognition in the Constitution, what do you think, what’s going to happen, have you spoken to the Coalition about getting some of the recommendations through?

JENNY MACKLIN: You would have seen when the Prime Minister delivered the Close the Gap address to the Parliament last week, that the Government has announced some funding and support for Reconciliation Australia. We’re supporting the establishment of a wide-ranging group to work with Reconciliation Australia and a broader public about Constitutional Recognition of Australia’s First Peoples. We do think this is a very important thing for us to have a very, very important conversation with the Australian people. We know how hard it is to change the Constitution but I’m very pleased to see the way in which people across the political spectrum have recognised that to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Constitution will be a very positive step for this country. We’ll of course be very supportive of the work that Reconciliation Australia will lead.

JOURNALIST: And just on the Stronger Futures consultation in Alice Springs anti-alcohol campaigners have called for a floor price and alcohol free days where the sale of alcohol is completely banned. Is that something that the Government will consider?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I’ve had very many conversations with that excellent group in Alice Springs and with many, many other people in the Northern Territory about the need for greater control of alcohol. On the issue of the floor price, as you may know, the Health Minister, the previous Health Minister, referred this issue to the National Preventative Health Taskforce or agency there looking at this issue nationally. But in the legislation that is before the Parliament on Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory, we are certainly looking at introducing measures that will strengthen alcohol control in the Northern Territory.

JOURNALIST: Julie, you’ve got (inaudible) count on me. Can the Prime Minister count on you?

JULIE OWENS: You guys are obsessed with this stuff far more than I am.

JENNY MACKLIN: And this is about disability.

JULIE OWENS: I was about to say that, I’m more concerned at the moment with the families in my community that deal every day with the additional difficulties with either having a disability themselves or raising a child with one. You’ve seen today that even the most basic things like sitting upright in a chair can be difficult, and we as a nation really need to make sure that people can fly to their full capacity. So my concern is actually there. Your concern might be elsewhere but mine is actually right here.

JOURNALIST: I don’t think it’s just our concern, I think the people of Australia …..

JULIE OWENS: Well it’s not mine, so…

JOURNALIST: Do you think that they deserve to know if there’s going to be a leadership spill?

JENNY MACKLIN: What I can say to you is that the people of Australia want a National Disability Insurance Scheme and this Labor Government is getting on with building the foundations to deliver it.