Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians; gambling reforms

Program: ABC newsradio

E & OE – Proof only

MARIUS BENSON: Jenny Macklin, there’s been a broad welcome for the Report on proposed changes to the Constitution. Tony Abbott says he’s part of that welcome, but he says he is concerned that the proposed amendments don’t become a ‘one clause Bill of Rights’. Is that a reasonable concern on his part?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think the important thing is that we start this wide-ranging conversation with the Australian people recognising that of course we do need support right across the political spectrum for a Referendum to get up. But the exciting thing is that this discussion the Report that we received yesterday really does set us on a very positive path for the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Constitution.

MARIUS BENSON: People are still trying to understand exactly what the proposed changes will mean. But it seems to be that it bans racial discrimination against any group in Australia but allows positive discrimination to deal with the effects of past discrimination?

JENNY MACKLIN: And of course that is the law at the moment. We do exactly that to the way in which the Racial Discrimination Act works. It does make sure that we don’t discriminate against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, but the Commonwealth can act in a positive way to support the advancement of Aboriginal peoples. So that’s one proposition, of course it needs to be widely discussed. The implications need to be widely discussed. What I’m very pleased about is that we had some of the best Constitutional lawyers on our Expert Panel and they’ve given this very, very serious thought. They of course have produced a very significant Report for the Australian people and I’d encourage everyone to get online, read it, and indicate their views about it, start having discussions about it in their communities and in their workplaces.

MARIUS BENSON: All right, can I leave the debate on the Constitution there and go to the immediate politics of today which revolve around poker machine reform. You made a comment yesterday that was seen as the Government effectively declaring that Andrew Wilkie’s preferred option of mandatory pre-commitment just won’t happen. You said we have to act with the Parliament we have. Do you believe the numbers just aren’t there for the Wilkie proposal?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, we certainly recognise that we have to get numbers in the Parliament in the House of Representatives to pass these laws and at the moment that certainly looks questionable. We do have to act with the Parliament that we have and what I also said yesterday is that that doesn’t mean we’re walking away from reform. The Prime Minister has made it clear that she supports action on problem gambling. I certainly do. We’ve seen too many families whose lives have been ruined by problem gambling, so we want to get action. But we can only get through with the support that we’re able to muster in the Parliament. That’s the reality of the Parliament we do face. But I’ll just repeat again, Marius, we do want to see action and we want to get the best possible result that we can.

MARIUS BENSON: But the Prime Minister signed up to an agreement with Andrew Wilkie that didn’t just promise action, it promised specific action. Was the Prime Minister stringing Andrew Wilkie promising specific action that she couldn’t deliver?

JENNY MACKLIN: What we are doing right now is discussing what we can get through the Parliament with Andrew Wilkie and of course with the other cross-benchers. Those discussions are on-going, so of course I’m not going to go through the detail of that on the radio. But I will say that we do want to get action on problem gambling. It’s very important for the Government, and of course it’s very important not just for Andrew Wilkie, but for the other cross-benchers who equally see the damage that problem gambling does to families.

MARIUS BENSON: Andrew Wilkie is now talking about reviewing his support for your Private Health Insurance rebate legislation. Does that concern you?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I saw that in the media today. I haven’t had any discussions with him about that so I really don’t want to go into those details.

MARIUS BENSON: But it sounds like the horse trading is getting fairly serious?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well the discussions are proceeding with Mr Wilkie around these issues so we know he feels very strongly about it. The Government does too. But of course we have to face up to what we can get through the House of Representatives.

MARIUS BENSON: Jenny Macklin thank you very much.