Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians; gambling reforms

Program: ABC24 Afternoon Live

E & OE – Proof only

KIM LANDERS: Jenny Macklin is the Government going to adopt all these recommendations and actually put this issue to a referendum?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well Kim we’ve just received this very important report today and I can certainly say to you that the Government will look at it very, very closely. Julia Gillard, the Prime Minister, established this expert panel to give us advice about the best way to recognise Australia’s first peoples in our Constitution. And if I can just say I think the expert panel have done an excellent job and I do thank them very, very much for the dedication and passion with which they’ve produced this report.

KIM LANDERS: But what they’ve done is they’ve ….

JENNY MACKLIN: …we’ll look very closely at it.

KIM LANDERS: But they’ve suggested major changes. This is not just tinkering around the edges. Is the Government committed to actually continuing and putting this issue to a Referendum?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well as I say we’ve just received the report today. We’re very pleased to have received it. We will look at it very, very closely. We have given a commitment to have a Referendum but of course everybody, everyone on the Expert Panel, Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians want to get a positive result. So we know how hard it is to change the Constitution. We want to work across the political spectrum to get a good result and we’ll be doing that very carefully.

KIM LANDERS: How confident are you of getting the Opposition’s support for any changes? Because as you know Referendum often fail if there’s not bipartisanship amongst the major political Parties. Are you confident of getting support from the Opposition, and if you do not get that support will you not go ahead with the Referendum?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well you’re dead right. We do need to make sure that we get Opposition support, that we get wide-ranging support across the Australian community. We were very pleased that Ken Wyatt, Liberal Member of Parliament, was on the Expert Panel. We also had Greens and Independents, Labor Members, on the Expert Panel to try and really, from the word go, make sure that we demonstrated our understanding of the need to get cross-party support. We’ve all just received the report today. It’s been made public. I’d encourage everyone to have a look at it. It’s a very, very significant piece of work.

KIM LANDERS: Well the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, says he’s got to look at the report. He’s very pleased to have received it. But he did make mention of the fact that he doesn’t want to see anything that is what he has called a ‘one clause Bill of Rights’. Is that sounding some alarms bells for you? Do you think that there’s a danger that the Opposition will not support changes?

JENNY MACKLIN: No, I think the Opposition’s response has been very positive and I think it demonstrates that they too want to see change in this area. And what’s going to be very important is that we look at the report carefully. That we all come at this with good heart and I think that’s exactly what we’ve been able to do by having all of the different political views represented on the Expert Panel.

KIM LANDERS: If this does indeed go to a Referendum, are you confident that Australians will vote for such major changes to our Constitution and vote for Indigenous recognition in this way?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well of course the most successful Referendum that’s been held in Australia was back in 1967 which was so important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. We want to make sure that this will succeed. We do need to make sure that a very broad cross section of the Australian people are behind it. And that’s why we’ll take the Report that we’ve received today, we’ll make sure that we look at it very, very carefully. But really the job then is to talk with the Australian people and build the level of support that’s needed to get a positive response.

KIM LANDERS: Now Minister let me ask you to put your Families hat on and let me ask you about pokies. We’ve heard so much about it this week. Is the Government about to dump its deal with Andrew Wilkie to introduce mandatory pre-commitment technology?

JENNY MACKLIN: I just want to make it really clear that the Government is determined to act on problem gambling. I understand, the Prime Minister understands, just how important it is to help those families, to help those individuals who are affected by problem gambling.

KIM LANDERS: Are you going ahead with mandatory pre-commitment technology?

JENNY MACKLIN: We also, of course, understand that mandatory pre-commitment technology is a useful form of technology. The Productivity Commission recommended it. But we have to work with the Parliament that we have. I can say to you very clearly we will not be walking away from problem gamblers. We are committed to act, to help problem gamblers, but we have to act with the Parliament that we have, and we have to do what we can to help problem gamblers.

KIM LANDERS: So is that a yes or a no to mandatory pre-commitment technology?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we’re having discussions right now with the cross benchers. Obviously I’m not going to go into the detail of those discussions through the media, but I do want to say to you categorically that we want to help problem gamblers. We’re determined to act, but we have to act with the Parliament that we have.

KIM LANDERS: There’s reports of a compromise looming. What can you tell us about that?

JENNY MACKLIN: We are having discussions with the cross-benches. We do understand that they too, are committed to act on problem gambling. I think there are many people in the Parliament that want to address the pain and suffering that comes from problem gambling. But we have to get an agreement that will get through the Parliament.

KIM LANDERS: Are you about to announce a trial of mandatory pre-commitment technology in the ACT for example?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well as you’d be aware, we’ve been working with the ACT Government, with Clubs in the ACT. My department has done some good preparatory work with clubs and with the ACT Government about the design of a trial. We certainly think that would be a very positive development.

KIM LANDERS: So when will you be able to announce it?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we’ve got some further detailed work to do and we’ll announce it as soon as we’ve finished that work.

KIM LANDERS: Is that possible that you’ll announce it by the end this week because Andrew Wilkie is saying that he hopes to say something about this issue by the end of the week?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we’re still working with ACT Clubs, with the ACT Government. My department has been doing that work for me. It is very important that if we have a trial we get it right. So we’ll announce it when we feel that we can make sure that the trial will be robust.

KIM LANDERS: As I’ve just mentioned, Andrew Wilkie keeps saying that he’ll have something to say by the end of the week. Do you expect some announcement by the end of this week so Australian people will know clearly in which direction this issue is heading?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well that’s why I’m saying to you very clearly today, the Government does want to make sure that we help problem gamblers. I’ve seen in my own electorate, the Prime Minister knows from her personal experience in her electorate, the pain that families go through, when a person, a mum or a dad, gets themselves into trouble with problem gambling. Where people can’t pay the rent or can’t pay their mortgage. That’s why we want to act on problem gambling. We’re having discussions about the best way forward and when we’ve determined the best way forward, of course, that will be announced.

KIM LANDERS: All right Minister. Jenny Macklin, thank you very much for joining us this afternoon.