Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory; gambling reform

Program: Radio National Breakfast

E & OE – Proof only

FRAN KELLY: And the Gillard Government has announced plans to extend the Commonwealth intervention in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. Next week it will introduce legislation to link school attendance to income support in more communities. Jenny Macklin is the Indigenous Affairs Minister, Minister good morning.

JENNY MACKLIN: Good morning Fran.

FRAN KELLY: Using welfare measures to improve school attendance is already being trialled in some communities in the Northern Territory. What’s the evidence that it’s working?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well the evidence is really coming from Aboriginal people themselves. We’ve just spent the last few months speaking with many, many people in lots of different communities in the Northern Territory and I’ve heard myself from Aboriginal people, especially older people, saying to me we want to do everything possible to get our children to school.

FRAN KELLY: In those communities though where you’ve trialled it, are children attending class more often?

JENNY MACKLIN: We’ve certainly seen some improvements but we know we’ve got a lot further to go. We know that it’s critical to do many things. One is to make sure that we implement the things that parents and children say aren’t working for them. So it may be that we have to address bullying at school, it may be making sure that a child is helped to get up in the morning and walk to school. What we want to do is work closely with parents, work closely with the Northern Territory Government, to make sure that children do get to school every day. This is the message that Aboriginal people are saying to me they want to see implemented, and they said to me, you make sure, you the Minister, make sure that you use every power you have to make sure that our children get a decent education.

FRAN KELLY: Well on that front in terms on what kind of help will be given to families to get their kids into school before their income support is suspended, there was criticism initially that you know, Centrelink wasn’t doing enough to help and things have been re-jigged. But for instance, under the scheme and the extension of the scheme, whose job is it in the community to get kids out of bed and into school. Is it the parent’s job and if they can’t manage it does someone else help under the scheme?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well of course in the fist instance everywhere in Australia it’s the parent’s job to make sure that children go to school. And if that’s not happening what we’re doing is putting in place a whole range of additional supports with the school, making sure that they get the parents in to talk with the teachers in the first instance. Talk with Centrelink to make sure that we address any problems that might be easily able to be addressed if they’re brought to everybody’s attention, like making sure that uniforms are there, children have money for lunch, that sort of thing. Make sure that bullying is addressed. But we also know that it’s not always the case that parents take their responsibility seriously. We do want to make sure that parents do the right thing by their kids, that they get their kids up in the morning, get them ready for school and get them there. Make sure they get a decent education. If they don’t go to school they’re certainly never going to get the education they need to get a decent job.

FRAN KELLY: Now one of the things that we heard recently when we were up in the Northern Territory talking about this issue, was that one of the reasons some kids don’t bother going to school is because they look around and see well, there’s no jobs for me to get out here anyway why bother getting educated. You’re also announcing a new jobs package for Indigenous Australians, what will be in it?

JENNY MACKLIN: Yes we are because that is another big message we heard from Aboriginal people as part of the consultations, is that they want to work and they want to work in properly paid jobs. So today I am announcing extra money to go to providing additional ranger positions, so there’ll be 50 new ranger positions, that’s on top of the more than 200 ranger positions that already exist in the Northern Territory. And that’ll mean more local Aboriginal people can work on their country and protect the environment. There’ll also be money for new traineeships, because one of the areas where people are frustrated is they see jobs in their communities going to people who aren’t local. They want the chance to get the training they need to get the jobs that will be created in the future, jobs in the health service or aged care, disability, on the local council, for example.

FRAN KELLY: All right, Minister can I go to another one of your portfolio responsibilities now outside the Indigenous area, on poker machine reform. Is there a chance the Federal Government will shift from its commitment to mandatory pre-commitment technology to this $1 bet proposal now being advocated by the Greens with support from Andrew Wilkie and Tony Windsor?

JENNY MACKLIN: No, we’ve taken the advice of the Productivity Commission. They recommended that we introduce a system of full or mandatory pre-commitment. We did ask the Productivity Commission to do a major inquiry and look at the evidence as to what would help problem gamblers and I think we have to remember that’s what this is all about.

FRAN KELLY: But couldn’t $1 bet limits help problem gamblers because they won’t be able to bet the same amount. I mean that’s what these people advocating, apparently that was Andrew Wilkie’s initial position?

JENNY MACKLIN: Once again, if you look at the people who have provided the expert advice on this matter, the Productivity Commission, they did recommend mandatory pre-commitment, that’s why we’re going down this path. We are hoping to have a trial of the way in which we implement mandatory pre-commitment so that we get the whole implementation of it right.

FRAN KELLY: When and where will that trial be?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we’re working with both the ACT Government and ACT Clubs. We think that if we can that would be a good place to do a trial of how we implement mandatory pre-commitment.

FRAN KELLY: Your fellow Cabinet Minister Simon Crean recently said the Government should be looking at all alternatives to mandatory pre-commitment because this issue, this policy is really hurting your side of politics, particularly in marginal seats in New South Wales and Queensland. If the only way to get some kind of gambling reform through the Parliament is to switch to the $1 bet proposal, will you consider it?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well once again I think it’s important to make sure that we do what’s going to work and it’s the Productivity Commission who told us that the evidence shows that mandatory pre-commitment, getting a gambler to sit down and say, tonight this is how much I want to spend, and make sure that they stick to that limit. This is about problem gamblers being able to determine how much they want to spend before they get hooked into the zone, if you like, that’s created by the poker machines. We know that problem gambling is serious. The Productivity Commission says it’s mandatory pre-commitment that will help problem gambling and that’s what we’re proceeding to implement.

FRAN KELLY: Jenny Macklin thank you very much for joining us.