Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Clean energy future, outstations, SIHIP

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JENNY MACKLIN: First of all I’d like to say a very big thank you to everybody here at the Centre for Appropriate Technology. Thank you very much for having us and for the outstanding work that you’re doing across many many remote communities, both here in the Territory and other parts of remote Australia. What you’ve demonstrated today is just how important this initiative is to help people have solar power and to be able to be energy efficient, and also of course have lower costs for their energy use. So it is really an outstanding program and one that you’ve demonstrated over a long period of time is really making difference to people’s lives. This additional $40 million of course is made available as part of the Federal Government’s Clean Energy Future initiative, this is money that will go to support solar technology across remote Australia and so we do certainly hope that this will see more solar technology introduced in around 50 additional remote communities.

JOURNALIST: Which communities will it go towards?

JENNY MACKLIN: It’ll be tendered, so just as the Centre for Appropriate Technology tenders out its initiatives, this money will be tendered out and go to those where they demonstrate it can be best used.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) would be your focus on trying to convert communities that are currently on diesel power?

JENNY MACKLIN: That’ll really be up to the individual communities to put forward their proposals. People of course want to reduce their energy costs so where they demonstrate that they can make use of this in an effective way I’m sure that that will be examined.

JOURNALIST: In terms of Bushlight, is this a continuation of their funding?

JENNY MACKLIN: There will be a continuation of Bushlight’s funding, we understand how important their work is, but this money is more extensive than that.

JOURNALIST: Just quickly on another issue, this morning Labor Senator Trish Crossin has came out and said that she’ll be pushing hard to get the Federal Government to support more funding for outstations. As you know the funding is supposed to run out next year, will you be considering supporting more funding?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well there’s a couple of things I’d say about that. One is I’d like to congratulate Bushlight for the work that they do in many many outstations around Australia, both here in the Northern Territory and elsewhere. They really do demonstrate what’s possible. Of course, through the Aboriginal Benefits Account we are continuing to support different outstation initiatives and I’m sure that will continue into the future. As to the money that we’ve provided to the Northern Territory over the last four years, we’ll look at that in the Budget next year.

JOURNALIST: But the Territory Government made it clear that they can’t support that funding.

JENNY MACKLIN: We’ll look at that in the Budget next year.

JOURNALIST: Minister I was out at Utopia yesterday and they’ve got a solar panel set up, they’re complaining that it’s not enough, that the mobs like Utopia and that have got a whole, they’re on the power grid, they’re only 20 ks away and they say that everything goes off. That the solar power only powers up, takes four hours in the morning, only lasts for an hour and they’re losing food, they’ve got to travel 40 kilometres to get more fuel, they’re just really struggling. Why, they want to know why the outstations and that aren’t getting the same sort of assistance that like towns?

JENNY MACKLIN: As Bushlight have been describing to us this morning there is the capacity to build larger solar systems in places where there is a higher demand and so they’ll be able to apply for this additional money that we’ve just announced today.

JOURNALIST: They’re also really concerned about the overcrowding. They’ve got what five generations in one house that’s dilapidated and falling down, they’ve got three partially built houses and they’re wondering what happened with SIHIP there?

JENNY MACKLIN: As you’d be aware we’re building many many new houses here in the Northern Territory and in other parts of remote Australia. We’ve completed more than 300 new houses, there’s another 125 under construction, so there’s an enormous backlog of demand, both in the areas you’ve just talked about, yesterday we were in Docker River, they’re desperate for additional housing as well. So there are many parts of the Northern Territory that need new housing and by the end of 2013 we’ll have built an additional 900 new houses. Never has this been done before, so we understand the demand and that’s why we’re building so many additional houses, but there is a huge backlog.

JOURNALIST: And is that backlog going to be looked at in outstations and particularly like places where there hasn’t been any focus from the Government? They want a visit from you, they want a visit from Mr Snowdon, they feel like they’ve been really forgotten.

JENNY MACKLIN: As you’d be aware we’re consulting widely with different parts of the Northern Territory and I’ll be going to another community today, as I was in Docker River yesterday, last week in Ngukurr and up on Groote, Maningrida, so we’re going to many places, we’ll go to as many as possible.