Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

National Playgroup Week

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JENNY MACKLIN: I would like to thank the staff and parents who are here at the Child Care Centre at Parliament House for having us here and you can hear the noise in the background of many happy children playing which is wonderful. We also have here with us today some parents and children who participate in playgroups here in Canberra and today we are celebrating National Playgroups Week. It is a very exciting occasion for Playgroups right around Australia. Playgroups are a fantastic organisation for parents and their children to come together and as the statement for this year’s Playgroups Week really goes, it’s really about being stronger through play, and you can see the great amount of pleasure that parents are having spending time with their children. Sometimes it’s about learning to play together, spending time together as parents and children. So I do want to particularly congratulate all of those who organise playgroups right around Australia who participate in playgroups all around Australia. These are great organisations that strengthen families, strengthen children and we’re very, very pleased as a Government to be supporting them.

JOURNALIST: Minister what do you make of Tony Abbott’s comments about the Northern Territory Intervention?

JENNY MACKLIN: These are very serious issues, particularly the issues that we confront in Alice Springs and of course, the Government has been working with the people of Alice Springs to address these serious matters over the last three years. We were determined to introduce an Alice Springs Transformation Plan and have committed $150 million to rebuilding the town camps, to building homes, to upgrading homes, upgrading infrastructure, putting in proper lighting, making sure that we address the issues of alcohol abuse, domestic violence and so on. So we understand just how serious these matters are. That’s why it is very disappointing to see Mr Abbott taking a political approach to these issues. As the Prime Minister has said this morning, Mr Abbott seems more interested in searching for a headline rather than addressing these very serious matters in a bipartisan fashion.

JOURNALIST: Minister, so often politicians call for bipartisanship to deal with really complex issues, this is clearly one of them. You already had some bipartisanship promised at the Apology. Why not continue that, what is wrong with working together on this problem?

JENNY MACKLIN: In fact I have been working with Senator Scullion, the opposition spokesperson, in a proper bipartisan way on these matters. It’s really Tony Abbott’s behaviour in the last twelve hours or so that demonstrates he’s really more interested in playing politics than being bipartisan. If he wants to change his mind and come and sit down with us, work through the issues sensibly, then of course we’re already doing that, we’re doing that with Senator Scullion. We’re introducing a wide range of improvements in Alice Springs. None of these things can be done quickly. I’m sure Mr Abbott does understand that it would be much better if he stopped playing politics and sat down with us as Senator Scullion has and work these things through in a sensible way.

JOURNALIST: Do you agree that some of the things are taking so long to get any improvement in place?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think anyone who’s been to the town camps in Alice Springs would understand that it does take a long term commitment. We know that when the previous Government was in power they walked away from the Alice Springs town camps. The previous Minister, the Liberal Minister, was so frustrated he just gave up. What we have done is insist on the changes that need to be made. We’ve put the money in – $150 million – into the Alice Springs Transformation Plan. We’ve done wide scale consultation with local people, but we are getting on with what is a very, very difficult task.

JOURNALIST: Is it too simplistic just to say he’s playing politics when quite obviously he’s raised a number of other concerns outside of town camps such as policing numbers which the Labor Chief Minister Paul Henderson can see that the police have dropped the bag over the Christmas holidays?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well in fact if you go through each of the issues in Mr Abbott’s letter to the Prime Minister, each and every one of the issues that Mr Abbott has raised in his letter, are being addressed as part of the Alice Springs Transformation Plan. It would have been far more sensible, far more professional of Mr Abbott if he really was serious about this very important matter, if he’d sat down with us I could have given him a decent briefing on all of these issues and we wouldn’t be in this position.

JOURNALIST: Julia Gillard yesterday indicated that we could be looking at tax cuts here to offset a new price list, price rise from the carbon tax. What about pensioners, how are you (inaudible) for them?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well the Prime Minister has also made it clear that pensioners and other beneficiaries would of course receive assistance as part of any household assistance package. We do understand just how important it is to make sure that pensioners and other beneficiaries are supported as we introduce a carbon price. We do know that a carbon price will put up the cost of things that you buy. That’s why we intend to make sure that pensioners and other beneficiaries, as well as other households are assisted properly.

JOURNALIST: Minister do you think that your policies for the Alice are working?

JENNY MACKLIN: There’s no doubt that we’re seeing improvement. We’ve got more than 20 new homes built. I was in one of the town camps at the beginning of February. We now have the Alice Springs Town Council picking up rubbish on a regular basis just like in the rest of Alice Springs. We now have the dogs under control in the same way that they are under control in the rest of Alice Springs. We know how important it has been to make sure that we’ve got transitional or short term accommodation. I’ve just opened a 150 bed visitor park in Alice Springs. This is a matter that Mr Abbott raised in his letter to the Prime Minister. He should be aware that we’re in the process of building 500 short term accommodation beds in Alice Springs, never done by the previous Liberal Government.

JOURNALIST: Will Newstart be increased to help people with a climate change compensation cost?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well as I’ve just indicated, we’ll certainly be assisting both pensioners and beneficiaries.

JOURNALIST: And also too, how much does the pension need to go up by?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well all of these issues will be worked through. But what we’ve indicated is that we do understand how important it is to assist households, whether it is families with children, whether it’s pensioners, people who are on benefits, we will make sure that people are assisted as we transform the economy with a carbon price.

JOURNALIST: What should (inaudible) work through at the tax summit?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well the issues of when they’ll be worked through are really matters for the Minister for Climate Change but I can certainly assure pensioners and beneficiaries that they will be assisted.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) compensated, how is this going to change people’s behaviour to using less emissions?

JENNY MACKLIN: That is of course is why we’re introducing a carbon price. We’re introducing a carbon price to transform the economy, to encourage business to invest in carbon reducing technology, to make sure that we encourage households to also do the same. To make sure that households are assisted so that they’re not unduly penalised as we bring about these changes, we’ll make sure that lower and middle income households are assisted.

JOURNALIST: And can higher income earners also expect some assistance even if it’s not the full cost of compensation?

JENNY MACKLIN: We’ve made it clear that there will be assistance for lower and middle income households.

JOURNALIST: What about high income earners?

JENNY MACKLIN: We’ve made it clear that lower and middle income households will be assisted.