Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Alice Springs, Tony Abbott

Program: ABC Alice Springs Mornings

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NADINE MALONEY; Jenny Macklin is the Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs. Good morning Jenny.

JENNY MACKLIN; Good morning.

NADINE MALONEY; What is the Government’s response to Mr Abbott’s offer of a meeting here in Alice Springs to talk about potential changes to the intervention?

JENNY MACKLIN; Well if I can just go through with you how this came about, the opposition leader raised these issues with the Prime Minister on Friday. He said that he was going to write to the Prime Minister and then seek to meet with her on these matters and of course we understand that these are very serious issues for the people of Alice Springs.

Unfortunately instead of taking that course, the opposition leader has today gone out looking for a headline and as the Prime Minister has said herself this morning, we don’t think this should be about politics. We don’t want to get involved in the sort of politics that Mr Abbott is playing here, what we want to do is get on with the job of working with the people of Alice Springs to address what are very serious issues.

NADINE MALONEY; Does it really matter though that he only brought it up Friday? Surely if he’s proposing a meeting he’s proposing a meeting and it doesn’t matter when he brought it up.

JENNY MACKLIN; Well it’s more the way in which he’s gone about searching for a headline today. [Break in audio] part of the Alice Springs transformation plan. This is a plan that the Government is putting in place with representatives of the people of Alice Springs. Of course the Town Council, the Lhere Artepe, the traditional owners’ representatives, the Tangentyere Council, the Northern Territory Government and the Australian Government are represented.

We’re putting in $150 million to go to a range of issues to do with alcohol controls, building new houses, improved services for children, addressing domestic violence and so the list of interventions goes on because we understand it’s important to address the many problems that exist in Alice Springs and to do it in a coordinated and dedicated fashion.

NADINE MALONEY; The Prime Minister Julia Gillard has just spoken at a press conference and she said Mr Abbott is hunting for a headline and he’s not really committed to implementing new measures that might actually help Alice Springs. She mentioned, as you just have as well, the work that you’ve been doing with Nigel Scullion. And have you spoken to Mr Scullion this morning and is a meeting here in Alice Springs with indigenous leaders with a Government representative on the cards?

JENNY MACKLIN; I haven’t spoken to Senator Scullion this morning. I have put in a call to him and I’m sure we’ll be able to discuss these issues. It is a pity that Mr Abbott couldn’t behave in the same way. As you would know, I am in Alice Springs regularly, I was there at the start of February to open the new visitor park, a very important new development, one hundred and fifty beds for temporary residents coming to Alice Springs, one of the things that Mr Abbott calls for in his letter.

He doesn’t seem to realise that in fact we’ve already implemented this very important development and in fact are in the process of building around 500 beds for people who need to visit Alice Springs for different reasons.

NADINE MALONEY; You’re listening to 783 ABC Alice Springs. Nadine Maloney with you. I’m speaking with Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin, about opposition leader Tony Abbott’s request or urging for the Prime Minister Julia Gillard to come to Alice Springs and meet with local indigenous leaders about the possibility of a new intervention plan. You too can take part in this conversation, 1300 019 783.

Jenny Macklin, as Indigenous Affairs Minister, you yourself are very aware of what’s going on in Alice Springs at the moment but how aware is the Prime Minister Julia Gillard and does she actually need to take up Mr Abbott’s offer and come here and meet with local people?

JENNY MACKLIN; Well the Prime Minister is very aware of the situation facing indigenous people, both in the Northern Territory and other parts of Australia and of course she, like me, is very committed to the Alice Springs Transformation Plan, unlike the opposition. When they were in Government they walked away from the people of Alice Springs. They did not stay the course and make sure that the money was put into new housing, put into improved lighting, put into improvements for children in Alice Springs, improvements to a range of services to address the alcohol problems that we know exist in Alice Springs.

None of this was done when Tony Abbott was in government. It’s all being done now, as part of the Alice Springs Transformation Plan that this Government and Julia Gillard as Prime Minister is committed to.

NADINE MALONEY; Well Tony Abbott has mentioned a series of measures he says might help the situation in Alice. They include converting town camps into housing, boosting police numbers and compulsory work programs. What is your response to those suggestions?

JENNY MACKLIN; Well I think this just demonstrates how out of touch Mr Abbott is. If you go to the issue of housing, that’s exactly what we’re doing. I was at the Trucking Yards town camp just at the beginning of February, seeing the new houses that are being built, the upgrading and the rebuilding of houses. We’re putting in new roads, curb and guttering, proper lighting. All of this is being done in the Alice Springs town camps, so he needs to keep up with what’s going on.

The Northern Territory Government has recently announced additional policing for Alice Springs. We of course understand just how critical it is to have proper policing. On the issue of making sure that people are doing what they should be doing to meet their work obligations, those rules already apply in Alice Springs. Any person on unemployment benefits is required to be looking for work and participating in work and in fact just 10 days ago, with the support of Senator Scullion, I announced new measures, including an additional 100 CDEP places to make sure that we had more people off the street and into work.

NADINE MALONEY; Jenny Macklin, thanks very much for your time.