Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Welfare reforms and the reinstatement of the Racial Discrimination Act, ABC2 News Breakfast

Program: ABC2 Breakfast

E & OE – Proof only

MICHAEL ROWLAND: The Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin joins us now from Canberra. And Minister what are you hoping to achieve by extending quarantining beyond Indigenous communities?

JENNY MACKLIN: There are two parts to this legislation that went through the Senate late last night. One is very significant changes to Australia’s welfare system. We did want to introduce a non-discriminatory system and we wanted to deliver on our commitment to reinstate the operation of the Racial Discrimination Act. So we’ve done this with this legislation. The Racial Discrimination Act will now be in force in the Northern Territory once we’ve gone through a process of implementation over the next six months. The reason for wanting to pursue this program of welfare reform is really because the evidence shows that income management, or income quarantining as you put it, can be a useful tool especially for families to make sure that we get food on the table for children and we’re also putting in incentives for families to make sure they get their children to school.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: How many non-Indigenous Australians may be affected or are you targeting as part of this policy?

JENNY MACKLIN: We’re not targeting one group over another. What we’re doing is introducing a non-discriminatory system. It will we estimate, my Department estimates, around 20,000 people in the Northern Territory will be income managed once the new system is completely up and running and we expect that to take at least six months.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Now the Australian Council of Social Service as you’re aware is highly critical of this move to extend welfare quarantining. It’s boss, Clare Martin has described it as both unfair and un-Australian and she makes the point that social security policy should all be about reducing poverty, and not to affect social and behavioural changes. How do you respond to that sort of criticism?

JENNY MACKLIN: I don’t think there’s any human dignity in your children not going to school, not having a chance to be well fed. This is all about providing an additional tool to help families who are needing that extra support to make sure that they get their finances in order, to make sure that their children are not neglected, to make sure that their children do go to school. We’ve got more than 2,000 children not even enrolled to go to school in the Northern Territory. Thousands of children not attending regularly and that’s got to change. It’s got to change so that those children have a better chance to get a decent education and then a decent job. I really just can’t see the logic in saying that a life on welfare is good for anyone.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Are you looking at extending this extension of the quarantining beyond the Territory?

JENNY MACKLIN: We’re putting it in place in the Northern Territory in the first instance and after the end of 2011 we’ll do a very extensive evaluation of the impact of these changes and then we’ll look to extend it to other disadvantaged parts of Australia.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Jenny Macklin, thanks for your time this morning.