Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Boost for financial counselling services in Far North Queensland, Alice Springs town camps, Tony Abbott – Doorstop, Cairns

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JENNY MACKLIN: Jim and I are very, very pleased to be here at Lifeline in Cairns and thank you so much for having us, but more importantly thank you for the outstanding work that you do for people here in Cairns and other parts of the Cape.

It’s also a real pleasure to be here with Jim Turnour, the Member for Leichhardt, someone who really does understand what people have had to go through, particularly with the impact of the global financial crisis and we do know that it has had a significant impact on this community. So we are very pleased to be able to announce additional support here in Cairns for financial counselling. When we saw the global financial crisis coming we understood that it was going to have a very serious impact on families and on individuals. And one of the things we did very early on was to increase the amount of money available for both emergency relief and financial counselling. So this is the next round of funding that will be available up until June 2011. And so for this area there’s $456,000 extra in funding for financial counselling, half to Lifeline and the other half to the Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network Limited. And if I could say to people in that network how much we appreciate the work that they do, particularly with Indigenous families, helping them managing their money, and make sure that they can deliver for their families. So I am very pleased to be able to announce this additional funding. It will mean that both organisations are going to be able to put on extra staff and I understand Lifeline are going to put on an extra four part-time staff. An extra four part-time staff, so good for those people to have that work, but of course very important that Cairns is going to have additional financial counselling, very much needed and we hope will make a difference to families here in the Far North.

SALLY KELYNACK: Thank you Minister. On behalf of Lifeline, I would just like to say that we’re very excited to be receiving this extra funding. It will as the Minister has just indicated, it will enable us to put on extra staff and certainly our financial counselling service has been busy for many months now, and having those extra staff available will help us to assist more people in need in our community.

JOURNALIST: So you have had quite an increase in demand, have you? For the past couple of months?

SALLY KELYNACK: Our financial counselling service has been busy for a lot of this year. So we have a waiting list past Christmas at the moment.

JIM TURNOUR: Can I just make a couple of comments. I think it’s great news for Lifeline and it’s great news for the Cairns community here. But ICAN are also going to deliver services now into the Torres Straits and Northern Peninsula area, so previously they were doing it in an outreach situation where they had to fly in, so we’re not only increasing financial counselling services here in Cairns, but also into the Cape and the Torres Strait which will be welcomed by those communities up there.

Great news today that I understand there has been a progress on the works for reducing flooding in the Cairns District. We put over a million dollars of support in federally this year and it’s really pleasing the Cairns Council has made progress on those works and that we’re going into the wet season and hopefully businesses will feel a lot more confident going into the New Year, that they’re not going to experience some of the flooding they did earlier this year.

JOURNALIST: Work is due to start in Alice Springs town camps today. Who will physically be doing the clean up? Is it prison workers, a private rubbish company? And how long will it take?

JENNY MACKLIN: We are very pleased that work is starting in the Alice Springs town camps from today. And it will start with clean up works, clean up that is very much needed. There’ll also be scoping works to make sure that we can get around and make safe and fix houses and other infrastructure in the area that can be done quickly. We have been working on getting to this point for a very long time. So I’m very pleased that we have finally been able to deal with the issue of the leases. Get the leases agreed and signed. That happened at the end of last week and from today the work will start. There will be work done in part by prisoner work camps, but there’ll be other companies involved as well.

JOURNALIST: At what stage will the Alice Springs town camps take over municipal services?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well that will be worked through with them. As you are aware we have an Alice Springs Transformation Committee and the Alice Springs Town Council are on that group. We have already provided additional funding to the Town Council for additional work to control the dogs in the town camps, but these are the issues we can now get on and work through with the Town Council, with the individual housing associations. So it will be cleaning up, making good, fixing houses, and of course, we’ll also start the work on transitional housing as soon as we can.

JOURNALIST: And when do you hope to be able to call the camps normal suburbs?

JENNY MACKLIN: We understand that this is going to take some time. We’ve got around 85 new houses to build, a lot of rebuilding of houses, very significant infrastructure work to be done. All of this will start in the new year, but it is a very, very significant amount to be done. We have $100 million to spend both on housing and improving infrastructure. It’s been a very long time coming but I am very pleased we can now get on with it.

JOURNNALIST: And now just a question from my political colleagues. Tony Abbott has accused Kevin Rudd of backsliding on the Northern Territory Indigenous intervention by giving too much power back to the NT Government? What’s your response to that?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think this demonstrates just how out of touch Mr Abbott is with reality. When we came into Government just two years ago, there were around 1,000 people on income management in the Northern Territory. This is entirely a Commonwealth responsibility. Now we have around16,000 people on income management and just in the last fortnight I’ve introduced major reform into the Federal Parliament to completely overhaul the whole approach to welfare in this country, starting in the Northern Territory. We’ll make sure that we have a program of income management that is not based on race, that is based on need, making sure that we use income management as a tool to benefit those who need it. Mr Abbott also was part of a Government that walked away from the Alice Springs town camps. These are people living in the most appalling conditions, conditions that you would hope you would never see in any part of Australia. The Howard Government of which Mr Abbott was a Minister, walked away from the residents of the town camps. It’s taken this Government’s determination to get in there and work to make sure that we can improve the living conditions of people, particularly children who live in these town camps. So he would be well placed to just keep up.

JOURNALIST: And just finally from me. Mr Abbott’s also advocated the appointment of commissioners to Indigenous communities, do you think it’s a good idea?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well this is another example where he’s just making policy up on the run. We in fact have Commonwealth appointed Government Business Managers who are responsible to the head of my Department. They are not employed by the Northern Territory Government, they are not employed by the Commonwealth. So I’d just say to Mr Abbott, keep up.