Report on the Northern Territory Emergency Response Redesign Consultations – ABC PM with Sarah Everingham
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SARAH EVERINGHAM: Jenny Macklin, the former Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser is today launching a report that finds that the Government’s consultation process in Indigenous communities on the Intervention was fundamentally flawed. Was it a genuine consultation process?
JENNY MACKLIN: This was a very extensive consultation process. Unfortunately the report that you’re referring to only monitored three of the meetings that were conducted. There were more than 500 meetings and workshops covering all of the 73 remote Northern Territory communities and town camps that are a part of the Northern Territory Emergency Response. There was a huge program of consultation involving thousands of people, and one of the most important messages to me has been how pleased people were that the Government was prepared to come out and listen. And we certainly have listened to all of the things that people have had to say to us through this very comprehensive consultation process.
SARAH EVERINGHAM: But they’ve raised some serious concerns about the consultations that they have monitored, such as that there weren’t professional interpreters and also that the Government had pre-determined outcomes for these meetings?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well that’s wrong on both fronts. If I can just make absolutely clear that interpreters were used in around two-thirds of the whole of community meetings. So it was very important to us that we have interpreters available. We also wanted to make sure that where we could we had those interpreters able to make sure that people were able to be understood in women’s meetings or men’s meetings, so that claim is just wrong.
SARAH EVERINGHAM: What have people told you then in these consultations?
JENNY MACKLIN: There’s been a broad range of views expressed but some common themes. If you go to the issue of alcohol restrictions for example, many people particularly women very strongly support the alcohol restrictions staying in place. But they do also say there are examples where problems have emerged because of the way in which the alcohol restrictions have been put in place and they call on us to work with local people to develop responses that will work in the local area to effectively address alcohol misuse. On community stores licensing this was regarded extremely positively. People have seen an improvement in the range and quality of food available from their local stores. One of the areas that of course people are particularly pleased about is that the Government is going to restore the operation of the Racial Discrimination Act. There were a range of views on income management. Some people were strongly supportive of it, other people not so supportive. But the majority take the view that it has delivered benefits particularly to children and to the elderly, with more money being spent on food. So a range of views, but you get the themes coming through.
SARAH EVERINGHAM: If people say there are benefits of income management, that doesn’t necessary mean that they’re supportive of it continuing in the way that it is?
JENNY MACKLIN: Many people were supportive of the way that it operates now, particularly women and the elderly. They like the fact that they are able to allocate money for food and clothing and school related expenses, or that they can save for larger purchases like fridges and washing machines. But as I said before, we do recognise that there were particular issues around the introduction of income management. There are issues we need to address and so we’ve taken very seriously both the positives and the criticisms that people have made in these very extensive consultations.
SARAH EVERINGHAM: This common theme you talk about that came out of the consultations of people seeing benefits in income management, is that an indication that your Government will continue that compulsory income management in the…?
JENNY MACKLIN: We’ll announce our approach in the next day or so.