Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Launch of the Australia’s welfare 2009 report, Racial Discrimination Act – Doorstop, Canberra

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JENNY MACKLIN: I am very, very pleased to be able to launch Australia’s Welfare 2009. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare do a very, very important job providing independent data collection that can be used, and is used, certainly by our government, many other governments and non-government organisations in the development of policy.

Our government is dedicated to evidence-based policy and I’m very, very pleased to be able to thank the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare for their very significant contribution.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) What can you do about that? Have you got a (inaudible) roadmap to deal with some of these very pressing issues?

JENNY MACKLIN: Let’s take the issue of housing. This Government is absolutely determined to address the needs of more affordable housing. We understand that when we came into government we had a huge backlog in the need for more affordable housing. We’ve put in place two very significant measures to improve the availability of affordable housing; a new National Rental Affordability Scheme and through the national stimulus policy we’ll be building additional social housing units. Through those two policy efforts alone we’ll build around 80,000 additional affordable housing units, that’s a massive increase in the level of affordable housing. Of course it takes a little bit of time to get the houses built, it’s a huge commitment, the houses are being built, people are starting to move in to them and we are determined to address what is a very significant need in our community.

JOURNALIST: The report shows there’s been a very big increase in the number of children needing protection (inaudible). Why do you think this is and what can the Federal Government do about it?

JENNY MACKLIN: We do recognise that there is a very significant need in the area of child protection. For the first time ever this Government has developed with the states and territories and with the non-government sector a National Child Protection Framework. This has never been done before. We know that there is an increasing need in this area, in part, its because we have better data collection, we have better reporting, but we do fear that there has been an increase in the level of abuse and neglect taking place. It is very hard to measure how much is extra reporting and how much is additional abuse or neglect but either way we have far too many children being abused and neglected in this country. That is why we are determined to do everything we can at the national level to share data, to share information. For the first time we are now providing Centrelink data and Medicare data to state and territory child protection authorities. For the first time ever, we are going to develop national out of home care standards. This has never been before. The day after the apology to the Forgotten Australians I think we have to make an additional commitment to make sure that those out of home care standards are as high as they can possibly be.

JOURNALIST: You mentioned earlier that a national disability insurance scheme should be part of the reform agenda to deal with the increasing number of people suffering from disabilities. Is the government committed to the scheme and will there be a timeframe?

JENNY MACKLIN: We have of course been interested in this idea since it was presented first at the 2020 Summit. The government has been looking at whether we will go down this approach so we’ll be giving it active consideration.

JOURNALIST: Before the election perhaps?

JENNY MACKLIN: We’ll have to wait and see but we are looking at it seriously.

JOURNALIST: Have you got a date yet to reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act in the Northern Territory?

JENNY MACKLIN: The legislation to lift the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act will be introduced into the Parliament shortly. We of course then expect there to be a considerable debate around the legislation. The legislation comes into the Parliament shortly.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) these problems are growing. Are you doing enough?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think I’ve indicated what we are doing in the area of housing and homelessness, what we’re doing in the area of child protection, what we’re doing to close the gap between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, these are all very significant social reform agendas. It is this government that has introduced the biggest changes to the pension system in 100 years. So in our two years in government we’ve put in place some of the most significant reform agendas in housing, homelessness, child protection, to close the gap and to improve the pension system.

JOURNALIST: If the (inaudible) comes out in 2011, are these effectively KPIs of your (inaudible) performance?

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s why I think this data is so important. We are going to be able to measure our progress, we want to be able to measure our progress. If you’re not prepared to measure your progress then you’re not going to know whether or not you’ve got your policies right. So this data is very important to us.

JOURNALIST: So if the RDA suspension is lifted, does that mean the government is going to have to change some aspects of the intervention such as quarantining of welfare payments and alcohol bans?

JENNY MACKLIN: The legislation will be put into the Parliament shortly so all of those measures will be up for discussion and debate. We do understand just how important the Northern Territory Emergency Response has been, and continues to be, to Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.