Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Groote Regional Partnership Agreement, Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program Topic; Doorstop, Darwin

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JOURNALIST: Firstly, what are we talking about with this difference between Stage 1 and Stage 2 with this announcement today with the signing, what does it add?

JENNY MACKLIN: One of the most significant parts of the new Agreement, Stage 2, is the commitment by both Governments and by the Land Council to the sealing of the road to Umbakumba. This, as the Chief Minister indicated earlier, has been something people have been wanting for some time. So the Federal Government will contribute around $9.5 million, the Northern Territory Government will contribute funding. But one of the very significant developments of this Agreement is the contribution of up to, in total up to $14 million that’s coming from royalty payments that the Land Council’s decided to contribute to this Agreement. Part of it will be to the road, but there’ll be other significant contributions as well. And I do want to pay tribute to the Land Council for the way in which they have decided to use their royalty payments in the interests of the betterment of people on the islands, and of course joining in partnership with both levels of Government. So that’s one of the most significant developments but there are a number of others which the Chief Minister might like to refer to as well.

JOURNALIST: Could I ask about the royalties issue there? How significant is that, and is that a first?

JENNY MACKLIN: It is a real first. There have been some other Agreements but I think the level of contribution that this Land Council has decided to make is very significant. It is an indication by this Land Council that they understand that these royalties need to be there for people now, but also well into the future. They’re also indicating that they want to make sure that the royalties are used for the betterment of people. In this case, a large contribution is going to the road, but there are some other contributions they’re making as well to other facilities. I do see this as a very significant development and thank them for their leadership.

JOURNALIST: Housing is obviously a big part of this. Yesterday a Council of Territory Cooperation heard that since the budget blow-out in SIHIP some of the residents at Groote Eylandt are going to have to modify their expectations with regards to housing, the housing may be smaller than originally promised. Was that an issue at all when signing this Agreement?

JENNY MACKLIN: One of the very significant parts of this Agreement is the 80 new houses that are going to be built. That’s public housing, the 75 refurbishments, the total cost will be around $60 million. I think it’s understood by all of the partners to this Agreement that that is a very very substantial agreement. There has never been the level of investment in housing here in the Northern Territory by the Commonwealth before. So we’re very pleased to be making sure that we build these extra houses. That we rebuild houses that needed rebuilding, that we refurbish houses. It’s a very significant part of the Agreement and we’re very pleased to see that the rebuilds, some of the refurbishments have finished and of course of the new houses have now started to be built.

JOURNALIST: But the housing is being delayed, and furthermore the program is having a budget blow-out, and the Northern Territory Government is now having to prop it up. When are you going to admit that the program has serious failings?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, I’m telling you very clearly that we intend to meet the commitments that we’ve made. It’s a very significant commitment, we’ve never made a commitment of this size before from the Commonwealth. What we’re doing is building 750 new houses across the Northern Territory, 2,500 refurbishments. These are very very significant numbers. We intend together to meet those commitments. We intend to meet it with the budget we’ve allocated, and there will be a very significant contribution from that overall budget made to Groote Eylandt. Some of it agreed in the first stage of this Regional Partnership Agreement, some of it in this second stage. When put together it’s worth around $60 million on the islands and very welcome I’m sure.

JOURNALIST: But where is the money for the infrastructure that wasn’t initially budgeted for going to come from?

JENNY MACKLIN: There will be some money from this allocation spent on some infrastructure. Obviously the whole issue of infrastructure is a bigger question for the Commonwealth right around remote Australia. We’re engaged with all of the States and the Northern Territory in a major audit of the municipal and other infrastructure needs. That will be completed some time next year.

JOURNALIST: Do you have any idea how much it may cost?

JENNY MACKLIN: No, that’s why we’re doing the audit.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask the Chief Minister, the Council of Territory Cooperation downstairs is looking into the SIHIP program. Alison Anderson has dismissed it as a “silly little committee” and she doesn’t want any part of it. It’s a waste of time. Considering she left the Party and almost brought down the Government over the issue of Indigenous housing, do you think her experience would actually be necessary on this Council, should be spent on this Council?

PAUL HENDERSON: Look Nick, can I say that Alison speaks for herself now, and you know, Alison will have to justify her own comments. In regards to the Council of Territory Cooperation, this is a big bold new step forward for the Parliament of the Northern Territory. This is about opening the doors and windows of the Parliament to external scrutiny, and also public advice about how we can get the big challenges facing the Northern Territory done better into the future. Obviously one of the first terms of reference was the SIHIP program, and there have been challenges getting that program up and running. But it is up and running now. New houses are being constructed at Tiwi Islands and Groote Eylandt. Refurbs are happening in Tenant Creek, and certainly I would publicly, whilst Jenny Macklin is here, again like to pay tribute to the Australian Government. For the first time in the Northern Territory’s history since self government, we’ve got a Commonwealth Government working with a Northern Territory Government to deliver $670 million worth of new housing and housing improvements throughout remote parts of the Northern Territory. And it is a major commitment. It’s just the beginning. And today a really auspicious day with the Anindilyakwa Land Council here, Walter and Tony are signing up to stage two of the Partnership Agreement. This is about delivering real outcomes for people in remote communities and I’m just not interested in silly political games.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) but your Government’s already forked out $20 million to prop up SIHIP. How much more money are you prepared to put forward?

PAUL HENDERSON: Well this is about a partnership. This is about a partnership between the Territory Government, the Australian Government, and Indigenous people. And all of us want better outcomes for Indigenous people. We’ve got our Working Futures policy. This is ground breaking. This is about seeing twenty of our largest communities become real towns, real towns with real services, real jobs, good infrastructure, developing opportunities for Indigenous kids by improving Indigenous education. So this is about a partnership and the Territory Government will continue to work with the Australian Government as partners in this transformation project that we’re working on.

JOURNALIST: Are they going to be expecting smaller houses with the refurbishments though, when you’re talking about what’s going to be delivered on communities?

PAUL HENDERSON: Well again obviously the housing, there will be a more standardised approach to the design for housing. That was one of the issues that came out of the Review that both levels of Government conducted. And so we’ve got to get the best bang for buck. It’s a significant amount of bucks, can I say, $670 million. We’ve got to get the best outcome but we’re not going to compromise on the stated objective which is those 750 new homes, the 2,500 refurbishments right across the Territory. As I’ve said, the biggest housing commitment by an Australian Government ever in the Northern Territory.