Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Racial Discrimination Act, Aboriginal Benefits Account, Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program, ABC Alice Springs with Alice Brennan

Program: ABC Alice Springs

*** E & OE – Proof only ***

ALICE BRENNAN: Well CAAMA and Imparja are two of the winners in the latest round of the Aboriginal Benefits Account grants. The Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister, Jenny Macklin, has just announced $9.4 million worth of grants for the Territory. On the morning it’s been announced, the Racial Discrimination Act won’t get through Parliament until next year. The Minister joins me. Good morning Minister.

JENNY MACKLIN: Good morning Alice.

ALICE BRENNAN: Now to begin with, the Green Senator Rachel Siewert, says that you’ve failed in your promise. That you led people to believe the laws would be changed this year. Have you failed?

JENNY MACKLIN: What we’re doing is what we’ve always said we’d do, which is introduce legislation into this session of the Parliament to put forward how we intend to lift the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act. We intend to put that legislation into the Parliament next week, and of course we expect the Parliament to give it very serious consideration. It’s a very detailed piece of work that’s been completed. Very important for the Northern Territory of course, and we expect that the Parliament will look at it very closely in the New Year.

ALICE BRENNAN: So you’re saying that you never made a commitment that the Racial Discrimination Act would be restored before the end of the year?

JENNY MACKLIN: We always made the commitment that the legislation would be introduced into the Parliament by the end of this year. It will be, and of course, we’ll now have to have the debate in the Parliament that would always be expected to take some time. That will happen early in the New Year.

ALICE BRENNAN: Rachel Siewert says that you have misled people, and you’ve made them believe that it would be restored by the end of the year?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well as I’ve just made clear to you, the commitment has always been that the legislation would be introduced by the end of this year. It will be.

ALICE BRENNAN: Now this morning you’ve announced a $9.4 million in ABA grants. I noticed that you have generous offerings for building child care centres in Central Australia. Can you profile them?

JENNY MACKLIN: Yes, that’s very exciting news. The additional early childhood centres. Also, of course, there’s money for a youth and recreation precinct out at Mutitjulu. There’s, as you announced at the start of the program, some very exciting funding for Imparja. They’re going to receive a grant to teach some Year 12 students in Alice Springs aspects of the television industry. So I think that will be very very exciting for those teenagers. So these are very, imaginative grants that have come out of the Aboriginal Benefit Account this year.

ALICE BRENNAN: I notice $2.6 million for the construction of an early childhood centre in Willowra. Will you be following that money up with operational grants?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well some of the operational money for childcare centres of course comes through the childcare benefit, the childcare rebate. So there’s always funding that comes through from a range of sources for operational funding.

ALICE BRENNAN: Also CAAMA, $600,000 to restore a building?


ALICE BRENNAN: Have you heard allegations that the organisation made a loss and is in financial difficulty at the moment?

JENNY MACKLIN: But nevertheless a very important organisation delivering important media services to people right across the Centre, so we certainly want to provide this support to CAAMA.

ALICE BRENNAN: Do you think that this is a sensible allocation of funds?

JENNY MACKLIN: We do, that’s why we’ve approved it. And we want to make sure that it’s an organisation that continues to provide the services that it has that so many people rely on.

ALICE BRENNAN: Is this a loan?

JENNY MACKLIN: It’s a refurbishment grant as I understand it. But that’s as I understand it, that’s the information I have.

ALICE BRENNAN: So you can’t confirm whether it’s a loan or they’ll get it back?

JENNY MACKLIN: I’ll double check that for you.

ALICE BRENNAN: All right, on to youth funding quickly. The Federal Government provides $28 million over three years to youth diversion through the Northern Territory Emergency Response. Can you confirm that this money is only going to remote service delivery centres with a few exceptions in the Macdonnell Shire?

JENNY MACKLIN: No, that’s not right. There are six remote service delivery sites that this money is going to and seven that aren’t remote service delivery sites. So, once again we can give you all the details of all the different places that will be receiving that money. It is very important this funding that enables extra youth workers to be employed, the creation of local trainee indigenous youth worker participation. Money to improve facilities in the delivery of diversion activities and this will be in thirteen different remote communities.

ALICE BRENNAN: In what area? In the Northern Territory or in Central Australia?

JENNY MACKLIN: Across the Northern Territory.

ALICE BRENNAN: Because I’m saying this because there are concerns from youth workers in Central Australia that that $28 million, or the Central Australia proportion of that $28 million, will be concentrated in remote service delivery centres?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well that’s what I’ve just said to you. So, that there’ll be six remote service delivery centres, one of which is in Central Australia, in Hermannsburg, that will get some of the money. But there are seven non-remote service delivery communities that will also benefit, Areyonga, Haasts Bluff, Kintore, just to give you a couple of examples.

ALICE BRENNAN: Right, and on to SIHIP, we’ve just heard about power switches being put on humpies in Central Australia. How many more of these cases do you think are going to surface?

JENNY MACKLIN: When you say cases, what are you referring to specifically?

ALICE BRENNAN: Incidents, like power switches being put on humpies?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, just in relation to SIHIP generally, you talk about what’s happening with SIHIP. It might be helpful if I give you an update about what is actually happening. There’s now activity on around 75 housing lots across various parts of the Northern Territory where we have already started work, so in the Tiwi Islands, Groote Eylandt, Tennant Creek, Wadeye, Palumpa, and in Gunbalanya. And we expect by the end of the year, work will be taking place in around 200 housing lots across fifteen communities and that will include rebuilds, refurbishments, and work starting on a number of new houses. Work has already started on some new houses. So there’s a lot of work now under way. We of course have been frustrated at the time it’s taken but now work is under way. I understand that rebuilding in Tennant Creek, we’ve seen two houses completed. These are houses that were previously uninhabitable, they’ll now be used as transitional housing while other rebuilds in Tennant Creek, in the Tennant Creek town camps, take place. There’s a lot of activity happening around the place.

ALICE BRENNAN: The Northern Territory Opposition has called for a Royal Commission into the operation of the Strategic Indigenous Housing Infrastructure Program. Would you agree to that?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think the problem with the Opposition in the Northern Territory is that on the one hand they say, get on with it, and then they want more Inquiries. We’ve had a major review into the operation of this program. That review found that there had been delays. It also indicated how we needed to make some changes to get some more effective results. Those changes have been made. The Commonwealth has put senior officials into Darwin for some time, and as I’ve just gone through with you, there’s a lot of activity happening now in many parts of the Northern Territory. And I expect that activity to continue to speed up as this most significant home building, and repairs and maintenance building program, it’s the biggest program we’ve ever seen in the Northern Territory and the important thing is that we need to keep on with the job.

ALICE BRENNAN: Minister, I’m aware you’ve got limited time, so thanks for your time this morning on 703 mornings.

JENNY MACKLIN: My pleasure.