Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Emergency relief funding for vulnerable Australians and FaHCSIA Survey on the Impact on Families of the Economic Downturn – Doorstop

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JENNY MACKLIN: If I can just congratulate you for serving, not only so many meals, but such nutritious meals and in such a friendly way.

Speaking with a number of the customers here today, they’re very, very happy. Many of them come very regularly and we are very pleased to be able to help.

So, congratulations to everybody, to the staff at Prahran City Mission, but also the very, very large number of volunteers who work both here and in the shop opposite. Everybody’s given me a very, very big thumbs up to everything that you do.

We’re very pleased to be announcing that $12 million will go to emergency relief and particularly to target those groups of people in our community who are really doing it very tough. Many of them come here to the Prahran City Mission but to many other similar organisations around Australia, and what we’re wanting to do is target those particular groups who are doing it very, very hard. The homeless, those single parents who are doing it hard, new humanitarian entrants coming into Australia and we want to provide this additional assistance to those organisations who are particularly set up to service people in those very, very tough groups.

So, we know that there are many of them here in the centre of Melbourne providing support to homeless people. There are other organisations, in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, for example, servicing single parent families. Organisations in the outer suburbs of Sydney looking after humanitarian entrants. So, this additional money will be targeted at those organisations that have a very good track record, helping those people who are doing it very tough in these hard economic times.

JOURNALIST: You’ve released some research, as well, that shows that quite a number of people say that their financial situation has deteriorated. Were you surprised by those figures?

JENNY MACKLIN: We are releasing research today demonstrating that the impact of the global financial crisis is being hard felt by particular groups in our communities.

It is not surprising that we see that the impact of the global financial crisis is being felt by groups who, traditionally, may not come to places like Prahran City Mission for help. People in the middle income area, people who are having trouble meeting their mortgage payments because they may have lost their job as a result of the global recession. So, we know that groups that haven’t traditionally come to voluntary organisations for help are finding it difficult, that’s why we decided earlier this year to double the amount of money that we’re making available to emergency relief, and today’s announcement is all about targeting $12 million of that money to organisations who are very good at helping people that we know are doing it very hard at the moment.

JOURNALIST: The charity sector’s taken a hit as well in the financial crisis. Is this money, sort of, aimed at helping those charities make up the shortfall?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, it’s really aimed at making sure that those charities, those not-for-profit organisations who are serving people in our community who are doing it very hard, are able to meet the demands in their community. That’s why we put so much extra into emergency relief, so that those additional people coming through the door, who need extra help, can get that extra help.

JOURNALIST: And in terms of the – the sort of people who are finding themselves in trouble, is that demographic changed since the global financial crisis?

JENNY MACKLIN: As the research today demonstrates, we’ve got a combination of people who we, traditionally, see coming to organisations like Prahran City Mission. The homeless, of course, we know that this organisation has been serving homeless people in this part of Melbourne for as long as it’s existed. But we also know that homeless people are doing it very hard at the moment.

But this research we’ve release today, does demonstrate that people in, more traditionally middle-income families, have also been doing it hard, particularly as they have lost their jobs as a result of the global financial crisis.

JOURNALIST: What do you think the outlook is for that 21 per cent of people who recorded hardship in the first six months?

JENNY MACKLIN: One of the things that we’ve been determined to do is act quickly in the face of the global financial crisis. So, last year we put in place the first round of our stimulus payments. We did the same in March this year, with additional stimulus payments, and those stimulus payments have really made sure that Australia has been better able to withstand the impact of the global recession than other, similar, countries around the world.

And I think you can see from last week’s unemployment figures that we are seeing at least some improvement in unemployment and that’s a very good thing. That’s what our stimulus payments have been all about. Trying to do everything we possibly can to support people who are in danger of losing their jobs, our emergency relief payments have been there to help people who are homeless, help people who have lost their jobs, in this emergency situation that we’ve been facing.

JOURNALIST: But do you think things are going to get better for these people from now?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, certainly the evidence from last week was that we have seen some improvement in unemployment. We have put in place the stimulus payments to constantly provide additional support to those who are in danger of losing their jobs and, of course, we’re investing more in education facilities in our schools, we’re investing more in social housing and, of course, other infrastructure to support jobs in Australia.

JOURNALIST: Do you think rising interest rates will now have a negative impact on this group of people?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, what we know is that we are seeing some improvement in the economic circumstances here in Australia. The Reserve Bank has indicated that it took the view that it should increase interest rates from what was an emergency low, and I think we have to recognise that we are now seeing some improvement in economic circumstances in Australia, which is a good thing.

JOURNALIST: Why did the survey focus on families when a lot of people who have been impacted would not be, kind of, family?

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s just what that particular survey is focused on. There’s other work that’s been done elsewhere demonstrating the impact on other groups in our community. That’s just this particular survey.