Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

SIHIP Review – Doorstop, Melbourne

*** E & OE – Proof only ***

Subject: Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP) review

JENNY MACKLIN: Today I’m releasing the report of the review into improving the delivering of the Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program in the Northern Territory. The review has found that a number of challenges have emerged in the first phase of the program.

The review was put in place to advise both me and the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory on changes that need to be made. Urgent action will now mean that the program will deliver on its targets. The review has also found that the overall design of the program is sound.

I am determined to implement the program reforms to make sure that we deliver on the commitments that we’ve made. That we build 750 new homes; that we rebuild 230 homes; and deliver 2500 refurbished homes for Indigenous people in remote parts of the Northern Territory.

The Commonwealth is also prepared to take unusual action to make sure that we deliver on these reforms. We intend to take a far more hands-on role in delivering the program. I intend to embed a senior Commonwealth officer in the program management team. Commonwealth officers will also be directly involved in each of the alliance teams and will have a direct role in consultations.

We intend to reduce administration costs from the current level of 11.4 per cent to 8 per cent and this will be done by reducing the layers of management and introducing a new streamlined Government structure. We will also make sure that there is greater direct interaction and decision-making between the Governments and the alliance partners.

We intend to revise the unit cost estimate for each house to $450,000 to take into account the lessons that have been learnt from the first phase of the program. There’ll also be more detailed specifications for the cost, design and construction of each house as well as clearer consultation parameters.

The revised costs will nevertheless be met within the existing allocation of $672 million. The changes will make sure that from 2010 the program will build more than double the average number of houses built in remote Northern Territory communities over the last five years.

What’s very clear to the Government is that getting housing right is absolutely critical if we’re going to close the life expectancy gap. What we know is that we have to deliver major reforms. We have to get secure tenure. We have to deliver major changes to tenancy management and maintenance. And we also have to guarantee that Indigenous people get the opportunity to work on the houses that are being built. These changes will make sure that we deliver the increased number of houses, the rebuilds, and refurbishments that are so desperately needed. Thank you.

JOURNALIST: Did the review find any reasons why no new houses have been built yet?

JENNY MACKLIN: The review does find that there has been about a three month delay but nevertheless it is now on track. We are now determined to make up that time and as you will see from the review report, construction has begun. Construction has begun on new houses in Groote Island, rebuilds in Tennant Creek, and refurbishments in Tiwi Island. We’ve got some refurbishments that have already been returned to residents on Groote Island.

JOURNALIST: And the reason for that three month delay?

JENNY MACKLIN: There are a number of reasons for the delay. One is that it’s a very, very large program. This is the biggest program of construction of new homes and refurbishments ever attempted in the Northern Territory. But if you compare, and the review report does compare this program to the most recent similar program that the Commonwealth was involved with which started in 2001, compared to that program we in fact are doing well.

JOURNALIST: How much of the full $672 million is going to be spent on the houses?

JENNY MACKLIN: Of the $672 million?

JOURNALIST: Will actually be used (inaudible)

JENNY MACKLIN: The vast majority of the $672 million will be spent on building houses. We intend to get the administration costs down to 8 per cent of that figure.

JOURNALIST: What’s the savings in dollar terms with the change of the administration costs from 11.4 per cent to 8 per cent?

JENNY MACKLIN: I haven’t got that with me but we are going to make sure that we build the number of houses that we said we would within the $672 million, but I’ll get you the dollar figure.

JOURNALIST: Is that over the same time frame as well?

JENNY MACKLIN: Yes, over the same timeframe, by 2013.

JOURNALIST: Would it be fair to say that the costs of houses have risen slightly but that’s going to be offset by the lowering of the admin costs?