Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Temporary Financial Assistance, Indigenous national representative body, UN Rapporteur – Doorstop, Canberra

E&EO – Proof only

JENNY MACKLIN: ………. Julia Gillard, $11 million that would be made available to community organisations, especially those who’ve shown that as a result of the global financial crisis they’ve had a reduction in donations. We had a report released just a few weeks ago done for the Government demonstrating that we have many many more people going to community organisations seeking assistance. The Government of course has already announced doubling of emergency relief, recognising the pressures that are on individuals. But we also recognise that there’s significant pressure on many of our community organisations. So today, I’m announcing that this $11 million will go to 37 different organisations around Australia. Organisations like Red Cross, Cystic Fibrous Queensland, a number of organisations, all of which are doing an outstanding job for people in our community in these very difficult times. I just want to mention a couple of other issues that are around today as well.

The second matter I want to just make a few remarks about is that at lunch time today at the National Press Club, the Social Justice Commissioner, Mr Tom Calma, will be formally releasing a copy of a report that he’s done with a group of Indigenous people proposing a new national representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. If I can just say in anticipation of the public release of this report how pleased I am with the very hard work that Tom Calma and his steering committee have demonstrated. They understand as the Government does just how important it is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a voice, have the capacity to participate actively in closing the gap. We know that we’re not going to be able to close the gap unless Indigenous people are there with us as partners in this very difficult task. So I look forward to the public release of this very important report at lunch time today.

JOURNALIST: When can we expect a Government response to that?

JENNY MACKLIN: We’ll of course look at it closely but one thing that I can say is that we went to the last election demonstrating our commitment for a new national representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Prime Minister when he made the apology to the stolen generations he recognised that we needed to go forward together with respect but also recognising how important it is that we work together. That we’re able to have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people participating, making input into policy decisions so I think it’s very significant that we’ve had an Indigenous led process that will now come forward to set out a new way for a national representative body for Indigenous people.

JOURNALIST: What can you say will this body have in the formulation of Government policies? How big a say will it have in the formulation of Government policies since it’s an advisory body with no legislative powers?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well Tom Calma at lunch time today will go through the details of the model that he’s proposing so I think let’s let him do that. Let’s recognise that this has been an Indigenous led process. It’s a group of Indigenous people led by Tom Calma, have indicated that they want to make sure that they take the lead on this issue. The Government will publically receive the report today. I’ll consider it as quickly as possible.

JOURNALIST: Minister, what is your position on whether such a representative body should have elected members from an Indigenous community?

JENNY MACKLIN: As I’ve said many times before, that’s a matter that I wanted Indigenous people to consider. That will be clear today at lunch time when Tom Calma issues his report. What we’ve always said is that we will not be creating another ATSIC. I made it clear at the start of this process that we would not accept a body that had responsibility for service delivery. They’re the conditions that I set out at the start of this process but the details of the report will be made public at lunch time.

JOURNALIST: You’re not closed to the idea of elected representation?

JENNY MACKLIN: I’ve made it clear all along that these are matters that I look forward to hearing from them about.

JOURNALIST: Well there’s already been criticism that some Aboriginal elders haven’t been involved in the process so can we expect some more of that? I mean is there going to be a bit of controversy surrounding that given you know people like Noel Pearson actually haven’t been consulted?

JENNY MACKLIN: As I understand it, there’s been extensive consultation. As to who individually has been consulted, you’ll need to talk to Mr Calma about that, but I know that they’ve been going around Australia talking with people. They had a major consultation in Adelaide with a number of people who came from right across the country. So there’s certainly been opportunity for many many people to make a contribution.

JOURNALIST: Are you going to be available after the Press Club address to talk about the model?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well let’s receive the report and see what it says. Obviously it is important that Aboriginal people themselves have the opportunity to release this report. They’ve taken the lead in developing this report. They’ve I think done an outstanding job on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and I thank them for their very extensive work.

JOURNALIST: But you’re the Minister. Do you think people like Noel Pearson and Galarrwuy Yunupingu should be consulted on this sort of major change for Indigenous representation?

JENNY MACKLIN: I want to make sure that there has been extensive consultation. I’ve been informed that there has been opportunity for many many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to contribute. As to any particular individual that’s really a matter for them.

JOURNALIST: You said that the Government went to the election with a promise to set up this body. Can you tell us whether it will be set up say within two years of the Government being elected?

JENNY MACKLIN: We’ve certainly made it clear that it will be established before the end of this year. That’s a commitment that we’ve made and I look forward to receiving the report today.

JOURNALIST: How concerned are you about criticism from the UN Rapporteur today about Australia’s human rights record?

JENNY MACKLIN: I’ll be meeting with Professor James Anaya today to receive an update from him on the ten days that he’s spent in Australia. He’ll be making public comment later today. I think it’s very significant that Professor Anaya has had this ten days in Australia. He’s had the opportunity to talk to many many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people right across the country. He’s seen people of many different points of view and I think will have come back to Canberra today with a very significant understanding of the significant pressures facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in this country.

JOURNALIST: Do you anticipate criticism of the Government’s performance on things like housing?

JENNY MACKLIN: As I say, I’m meeting with him later this morning so I’ll hear what he has to say. I think what’s important is that we recognise we have a huge task in front of us to close the gap, to close the life expectancy gap, the employment gap, the gap in education. We know how big the task is and we certainly intend to keep getting on with it.

JOURNALIST: How prepared are you in fact though if he gives you strong views about the Racial Discrimination Act?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well as you know the Government has made a commitment to reinstate the operation of the Racial Discrimination Act in the Northern Territory. That legislation will come into the Parliament later this year.