Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Alice Springs town camps, CDEP

E & OE – Proof only

JENNY MACKLIN: I’ve just had a very useful meeting here in Alice Springs with people from the Alice Springs town camps who were invited along to come and put their point of view to me about the possible compulsory acquisition of the leases covering the town camps here in Alice Springs. It was a useful meeting. People largely put points of view to me about concerns they had about the type of tenancy management that might apply in the future; what the rules would be in relation to tenancy; what the eviction rules would be; what the rent policy would be; so really putting their concerns about the practicalities of what would happen in the future. This wasn’t an opportunity for me to really go into all of the details. It was more of an opportunity and was advertised as an opportunity for town camp residents to come to me and to put their point of view to me. They also have the opportunity to do that in writing before the end of July and my staff here in Alice Springs in the Department will continue to be available for people to make their points of view orally if they’d like to do so.

JOURNALIST: Were you disappointed with the turn out?

JENNY MACKLIN: We advertised, the Department advertised the meeting, and of course it’s up to individual people to make a decision about whether or not they want to come, but I was pleased that people did take the opportunity, and of course they’ll continue to have further opportunities to put their point of view if they’d like to.

JOURNALIST: Did you hear anything that would deter you from taking the current course of action, which is to compulsorily acquire the camps?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I’m still in a period of consideration so I’ll take all the points of view that were made to me today into account as I will any other views that are put to me over the next month, so that’s really the timeframe that we have in front of us and we’ve got a proper process to go through.

JOURNALIST: Why do you think more people didn’t turn up?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well that’s really a question for them. It was advertised widely and you’ll have to talk to people in the town camps about that.

JOURNALIST: Is that the only one you’re having, the only face to face?

JENNY MACKLIN: It’s the only one that I’m doing but my departmental staff are going out talking with people in the town camps and of course there are opportunities for people to make written submissions if they’d like to.

JOURNALIST: And what about some of the concerns that were raised about paying rent, have you given them any assurances about the fact that they will have the capability of paying rents after they’re taken over?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, they’re all matters that will be resolved once we make final decisions. Today was really an opportunity for town camp residents to come and put their point of view to me which they did and it was done in a very productive way.

JOURNALIST: Tangentyere was at the meeting, do you have any new proposals from them?

JENNY MACKLIN: They reiterated their view that they want to work with the new Central Australian Affordable Housing Company that they’ve established. That’s a view that they’ve put before and they put that view to me again today.

JOURNALIST: Do you think this was a forum where town campers would feel comfortable telling you their opinions?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I’ve been out talking with town camp residents in the town camps as well as you’re aware, and so I’ve done both. We’ve had a formal meeting to make sure that people could come to a particular place where I was going to be but of course I go around and quietly talk with people as well to give them that opportunity. It’s also critical that people know that they can talk with my departmental staff and they can do that for the next month.

JOURNALIST: And obviously you’ve allocated a lot of money for the transformation plan in Alice Springs, does this mean that you’ve neglected the Darwin town camps in that process?

JENNY MACKLIN: I’m very pleased to be able to announce that we’re adding another $11 million here in Alice Springs. We’re going to spend that extra $11 million on transitional housing. We do understand that one of the big pressures on Alice Springs and on the town camps, the very large numbers of people who come into Alice Springs are sometimes for health services, education. The bad side is that sometimes people come in to drink, so we’re providing of course additional sobering up and other services but today’s announcement is all about providing an additional $11 million, that will make $138 million here in Alice Springs for the town camps, and for the transformation plan to really address what we know are very serious issues here in this town.

JOURNALIST: There were two proposals on (inaudible) under the previous Federal Government for two sites for demountable accommodation north and south of the town, one didn’t go ahead and the other one still has approval, is that where this will go?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we’ll talk of course with the Alice Springs Town Council about these issues. As you’re aware we’ve established a transformation group, that’s had a couple of meetings, the last one I attended a couple of weeks ago, so they’re matters that we’ll discuss with the transformation group.

JOURNALIST: Tangentyere Council thinks you’re bluffing with your compulsory acquisition, is that the case?

JENNY MACKLIN: We’re in a period of notice. I have given notice that I am considering compulsory acquisition of the town camp leases. Today’s meeting was all about listening to the town camp residents. We’ll continue to make ourselves available over the next month and then I’ll make a decision at the beginning of August.

JOURNALIST: Does that mean another visit to Alice Springs?

JENNY MACKLIN: I won’t be coming again to have another consultation personally, but as I just mentioned, my staff from the Department will be here, people can make written submissions so there’s still just under another month that people have to come forward with their ideas.

JOURNALIST: Marion Scrymgour says the CDEP changes are causing absolute bedlam for organisations that are affected. She says there hasn’t been enough information to the organisations affected, how do you respond to that?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we’ve conducted consultations around the CDEP changes twice around Australia, so before we made the decision last December there were significant consultations. There’s been a lot of information go out over the last six months since we made the decision. Of course we are introducing significant changes in non-remote parts of Australia but for those communities in remote Australia of course, CDEP for existing recipients of CDEP does continue. We are putting a very very substantial increase in funding into the indigenous employment program. Around $200 million extra is going into the indigenous employment program. That is to really make sure we do everything possible to get people work ready, to get people job ready, literacy and numeracy training, making sure that we have CDEP focus very much on work readiness as well. So I do understand that when major changes happen it is always difficult for people but we are substantially adding to the resources available for indigenous employment.

JOURNALIST: Will the changes cause unemployment?

JENNY MACKLIN: What we’re doing is making sure that we have a lot more effort, a lot more effort, around $200 million more money is going to go into getting people work ready. Getting people able to take work where it is available. What we need to do is encourage people wherever possible to take jobs and we know that what we have to do to make that possible is to get people work ready, job ready, get their literacy and numeracy skills up. We’re putting around $200 million extra into indigenous employment and that will give people a lot of extra assistance.

JOURNALIST: Where does the Government stand with scrapping bilingual education?

JENNY MACKLIN: The whole question of bilingual education is one that the Territory Government is currently considering so I’ll leave that for my Territory colleagues.

JOURNALIST: How can the compulsory acquisition of aboriginal lands, hence aboriginal autonomy, be beneficial for aboriginal children?

JENNY MACKLIN: What we are doing here in Alice Springs at the moment is talking with people, listening to town camp residents, about the notice that I have given, that I am considering the compulsory acquisition of the town camp leases. And the reason that we’re considering that is to see whether or not that would be a better way to proceed to improve the housing and living conditions of people in the Alice Springs town camps.