Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Tangentyere Council, Alice Springs town camps, Central Land Council

Program: ABC Alice Springs

REPORTER: Indigenous Affairs Minister, Jenny Macklin is in Alice Springs today to officially open the new Central Land Council building; to open a new safe house amongst other things. But what she won’t be doing is any further negotiating with the Tangentyere Council over the town camp lease deal. I spoke with her just before we went to air and asked her whether she would be meeting with Tangentyere Council at all during her visit.

JENNY MACKLIN: Not specifically. As you know they are on the Alice Springs Transformation Group and so I am meeting with that group, with the Alice Springs Town Council and the Northern Territory Government representatives. So we’ll certainly be together there where we’re working out the plan to start getting the construction of the new transitional housing, the alcohol and rehab places, all of the additional services that are needed to really address the concerns that people have here in Alice Springs.

REPORTER: And will you be discussing that $100 million, 40-year lease deal?

JENNY MACKLIN: Not on this occasion. I’ll be coming back later in the month and there’s a formal process that we’re going through as you know. I’ve given notice to the housing associations covering the town camps and that notice period goes until the beginning of August. People in the town camps who live there have got the opportunity to make submissions to me and, as I say, I’ll be coming back so that people have the opportunity to put their point of view to me about compulsory acquisition.

REPORTER: Minister, are you disappointed by how long and drawn out this process has been when it comes to trying to negotiate a lease deal with Tangentyere Council?

JENNY MACKLIN: I am very disappointed. I am disappointed that it’s come to this. We’ve made a very, very generous offer. We do understand just how important it is to get cracking. We know how bad the conditions are in the Alice Springs town camps. That’s why we’ve put so much money on the table. It’s why we’ve been prepared to make significant concessions to get an agreement. Unfortunately that hasn’t been possible so that is why I have taken the very unusual step of giving notice that I intend to compulsorily acquire the leases.

REPORTER: Since you made that decision public, have you had any further counter deals from Tangentyere Council that you’re considering?

JENNY MACKLIN: No I haven’t and I’ve made it plain that the time for negotiation is over. We had a long period of negotiation. We’ve made a significant number of concessions. None of those have been responded to. I thought we had an agreement last July to a 40-year lease and to the Northern Territory Government Housing Department taking responsibility for tenancy management. Unfortunately, Tangentyere went back on that deal so that’s why I’ve been forced to take the step that I have.

REPORTER: Now there are several town camps in Alice Springs that fall outside of Tangentyere Council’s official control. One of them being the Whitegate town camp. Will camps like Whitegate miss out on the $100 million as part of that lease deal?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well they won’t miss out but of course they’ll be dealt with separately, given that they are in a different situation.

REPORTER: So they won’t receive funding as part of that $100 million?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we’ll have to work all that through but they certainly won’t be missing out. We understand how critical it is to address the needs in Alice Springs and in these other places that I know are also in significant housing crisis.

REPORTER: So to clarify, they will receive funding?

JENNY MACKLIN: They will receive funding.

REPORTER: Okay, now you spoke a little bit earlier about the fact that you’ll be meeting with that Transformation Steering Committee, who else is currently on that committee?

JENNY MACKLIN: The Northern Territory Government of course, with the Australian Government, the Alice Springs Town Council, Lhere Artepe and Tangentyere Council, and we’ll certainly be wanting to get input from other major service providers in Alice Springs as well…

REPORTER: There’ll be no Congress? The Aboriginal Health Service provider in town was really keen to be part of that Steering Committee given how much they have to do with town camps. Why didn’t you include them on the Committee?

JENNY MACKLIN: They are a critical service provider here in Alice Springs and I’ll be meeting them today and talking through this issue with them. There’s no question that we’ll be wanting their advice and seeking their input, but I’ll talk with them today about these issues.

REPORTER: Now you extended Tangentyere’s deadline to July 28 so that as you mentioned people could provide submissions about an acquisition, to date have you had any submissions and who from?

JENNY MACKLIN: No I haven’t. I’m still waiting to see if there’s going to be any submissions made to me either verbally when I come back or written submissions, so no, I haven’t received any yet.

REPORTER: Okay now we know as part of your visit here to Alice Springs you’ll be opening the new Central Land Council building, a petition with 400 signatures from Aboriginal people across Central Australia calling for the sacking of the Central Land Council is to be tabled in the NT Parliament today by the CLP’s Adam Giles, what’s your reaction to that petition?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I’ve heard about it but I haven’t actually seen it so I’ll wait ’till I see that petition. I think what’s important to recognise is the critical role that the Central Land Council has played over a long period of time in advocating for Indigenous people here in Central Australia, standing up for their rights, making sure that we see development happen in consultation and of course with the agreement of traditional owners, so I’m a very strong supporter of the Land Rights Act and very pleased to have the opportunity to open the CLC building today.

REPORTER: Traditional owners though from one of the largest communities in Central Australia, Hermannsburg, are actually accusing the Council of blocking key development opportunities and that really flies in the face of what you said about the CLC.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well as I said I haven’t seen this petition, so I have certainly no intention of commenting on it whether or not it’s been written in a fair way I don’t know so let’s wait until we see it.

REPORTER: Now the head of the Central Land Council, David Ross, has said that the Federal Government has made this lease deal with Tangentyere Council too confusing for traditional owners, do you agree that it may have been helpful to have simplified it?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think it’s a very straightforward agreement and in fact as I mentioned before I had an agreement with the Tangentyere Council and I thought we were heading down a very productive path in July last year, it’s not very complicated.

REPORTER: Minister, thanks for your time this morning.

JENNY MACKLIN: My pleasure.