Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Victorian Bushfires – ABC Radio AM

Program: ABC Radio AM

*** E & OE – Proof only ***

TONY EASTLEY: The Commonwealth is putting more money into emergency payments, and will sit on the reconstruction and recovery authority established jointly with the Victorian Government, but as attention turns to putting communities back together, a jarring note of politics has entered the debate. The Prime Minister yesterday suggested money from the stimulus package – which the Coalition opposes – could be used to rebuild Victoria’s burnt-out towns. The Government has clarified the matter, saying the commitment to rebuild is not contingent on any existing legislation. The Federal Family and Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin spoke a short time ago with chief political correspondent Lyndal Curtis, who asked if any money from the economic stimulus package would be going to rebuilding.

JENNY MACKLIN: I think this issue has been made very clear by a letter from the Treasurer to the Leader of the Opposition. The Government’s made it very plain that we intend to be partners for the long term with the Victorian Government and local communities to rebuild the fire-affected communities. It is an uncapped amount of money. It’s unconditional, this does not depend on any legislation before the Parliament. But it’s really just common sense that if this package does go through the Parliament this week, that some of the money could be used by the Victorian Government to rebuild schools, for example.

REPORTER: But doesn’t that inject a note of politics into the equation that the Opposition, in blocking the stimulus package, is blocking money that could be used for rebuilding fire-affected communities?

JENNY MACKLIN: I’ll just make it very clear. Our commitment is unconditional. It does not depend on the passing of any legislation before the Parliament.

REPORTER: So Victoria does not need to use any money which may come to it from the stimulus package to rebuild these communities.

JENNY MACKLIN: No, but they can, it makes absolute sense that if they want to, that they should be able to. And all we’re saying to these communities is, our commitment to you is to work with you, to rebuild your communities. Having been out with many, many people in the relief centres over the last few days, that’s exactly what they want. They want to know that where they’re with them, that’s exactly the commitment that the Prime Minister’s given them.

REPORTER: So Victoria can use, but will not have to use, if it wants to get the money from somewhere else?

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s right.

REPORTER: There’s concern this morning that Centrelink is asking people who’ve lost everything to produce some form of identification before they get emergency payments. Is that happening, and if it is, can you stop that?

JENNY MACKLIN: I’ve spoken to the person who’s in charge of the Centrelink operation this morning, and have instructed them to be lenient. It is the case that if anybody needs cash immediately, or if they need money put into their bank accounts immediately, that can be done on the spot. If people have documentation, of course, that helps, but I know, because I’ve spoken with people, I do understand that many people have lost all forms of identification and Centrelink will get that message to remind them to be lenient this morning.

REPORTER: So it can just be with a signature?

JENNY MACKLIN: It certainly can be.