Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Disaster Recovery Payment, The Cost of Child Abuse report, Western Australia income management


JENNY MACKLIN: As you would be aware the Prime Minister has today announced that the Australian Government will provide immediate assistance to the people of south-east Queensland who have been so seriously affected by the storms that ravaged the area on Sunday. So I can now announce that people who were adversely affected will from today be able to receive a one-off payment of $1000 for each adult and $400 for each child to help relieve their hardship. People who are eligible will be those who have been seriously injured, whose principal place of residence has been destroyed or seriously damaged. Claims can be lodged with Centrelink today and payments are expected to flow as soon as possible. People can ring the hotline, the number is 180 2266 for further information, and as I say they can lodge their applications for the payment today.

This is assistance on top of that which was announced yesterday, that was the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements and that money is for clean-up operations, for emergency food and clothing. Those arrangements are delivered by the State Government and half the cost is met by the Federal Government. If you have any other questions of detail we can answer those shortly.

The second issue I want to discuss is in relation to child abuse and you would be aware that a very significant report was released today, a report that says that the cost of child abuse to our community may be more than $10 billion. This report called The Cost of Child Abuse in Australia is a very significant contribution to our understanding of the very very significant burden that child abuse and neglect puts on children and families and on the community more broadly. The world day for the prevention of child abuse is tomorrow, the 19th November, and it is a very important opportunity for us all to remember the terrible impact of child abuse and neglect on children and makes us all focus on what it is that we need to do to address these terrible levels of abuse.

I am very pleased to be able announce in that context that we have come to a very significant agreement with the West Australian Government. From the 24th November this year, income management will commence in Kununurra in the Kimberley and in the Cannington district of Perth. This is a very significant initiative and will enable us to introduce income management in a different way in Western Australia from that which we are trialling elsewhere. Income management in Western Australia starting in these two areas on the 24th November will work in the following way: The Western Australia Child Protection Authorities will be able to recommend to Centrelink that up to 70 per cent of welfare payments and family payments can be income managed for the benefit of children. 100 per cent of lump sum payments will be able to be income managed. This is a very significant agreement. It has never been put in place before and I would just like to thank both the current Western Australian Government and the previous Western Australian Government for their very significant willingness to work with the Commonwealth to introduce this new arrangement.

This is the third effort by the Federal Government to introduce income management in different parts of Australia. We have of course compulsory income management in many communities in the Northern Territory and in Cape York in Queensland a different trial using family responsibility commissions. As a result of the experienced that we gained from each of these areas will form our considered view about how to take this issue further right across Australia.

REPORTER: How long will this trial last?

JENNY MACKLIN: This is now in place and as far as we are concerned we are providing money for the next two years, $18.9 million will be provided to Western Australia for this trial and it will be extended through different parts of the Kimberley over the next three or four months.

REPORTER: (inaudible) … works best and would you then roll out that system across the community?

JENNY MACKLIN: As you’re aware in the Northern Territory we’ve said by this time next year we hope to have developed a compulsory income management arrangement that will not require the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act, so we’re commencing work on that right now. The trial in Cape York is a four year trial but we hope by this time next year to have some evidence about the nature of that arrangement and we also expect that given we will have the introduction of these arrangements in Western Australia in place by February, that’s the time we expect it will take to get it rolled out in each of these locations. By this time next year we have some good evidence of how that’s proceeding.

REPORTER: On the money in Brisbane, will it be people whose houses are damaged severely getting the money or just people whose houses are damaged and who would make the determination?

JENNY MACKLIN: There are very specific requirements, I can give you those if you like rather than running through all the detail here, but there are specific requirements and it will be a decision made by Centrelink.

REPORTER: On the income management do the Indigenous groups in the Kimberley support this?

JENNY MACKLIN: This is not just a trial that is impacting on Indigenous people. It is a trial that will relate to any children and their families the Western Australia Child Protection Authorities consider would benefit and that’s a very important point to make. It will apply in the Kimberley and in the Cannington district of Perth. There have been significant consultations, both with Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people, over the last few months. Some people will agree and some people won’t. We consider it to be a very important part of our armoury in tackling child abuse.

REPORTER: Why is this trial I know it’s 70 per cent to be quarantined whereas in the Northern Territory it’s less … (inaudible)

JENNY MACKLIN: It’s really a matter of taking a different approach, trialling a different method. This as you can see is targeted at people who are already in the child protection system, people who the Western Australian Child Protection Authorities view as people who would benefit from the introduction of income management. So it’s a matter of really wanting to look at different approaches, see which works best.

REPORTER: And do you think that 50 per cent may not be enough?

JENNY MACKLIN: It really I think depends on the circumstances and as you can see here we are talking about up to 70 per cent. In some cases the Western Australia Child Protection Authorities may recommend to Centrelink that it be 70 per cent, in other cases they may not. It’s a matter of giving them, the people who are in contact with the families, much more capacity to decide what’s in the best interests of children.

REPORTER: And in relation to Cannington, it’s quite a few suburbs that are affected, I believe Senate Estimates said it’s above 30 suburbs. Is that right?

JENNY MACKLIN: The Cannington district postcodes cover over 200,000 people so I’ve got all the different postcodes if you’re interested.

REPORTER: In WA the new Premier said that police and health authorities are gearing up for an outbreak of violence and drinking and gambling once the Commonwealth’s money starts to roll out from the Economic Stimulus package, does he have a point?

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s one of the reasons that I am very pleased that we have got this agreement in place and it will be rolled out from the 24th November. It is to make sure that we can guarantee that lump sum payments in these areas will be used in the interests of children, where the Western Australian authorities determine that that is in the interests of those children. I would also say though that it has been the case in Western Australia in the past where they have introduced alcohol bans in an effort to protect communities and particularly to protect children and any attempt by the Western Australian Premier to introduce such welfare bans, alcohol bans I should say, any attempt by the Western Australia Premier to introduce alcohol bans in any of these communities to make sure that this money is spent in the interests of children would have my very strong support.

REPORTER: What about in other areas of Australia, Minister, where problem drinking and gambling is a big issue, in urban Australia, what can the Government do if anything to ensure this money doesn’t go towards that?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we do recognise that most families will spend this money in the interests of the family and their children. In those areas where we do have income management in place in the Northern Territory communities, for example, these lump sum payments will be 100 per cent income managed. In Western Australia as a result of this agreement that we’ve reached today, we will be able to now income manage up to 70 per cent of welfare and family payments, 100 per cent of lump sum payments in the communities, in the Kimberley that I’ve identified and in Cannington in Perth. It is really a matter for the State Government to introduce alcohol bans in those communities where they are fearful that there may be problems with alcohol induced violence, and as I say if they do introduce those measures, they have my very strong support.

REPORTER: Yes, sorry my question was about the other areas, urban Australia, 99 per cent of Australia is not covered by that, and what if anything is the Government doing to ensure this money is spent in a responsible way, particularly to those Centrelink’s highlighting a problem with gambling is a big issue with pensioners and other welfare recipients, what’s being done?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, what we certainly want to do in the case of gambling, as you’ve highlighted from the story today, of course, if there’s any evidence of people cheating the welfare system we’re going to be after them, so I make that point very clear. On the other issue, we’ve introduced income management in a number of places around Australia. They’re the places where we can direct people to make sure their money is spent in the interests of children. In the other areas we’re really saying to parents it’s very important to do the right thing as far as your children are concerned. This money is for the interests of your family and your children and I would hope that the vast majority of parents will do the right thing.

REPORTER: So by the middle of the year would you like to be able to roll out the best model across the entire country rather than handpicked communities?

JENNY MACKLIN: By this time next year, I would certainly hope that we’ve got some very clear indications from each of these trials in the Cape, in the Northern Territory and in Western Australia that will guide our broader welfare reforms.

REPORTER: How many parents from next week will actually have their income managed?

JENNY MACKLIN: Over the period, it’s estimated, this is an estimate really from the Western Australia Child Protection Authorities, that around 1,000 parents will be affected. At this point I’d have to say that’s an estimate.

REPORTER: But I mean from (inaudible) have you any idea…

JENNY MACKLIN: It’s very hard to judge at this stage. That’s really something that’s dependent on a recommendation from the Western Australia Child Protection Authorities, so they’re now in the process of going through and assessing which parents would benefit most from this measure.

REPORTER: Did you fast track this issue in WA because you give as a leading problem, you know with the money from the Economic Stimulus Package?

JENNY MACKLIN: No, we didn’t. This is a matter that we’ve been working on for sometime. The money was in the Budget in May and we were working both with the previous Western Australian Government and the current Government, and as I said they’ve both been very cooperative.

Thank you.