Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Economic Security Strategy, Northern Territory Emergency Response


JENNY MACKLIN: It is (inaudible) to open this very important symposium and particularly to highlight the impact of the Government’s economic security package and its benefits for families. Families around Australia with dependent children can expect to receive a $1000 for each child from the 8th December if they are receiving Family Tax Benefit A. This will be a big help to families who are under significant financial pressure, and of course also provide a boost to the economy. We’re also very pleased to be providing additional support to pensioners, to other senior Australians, to people on the disability support pension, veterans and carers – all of whom have been telling us just how hard it is for them to make ends meet.

The Government has also given a commitment to develop for the first time a National Child Protection Framework. The recent meeting of the Council of Australian Governments agreed that there would be much improved information sharing and that for the first time Centrelink would be part of the national alert system. These are very important improvements to the development of a National Child Protection Framework which is all about making sure that our children are safer.

REPORTER: Ms Macklin, Tony Abbott says that too many families are missing out from the package, that there are families who earn more than the threshold who are still struggling with high mortgages who won’t be getting this payment, and also the unemployed. What do you say to those families who won’t be getting this?

JENNY MACKLIN: We’ve wanted to target this extra assistance to those families who really need the help the most and I don’t know really what the Opposition is about. On the one hand we’ve got Malcolm Turnbull, the Leader of the Opposition, coming out saying that he supports the package and that he’s not going to quibble about it, and then we have Tony Abbott coming out and making his remarks. So the Opposition needs to figure out whether or not they are going to get behind this package, support what is a very very significant boost to family assistance, to make sure that all of those families with dependent children are able to get this extra help that they need. And of course for pensioners and the others that will receive the extra support. So it’s high time the Opposition figured out whether they are supporting the Government or not.

REPORTER: Do you agree though that there are some families who are struggling who won’t get it?

JENNY MACKLIN: What I know is that we’re in fact going to be helping millions of Australian families who otherwise would not have received this support. We understand how important it is to provide this additional support to families. The families who are going to receive this are families who are getting Family Tax Benefit Part A. Just to give you an idea of the income level that that relates to, for a family with two children, the children under the age of 13, that’s an income for the family of around $111,000. They’re the families that we are targeting and we think that’s the responsible approach.

REPORTER: You say it’s a responsible social policy, are you concerned at all that families or pensioners may use the lump sum payment, may just spend it unwisely and not use it?

JENNY MACKLIN: We’re talking with pensioners and families about how they are going to spend the money, has certainly indicated to me that they’re going to spend it on the things that they haven’t been able to afford to do up until now. So some pensioners are saying that they will use it to get their car fixed which they haven’t been able to do, do some of the jobs around the house that they haven’t been able to afford, buy the grandkids an extra present before Christmas. So I’m sure that people will make sure they spend the money in a way that is really going to help them through what’s been pretty difficult times.

REPORTER: On the Northern Territory Intervention, Galarrwuy Yunupingu says today he wants the Federal Government to show leadership, to make a decision about the Intervention, that it’s at a crossroad, that the report was too, didn’t actually provide substantial recommendations about a way forward. When will you make this decision and do you agree with him that you need to show leadership at this point?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, we do understand just how important it is to continue the Northern Territory Emergency Response. That was a recommendation from the Review. We understand that the level of disadvantage in Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory is severe and that we have a very very big and long term task in front of us. The Government will be responding to the Review Report as soon as possible but I can guarantee that our support for Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory will continue.

REPORTER: One more question, you said that you wanted to take an evidenced based approach to this entire thing, that’s been your approach for all your indigenous policies and (inaudible). There wasn’t a whole lot of evidence in that report, a lot of it was opinions of people and how they felt about the intervention. Would you like to see some more evidence before you come to your final decision?

JENNY MACKLIN: You’d be aware that there has been a number of pieces of evidence brought forward to the Government. We do think that the information collected in the consultations conducted by the Review are important, that is a critical part of gathering evidence but we’ve also had evidence come forward from our Government Business Managers, from the community stores, demonstrating that for example, the benefit of income management has led to increased food, particularly fresh food being bought, a reduction in the purchase of cigarettes, so we do have a range of different sources that have been provided to the Government and have also been made public.

REPORTER: So you’ll consider all of those?

JENNY MACKLIN: We’ll be looking at all the evidence that’s been made public and has been provided to the Government, also of course provided to the Review Team. They’ve recognised that in their Review Report and we’ll respond to the Report quickly.

REPORTER: Why hasn’t the Government released more evidence on how it formed this package?

JENNY MACKLIN: We understand just how important it is to act quickly and decisively. Once again, I just say to the Opposition, on one day you say you are going to get behind the Government, you’re not going to quibble with what the Government’s done, that you understand how important it is to act quickly and decisively, and then in the days following we’ve had the Leader of the Opposition and others start to quibble with different parts of the economic security package. We understand that this is a major global financial crisis. We understand as a Government just how important it is for Australian families, for Australian pensioners, for other older Australians, for the Government to act quickly and decisively and that’s what we’ve done.

REPORTER: (inaudible) valid about raising interest rates possibly pushing upward inflationary pressures?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I thought the Leader of the Opposition said the other day that he supported the package, that he understood why it was important for the Government to do what it’s done. He needs to figure out which side he’s on.

REPORTER: Just back on the Intervention, the Prime Minister said yesterday that Cabinet did not instruct the Review Board to make any changes to its report. Did you or your office see the report before it was released on Monday and ask the Review Board to change (inaudible)?

JENNY MACKLIN: I received the Report on Monday, that’s when I first saw the report and I released it on the same day. I think the most important thing to do is to look at the comments from the head of the Review Board, Peter Yu, who made comments yesterday that completely refuted those allegations.

REPORTER: Do you agree with Tony Abbot that making any changes to compulsory welfare quarantining would destroy the essence of the intervention?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well the Government will respond to the Review Board’s report as quickly as possible. But I have indicated today and previously just how important income management has been to families and to children, to make sure that they have the food and other essentials available to them