Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Carers, Belinda Neal


JENNY MACKLIN: Thanks very much for all being here with us today and if I can particularly thank Josh and his family, his mum and his dad, for having us at his home.

We’re very pleased today to be announcing $27 million of funding to support both young carers like Josh and also carers who are looking after young people with profound disabilities.

The seven million dollars that will help young carers like Josh will really be there to provide respite but also one of the things that Josh has really emphasised, that he’s got out of this support in the past, is the ability to have someone who’s always there at the end of the phone for him, for him to be able to talk to, for him to be able to get support from and if I can just say what a great job Carers Australia and Carers ACT do, particularly for young carers like Josh.

There are 170,000 young people under the age of 18 who are caring for sometimes their parents, other relatives, sometimes taking on the full time caring load. It’s a big job for young people and the purpose of this money is to really support those young people in their caring role or to provide the respite that young people need so that they can get on with their studies or get on with their work.

Josh, in his case, is trying to both study and work and help look after his dad and so it’s terrific that we’re able to provide this additional support so that that ongoing care can continue.

There’ll also be a major forum being held for young carers in November here in Canberra. We’d really – we’re really looking forward to many, many young carers coming here to Canberra, able to share their experiences but to also provide advice to the Government. There’s also a major parliamentary inquiry underway into carers and the additional support that carers need and we’d certainly encourage people, both young carers and other carers, to provide input to the forum and, of course, to the inquiry.

We know that carers, both young and not so young, are doing a fantastic job for the people they care for and for our community and this additional funding will help just lighten that load a little bit.

QUESTION: How many of those 170,000 young carers will get help?

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s something that’s hard to answer but it’s one of the things that Carers Australia and Carers ACT here in Canberra provide, so this is just additional money.

Some of the funding goes to support that’s not necessarily delivered on a daily basis. As Josh has explained to me, one of the big parts of the assistance he gets is just to be able to get on the phone to the – to – you don’t mind me naming Natalie? To Natalie and to really have somebody to speak to, so sometimes it can be that sort of support, sometime it can – sometimes it can be actual respite support, so it’s a real – real variation.

QUESTION: Is this money in addition to the $822 million announced in the Budget?

JENNY MACKLIN: This is additional. This is – this is money that’s specifically targeted to young carers.

QUESTION: Is that because the Budget set aside something like $546 a week – a fortnight rather – for 19,000 parents who look after children with a disability but young kids missed out?

JENNY MACKLIN: This is quite different. The money – the new money that we announced in the Budget was really to dramatically expand the number of people who are eligible for carer payment child. The problem with the way the eligibility for that payment existed in the past was that only about 3500 parents, largely, or carers, were eligible for that payment because the eligibility criteria were so restricted.

There was a major review done which we published at the beginning of this year and we announced significant new funding, just under $300 million, to change the eligibility criteria and that will mean around 19,000 people will now be eligible for that payment.

This is quite different. This is really for respite services for support for carers, rather than a payment.

QUESTION: So this is new money? Where did you manage to find it?

JENNY MACKLIN: This is money that’s been in the forward estimates but it’s money that needed to be reallocated this year so it’s in the budget.

QUESTION: Because it’s been reallocated, where…

JENNY MACKLIN: It’s money that was allocated for carer support but every year, of course, we have to make an assessment as to whether or not it will continue, so we’ve done that.

QUESTION: What’s it amount to in the paypackets of the young carers?

JENNY MACKLIN: This is not about money for – it’s not like carer payments or carer allowance. This is additional support in terms of respite services or the sort of support that Josh has talked
about. So it’s…

QUESTION: Are these 170,000 young carers getting any financial support from the government?

JENNY MACKLIN: You’ll have to ask Josh what he’s getting. I’m not sure what sort of support he might be getting but, of course, many people are getting carer allowance. That’s a payment that’s provided to carers who might be combining their caring with work, as Josh is, and Josh’s mum as well, I think, so that’s an additional payment that is made available to people.

QUESTION: On another issue, Brendan Nelson has questioned whether Belinda Neal should remain in Parliament following her behaviour or alleged behaviour. Should she be sacked?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think we, as members of Parliament, all of us, have a responsibility, first and foremost to our own constituents, to represent them and to behave in a way that they would expect and so I think I don’t have anything particular extra to say about the incidents that have occurred, but I think we do all have a responsibility to behave well and to be ambassadors for our constituents so that is a responsibility we should all uphold.

QUESTION: It’s now emerged that Ms Neal kicked an opponent on the soccer field and she was red-carded and suspended for two weeks. Are you comfortable with that kind of behaviour from one of your colleagues?

JENNY MACKLIN: As I say, I think we all do have a very serious responsibility about our behaviour, in public and in private. Our constituents expect us to behave well and I think that’s something that each and every one of us needs to take very seriously.

QUESTION: Do you think your party needs to show Belinda Neal a red card?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think what we all need to do, each and every one of us, is take our responsibilities to our constituents very seriously, to uphold good behaviour wherever we might be and that’s a responsibility that applies to each and every one of us.

QUESTION: So is it only the voters who get to have a say on whether Belinda Neal’s behaviour is acceptable? Isn’t it time for someone in authority in the Labor Party to say?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think the Acting Prime Minister made clear our views yesterday. I don’t want to add any more to that. I think what she said was appropriate and I’ve made clear what I think all of us, as individual members of Parliament, have as a responsibility and that is to recognise that our constituents and the public of Australia have expectations that we will behave honourably and properly wherever we are.

QUESTION: Now what should happen if you don’t?

JENNY MACKLIN: I’ve made my comments and I think the Acting Prime Minister has also made clear our view. Thanks.