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Transcript 41705

Doorstop - Tennant Creek, Northern Territory

Photo of Turnbull, Malcolm

Turnbull, Malcolm

Period of Service: 15/09/2015 to 24/08/2018

More information about Turnbull, Malcolm on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 23/07/2018

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 41705

STEVE EDGINGTON, BARKLY REGIONAL COUNCIL MAYOR:

Welcome everybody. Firstly, I’d like to welcome the Prime Minister to Tennant Creek. This morning we were up at the Battery Hill Mining Centre here in Tennant Creek to farewell the Prime Minister. Firstly, on behalf of the Barkly Regional Council, I’d like to thank the Prime Minister for coming to Tennant Creek and also the Chief Minister for the Northern Territory, Michael Gunner. It’s also very pleasing to see Minister Scullion and Minister Tehan here as well. They’ve been of great support to Tennant Creek.

It was only one month ago that we met with the Prime Minister in Canberra. We spoke about some of the issues affecting Tennant Creek. We spoke about not only the problems, but we wanted to focus on some of the solutions. So, what we spoke about with the Prime Minister was a whole range of issues, ranging from housing, child protection, alcohol issues and the need for everybody to pull together and start moving forward.

The Prime Minister responded very quickly and sent two ministers to Tennant Creek, Nigel Scullion and Dan Tehan, who came two weeks ago and have listened to some of the issues. While in Canberra, we invited the Prime Minister to come to Tennant Creek and see for himself, speak to people, listen to people and find out what some of the issues are. We’re very pleased with what’s happened over the last two days with the Prime Minister here. We’re looking forward to working together and establishing a Regional Deal with the Commonwealth Government and the Northern Territory Government.

Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well thanks, Steve. That’s great and it’s great to be here with the Chief Minister and my ministerial colleagues – and yours too.

Last night at the basketball court, one young person after another asked me what we could do to make sure that children were safe. That has been the commitment and the question from everybody we've met. The Cultural Authority Group and Ron here, who chairs that and organised that, had several meetings with them. Again, that is the focus.

We’ve talked about how the Warumungu  people can use their authority here on their land, which we acknowledge, to ensure that people who are making trouble stop doing so and if necessary are encouraged to leave.

We've talked with all of the agencies at the police station and I want to thank the Superintendent and, of course, the Commissioner, who came down from Darwin, for the leadership they've shown. But I also compliment the young police officers – one of whom is working to bring together information from all the different agencies who, frankly, as Michael has acknowledged, had not been talking to each other, had not been sharing information about the situation of children, vulnerable children and families that were at risk with repeated cases of domestic violence, repeated cases of offending and circumstances where children were put at risk. So now, every Monday morning, all of those agencies, including NGOs, get together and share notes and make sure they’re up to speed. We heard about how, in practical terms, in one case after another, how this new level of sharing and cooperation is making sure that children are safer. Just as the kids last night were asking me, as their Prime Minister, what could I do to ensure they were going to be safe.

So we’ve talked a lot about housing and the need for more public housing. We’ve talked about the need for a dedicated facility for drug and alcohol rehabilitation. BRADAAG is doing great work and we talked about how they can do more of it.

I proposed that we should undertake here in the Barkly Region, a ‘Regional Deal’. This would be modelled on the city deals that we have in a number of cities, large and regional cities. It basically involves doing at a larger scale what was happening around the table in the police station this morning. It involves the Federal Government, the Territory government in this case, the local government. The leadership that Steve is showing and his Regional Council is showing is outstanding. It involves the Cultural Advisory – the Cultural Authority Group, I should say – it involves Ron and all the other Aboriginal organisations here.

To get all the stakeholders around the table and then say, “Right, let's agree, let's talk about and agree on what the priorities and objectives are for this region.” What are the plans? What is the plan for economic and social development? What is the plan to ensure that kids are safe? What is the plan to ensure that kids are coming to school fed, that they are not exhausted from being up all night? What is the plan to ensure that there is a hostel in Tennant Creek so that kids can be kept safe while there is trouble at home? How do we give all of the agencies the ability to work together and collaborate and to do so with the support and the cultural authority of the people whose land we are standing on today, the Warumungu people?

So I believe that is the way forward. I have talked to Steve and Michael, they’re very enthusiastic about it. It's a model that we’ve used elsewhere and it is succeeding. It's doing what people always say governments should do, which is work together rather than criticising each other. So, it's very well received. It means that while governments - and you see this with agencies within government, by the way, and you can see this with the agencies here - they'll have the same objectives, everyone has got good intentions, but without coordination you can be like ships passing in the night.

So this has been a very good visit. We can see the opportunity for greater coordination, stronger leadership, working together. But above all, with the support and leadership of the local community, Tennant Creek and the Barkly Region belong to the people who live here. The people – Ron, your mob – who’ve lived here for 60,000 years. So this is your country and our commitment is to work with you - and with your support, your guidance, your wisdom - to ensure that we get a Regional Deal that will enable every wing of government and every agency to co-operate, share and seek to achieve the same goals.

Thank you. I might just ask Michael to say a few words.

HON MICHAEL GUNNER MLA, NORTHERN TERRITORY CHIEF MINISTER:

Thank you, Prime Minister. Every Territory kid has a right, not a privilege but a right, to grow up happy, healthy and safe. We are all here today for Territory kids and the Prime Minister's trip sends a very powerful message that we are all in this together.

The idea of a Regional Deal for Tennant Creek or the Berkeley region is an excellent one and I'll make every resource of the Territory Government available to work with the Australian Government, work with the Barkly Council to deliver on that. It's important we do everything we can to make sure those kids growing up here get a good education and have jobs available for them at the end of that. So that plan will be a social and an economic one.

Tennant Creek is a wonderful community. It's a strong community. It's gone through some tough times lately. People in Tennant Creek feel for the family that’s involved, they are hurting. But they want people out there, other Australians out there, to know this is a wonderful place to grow up in, a wonderful, great place to live in. They want to know their governments, local government, Territory government, Australian government believe in them, believe in Tennant Creek, believe in the people of Tennant Creek and the Barkly Region. We are here for them, we will make sure their kids have a bright future.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, you’ve seen the streets of Tennant Creek at night. Are children safe here?

PRIME MINISTER:

We know that some children have not been safe and that's why there have been, obviously, a large number of crimes committed against children here. That is why we’re seeking to ensure that all of the agencies are working together and sharing information, so that they’re better able to keep children safe.

We had a very good, lengthy discussion this morning about that and how, in practical terms, that is already working. The restrictions on alcohol sale are another factor and that's certainly reduced, by any measure, incidence of public drunkenness, obviously, violence, assaults, domestic assaults and so forth.

JOURNALIST:

That Youth Patrol is a pilot program. Can you see the need for it to be permanent?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, I would expect it would be. I think there are a number of programs. At the end of the day, the Youth Patrol has been very successful. At the early part of the day, Nigel's project, RSAS has been very important. We were with some of the workers there making sure kids get to school.

Nigel, what did you say the attendance rate without RSAS would be? It would be 15% lower?

NIGEL SCULLION, MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS:

15 to 20% lower.

PRIME MINISTER:

So that's a very important measure. I've been with RSAS teams elsewhere in the APY Lands, for example, with Nigel and they make a huge difference.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister do you think the cashless welfare card could work in a community like this? Is there any plan to extend it to Tennant Creek?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well – I'll ask Dan to perhaps talk about that as the Minister for Social Services – but the answer is we believe it’s a very valuable measure. But of course it has to come at the request and with the support of the local community. Do you want to add to that?

DAN TEHAN, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES:

Thanks, PM. I just think it's very important to note that if we are to have a regional agreement, as the Prime Minister has said, it needs to have an economic and a social component to it.

I've been privileged enough to be with the Prime Minister in Victoria when he announced the Geelong and Shipwreck Coast regional deal, that very much has an economic focus. Here we want to ensure we have an economic and a social focus so we can address issues like housing, like alcohol.

Now, the cashless debit card has been raised with us by the local community. We’ll continue to have those conversations and if the local community thinks it's a part of the suite of measures that are needed here then obviously we would go forward with that. But that would very much depend on the local community being a willing partner in that process. So we will continue those conversations.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, you’ve been here on a Sunday when there are no takeaway alcohol sales. Do you think you’ve really seen the true depth of problems that alcohol causes here in Tennant Creek?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I've had very good discussions. This is a town of about 3,000 people. I think I've met several hundred of them. There's about 500 kids in Tennant Creek. I reckon I met about at least 100 of them last night alone. So I have to say to Steve and all of the team who put together my programme, I've met so many people, had so many discussions, it’s been very, very valuable.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, you spoke, you and your colleagues have spoken a lot about the lack of coordination [inaudible] funding coming to the Norther Territory. The Productivity Commission was the body to do that and last time I checked they hadn’t been given any directions [inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER:

No, quite to the contrary. Dan, do you want to say anything on that?

MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES:

Yeah, so the tripartite commission will be meeting this week. There will be agreement on the Productivity Commission beginning their work. So an agreement has been reached by the Commonwealth and Northern Territory Government for that work to commence. It will be incredibly important work because it can go to the heart of this issue of where the money is being spent, where it needs to be better focused and address this issue - as the Prime Minister has mentioned - of ships passing in the night rather than a coordinated approach to make sure the service delivery on the ground is getting the outcomes that are required.

JOURNALIST:

[Inaudible] all funding, or just funding in the area of children’s and family services?

MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES:

Children and family services is what it will do. It's going to be incredibly important work because that obviously touches into other areas as well. So as we heard this morning, it’s child protection and families, it’s education, it’s health. They all have a role in making sure that the children are getting the best upbringing that we can possibly give them.

JOURNALIST:

That’s fair, but the Prime Minister’s statement did say that all funding. So is that a step back then?

MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES:

It's not a step back at all. What we want to make sure the focus is on children and families. But that will be broad, so what the Prime Minister has said is exactly right.

PRIME MINISTER:

It's consistent with the recommendations of the Royal Commission and I might say, it's a matter, Ron, that was raised at the Cultural Authority Group meeting this morning. So it's subject is of very keen interest to make sure funding, that public funds, are being spent effectively. As you know, it's the Royal Commission who observed in their report, a shortage of funding is not the problem, it's the way in which services are delivered and the effectiveness of them.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, is there anything you saw here that shocked you?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I have not been shocked; I've been inspired. I've been inspired by the resilience of the community. I’ve been inspired by the Cultural Authority Group and their passion to ensure that their mob and other people that come to live in Tennant Creek are going to live here with respect.

I felt a quiet determination from that room which was inspiring. But I was especially inspired by some conversations I had with young people last night. You know, just informal conversations about their concerns, about safety. Stories about their families, their history and how they yearn to have what Michael Gunner described earlier, that which should be the right of every child: to grow up in safety, to grow up surrounded with love and to grow up in safety and then to be able to go on and realise their dreams, whatever they may be.

Those kids at the basketball court, they’re the future of this community, just like their counterparts around the nation are the future of Australia. So we owe it to them to get this right and we will.

JOURNALIST:

Why do you think that they have been deprived of that future? Previous generations and this generation now, is it because of a lack of service co-ordination? Is it because of lack of parental responsibility and what can your Government do to fix that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, as you know very well, it's a complex problem. At the end of the day, you've got parents and families who’ve not been doing the right thing by their kids, who have abused their children, who have neglected their children. But the reasons for that and the background to that is very complex, as we have discussed at some length.

But it’s important to ensure that the services that provide the training for parents, the support for housing, all of that, the support and protection for children, all of that is done in a joined-up and connected way. We've got to focus on each child. There is no excuse any longer in 2018 for silos. We had a good discussion about that, again, at the police station this morning.

We’ve got the opportunity now to really co-ordinate services between federal, territory, NGO’s, Aboriginal organisations. We’ve got to make sure that we are talking together and that we’re all working ceaselessly to ensure that each one of those children gets the best chance.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, Territory families have taken more children into care since the incident back in February. Are you worried about the implications this may have? Not necessarily only here in Tennant Creek but across the NT?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, as Prime Minister, I'm worried about any child who is at risk, who is at risk or is abused. So our job is to protect, to ensure that every child is protected.

Look, it's a challenging job. I’m here with Territory families, we've met with the team here this morning.

Michael, do you want to say a little bit more about it? Look, Michael and I, after the tragic abuse of a 2-year-old girl here earlier in the year, Michael and I talked about some of the practical measures and we talked candidly about failings with Territory families because the Territory is responsible for child protection. But I think Michael, in a very clear-eyed way, a very responsible way, is seeking to address it. So, over to you.

Northern Territory CHIEF MINISTER:

It's a very big decision when you take a child to a place of safety, away from family. That's a big decision. You make that decision in the best interests of the child, always. If you’re in a family unit, if you’re in a home, if you’re in an environment where Territory families have to make that decision, something has gone wrong. There's a problem, there’s a negative culture there, there’s an issue there that must be addressed. The child always has to come first.

Now, I recognise there are big concerns around kinship care or loss of culture. That's why we have that decision-making that says the first place that we should look for that child to go to is with kin, with culture, or then a parent that’s available, an adult that's available to look that child.

But the child must always come first and that's a very strong message I’ve sent as Chief Minister through all my Departments. I will support every and any public servant in the decisions they make that put children first.

One of the other things we’ve got to do is crash through these silos. I’m never going to accept again as Chief Minister that information-sharing is a reason why a child wasn't in a safe place. That has to stop, and we’ve rearranged government around that. I'm now the Minister for Children and I'm leading that from a Cabinet level now, trying to create a new culture at our end about how we make these decisions. That has to all be about the child and the child being in a safe place.

PRIME MINISTER:

If I might just add to that. One of the issues, Michael, that we were discussing at the police station this morning was the need to have more availability of kinship care in Tennant Creek. So that if a child is taken out of the family home because it’s at risk, it’s a dangerous environment, sometimes kids have been placed in foster care in Alice Springs. Well, that’s a long way away. So focusing on building up more of a reserve of kinship carers in Tennant is clearly one priority.

But again, it was good to have that, we had a very practical discussion this morning, I might say. I didn't have a lot to say. I asked a lot of questions and took a lot of notes.

JOURNALIST:

PM, just briefly on by-elections?

PRIME MINISTER:

Have we concluded the discussions on Tennant? Yeah, just one more.

JOURNALIST:

It’s a two part question. There has been some considerable criticism of the role of the around the Land Councils in this area for carelessly distributing royalties and failing to promote economic development. Do you think they need to be reviewed as part of this? As a subsidiary question, is this regional deal a model that you would seek to roll out elsewhere?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, in terms of a specific question about Land Councils, I’ll maybe defer that to Nigel or to the Chief Minister. But yes, in terms of as a model to rollout elsewhere, the answer is yes. We are already looking at regional deals in other areas.

The big idea was to get federal, state and local governments working together. A shocking innovation in the history of the Australian Federation! We started off with Launceston and Townsville, the Western Sydney city deal. As Dan Tehan mentioned, we’re working on a city deal for Geelong and the Shipwreck Coast.

But we’re also now looking at a number of regional areas. Barkly Shire, I think, Barkly Regional Council is a great place to do this because you’ve got the combination of strong federal involvement already, you’ve obviously got the Territory here, naturally, with all of its services, but you’ve also got fantastic leadership at the local government level. I can’t say, Steve, I know you are going to have a lot of responsibility with this, but this is so important, to have strong local council with a clear vision, strong leadership, great engagement with the Indigenous community. That is so important.

So I think there are a lot of the elements here that will make this, notwithstanding all of the challenges, something that can readily be achieved.

JOURNALIST:

Very briefly on by-elections, are you ready for a Labor leadership change and is your job harder against Anthony Albanese?

PRIME MINISTER:

I will leave all of that to you. You guys have got millions of words written on that. I don't want to do your work, I will leave you to comment on it.

I would just say with the by-elections, it is very clear that they are close, obviously, but you have to remember that the last time a government won a by-election from the opposition was 100 years ago.

JOURNALIST:

At this point in the campaign, how confident are you of a win in Braddon and in Longman?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I just said to you it is a close contest but by-elections traditionally and historically swing against the government. The last time the government won a by-election from the opposition was about 100 years ago.

But there is no doubt that the voters in Longman, for example, know very well that a vote for Susan Lamb is a vote for Bill Shorten and his higher taxes.

Just as the voters in Braddon know that a vote for Justine Keay is a vote for Bill Shorten and his higher taxes. That is really the test. This is what this is about.

We have our policies that are for lower taxes, stronger economic growth, more jobs, higher wages, greater exports, greater economic opportunity here and around the nation. That’s our agenda.

Bill Shorten has the most anti-business agenda of any Labor leader in generations. It is one that can result in only one thing, which is higher taxes, fewer jobs, less growth, less investment and fewer opportunities.

Thank you very much.

[ENDS]

Transcript 41705