Australian Prime Minister Radio interview – ABC Alice Springs Breakfast

Prime Minister

: Five weeks to the day after Alice Springs witnessed the riot outside the Todd Tavern and the violence at Hidden Valley Town Camp, and 15 months after his last visit to Alice at the height of the summer of chaos, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has returned to Alice Springs. Since the PM’s last visit, the town has seen the imposition of strict alcohol restrictions, the announcement of more than $300 million to tackle the conditions that underlie crime and its crisis in the region, and more recently, the declaration of emergency with the imposition of a three week curfew overseen by an extra 80 police officers. And while we seek to deal directly with the region’s crime and dysfunction, business and tourism will question whether it’s possible to continue operating in a town like Alice. Yesterday, the PM jetted into town. He spoke to the Chamber of Commerce, he spoke to the Mayor, he spoke to the Council, and now he’s speaking to you. Good morning, Prime Minister.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Good morning. Good to be here.

BRASH: Why are you here?

PRIME MINISTER: I’m here to listen to local people, whether it be the Chamber of Commerce, the Mayor, the Council, met with various advocates, the Aboriginal Congress yesterday. I met with anyone who asked to see me. And we reached out as well to really look at the $250 million package, part of the $320 million we’ve contributed here in central Australia about the rollout. So, for example, yesterday at the Aboriginal Congress, looking at the health hub that’s been constructed there. That was $5 million we promised before the election and then additional money as part of the $250 million. After this interview, I’ll be going to the Centralian school, to have a look at school retention, I’m told is up there in terms of attendance. But really an opportunity to engage as well as yesterday we made the announcement about increasing our funding for policing here in Alice.

BRASH: Let’s just look at that specifically, Prime Minister. Now, there was a similar announcement. This is $14.2 million was announced back in January when you first came to Alice Springs. This is for police PALIs and security guards. The Police Commissioner has told us that money will be spent, I understand, by the end of this financial year. So, this is new money. What will that do?

PRIME MINISTER: This is new money. It’ll allow for the extension, a total of 51 people being employed, 35 of them police officers here, including PALIs, people doing the work, will extend that funding for a further 18 months. So, to the end of 2025. The feedback that we’ve had is that that’s been a very effective measure. So, what we want to look at is where things are effective, you keep them going. Where things aren’t, how can improvements be made?

BRASH. So, I’m just confirming that the original money, the $14.2 million, was spent and are you aware of that being spent directly on policing resources in Alice Springs? You’ve got the evidence that happened?


BRASH: Were you happy with the work it done? Because I only asked this because I spoke to the commander recently of policing. He said, we’re down 27 positions in the central region. So, even with the addition of those police, we’re still down numbers in Alice Springs. Is there any appetite for maybe providing more resources for policing beyond what you’ve got here?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’re providing $14.6 million announcement in a day, is what we’ve done just yesterday. So, that extends the funding through for 18 months. We think that will be effective. And we, last night, when I met with the Council, when I met with the Chamber of Commerce, when I met with the tourism sector, they were all very welcoming of that announcement. I met with Darren, one of the advocates, of course.

BRASH: Yeah, what did Darren Clark say to you? Because Darren Clark is very vocal, of course, he’s got Action for Alice, the Facebook page. What did he ask you for? What does he want to see change?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it’s a really constructive discussion. He had a lot of thoughtful insight. He really welcomed, he said that the curfew had been a game changer here in Alice and he welcomed that. He welcomed the engagement and increase in investment. He’s someone who’s very passionate about this town.

BRASH: Did you get the chance to meet any young people? I know Darren was actually calling for you to go and meet young people on the street. Did you get the opportunity last night to go and see what was happening in the streets of Alice Springs?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we had a drive around and there wasn’t that much happening, to be frank.

BRASH: To be honest, as I said before, Monday night is the quietest night. And that’s nothing, I’m not saying that’s anything to do with your diary or whatever. It just is the quietest night on what is a cooling climate. So, the quiet police officer, which is the weather, is also at play. But we know that when you came last time, there was a lot of emphasis on alcohol and this town has a grog problem. I think most people will admit that.

PRIME MINISTER: And as a result, as a direct result of the visit and the meetings that we had there with the Chief Minister at the time and the meetings that we had here –

BRASH: We have seen change. I know.

PRIME MINISTER: We implemented change as a direct result of that visit here.

BRASH: Yeah. You had to drag the Northern Territory Government kicking and screaming. I know. But to the issue of young people and youth on the street, we still have high levels of youth offending. Yes, the curfew had an impact on, most people say, in the centre of town, but some say it pushed crime to the peripheries of town. But for young people and dealing with the young kids in the street, a lot of people say not much has happened there. Little has happened to change their lives and their circumstances.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it’s something that I know that Marion Scrymgour has been very focused on, as has Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, and it’s something that they’ve raised. It’s one of the reasons why I’m going to a school this morning. We’re talking about intergenerational disadvantage here. We’re talking about people being given opportunities as well, whether it be to improve school attendance, whether it be to get employment. One of the things that we’ve done as well as part of my response to the Closing the Gap Statement was to announce changes to the old CDP program so that we get real jobs with real wages and real training.

BRASH: Is that really viable? We know our bush communities, they don’t have real economies, they’re service economies. Are you adamant that these changes will see people working for real jobs, for real wages?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, one of the discussions I had last night was about the Cattlemen’s Association and changes that could be suggested for people to work in that industry, people from remote communities being given that opportunity. When I was at the Aboriginal Congress there, I spoke with the builder there who’s employing two apprentices who’ve been given that opportunity to get skills and to have their lives transformed is a really positive thing. One of the councillors told, I thought, something that I hadn’t heard of before. He spoke about. You’ll know the guy, Eli, I think.

BRASH: Eli Melky. Yeah, former deputy mayor.

PRIME MINISTER: He spoke about. He’s a real estate agent. He spoke about shopping centre and changing, getting rid of security guards, putting on locals with language skills and the difference that that had made to, I think it’s called the Plaza shopping centre. And it was just a really interesting insight into engaging with Indigenous people, into producing good employment outcomes and in addition to that, improved safety outcomes as well.

BRASH: I know we got short on time, Prime Minister, but I must ask you, the $250 million plan for Central Australia, we’ve seen the breakdown of money. We’ve seen the money of the $40 million for on Country learning for schools. We’ve seen money for DV, we’ve seen money for a variety of programs, digital connectivity. But from your perspective, what has actually hit the ground, what has made a difference from that $250 million plan?

PRIME MINISTER: With improved school retention. It’s a pretty good start.

BRASH: Bush schools are terrible retention and terrible attendance rates.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’re looking at where there are successes and how we replicate them. The Aboriginal Congress yesterday spoke about improved health outcomes, having the capacity to really examine the youngest people, give them the support and analysis that they need, being able to have a full diagnostic service of what their needs are in order to give them that opportunity as well. We’ve spoken about community safety. One of the things that people indicated at the Chamber of Commerce worked, last night, was CCTV, and there’s more of that to be rolled out as well, those security and safety measures.

BRASH: One of the things you mentioned was the curfew. Now, a lot of people in our town welcome the curfew as an emergency measure. Would you welcome it being used in other centres, in other parts of the country, given the experience of Alice Springs? Because so many experts said, “oh, it would never work.” But we did see a calming in this town. Is it a strategy which could be used elsewhere?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I don’t think it’s a one size fits all.

BRASH: No, but is it a strategy which might be –

PRIME MINISTER: It worked here. It was a good thing here. I supported it being done here –

BRASH: But not being taken anywhere else?

PRIME MINISTER: What I don’t want is then a, “Prime Minister said there should be a curfew in X town,” because I’m not saying that.

BRASH: No, no. I think I was looking to see, given the example of Alice Springs, could it be used elsewhere?

PRIME MINISTER: It worked here. It obviously was used. So therefore it can be used. It can be effective and it was. And full credit to Eva Lawler and the Chief Minister I’ve been engaging with since her election, and that’s one of the things that we’ve been consulting on. I’ll be talking with her, of course, again tomorrow. But there’s no doubt that the feedback on that was positive. There was positive feedback across a range of issues yesterday. Yes, there is concerns. One of the concerns with the tourism sector is, of course, they’ve had a tough time. They want to make sure that people aren’t discouraged from coming to Alice as well.

BRASH: Well, that’s brand management. And is there anything you could say to tourism? I know they want investment, I know they want money to try and rehabilitate the image of Alice Springs. Is there anything you were able to tell them that you’ll be able to do? Will there be a rescue package for tourism?

PRIME MINISTER: One of the things that they were talking about last night was they are looking towards, they had the recent festival of course, that happens every year. But at Uluru, there is a fantastic Field of Lights, but there’s also use of drones now for a new show that is innovative, that is really world best practise.

BRASH. So, is there anything you can offer from the Federal Government to help tourism?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, what we will receive, no doubt, is submissions about, that sort of idea was what they were talking about. What’s an iconic thing that could be brought here as well?

BRASH. So, the Federal Government would support some initiatives directly for the tourism industry.

PRIME MINISTER: We are engaging across the board, not just with the tourism industry, but the Chamber of Commerce. We have tourism bodies, of course, Tourism Australia do a great job. The tragedy of what has happened here over a period of time, this isn’t something that began just a year or two ago, is that one of the times I was here with my Tourism Shadow Minister hat on, there was a fantastic tourism dinner here with awards out at a winery just outside of here. But at that time there was such a sense of optimism. I mean, I’ve come here as a tourist as well as a politician, and there is so much to offer –

BRASH: The optimism is through the floor. So, my question, though remains, PM, will you be offering some assistance to tourism?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we offer assistance when things come out. What we don’t do is, “here’s a bag of money.”

BRASH: No. But if they come to you with an idea?

PRIME MINISTER: If there are ideas which are positive that go through proper processes, then yes, of course we’ll consider any proposals. One of the things that will begin soon is construction on the art gallery here.

BRASH: Won’t be finished for four years, though. That’s the problem.

PRIME MINISTER: No, sure, but it will be jobs in the meantime and will be an indication. A lot of things that you need to do here won’t be done in a year or two. That’s the truth. So, you need a plan for the immediate, but you also need a plan for the future. And what people were optimistic about last night, and I spoke with a lot of people during the afternoon and into the evening here, is that they are optimistic about Alice’s future. They know, of course, challenges and are talking about them. But no town ever prospered without that sense of vision and optimism. And whether it was Darren or the Council, they all loved this town, and they all want it to succeed and thrive and so do I.

BRASH: Can I just ask you, a question about Dorrelle Anderson the Central Australian Controller? She has been, she was put in place to, of course, coordinate the funds, make sure that Federal and Territory funds are spent in the best way possible. She has been conspicuously absent. She hasn’t spoken to the media, hasn’t briefed anyone in the media, hasn’t released any public information about the plan since this time last year. Are you happy with the level of transparency from the regional controller? Because no one really knows what’s going on. That’s the problem.

PRIME MINISTER: I am. Well, the NT Government have released information. People are publicly elected –

BRASH: Not a lot of information, to be honest. We’ve seen the budget dispersals, we’ve seen a few public newsletters, but there’s not a lot of transparency. So, I’m asking you, are you happy with the level of transparency?

PRIME MINISTER: Yes. And we need to of course, there’s always ways you can improve transparency. But last night, as well as the Federal representatives, Marion and Linda Burney’s been here with me, Chansey was here as well, of course, who plays an important role, not just as a Minister, but as a local representative as well.

BRASH: Talking of dollars, the NT receives the most generous GST distributions in the nation, $4.80 in the dollar. Now, that’s obviously based on the level of Indigenous disadvantage faced here in the NT. How well does the NT do in spending those dollars?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, we need to make sure that there’s value for money. You can always do better. We have additional funding, of course. We’ve put $4 billion on the table between us and the Territory Government to lift the schooling standard up to the level where every child will be given an opportunity of having the best chance in life. We have put additional money across the board as part of the $250 million package as well. So, $4 billion for houses –

BRASH: $4.80 in the dollar. Is that well spent? Are you confident? Because we have the Opposition here asking for an audit. Do we need to audit what the Territory Government’s doing with Federal money? It’s not their money, it’s Federal money.

PRIME MINISTER: There are audits all the time. There’s an Australian National Audit Office that goes through Federal programs and does regular audits –

BRASH: So, you’re more than confident with how that may have been spent?

PRIME MINISTER: As well as a National Public Accounts Committee, a joint committee of the parliament. You know, the Federal Opposition, are always good at complaints. When we came to government, funding was going to fall off the cliff. Funding for basic community services ended at the end of that financial year. We had to have a rescue package, we had to sit down. That was part of the problem, was underfunding, because under the former Government, of course, funding was ripped out of Northern Territory, ripped out of programs.

BRASH: I go back to the $4.80 on the dollar. So, you’re happy with how that money is spent? You think that the Territory Government deserves that amount of money and they’re spending it wisely?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I’ve answered the question. The Commonwealth Grants Commission sought out the formula and we have audit processes in place for Commonwealth spending.

BRASH. So, it’s dealing with Indigenous disadvantage, not building up bureaucracies in Darwin?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, obviously we can always look at improvements and there is no doubt, you would be surprised if any State or Territory Government, you could not find improvements to be made, just like you could find improvements at the ABC.

BRASH: Yeah. We’ve got the highest proportion of public servants in the Northern Territory than any other jurisdiction. Highest proportion. Is that the right way?

PRIME MINISTER: But that’s not surprising.

BRASH: Why is it not surprising?

PRIME MINISTER: It’s not surprising, because it is compared with a city like Sydney or Melbourne, then areas like Tennant Creek and Wadeye and Yirrkala are not developed economies. That’s not surprising.

BRASH: Absolutely. But I’m just wondering. So, we need more public servants?

PRIME MINISTER: No, I didn’t say that and you know I didn’t say that. So, what I believe is that you need to have appropriate services. They need to be delivered in the most efficient way possible.

BRASH: Let’s talk about domestic violence. Now, you’re convening a meeting of National Cabinet tomorrow to discuss gendered violence, which has been in the headlines all the way around. What are government’s going to do to stop more women dying?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’ll have the discussion tomorrow, of course, but it requires a whole of governments and whole of society, including the media and others, to be engaged. This is a national crisis and for Indigenous women, they’re 7.6 times more likely to die from homicide, to be killed than non-Indigenous women.

BRASH: Do you reckon the rest of the country knows that stat? Because that’s the stat for the Northern Territory. Seven times more likely to die at the hands of a partner.


BRASH: Do you reckon people get it?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I’m saying it, and it will go out in a transcript, which is the way that it works.

BRASH: So no need for a royal commission? There’s been a call for royal commission. No need for a royal commission into domestic and family violence?

PRIME MINISTER: There are royal commissions. There’s been a royal commission in Victoria. There’s a royal commission underway in South Australia. New South Wales is giving consideration of a royal commission. You don’t want multiple inquiries into the same things across different jurisdictions. Now, there’s a range of responsibilities here. When it comes to the justice system, the courts, bail laws, all of those issues are, of course, by and large, state responsibilities. When it comes to community services, by and large, they’re looked after by states, as these issues like housing. But there’s a role for the Commonwealth as well in a range of issues, including the funding that we give for housing. We’ve put $2.3 billion over our first two Budgets, we have a national plan against violence against women and children that only commenced in 2022. It’s a 10 year plan. We have put additional money into areas such as housing, emergency housing, 4000 additional places.

BRASH: Will you promise needs based funding for the Northern Territory? Because we have the jurisdiction with the biggest need.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, you were just saying. You were just saying you were getting too much GST.

BRASH: Well, that’s the question. Why don’t we use that GST money for that? Because we were asking for needs based funding. Do we have enough money for that?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, some of the GST money isn’t tied to anything.

BRASH: That’s what I mean. So, should the NT Government use it for that?

PRIME MINISTER: I’m sure the Northern Territory Government does use some of that money for those areas. That’s the way that the system works.

BRASH: I think the Attorney-General, as well as the Minister for Prevention of Domestic Violence, keeps saying, the feds need to help us. The feds need to help us to do this.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we have provided $40 million of additional funding. In addition to that, areas like ten days paid domestic and family violence leave. We have changed single parenting payment, which was so important. Anne Summers did a very important report saying that women felt like they couldn’t escape violent relationships because of the cut off that was there for the youngest child. So, we’ve increased that up to 14.

BRASH: Will you be meeting with any DV services while you’re here on this trip? Because it would seem, given you at the epicentre of domestic violence in the country here in central Australia, will you be meeting with any DV services?

PRIME MINISTER: We’ve met with a range of people yesterday.

BRASH: Any DV services?

PRIME MINISTER: We met with the range of people across the board.

BRASH: Should you?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we are meeting with a range of people while we are here, including yesterday, last night, some of the councillors talked about these issues, as did other people who I met last night in Marion Scrymgour’s office. A range of people engaged in service delivery were there as well and we’ve engaged on issues across the board.

BRASH: You were at a meeting. There was a gender rally against gendered violence on the weekend. The organiser, Sarah Williams, is in the media was reported saying, described your behaviour that day as misogyny at its finest. Are you a misogynist, Prime Minister?


BRASH: What do you say to those, those comments describing you as misogynist? Or at least your behaviour is misogynist?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I hope people can see the video that was there and can draw their own conclusions.

BRASH: Were you misleading in relation to what you said about you being invited or not invited at all?

PRIME MINISTER: There’s a video. There’s a video.

BRASH: What does it tell us?

PRIME MINISTER: There’s a video. It is completely counterproductive at a time when we’re talking about a woman dying of domestic violence every four days in this country. That’s the issue that I’m focused on.

BRASH: Does it sting to be labelled a misogynist, though?

PRIME MINISTER: People can look at the videos themselves. Everything there was recorded. Everything I said and everything I didn’t say.

BRASH. So, you didn’t lie?

PRIME MINISTER: Everything, everything was there. That the recording is there.

BRASH. So, you didn’t lie?

PRIME MINISTER: The recording is there for all to see, including the comments as I went to speak and whether people thought I should speak or not, it was not about that. I was happy to not speak. I was happy to speak. I am concerned about the issue.

BRASH: Prime Minister, I know you’ve been very generous of your time. Thank you for joining us and hopefully we’ll see you in the studio sometime soon.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much.

/Public Release. View in full here.