Australian Prime Minister Transcript – Press Conference 30 April

Prime Minister

I’d just like to welcome the Prime Minister to Centralian Senior College today, we’re very proud for this visit. Quite often we get a negative narrative around who our students are, but today they’ve been able to shine and shine for the Prime Minister and celebrate the funding that we’ve received through the on country learning money. Those funds have actually been transformational for our outcomes for our young people. So we really wanted to express our gratitude – thank you so much. We can talk about numbers, but it’s actually the stories of the individual students, of the lives we’ve changed that are really important. And I know that’s hard for you to comprehend each change, but we know them, and the staff that work here all know those stories. So thank you very much.

MARION SCRYMGOUR, MEMBER FOR LINGIARI: Thank you to the principal of the school, and I want to acknowledge the traditional owners of this country that we stand on. But Joanne, I want to thank you and your school, all your teachers, everyone that provides that vital cog in the education wheel for our young people. And you’re absolutely right Joanne, there is so much negativity in the media about our young people. It’s great to come to a facility like this, meet the students, and I think there are a number of them had selfies with the Prime Minister today, because they know how good he is with selfies. But look, I want to also acknowledge the Deputy Chief Minister of the Northern Territory who has been able to join us over the last couple of days going through how the federal and the Northern Territory Government can work together to transform and to get better outcomes for particularly Alice Springs, but Central Australia, which is critical to turning around a lot of the disadvantage that we’re seeing. And it’s always pleasing to have the Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians here in Alice Springs, Linda is a frequent flyer into this town and the community, and it’s great to have a minister that is committed. But I’m really here to introduce, and it is fantastic to have the Prime Minister who I know as part of a federal caucus who is absolutely committed to turning around some of the issues that we see, not just across this community, but right across the bush. And it is great to have someone who does understand and does get what the issues are out in the bush. So look, without further ado, and the person you want to listen to is the Prime Minister. So I introduce our Prime Minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Well thanks very much, Marion, and thank you to Joanne and all of the teachers here, but a special shout out to all the students who’ve been so welcoming. Sharing their stories about the opportunity that comes from education. Now over the last couple of days I’ve met with a range of people – community services advocates, people from the Mayor and all of the local councillors, the Chamber of Commerce, the Aboriginal Congress, the tourism sector, local people here in Alice. But there’s nowhere that’s more important than in a school, because what schools do, they are the foundation of opportunity for our youngest Australians. And here at this wonderful school that has almost 400 students, 398 I’m told from memory, are students here in years 10, 11 and 12 undertaking the full range of education. And one of the things that one of the teachers said to me outside, I said it must be a rewarding, but tough job. And they said it is a tough job, but it’s got less tough thanks to the funding. We have put significant resources into this community. $250 million as part of our Central Australia package, but as part of the $320 million in additional funding that we’ve committed. When I was in Katherine and Darwin for the entire Cabinet that went to Darwin earlier this year, just in March, we announced together with the territory government, a billion dollars of additional funding for education to bring up all schools up to the national standard, to give every child the opportunity in life that they deserve. At the same time as we committed $4 billion into remote housing as well. This school is just one of 46 schools across central Australia that has benefited from the package that we’ve put forward and we’ve seen that and heard firsthand the benefit that that’s produced. Just to give one example, the Flexi-Engage Program that provides for that opportunity for people who could very easily drift out of the system. Attendances up 37 per cent. A remarkable figure in a short period of time. This is similar to the impacts that are happening across the region. Initiatives that have been underway since the beginning of the year, but just two weeks into term two, here’s some of the figures that show. At Braitling Primary School down the road, 40 kids achieved 100 per cent attendance in term one. One class had 96 per cent attendance for six weeks straight. That makes an enormous difference. Enrolments in remote government schools are increasing. The number of children who haven’t attended school for more than twenty consecutive days has gone down. And there’s also very early signs that attendance is up right across Central Australia. Now today we’ve announced an additional $8 million in public school infrastructure upgrades in the Northern Territory. Each school benefiting from funding of at least $250,000 to build new infrastructure in schools that can really improve the learning environment which is there. It’s just part of my government’s commitment to making a difference here. We want every child, no matter where they live in Australia, to have the opportunity of a good education. And today with some of the students that we’ve met, whether they be students engaged in the Flexi Engage Program, whether it be those learning how to fix a car outside there, making an enormous difference. A couple of those young people who are here with us now have got jobs already, part time with Repco, so they’re earning an income on their way to good, secure employment as mechanics. That is a fantastic thing. So we know that it has been a difficult time in Central Australia, but what my government has determined to do is to make sure that we invest, to make sure that we give this region, this fantastic region of Australia right at its heart, the opportunity to thrive in the future. And that’s something that’s been very common in the feedback that I’ve had from the meetings over the last couple of days, is people want this community to thrive. They’re optimistic that it can be done. They know there are challenges there, but we need to look forward and to make sure we get the right investment in the right place. And investment at the end of the day is about people, and here we see our youngest people being given that opportunity. So, thank you so much for the very warm welcome that I’ve received here. It’s been a real privilege and an honour to walk around this terrific school and to see the progress that is being made. I’d now ask Linda Burney to make some comments, who has done such a remarkable job, I think, on her ninth visit to Alice Springs as the Minister.

LINDA BURNEY, MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: Thank you, Prime Minister. And as the Member for Lingiari said, I’m a frequent flyer into Alice Springs, and being up here with the Prime Minister, with the Deputy Chief Minister and with the Member for Lingiari, Marion Scrymgour, has been such a joy. We’ve invested into this community substantially. And I have to say, coming to Centralian School today, it makes me so excited. I’m an old school teacher by trade and to see the students, to see the engagement of teachers, and to hear directly how the investment in on country learning has made a difference in this school. We are determined for the long haul here in Central Australia. What I’ve seen in Alice Springs over the last day and a half has been some really positive indications that there is positivity, that there is change, and there is a story developing in Alice Springs which is not the normal story that you hear about this place. I also want to say that there is nothing more important than investment in education. And to be here at Centralian this morning to see the students, the pride in what they’re doing has just been absolutely inspirational. And thank you to the principal and the teachers. The Prime Minister spoke about the Flexi-Engage Program, he spoke about the increased enrolments and attendance. They are the outcomes that we are looking for. And education is an absolute key to turning around the lives and life outcomes for all students in this region. It is a wonderful region and we are so proud and so happy to be making a long term investment. And we know that it is going to be a long term investment. And I am so pleased also to hear directly from people how our investment so far is making a real difference in the lives of people in Alice Springs and Central Australia.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks Linda. We’re happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, it’s been 15 months since your last visit. Now, a significant investment of $150 million was announced just after you left last time. Are you confident that money is hitting the ground and is achieving its goals? And what results have you seen from the time that you’ve spent, the day that you spent in the Alice Springs community?

PRIME MINISTER: The feedback I’ve had is precisely that. The feedback, whether it be from women’s support services, from the Aboriginal Congress about health, the school here about education, is all positive. The feedback that we had from the Council, from local advocates as well, was very positive. Whether it be the safety issues such as CCTV being implemented, the additional money for police on the ground and for PALIs as well, that yesterday we announced an extension of a further 18 months of that program. Provided an additional $14.6 million for that has made a difference. And we continue to deal with issues. You don’t solve intergenerational disadvantage overnight. What you need to do is to put in place though mechanisms that make a difference. And the positive feedback, whether it be from the Chamber of Commerce, whether it be from the tourism sector, whether it be from the local Council and the Mayor and others as well. Darren Clark, I met with yesterday. Of course, we acknowledge there are real challenges there, but things have improved and the investment is making a difference.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, news out this morning a Perth grandmother was allegedly bashed in a violent robbery. What do you say to concerns your government is failing to keep communities safe?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the first thing that I’d say is that our thoughts, and I’m sure the thoughts of all Australians, will be with those who’ve been affected by this. It’s inappropriate to comment further, given it’s in the middle of the investigation by WA police. Of course, our state bail schemes are run by the states by definition as well. But given the matter is under investigation before police and the courts, it’s inappropriate to comment further.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the additional funding into education as you’ve said widely is welcomed in Central Australia. There’s still concerns that housing inequality and food inequality is still not being adequately addressed in the region. Do you think the NT government and the Federal Government soon enough to address this?

PRIME MINISTER: When it comes to housing we’ve got a $4 billion dollar package in partnership with the NT government. We announced that outside of Katherine in a remote community, and what I saw there was the pride of local families in their homes that they were building. They literally had moved in the day before and were tending to their garden and looking forward to growing fresh veggies and things that would assist the quality of life which is there. This is not only a good program in itself for housing, it’s also about employment and giving people skills as well. Because part of what we’re working with the NT government is to make sure that, like with other programs of infrastructure, building, it’s creating employment and lifting up skills. Similarly, at the Aboriginal Congress yesterday I spoke to the builder who’s building the health hub, and two young people who were disengaged from the school system have been given the opportunity of going into apprenticeships there. A great story, making a difference. Every time that they go past that health hub when it’s finished, and it will be a great structure, they’ll get that sense of pride. But they’re getting those skills while they’re there as well. So I think when it comes to housing, we are overcoming previous neglect which was there from the former government. That comes on top of the additional money we’ve got for refurbishing existing housing as well, was part of our Housing Australia Future Fund. We have very much a comprehensive plan. It takes time to roll this out, but we have the most significant investment in housing that has ever occurred in the Northern Territory in history.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you’ll be aware that in Central Australia there’s some of the highest rates of domestic and family violence in the whole country. You yourself the other day said the government needs to do more in this space. Now, domestic violence advocates have repeatedly called for needs based funding in the Northern Territory, as opposed to population based funding. Is now the time for you to take action on this?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we put $40 million additional funding into domestic violence services just here in this community. I had a chat earlier today with Larissa Ellis, the CEO of Women’s Safety Services of Central Australia. She spoke about the demand which was here. I also spoke to some other people just in the main street here earlier on today about these issues. It is a tragedy that an Indigenous person is seven times more likely to die at the hands of a domestic partner, if you’re an Indigenous woman compared with a non-Indigenous woman. That is a startling statistic as well. So we are providing additional funding for services. It’s a part of the $250 million program that we have. And I note that before we came to government, that funding for local community services was about to drop off a cliff. There wasn’t ongoing funding for basic social services in this community. It’s one of the things that we have had to address.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just on housing. The Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee to Treasury who’s estimates have been given before you made that announcement for housing in the Territory. Their estimates said the demand was already was at 2989, so we’re already Inaudible. How are you going to push that Inaudible.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, government isn’t the only body that builds housing, but what we are doing is a $4 billion investment is substantial. A substantial investment ready to roll out straight away, and it will take time to overcome. We know that overcrowding of housing in remote communities creates other issues as well. It creates circumstances of health issues, if people are overcrowded and someone, you know, has the flu or has an issue, then it spreads quickly. We know it creates tension in a household if people are in crowded circumstances. So we need to do better. But, you know, we’re overcoming a decade when, frankly, there was inaction when it came to these issues. We’re not two years into our first term, and if you look at health, with the health hub, housing with the $4 billion, education with the school funding, social services, community safety, if you look at all of these issues, what you have is substantial investment, and I’m proud of it. Does it mean that all the problems can be solved in a short period of time? No, no they can’t. No, they can’t. It takes time to build these homes. It takes time to address social disadvantage. But we are committed to doing it. This is my ninth visit to the Northern Territory. I visited communities right around the territory – Katherine, Yirrkala, Uluru, Mutitjulu, here, as well as Darwin. And we’re committed to making a difference, to working with Chansey and Eva and the NT team. But we’re also committed to working with the community. We know that governments alone can’t solve these issues. We have to engage constructively. That’s something, I mean, Marion has. I don’t know how many kilometres Marion has travelled around her remarkably large electorate, including to the Cocos Keeling Islands in the last week. But, you know, she’s out there and about, as is said Senator McCarthy, as is Luke Gosling. Together with my government that has held an entire Cabinet, we took to Darwin so that people can be on the ground listening to communities, working with community based organisations.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what’s your assessment of the Alice Springs youth curfew that’s recently ended?

PRIME MINISTER: Quite clearly, the feedback I’ve had is that it was an enormous success. That it was a circuit breaker that was needed. And people across the board, I spoke with a youth worker earlier this morning who was saying that she was very positive about the impact that it had had. That was certainly the feedback from the Council and from advocates as well. The NT government consulted about that, and we were supportive of the measure that was there. And it seems to me it really has provided that circuit breaker. Just like last year, the decision that was made about alcohol was positive as well, had a positive impact. We need to not be ideological about this. We need to look at what works, and if it works, we’re up for it. It’s as simple as that, and quite clearly this has made a positive difference, thank you.

/Public Release. View in full here.