TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop Interview, Perth, Tuesday 14 October 2014

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SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government's cuts to homelessness service funding, President Putin and the G20, medicinal cannabis, Labor foreign ministers

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well thanks for joining us here this morning. We’ve had an opportunity today to discuss with service providers in the youth homelessness sector, and indeed with people who have been homeless themselves, the terrible impact of a number of government measures on the youth homelessness sector. Today we heard that the uncertainty around the National Partnership agreement on homelessness is causing significant stress in the youth homelessness sector.

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There’s absolutely no funding certainty beyond June next year, for people who provide housing and support services for homeless, young Western Australians. This comes on top of a $44 million cut in money that’s being set aside for new building of homelessness services. It also comes after the cutting of the National Rental Affordability Scheme, that means 10,000 affordable rental properties that were going to be built, won’t be built now. This is a really stressful situation for the providers of youth homelessness services, but the real effect is on homeless, young Western Australians who simply won’t have a roof over their heads and won’t get the support services that they need to leave homelessness behind. It also comes at a time when the Federal Government’s proposing six months every year with no unemployment benefits for unemployed young Australians. Now we simply don’t know what the Federal Government expects unemployed young Australians to do with no income at all for six months every year. You have to assume that unemployed young people - if they can get a little bit of help from their family, that’s terrific, but many of them won’t be able to. The likelihood of homeless and unemployed young Australians with absolutely no income for six months at a time, perhaps turning to crime, is a real concern for many people in our community. We also know that very important programs, like Youth Connections that help unemployed, young people get work, have been cut at the same time. So on the one hand, the Government’s saying that young people should get out there and get a job, on the other hand they’re cutting the very services that help them get a job if they are unemployed. We heard today about the huge difference that homelessness services have made to people’s lives. People who’ve been in jail, people who -

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…offer those support services that help people to leave homelessness behind. I’m going to ask Alannah MacTiernan to say a few words as we are in her electorate. Sue Lines will add a few words and then we’ll hear from Craig Comrie.

ALANNAH MACTIERNAN: One of the really successful programs has been taking kids from juvenile detention and finding them supported accommodation and getting them work. These are services that are so critical, not just to these young people, but to dealing with crime and recidivism in our criminal justice system. I mean it just does not make sense to cut funding to programs like that, programs that are designed to get people out of this endless cycle of crime. So this is I think – one of the problems that we see with the Abbott Government is that they actually just don’t understand the detail of what’s happening in society and they don’t understand that when a kid goes through a juvenile detention centre, allowing them to go back just into their old lives is a recipe for disaster and a recipe for recidivism. These programs are critically important for our community, for those young people, and for those of us that want to see a reduction in those crime levels. So we’re going to be fighting very, very hard to ensure that these really strong social programs that are really making a difference, getting people out of that endless cycle of poverty and crime are maintained and continue to deliver positive results.

SUE LINES: Thanks, I’m Senator Sue Lines from Western Australia, I’ve been monitoring Kevin Andrews on this issue of homelessness since the Abbott Government came to power and he has been completely silent on the issue. I’m very concerned about what’s happening with funding in Western Australia. We have the least amount of crisis beds available for homelessness than any other state or territory and I really think the Abbott Government is passing the buck on this issue. There has been absolutely nothing from Minister Andrews except a vague commitment to do a review. Well they’ve now been in government for more than a year, the Minister himself has attended two homelessness conferences where he’s said absolutely nothing. And we have dire consequences in Western Australia. We have people living in their cars on the beach, we have people living in the parks. We have people sleeping in their cars all over the place and it’s time the Abbott Government made a commitment to continue Labor’s funding for homelessness. This crisis in Western Australia has got to stop.

CRAIG COMRIE, CEO OF YOUTH AFFAIRS COUNCIL OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA:  I’m Craig Comrie, CEO of the Youth Affairs Council of Western Australia. I think what this morning was, was a unique opportunity for Parliamentarians to hear the stories of not only homelessness providers but also the clients that they support. That often doesn’t happen. Many members of the current government, the Coalition, haven’t actually gone out and visited homelessness services and heard the stories of the young people they support. I think what we’ve seen since the Budget in May is clear - uncertainty about how the Budget measures will impact on young people and the uncertainty around the NPAH and NAHA is just another nail in the coffin for many services that are trying to do their best to support young people. We have as many as 6000 homeless young people in Western Australia on any given night who are currently being supported by fantastic services across the state. We need to ensure this funding continues, as well as making sure that Budget measures like the six month wait for young people to get onto youth allowance don’t get through the Senate so we don’t force more and more young people into homelessness and poverty.

PLIBERSEK: Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Yes, now what do you make of the recent shirt-front comments made by Mr Abbott?

PLIBERSEK: Well I’m not sure that this sort of playground language adds to a very serious debate. We’ve lost 38 Australian citizens and residents in the MH17 tragedy and I think it’s important that we keep a sober tone to the debate. Bill Shorten said many months ago that he thought Australians would find it difficult to welcome Vladimir Putin to the G20. I think that comment still stands.

JOURNALIST: Do you think his words were completely inappropriate?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I just don’t think that sort of language adds anything to the debate. This is a very sober and serious debate.

JOURNALIST: Do you think he is right to up the tone of the rhetoric considering, as Bill Shorten said, that welcoming the Russian President may not be what most Australians support in terms of the G20?

PLIBERSEK: Well look I think that the problem is that it’s all words, it’s tough talk, but there is no clear articulation of what the Australian Government will do during the G20 when Vladimir Putin is here. It’s all very well to talk tough in this sort of schoolyard language but what does it actually mean?

JOURNALIST: On a separate issue, do you support having a trial for medicinal cannabis in New South Wales?

PLIBERSEK: I think it’s important to take the evidence of experts on this. I think that any potential medicine should be treated in the same way, go through the same rigorous testing processes.

JOURNALIST: And so you would support the way the working group has been set up with a view to doing a trial?

PLIBERSEK: Well that’s a matter for the New South Wales Government. I think that it is important to take an objective, scientific, medically based approach to testing any particular, any potential medicine that would give relief to any sufferers of, in this case, chronic nausea, chronic illnesses.

JOURNALIST: In your estimation, was Bob Carr a good foreign minister and do you think he harmed Australia’s relationship overseas?

PLIBERSEK: I think Bob Carr was a good foreign minister and I think Labor foreign ministers have consistently delivered on Australia’s interests, from the time of the establishment of the United Nations, and the role of Doc Evatt in that, to the role that Bill Hayden and Gareth Evans played in bringing peace to Cambodia. The fact that during Labor’s time in government, we substantially increased the cooperation between Australia and China, and Australia and India, two of our largest and most important trading partners. I think that Labor foreign ministers have a lot to be proud of.

JOURNALIST: And Bob Carr in particular?

PLIBERSEK: And Bob Carr, as one of those Labor foreign ministers.


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