ABC TV – News Breakfast

Minister for Indigenous Australians

MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: Let’s bring in the Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney. Minister, very good morning to you.

LINDA BURNEY, MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: Good morning, Michael.

MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: What do you hope these new alcohol restrictions announced jointly with the NT Government will achieve?

LINDA BURNEY, MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: These alcohol restrictions are designed for an immediate response to give some respite to the community and to the authorities that are working here. What’s really important is Dorrelle Anderson has been appointed as a Central Australian control person that will work between the NT Government and the Federal Government and will provide a report in one week as to where we go. But I find it very difficult to see a future where there are not further restrictions on alcohol.

MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: OK. So interesting. So how much further should those restrictions go in your view?

LINDA BURNEY, MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: Well, that will depend Michael, absolutely on the report that Dorrelle Anderson makes, and I know Dorrelle and she has enormous capacity and she knows this community here in Alice Springs very, very well. One of the stories that we heard yesterday that really resonated very deeply and disturbingly with me is that out of the 16 beds in the ICU in the hospital, 14 of them were beds that were being used by Aboriginal women that had experienced extreme violence. That’s the intensive care unit of Alice Springs hospital. This is an amazing community with resilient people. It’s a little town with a very big heart, but they are doing it really, really tough at the moment.

MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: Those figures are just appalling, Minister. So in terms of wider alcohol restrictions, clearly it’s moved you, what you have seen the result of alcohol-related violence. Would you favour going back to the more widespread alcohol bans we saw in the intervention era, before that federal legislation expired in the middle of last year?

LINDA BURNEY, MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: Well I think that we will receive the report in one week from the controller, Dorrelle Anderson, and I think that the NT Government admitted that they got it wrong yesterday which is why there’s this immediate response to additional alcohol restrictions here in Alice Springs starting today. And as I say, we will be guided into the future by the report from Dorrelle Anderson. The other thing…

MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: OK. Yes, please go on, Minister.

LINDA BURNEY, MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: The other thing is that the Prime Minister spent four hours listening and talking to people including the NPY Women’s Council, the local police, the NT Government, and people from across the community including Donna Ah Chee, who is the head of Congress, which is the Aboriginal health service here. She has lived in Alice Springs for 36 years. Two nights ago, she had a home invasion and was threatened with a very large steel spanner and was absolutely terrified. She has been saying for a long time there needs to be alcohol restrictions and there is also the prospect into the future, which is really important, of an opt-out system which is run by the NT Government, not the Federal Government. That is absolutely crucial. And if there is a recommendation that there needs to be further restrictions, nothing is off the table.

MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: I’m glad you raised Donna Ah Chee, she wrote to you as Minister in June last year pretty much pleading with you not to allow the federal legislation that pretty much enforced the alcohol bans to lapse. So you talk about the NT Government dropping the ball. Didn’t your Government drop the ball here in hindsight allowing that critical legislation – sorry, Minister. I’ll just wait…

LINDA BURNEY, MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: I think I’ve got you back, Michael.

MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: I was just saying you accused the NT Government of dropping the ball. Didn’t your Government drop the ball in allowing that overarching federal legislation to lapse in June last year? Donna Ah Chee said she wrote to you in June pleading for you not to allow that to happen. So isn’t some of the blame in the Federal Government’s court here as well?

LINDA BURNEY, MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: The Stronger Futures legislation lapsed under the previous Government.

MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: It lapsed in the middle of the year – excuse me, Minister, you were in Government at the time.

LINDA BURNEY, MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: There were 40 alcohol management plans that were not signed by not the previous Minister, but the Minister before that. Donna and some people did write to me and I have been in constant discussion, direct discussion, with the Chief Minister and the Attorney-General as far back as August last year and I have also been in constant discussion with the community organisations here in Alice Springs. This is not something that has come up overnight. This is something that has been brewing for a very long time. You only have to look at the commitments that the Albanese Labor Government made in last budget to see that we were very cognisant of what was needed here in central Australia and I have also had direct discussions with the Mayor as well. So this is something that has been on the agenda for some time. Yesterday was the beginning of some very direct action and it will not be the end. We will stay with this right through.

MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: OK. Interesting to see what further direct action, as you flagged there, potentially on further alcohol restrictions. Minister, I really appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

LINDA BURNEY, MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: Thank you, Michael.

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