New analysis by Essential Research shows 75 per cent of Australians support an increase in Newstart.

This includes over two-thirds support among Coalition voters (68 per cent).

The Prime Minister and Treasurer are increasingly out-of-touch with the Australian community – who know that the current rate of Newstart is too low.

In a developed country like Australia, everyone should be able to afford the basics.

And children should all get a good start in life – no matter what their parents’ circumstances.

Newstart is so low that people can’t afford transport to interviews, appropriate clothes and equipment, or access the training and education they need to get into the workforce.

The Prime Minister needs to listen to former leaders and his own backbench – with John Howard, Russell Broadbent, Dean Smith, Arthur Sinodinos, John Hewson and Barnaby Joyce all calling for an increase to Newstart.

Voices in the community have also been loud and clear including ACOSS, the Business Council of Australia and the Reserve Bank.

Newstart is too low – it’s so low its pushing people into poverty and preventing them from getting work.




Labor is calling on the Government to support a proposed Joint Select Committee on the Implementation of the National Redress Scheme.

The committee will examine, among other things, the Government’s excruciatingly slow rollout of redress for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.

Labor Senator Patrick Dodson has tabled the notice of motion to establish the Inquiry in the Senate today.

The scheme is projected to provide redress to 60,000 survivors. And yet, the latest data shows that only 4,100 applications have been made and only 229 Redress payments have been made.

This is not acceptable. Survivors have already waited too long.

Many people seeking redress are older and in ill health, and we can’t afford to see more people die waiting.

It is the responsibility of our whole community to make sure those people who were let down and betrayed by institutions and governments have can access redress and justice.

The Parliament, the states and territories, and institutions must deliver on the promises they have made to prevent this ever happening again.

The Government needs to support this important Inquiry to ensure that institutions are joining as quickly as possible, and that applications are processed accurately, and in a timely manner.




Deepening divisions in the Government are heaping more pressure on Scott Morrison to finally acknowledge Newstart is too low, and do something about it.

Today, former Minister for Social Service, Paul Fletcher, refused to deny reports he intervened to prevent a Parliamentary Inquiry recommending an increase in Newstart.

This comes after the Chair of that Inquiry, Liberal MP Russel Broadbent, called publically for Newstart to increase.

It also follows reports today that the Nationals are undertaking modelling into the jobs and economic benefits a boost to Newstart would deliver for regional areas.

After six years of inaction, the Liberals and Nationals are running out of excuses.

Scott Morrison is increasingly out of touch with the community – who understand that Newstart is so low people can’t afford the clothes, transport and basics they need to get back into the workforce.

Scott Morrison needs to listen to former leaders and his own backbench – with John Howard, Russell Broadbent, Dean Smith, Arthur Sinodinos, John Hewson and Barnaby Joyce all calling for an increase to Newstart.

Voices in the community have also been loud and clear including ACOSS, the Business Council of Australia and the Reserve Bank.

Newstart is too low – it’s so low that people are being pushed into poverty and its preventing them from getting work.

SUNDAY, 28 JULY 2019



SUBJECTS: Liberals’ latest attack on pensions; Liberals’ push to ditch Superannuation Guarantee increase; Labor’s policies; Newstart; retirement incomes review; Banking Royal Commission

LINDA BURNEY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND SOCIAL SERVICES: We are seeing the suggestion from this Government – this cruel Government, when it comes to pensioners – a very drastic change. Craig Kelly has suggested that people can buy the family home from their superannuation and that it be included in the pensioner assets test. This is a cruel and drastic change that’s being suggested by this Government in relation to the assets test. It is putting pensioners in the position of either owning a home or going on the pension. It’s completely unacceptable. And when you look at the DNA of this Government when it comes to pensioners, it didn’t take long did it, from the deeming rates decision to this? You look at the very fact that they have constantly tried to move the pension age to the age of 70. They have constantly tried to do away with the energy supplement. And the history is there to be seen. Jim will talk about the fact that there were 370,000 pensioners that were worse off when the Government did a deal with the Greens in relation to the pension. I am saying very clearly that we were shut down this morning, so pensioners’ concerns were not heard in the Parliament. The discussion did not take place in the Parliament about what is an absolute drastic change. Scott Morrison needs to stand up today and before question time be very clear about what the position is in terms of the home and the assets test. We are calling on him to make sure that pensioners who are careful people; who have given their entire lives of working for this country and deserve respect and dignity and surety in their old age. We are calling on the Prime Minister to provide that. I’ll ask Jim to make some comments.

JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: Thanks very much Linda. When the Government gagged the motion that Linda and I just moved in the House of Representatives they didn't take up the opportunity we were providing for them to rule out the changes that Craig Kelly is proposing to put the family home into the pension asset test. The Government has failed and refused to rule out this change that Craig Kelly is proposing.

The Liberals wandered around the country during the election campaign pretending to care about retirees at the same time as they were planning to attack superannuation and the pension. The Liberals are gearing up to rob almost 13 million Australian workers of the Superannuation Guarantee increase that they need and deserve and were promised. And now we know on top of that they're also gearing up to put the family home in the pension assets test.

This will push pensioners out of their home, off the pension, or both, and it's not good enough.

We will fiercely resist this change that the Government is contemplating. We call on the Government to rule out changes to legislate the Superannuation Guarantee increase, to rule out changes to the family home in the pension asset test, and to stop pretending that they care about the retirees of this country.

We now know what Josh Frydenberg’s retirement incomes review is all about. The retirement incomes review is all about justifying more cuts to super and more cuts to the pension.

This Government has form on both. This is the Government which froze the Superannuation Guarantee, who has tried at every turn to limit retirement incomes for Australian workers; a Government which has cut the pension repeatedly; tried to cut the energy supplement; done deals with the Greens to push people off the pension or to make hundreds of thousands of Australians substantially worse.

This Government has form. It's time for them to rule out putting the family home in the pension assets test, to rule out messing with the legislated Superannuation Guarantee increase and to stop pretending they care about retirees when all along they've planned this ambush on their retirement income.

JOURNALIST: Craig Kelly is known for making off the cuff remarks. Is it really fair to say [INAUDIBLE]?

CHALMERS: I'm pleased you asked that. I invite you to consider what happened with energy policy, and we went through the same dance with energy policy. Everybody said well Craig Kelly is just a backbencher and at the end of the day Craig Kelly's energy policy became Josh Frydenberg's energy policy. So there has been a recent precedent which shows that in the Liberal Party the tail wags the Treasurer and we've seen that repeatedly. Josh Frydenberg will always put his internal political ambitions and interests ahead of the interests of Australian retirees and pensioners and superannuants and workers. We saw with energy policy one of the reasons that we've had six failed years of energy policy is because the Liberal Party have had the tail wagging the dog. Characters like Craig Kelly. We've seen this movie before, and I fear that we're about to see it again.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it was a mistake to go to the electorate proposing that franking credits crack down without grandfathering. In other words, telling people you're going to immediately take that income away without giving them a chance really to reorganise that?

CHALMERS: Well Greg, I think as I've said to you many times and I've said to other friends here at this press conference, all of the policies that we took to the last election are up for review. Obviously we listen to the message that was sent to us by the electorate. We will take our time. We're not in a rush to come to a final view on the policies that we'll take to the next election when it's only been eight or nine weeks since the last election.

JOURNALIST: Does it make it hard to criticise the Government on things like superannuation, things that aren't their policy, when you guys still have policies that are tax increases for superannuation and these franking credits.

CHALMERS: I invite you to consider it another way. This is a government that went all around Australia pretending to care about retirees with all their dishonesty around the retiree tax and all of that kind of stuff. Now we know that the Liberals are proposing changes which would be massively detrimental to pensioners. We also know that there's a substantial push in the Liberal Party to cut the Superannuation Guarantee which would mean for example, for an average worker who's 30 years old right now on $80,000 a year, they'd be about $90,000 worse off at retirement.

I've given Scott Morrison multiple opportunities to rule out messing with the Superannuation Guarantee and he wouldn't do it. The Insiders program gave Josh Frydenberg five opportunities to rule that out. They won't rule out messing with the Superannuation Guarantee. They haven't ruled out messing with the family home in the pension asset test. We call on them to give workers and retirees and pensioners some certainty and come clean on what their plans are for their retirement incomes.

JOURNALIST: The PC recommended six months ago a retirement income review. Do you support that recommendation? Would you make a submission to that inquiry? And should it get underway soon?

CHALMERS: We will be an active participant in a debate about retirement incomes. Whether or not we make a submission is to be determined. I think when that proposal was first made by the PC with the best of intentions that was one thing. But now I fear that the Liberal Party will use that suggestion as an excuse to justify the cuts that they want to make to superannuation.

BURNEY: The other thing about that inquiry is that it’s been impossible for us to find out what the terms of reference are, what the inquiry is actually going to do. They have been completely opaque about that inquiry. And if they want participation, they should be clear about what the inquiry is going to examine. And as Jim said, it is now beginning to appear that it could be a stalking horse for a whole lot of bad things.

JOURNALIST: With Newstart, why won’t Labor put a figure on how much that should be changed by?

BURNEY: The Labor Party has been very clear in terms of Newstart: we are calling on the Government to review with a view to increasing Newstart. We did not win the election. We went to the election with a very clear and long term commitment to review Newstart. The Government obviously won the election and it is now firmly in their court to determine a rate with a view to increase. That is what the Government’s responsibility is.

CHALMERS: We've also seen stories today about the Minister interfering with the report of the Committee. What we would say about that is it seems almost everybody in this country except for Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg know that Newstart is inadequate. The reason why we're calling on the Government to review and increase Newstart is because it's necessary to alleviate poverty, to get people in a position to find a job, but also good for the economy because the economy is struggling for consumption.

So, there's a whole range of reasons why we're calling on the Government to act in this fashion. It's for the Government to explain why they interfered with that report. It appears that there are more and more Liberal and National backbenchers who have Labor's view about Newstart. It's time for Josh Frydenberg and Scott Morrison to listen to their backbench, to Labor, to the BCA, to John Howard, to John Hewson, to KPMG, to the Reserve Bank - the list goes on and on - and take action.

JOURNALIST: If there was interference by the Minister and that recommendation was changed why didn't your members issue a minority report?

CHALMERS: You have to ask our members. I don't involve myself in the goings-on of that committee. But I think what is clear from the reports that have come out today is that the report was going to recommend working towards an increase to Newstart. The Government intervened at the last minute. They seem to be the only ones who don't recognise the need for consideration of a change here.

BURNEY: Not only the Government, but the then-Minister for Social Services intervened and that is a very, very dangerous precedent.

JOURNALIST: With Labor's policy under review as you said, you are going to take time to consider them. What sort of time frame are we talking about? Can we expect to know what policies Labor has or what policy it has dropped since the election before the end of the year?

CHALMERS: I'm not prepared to put a timeframe on it. I think it's entirely reasonable, as I said before, when we're eight or nine weeks from the last election to take all the time that we need to review and revise the policies that we took to the last election, but also to come up with new policies and a new agenda for the 2022 election.

BURNEY: Which is a completely responsible way forward and we’re not going to be rushed with the review. We’re not going to be rushed examining what policies are there, what new policies we need to think about. It is three years to the next election and we will do this slowly.

CHALMERS: I'll just take one more question from Kat and then we're good.

JOURNALIST: In these reports about the interference in the committee report, how confident are you that your new push for the economics committee inquiry into Newstart –

BURNEY: Well, you would know that we have recommended an inquiry by the Senate economics committee. We’re working through what the terms of reference for that committee should be. And I have every confidence that that committee will explore this issue very thoroughly.

CHALMERS: I meant to go back to Phil before.

JOURNALIST: Just on the Banking Royal Commission, the Government is saying they may or may not be done by the end of this year. What is an acceptable timeframe to have the 40 reccos that [INAUDIBLE] legislated by?

CHALMERS: The Government pretended they cared about the recommendations of the Banking Royal Commission to get them through an election. Since the election we haven't heard a peep from them on what they intend to do with those recommendations. It's very clear from what's going on in the Parliament this week that the Government is putting forward all kinds of bills to satisfy a political strategy and to distract from the fact that they have made absolutely no progress on implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission into banks. This is a Government which will always try and create a political distraction from their economic failures. The fact that growth hasn't been this slow in the economy for 10 years and wages are stagnant, consumption is weak, retail is weak, confidence is down and because they have that strategy to distract all of you and try and distract all of us from the main game they think they can get away with overseeing a weak economy and doing nothing on the Banking Royal Commission.

I think it's incredibly important that we and the Australian people hold the Government's feet to the fire when it comes to the Banking Royal Commission. It's not good enough for them to pretend they care in the lead up to the election and then to wash their hands of it afterwards. We need to see substantial progress. We need to see legislation in this building to make sure that the recommendations of the Banking Royal Commission can be implemented as soon as possible. Thanks very much.



This afternoon the Senate passed a motion calling on the Government to increase Newstart.

After six years of inaction, the Liberals and Nationals are running out of excuses.

Scott Morrison needs to listen to former leaders and his own backbench – with John Howard, Russell Broadbent, Dean Smith, Arthur Sinodinos and John Hewson all calling for a boost to Newstart.

If Barnaby Joyce is prepared to speak up for people living on Newstart in the regions, why won’t Michael McCormack?

Out of the 20 electorates with the most people on Newstart, 12 are in the regions. And the Government represents 11 of those 12.

This should be core business for the Nationals.

Newstart is too low – it’s so low that people are being pushed into poverty and its preventing people from getting work.



SUNDAY, 14 JULY 2019

SUBJECT/S: Deeming rates, Treasurer’s meeting with the Reserve Bank

LINDA BURNEY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND SOCIAL SERVICES: The Government has not adjusted the deeming rates for four and a half years. Pensioners have been short-changed by this Government for four and a half years.

The Minister came out today, and lowered the deeming rates by a very small amount. And pensioners, and particularly part-pensioners, are not satisfied with that amount. They’re not satisfied with the amounts that the deeming rates have been lowered. And they are certainly not satisfied with the process that’s been undertaken to lower these deeming rates.

Pensioners, and the ones that I’ve spoken to are very cautious, careful people. They don’t want to invest in risky products. They want to invest in secure products like term deposits with banks. You cannot get a term deposit that pays more than 2 per cent. And yet the Government has deemed today that they will lower the upper rate by 0.25 per cent and the lower rate by 0.75 per cent.

This is not acceptable. Particularly to pensioners who understand very well that these deeming rates are what determines the amount of pension that they get. The Government has absolutely short-changes pensioners and the processes that the Government has gone through is not what pensioners expect.

JOURNALIST: So you are saying that it’s too little, too late?

BURNEY: I am saying very clearly that this lowering of the deeming rates today is far too little, and far too late. I’m also saying, on behalf of pensioners; we understand what you are saying, we understand your disappointment.

The Government thinks that they have done some great thing, because of their bottom line. But really, at the end of the day, it has been four and a half years that they have been duding pensioners by charging an inflated deeming rate.

JOURNALIST: Does Labor think the deeming rate should be made by an independent authority?

BURNEY: Labor is agnostic on this. It is up to the Government, really, to determine what the deeming rate is. The Government and the Minister have the capacity, they have the staff and they have the information to set the deeming rate. It is really the responsibility of the Government. And the way in which the Government has lowered the deeming rate slightly today is not acceptable, particularly to part-time pensioners.

JOURNALIST: What evidence do you have that the Government has ignored expert advice on this?

BURNEY: Well the Government has sat for four and a half years, watching five interest rates being lowered by the Reserve Bank. They have not taken advice. We know very well that that they’re about – or supposed to be – starting a review in relation to pensioners. And we believe that this review should very much look at the way in which deeming rates are set. It is absolutely within the capacity of the Government to do this. And it is completely opaque what the Government is going to look at.

JOURNALIST: The Council on the Aging has welcomed the rate cut, so shouldn’t that be enough for Labor?

BURNEY: The Council on the Aging has cautiously welcomed this rate cut. And they would welcome any rate cut, because it’s been four and a half years since there has been one. We know that the Government has really saved million and millions and millions of dollars off the back of pensioners, because of an inflated deeming rate.

JOURNALIST: Would Labor support a Greens push for a Senate Inquiry into this issue?

BURNEY: I’ve not heard what the Greens are saying. And obviously it would really be up to me discussing a concept like that with the Leader, and with the people involved in finance in Labor. I would not go down that track without proper consultation with the people that I need to talk to.

JOURNALIST: Do you acknowledge though, that the Government needs to strike a balance between a budget black hole – preventing a budget black hole – and being fair to pensioners?

BURNEY: I acknowledge that the Government needs to be fair to pensioners. And of course we want to protect the budget surplus, if there is going to be one. But let’s be clear about this – the Government has been short-changing pensioners for four and a half years. It is really from the perspective of pensioners that I’m coming from.

JOURNALIST: Was there anything else that you wanted to share?

BURNEY: No, I think that covers it.

JOURNALIST: Just on another issue, what did you make of the Treasurer’s media op with the Reserve Bank Governor?

BURNEY: I saw Insiders today, and I was aware that the Treasurer had met with the Reserve Bank. I think it’s perfectly legitimate for the Treasurer to meet with the Reserve Bank. Whether it was a media op or not, I’ll leave for others to decide.



Australian pensioners will be disappointed by the Government’s delayed and half-hearted announcement on deeming rates today.

It’s not good enough.

Pensioners were expecting better, after waiting over four and a half years since the Government last adjusted the deeming rates.

The Liberals and Nationals don’t deserve any congratulations. They have been dragged kicking and screaming to this by pensioner groups and Labor.

The Government has been short-changing pensioners to prop up their budget for years.

The deeming rates determine how much the Government assumes pensioners earn on their savings and are used to calculate the rate of pension a person receives.

The Reserve Bank has cut interest rates five times since 2015, with the cash rate now at record lows of just 1 per cent.

But the Liberals and Nationals have kept the deeming rates at up to 3 per cent.

The Government needs to explain to pensioners how they can get 3 per cent returns on secure investments.

SUNDAY, 14 JULY 2019



SUBJECT/S: Uluru Statement

TOM CONNELL, SKY NEWS: Joining me now is Linda Burney, the Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians. Thanks very much for your time today Linda Burney.


CONNELL: Nothing locked in from Ken Wyatt, so we’re sort of fleshing out where this heads. But he did seem to indicate he could try for this Indigenous voice through legislation mainly, even if it’s possibly one line in the Constitution. Can you clarify if you are open to that idea?

BURNEY: Well the Labor Party is very clear Tom, and that is that we endorse and embrace the Uluru Statement in full. And what the Uluru Statement clearly said is that the aspiration was absolutely for an entrenched voice in the Constitution. And what people are forgetting is that the reason for that is that there would not be the capacity for any particular government with a particular view to be able to get rid of that voice in the way in which we say ATSIC be gotten rid of. And I just want to say something else to people like Tim, and others that are pouring a bit of water on this today. And I saw some ridiculous comments quite frankly. But what we need to think about, is on every single social rung. It doesn’t matter whether it’s health outcomes, education outcomes, overcrowding, domestic violence, life expectancy – Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders are on the bottom rung. And that is because there has not been Aboriginal people at the table helping design the legislation and advise on legislation and programs. And that’s what this voice is actually about.

CONNELL: When we talk about this voice, the indication as well, another option; it is enshrined in the Constitution, but without going into too much detail about what it actually does. But then Parliament has some control over how it’s actually formulated for one example. Are you open to that idea?

BURNEY: That’s exactly what the idea is, actually. The whole idea of the voice, and what came from Uluru, and I’m so familiar with it - was it would be the responsivity of the Parliament to design the voice. The voice has no veto power, it is an advisory body only. And this nonsense about being a third chamber of the Parliament is just what I said – it’s absolute nonsense. There are a number of ways you could get to a voice and that’s what you’re going to. In relation to; should it be legislated with recognition in the Constitution, or should the voice be entrenched in the Constitution. That’s why it’s important to look at the 10 years of, body of work that’s gone into this so far, including two Parliamentary inquiries and an expert group. Plus what Ken Wyatt’s suggesting, and that is another round of consultations to actually get to the point of what it would look like. And in essence, what the question might be for a referendum.

CONNELL: That’s obviously a key part of it all. So just to further clarify on this particular point, if it’s going to help people uncomfortable with constitution change to make the actual change to the Constitution on this voice element quite small, but then the Parliament really gets to decide what to do with that. That is a position you’re open to? Is there a threshold there – what it must it must include, the enshrining of the voice?

BURNEY: Look I think we all need to be open to whatever possibility is. But our responsibility as elected officials is to respond to what people tell us, which is why it’s so important to have the conversations. Particularly with First Nations people. But with the broader community. I mean, you know as well as I do, just how difficult referenda and constitutional change, and what the bar is in Australia - I think it is the majority of states with the majority of people in those states. So, like the ’67 Referendum, this will require the continual building of support. And I have no doubt in my mind that the notion of fairness amongst the Australian people – like in ’67 – would support a referendum, understanding that this is going to improve the outcomes for First Nations people.

CONNELL: What about the other idea floated yesterday by Ken Wyatt – it’s been spoken about before – voices, rather than a voice. Would that necessarily mean multiple bodies and would that be an issue? That a message could get confused? Or would it actually allay fears about the third chamber argument? That one voice would be impossible to ignore politically?

BURNEY: Sure, I mean, I think people need to understand what the actual reality is today, right now, in First Nations Australia. There are a number of elected bodies. There are a number of prescribed bodies. And there are many different local and regional organisations. One sensible approach might be, that you would look at what already exists on the ground. Be it the Land Councils. Be it the Prescribed Body Corporates. Be it the health organisations. And see what infrastructure is already there, and what need to be built. There is no doubt in my mind, and certainly Patrick Dodson and the Labor Party took to the last election, what was a map of regional assemblies that would feed into a national arrangement.

CONNELL: But to you need that national arrangement to – I guess – to still have a cohesive element to this and elevate that body? That’s required?

BURNEY: I actually think you do. And that’s something that we’re all very familiar with in the Westminster system. You have a series of local, feeding into regional, feeding into a national body. I mean that’s how many organisations are structured. And certainly that’s how the old ATSIC was structured as well. Look, the most important thing to say is that, to say is that, we need to work collaboratively on this. We need to listen absolutely to what First Nations people, and build the case within the broader community about the good sense, the fairness and the appropriateness of having a First Nations voice that can advise on First Nations issues to the Federal Parliament.

CONNELL: Obviously the referendum legislation goes through, anyone votes no on it, a ‘no’ campaign is in effect triggered. The Government has spoken already about providing funding for the ‘no’ campaign. Do you have any issue with that?

BURNEY: My personal view is that the ‘no’ campaign can go as hard as it likes and I don’t think that it should get public funding. I know that many referenda, there is public funding for a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’ case. But really, there is no argument against this. It is nonsense to say that it is some form of apartheid. It is nonsense to say that its mucking around with the Constitution in a negative way.

CONNELL: Right, but there are people opposed. Should it be a case of neither side gets money? Is that what you are saying?

BURNEY: I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying that if people want to run a ‘no’ case, that’s fine. But should public funding go into a ‘no’ case when we are trying to address one of the most fundamental issues that we face as a nation? And that is the disproportionate disadvantage for First Nations people, which is undeniable.

CONNELL: Right, right. Should the ‘yes’ case get Government money?

BURNEY: Look, that’s not my decision. I’m in the Labor Party, we are in opposition. That is a decision…

CONNELL: But you are saying the ‘no’ case shouldn’t. Are you saying they should be on equal footing?

BURNEY: That is a decision for the Government. I said my personal view, because I am very supportive of this. But I know exactly what the detractors will say. I’ve heard the arguments all my life. And I think the time has come in our nation, and I speak to hundreds of people a week, where there is no threat. It can only be a good thing for all Australians, to make sure that we finally address those terrible social justice outcomes for First Nations people. That we face the truth of our nation, which will liberate us all. And of course there is no threat to anything with this notion.

CONNELL: OK. The NAIDOC theme is around voice, truth telling and treaty. On treaty we had the Minister indicate yesterday that this is perhaps something best handled by states and territories. What do you make of that indication?

BURNEY: I listened very carefully to Ken’s speech. And he and I have met, and we are going to do some travel together. And obviously, the most important thing to say is that for successful referendum, you do need bipartisan support. And the issue that Ken raised in relation to treaties, I mean, the issue of treaty has been around for as long as I can remember. And there are some fantastic things happening in Victoria, in Northern Territory. The South Australian Labor Party when it was in power started a treaty process, and they’ve just announced some very significant issues. The Labor Party Aboriginal spokesperson in New South Wales is Indigenous Affairs and Treaty. I think the word treaty was very frightening for a lot of people, for whatever reasons. But in essence, we have what really are treaties already existing in Australia. They’re called agreements, and the Noongar one in Western Australia is a perfect example. There is a place for a number of treaties. That’s the way in which Aboriginal societies organise – through different nation states. But I do think there is an argument for a national treaty as well. But we need to make sure that we’re not tripping over each other and that they incredibly serious agreements and they are legal agreements and we have the absolute capacity to do it.

CONNELL: Linda Burney, we are starting probably a pretty long conversation here. I appreciate your time.

BURNEY: I think so. Thank you very much.



SUBJECTS: Indigenous Australians

JONATHAN GREEN: Linda Burney welcome.


GREEN: Very well. An extraordinary speech today from Ken Wyatt. What did you make of it?

BURNEY: I thought the speech was very personal, very generous and very much about Ken’s story. I also thought the speech, like you said, was very wide ranging. I met with Ken a few weeks ago and we agreed that we would work together particularly, on constitutional recognition, and therefore referendum. Obviously there is going to be areas that we disagree and we understood that. That’s what the political process and the contest of ideas is about. But I think it was a speech that had enormous potential.

GREEN: I’m a bit furry out of that speech – I mean, what exactly what are we trying to take to either parliament or the people? Is it a model or is it a referendum?

BURNEY: What he was clearly saying from my understanding is that they would work towards constitutional recognition. And that there would be a cross-party committee organised to undertake consultations with First Nations people about what that constitutional reform should be. I have a very different view than Ken, as the Labor party does, in relation to CDP, but that’s another story. And of course, Anthony Albanese has made it very clear that the Labor Party embraces the Uluru Statement in full.

GREEN: Because there’s a lot of talk before that speech that we’re going to have a referendum, and that’s not really the position that we’ve arrived at.

BURNEY: I can’t speak and I don’t want to speak on behalf of Ken and the Coalition. I can speak on behalf of my party. And it’s certainly our intention to pursue a voice to the parliament made up of First Nations people. Now the question is, how do you get there? What does it look like? Is it legislated? Is there a referendum? And they’re the issues that really need sorting out. I don’t think today, with Ken’s speech, was the answer to everything. I think it gave an indication to what we’re going to be pursuing.

GREEN: Do we need to go back and consult with Aboriginal Australians, or was that work done at Uluru in 2017?

BURNEY: I think we do need to go back and talk to Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait as well. The Uluru Statement – incredibly important – and as you said, an amazing process that led up to those people attending Uluru consultations by the Referendum Council right across country. But there are still many people, particularly in very small and remote communities, don’t necessarily fully understand the Uluru process and what it produced, and those people deserve a voice as much as anyone else.

GREEN: What risk is there in the process like this getting lost in convincing white Australia in something that is self-evident to Aboriginal Australia?

BURNEY: Yeah, well I think that is the key question, and you hinted to it Jonathan a little earlier, that a referendum in Australia to be carried successfully is an extremely high bar. You’ve got to win a majority of the states and a majority of people in those states. So, the view that I have is whatever the question that goes to the people has to be a simple, uncomplicated question. I think the Australian people are up for this discussion. And I think a referendum would be ultimately successful. But you’ve got to bring people with you. You’ve got to make the arguments. You’ve got to give people a notion of what they’re actually voting for. Those things are important. And, I think that the issues in Aboriginal affairs is so complex and, you know, you’ve got the closing the gap; you’ve got incredible disparity in relation to social justice outcomes; and those things cannot be put on hold or forgotten while we undertake this process. They both need to happen at the same time.

GREEN: There’ll be the argument that’s made though isn’t it, that we need to focus on practical outcomes, not these lofty gestures that will have no practical impact. So there’s an argument that has to be made about the importance of constitutional recognition.

BURNEY: I have no doubt that you’re absolutely correct and my response to that is that it’s not waffly. It’s not symbolic. It’s actually something in the document that frames the way in which our country operates. And it’s doing something that’s recognising first nations voices and the fact that in all social indicators Aboriginal people are at the bottom. And part of addressing that injustice is to have the voice of First Nations people as part of the legislative process, and that’s what the voice is talking about. And it’s not got veto rights. It’s not a third chamber –

GREEN: - We know how that’s been represented by some –

BURNEY: - Well, I think there are very fine arguments and simple arguments to make here. If people want to run a no case, go your hardest, because I believe that the sense of fairness and justice is what will win the day.

GREEN: And it resolves what Tony Abbott referred to, if I can quote him, the gaping hole in the national soul –

BURNEY: - I think Tony Abbott said he would bleed for it –

GREEN: - And this remains to be seen –

BURNEY: And then he described it as a third chamber so go figure.

GREEN: Makarrata is a very important part of that Uluru Statement and that is a process in parallel to what we’re talking about around that voice to parliament. Where does that sit in the current conversation?

BURNEY: Well, Ken didn’t address that today but certainly from my party’s perspective, as I said, Jonathan, that’s what I can reflect and I know where our leader Anthony Albanese is at. And I know where our party has been for a very long time on this. The idea of the Makarrata commission is to undertake the process of agreement making or treaty making. And I also see it as an instrument that can also oversee the truth-telling process. Those things are not sorted through. They’re going to require resourcing. But they are important parts of the Uluru Statement, but remember, the Uluru Statement only recommended one referendum change or constitutional change and that was the voice. The Makarrata commission and the truth telling process were the other parts of the Uluru Statement but do not require referendum change for them to happen.

GREEN: In this three year term, at the end of that period, what do you think will be success? What needs to be achieved within that time?

BURNEY: Well, Ken was very careful today to say that they would work towards a referendum. And I know that there is an enormous desire with Ken and many others on that side of the house, that there be a proper Indigenous representation to the parliament. The Labor Party is absolutely lock-step in what was taken to the election and what Anthony Albanese has said subsequent to the election and that is the embracing the statement in full. What I want to see is a referendum in this term of government that entrenches in the Australian constitution a First Nations voice to provide advice to the parliament on issues pertaining to First Nations issues.

GREEN: Linda Burney, there’s much to do, we best let you get cracking. Thanks for your time.

BURNEY: Thank you very much.



SUBJECT/S: Uluru Statement

DAN CONNIFER: Thanks for joining us. What did you make of Ken Wyatt's Press Club speech today and the major announcement he made in regards to Indigenous constitutional change?

LINDA BURNEY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: Hello Dan, and happy NAIDOC week to you and everyone watching. Can I thank Ken Wyatt for what I think was a deeply personal and generous speech today. There was a lot of Ken in that speech and I have known him for a very, very long time. The speech was historic in the sense that it did go to the three principles of the Uluru statement. And I’ve met with Ken and we’ve made a commitment between us that we’ll work together towards constitutional recognition. It's too important an issue for the nation, for a lack of bipartisanship. And I think Anthony Albanese has very much made the point that you are not going to achieve referendum change unless there is bipartisanship. But I’ve also said two other things, and that is firstly that we're not going to agree on everything – and that’s understood. And of course, bipartisanship cannot be a race to the bottom, it has to be aiming for the very, very highest point.

CONNIFER: How confident are you that this can be settled within this term of Parliament, as Ken Wyatt is indicating that he wants? That a compromise position can be found, and that the Australian people can be convinced that this is a good thing?

BURNEY: We all know how difficult it is to achieve referendum change in Australia on any subject. I already know that there’s going to be a pretty ugly ‘no’ case run against this and I'm not worried about this. I believe that the Australian public, in the main, is ready for constitutional reform. And understands that whatever we have been doing for the last 200 years in Aboriginal affairs has not worked, and something has got to change. And that means Aboriginal voices into advising on what the legislative framework and processes and content should look like. Ken was interesting today in that he talked a lot about states and territories, particularly when it came to the point of treaty making. But Labor has said very clearly that we embrace the Uluru Statement wholly, and that does mean a voice to the Parliament. A voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to the Parliament.

CONNIFER: And does that voice need to be in the Constitution? Or could it be, that it’s been suggested, that the words in the Constitution may not even refer to the voice, yet the voice is enacted through Parliament, through legislation, would that be acceptable to Labor?

BURNEY: I'm not quite sure that it's Labor that it needs to be acceptable to. I mean, ultimately, of course, it does. But most importantly it needs to be the voices of First Nations people that make a determination about that. I think what Ken was hinting at today was perhaps a legislated voice, certainly in the questions that were asked after his speech, and that recognition of Aboriginal people be within the body of the Constitution. That is very much one of the models that has been put forward, and Patrick Dodson has talked about a legislated voice. And without getting technical, of course it is the head of power within the Constitution that’s important. But whatever happens, I would say to Ken that we may not get a consensus from everyone on this, and I'm not sure that a consensus is possible, I think that the real point of politics and the real point of what we are talking about here is, you do the right thing by as many people as possible.

CONNIFER: And if the Government reached that position, not a consensus, but doing the right thing by as many people as possible, you’d be advocating for it to go to the referendum?

BURNEY: Look, I have made a commitment to Ken, as have the people in the First Nations Caucus, as has Antony Albanese to the Prime Minister himself - that we will work collaboratively on this point. But there will be points of difference and we will have to work through those points of difference. As I said, Dan, bipartisanship is not a race to the bottom. And the point that you've asked me about, could Labor work – I think you said, is it a minimalist position you are referring to?

CONNIFER: Yes. A position that was suggested at the Press Club today. That you could have some nice words in the Constitution, but nothing potentially referring to the voice specifically. But then the voice purely in legislation.

BURNEY: That’s one model. I think Labor has been saying clearly that we would like a voice entrenched in the Australian Constitution, and I know that there are many people on the Government benches that also believe that. And I think that is ultimately what we would want to see. But let's have the discussion, let's have the consultation, and let's also importantly, Dan, look at the work that's being done over the last decade. Labor is certainly up for a collaborative approach on this, but of course it needs to be what people in the community are saying.

CONNIFER: And if we get to the point where we are going to a referendum, does the Government need to pump money into the ‘yes’ case, and possibly the ‘no’ case as well?

BURNEY: I did here that question at the Press Club, and I listened carefully to what Ken's answer was. And he said that that's normally the model. But on something like this, I would think putting money into a ‘no’ case is not necessarily acceptable. This is a change that is well overdue and there have been discussions for 10 plus years on entrenching an Aboriginal national voice. We did have one in ATSIC of course, and we saw that that was legislated and was able to be gotten rid of. I want to hear what people have got to say, distil that, and work with the Government on coming forward with what is the strongest case that we can possibly have. And the Uluru Statement, as I said Dan, said about entrenching a voice to the Parliament. But we've got to have a referendum that's going to be successful, I agree with Ken on that point. It would be a disaster if we had a referendum and it was lost. I don't anticipate that, and I think that those that want to run I ‘no’ case are going to run it anyhow, and I don't think they deserve any public funding, quite frankly.

CONNIFER: Linda Burney, thanks very much for joining us on ABC News this afternoon.

BURNEY: Thanks Dan.




SUBJECTS: Age pension deeming rates

MATT DORAN: Linda Burney, thank you for joining ABC News.


DORAN: Now, for people at home who don’t understand what the deeming rate is could you explain it for us?

BURNEY: Sure. The deeming rate is the amount or what the government deems you as a pensioner are earning off your savings and secure investments. And that determines what your pension amount will be. And that’s why it’s so important. So many people who are deemed by the government to be earning too much to get a full pension are placed on a part pension. And the issue is that the deeming Rates assumed by the government is 3.25% which is well above the reserve bank has now moved to in terms of the cash rate. And it’s also importantly well above what any secure investment, be it a long term deposit, actually delivers to a pensioner.

DORAN: How many people do you think are impacted by the fact that that deeming rate hasn’t shifted for some four years I believe.

BURNEY: It’s four years, and there are two deeming rates. And it depends on how much savings and what your circumstances are. And it has not moved since 2015. And there is an urgent need for the government to move in terms of the deeming rate. It’s hypocritical for the government to say oh well the reserve bank has set the cash rate at one percent, and the government is demanding banks hand on that one per cent to mortgage holders, when their own deeming rates is well above anything that a pensioner or part pensioner can earn. In terms of numbers, our numbers were about 627,000 people. That’s a lot of people. I noticed in one of the newspaper articles today, they were talking about 770,000 people directly affected by inflated deeming rate.

DORAN: We’ve heard from the new Social Services Minister Anne Ruston. She has suggested that an announcement of a shift is imminent. She ordered this review as soon as she came into office. Are you expecting any quick turn around here, any quick change in the system?

BURNEY: Well I met with Minister Ruston and I have to say I think she’s a very practical, pragmatic person. And Labor would welcome a move in terms of deeming rates. But the question is when will it happen? By what mechanism would that rate be determined? And importantly, what that rate would be? They’re the questions that we’ll be watching very carefully. There’s no reason for the government to wait to September or as the suggestion could be, march next year.

DORAN: Have you done any calculations to suggest how much if you were to deeming rate to that point – or you know a point closer to the RBA’s official cash rate, how much that would cost the budget?

BURNEY: The Labor party has done some analysis with the resources that we’ve got available. And we’ve published those. And they’ve been well reported in the papers today. Depending on your personal circumstances, it could be something like $65 a week or it could be much more than that. I think the important thing is to say that it’s actually the government that has the resources to be able to work out what these amounts are. I noticed that there’s a lot of commentary today around changing the deeming rate and what that would mean to the surplus. My response to that is the government has been short-changing pensioners and part pensioners for years. And what is the cost to those people?

DORAN: Linda Burney thank you for your time.



SUBJECTS: Age pension deeming rates; tax cuts; election review

LAURA JAYES: Joining me now is the Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services Linda Burney. Linda Burney thanks so much for your time. Should it be set by an independent body?

LINDA BURNEY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND SOCIAL SERVICES: Thank you. Look I think that the government going forward needs to consider whether or not an independent body is appropriate. My position is that sure, you should consider it. But it is the government’s decision. But most importantly Laura, the government can’t have it two ways. They can’t demand the Reserve Bank to pass on interest rates cuts to mortgages holders in full and leave the deeming rate where it is at the moment.

JAYES: Well there are two deeming rates. What do you think needs to be changed, the lower one at 1.75%, or 3.25%, or both?

BURNEY: Well I think they both need to be changed and need to be considered. Clearly the government needs to look at what is the best secure return that part pensioners can get at the moment through term deposits or sort of secure investments like that? And the best they can get is about two per cent and the government needs to look at the 3.25% which affects most part pensioners, to bring it more in line with what the best secure investment they can get through any sort of reputable financial institution.

JAYES: If it was so urgent, why didn’t Labor make this part of your election platform? I note that Labor has been quite critical of the government of being slow to act on this. But this wasn’t event mentioned by any Labor MPs during the election.

BURNEY: Well it has been an issue that labor has raised consistently. My predecessor Jenny Macklin, if you look back through transcripts of the parliament, you will see that she asked questions about the deeming rate. And we’ve been raising it for four years. And during the election campaign, clearly I did raise it on occasion but the more important thing is Laura, what is the government’s responsibility now? And like I said, they can’t display the hypocrisy that they’re displaying in the sense of having a deeming rate that’s incredibly inflated, and having that as the rate that determines what a part pensioner or what a pensioner should get. And so many pensioners have gone on to part pensions and probably as a result of this deeming rate.

JAYES: The deeming rate is one thing. Franking credit reform is another. So in that vein, if we’re having this argument about these two things affecting pensioners, retirees in many senses, do you think that now it’s time to drop that franking credit reform as part of your platform altogether?

BURNEY: Well let’s be clear, the franking credit policy that Labor had throughout the election did not affect pensioners.


BURNEY: Pensioners were exempt from that. It was self-funded retirees. And I think that it’s clear through the comments of both our leader Anthony Albanese and through Jim Chalmers, the Shadow Treasurer, that there are – there is going to be an absolute review of all the policies that Labor took to the election. Some we will keep and some we will not keep. Obviously the franking credits is part of that review and it’s a very important part of that review, and I appreciate your question.

JAYES: Do you – what do you think about where Labor should land on this – the Minister that looks at Social Services more broadly – and in New South Wales – do you think the franking credit policy was something that really did quite significantly contribute to Labor’s loss?

BURNEY: I mean that will come out through the review that’s been announced. I understand that the two people that are going to undertake that review is Jay Weatherill and also –

JAYES: Craig Emerson –

BURNEY: Craig Emerson, who is of course a very senior person within the party and very well respected. I think that that review is absolutely crucial and that review will inform us on our way forward. And it will look at many more things than the franking credits policy but you’re right Laura. The policies that we took to the federal election were many and I think they were good. But whether they were not they were the right ones for the right time is something the review will look at.

JAYES: Craig Emerson, as we’ve just mentioned him in terms of looking at this review, also a couple of weeks ago – I guess invoking the Hawke era with Paul Keating – said that the 49 cent tax rate, marginal tax rate, is too high for high income earners. Now we have a huge giant in the union movement, in Bill Kelty, also a giant of that era, saying that it is also too high. What’s your view?

BURNEY: Well my view is that everything should be looked at and looked at with enormous honesty and that is what will go forward. I just remember, speaking of Craig Emerson, the brilliant role that he played in the Hawke memorial and I think that shows the status – both Bill Kelty and Craig Emerson carry within the party. And we should be listening to what they’ve got to say. They’re not the fountain of all wisdom, but they are certainly important people to listen to.

JAYES: Do you think there should be an active consideration of reducing that top marginal tax rate within Labor then? Would that be part of the election platform going forward?

BURNEY: Well I’m sure that’ll be part of what is being examined and in particular, we’ve just gone through – and you‘ve covered it extensively – the issue around the tax cuts the government pursued last week within both houses of parliament. And obviously Labor was very keen to make sure that immediate tax relief was given to lower income earners and middle income earners. Where we go with the rest of the tax package as Jim and both Anthony have talked about is something that will be part of our review. But at the end of the day, Scott Morisson said – and I know it’s getting bit away from what you asked directly – but at the end of the day, Scott Morrsion said very clearly, as did Josh Frydenberg, very clearly within the parliament that there will be no services cut as a result of the tax package. And I think that’s something that Labor will be watching very, very clearly and carefully.

JAYES: Linda Burney, appreciate your time this morning.



This week is NAIDOC Week (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee). It is an important fixture on our national calendar, which provides Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians alike, the opportunity to celebrate the 65,000 years and counting, of history, culture and achievements of First Nations people.
First Nations People have made tremendous contributions to Australia in a variety of fields: from academia to the sporting field; from the arts to the environment; from the workplace to the community; from elders to emerging leaders.
The NAIDOC Awards honours these achievements and contributions, which are a source of pride for all Australians. 
It is important to remember that NAIDOC’s history is rooted in the first Aboriginal rights protests, which began over 100 years ago – notably the Day of Mourning which occurred on 26 January 1938, after which William Cooper proposed a national policy for Indigenous Australians.
To that end, we should also use this week to reflect on the journey ahead towards Reconciliation – acknowledging that the challenges confronting First Nations Australians are a challenge for all Australians.
This year’s NAIDOC theme is ‘Voice. Treaty. Truth.’ – three core principles outlined in the Uluru Statement: a roadmap to Reconciliation.
This historic document notes that integral to progressing on our journey toward Reconciliation:

  • Voice: Self-determination and a greater say in the decisions and issues which affect First Nations People;

  • Treaty: Acknowledgement that sovereignty was never ceded and a vision for an Australia large enough for an equal place for First Nations People; and

  • Truth: Recognising Australia’s history of injustice and intergenerational trauma – that our painful past is inextricably linked to the challenges of the present.

In this time of celebration and reflection, we are reminded that none of these challenges are insurmountable, so long as we acknowledge our collective responsibility and embrace collective action.




Pensioners would be up to $149 a fortnight, or $3,875 a year, better off if the Government reduced the deeming rates by 1.25 per cent – in line with reductions in the cash rate.

Since March 2015, the Reserve Bank has cut the cash rate five times, but the Liberals and Nationals haven’t adjusted the deeming rates at all.

The cash rate is now at a record low of 1 per cent, but deeming rates are as high as 3.25 per cent.

The Government uses deeming to calculate the level of a person’s pension – assuming a rate of income from savings, whether or not pensioners actually earn those returns.

Scott Morrison has been deliberately short-changing pensioners for years.

For example, if the deeming rates were reduced by 1.25 per cent, in line with the cash rate, a homeowner pensioner couple with $350,000 in savings would be $40 a fortnight better off, or $1,037 per year.

Scott Morrison is on another planet if he thinks pensioners can find secure investments that pay anything like 3.25 per cent.

It’s sneaky and unfair to count income that pensioners simply aren’t getting.

Labor has been demanding change and an urgent reduction in the deeming rate is needed.

The Liberals and Nationals have run out of excuses. The deeming rate could be changed tomorrow with a stroke of the Minister’s pen.

It’s time Scott Morrison was honest about how much he’s taken out of pensioners’ pockets by keeping deeming rates artificially high.




In light of yesterday’s rate cut by the Reserve Bank, Labor is calling on the Liberals and Nationals to urgently reduce the deeming rates and ease the pressure on pensioner’s budgets.

The Reserve Bank has cut interest rates five times since 2015, with the cash rate now down to just 1 per cent. But the Liberals and Nationals have kept the deeming rates at up to 3.25 per cent.

The deeming rates determine how much the Government assumes pensioners earn on their savings – and are used to calculate how much pension a person receives.

Up to 627,000 age pensioners, who are on a part-pension because of the income test, are impacted by the Government’s refusal to reduce deeming rates.

The gap between interest rates and the deeming rates is growing – and the Liberals and Nationals are doing nothing about it.

Scott Morrison is counting income many pensioners simply aren’t getting.

How does Scott Morrison expect pensioners to find term deposits or other secure investments that pay anything like 3.25 per cent?

This is a double-whammy for pensioners. It means lower earnings on savings, and reduced pension payments.

With interest rates at record lows – the Government has run out of excuses.

Every day the Morrison Government refuses to reduce the deeming rates is another day they are short-changing pensioners.




With interest rates at record lows, the Government has run out of excuses for using pensioners to prop up their budget.

Unrealistic deeming rates are leaving pensioners out of pocket – and hurting those with modest savings the most.

The Reserve Bank has cut interest rates four times since 2015, with the cash rate now down to 1.25 per cent. But the Liberals and Nationals have kept the deeming rates at up to 3.25 per cent.

"It's hypocritical of the government, which was telling the banks to pass on all of the recent cut in official interest rates but at the same time they hold the deeming rate at the same level it's been since 2015."

[Ian Henschke, Chief Advocate, National Seniors – The Age 21/6/19]

How do they expect pensioners to find bank accounts or term deposits that are currently paying 3.25 per cent?

Pensioners are being hit twice. Once because of low interest on their savings, and again because their pension is being reduced.

The Liberals are cutting the pension by counting income many pensioners simply aren't getting.

Labor has been calling on the Government to urgently review the deeming rates so they are fair for pensioners.

Every day the Morrison Government refuses to adjust the deeming rates is another day they are short-changing pensioners.

FRIDAY, 21 JUNE 2019



After five years and $4.8 billion dollars, a new Auditor General’s report has revealed the Liberals and Nationals still can’t say whether their Indigenous Advancement Strategy is working.
Serious questions about the administration of the IAS have been swirling for years. Funding decisions have been notoriously opaque and the effectiveness of many programs is unclear.
This new report confirms the IAS has been operating for years without proper evaluation processes. Despite the former Minister being warned by his Department in 2016:
“At some point the current situation will become untenable as it is not sustainable to continue to fund activities that lack a good evidence base.”
[ANAO Report, p21, 2019]
The new report also found: 

  • “substantial delays” in the development of an evaluation framework;

  • A lack of a “reliable methodology for measuring outcomes”; and

  • A failure to link evaluation to major policy objectives, such as Closing the Gap.

This comes on top of a damning investigation two years ago where the Auditor General found the IAS was failing basic standards of administration.

This included failing to assess applications against guidelines, failing to keep records of key decisions and failing to establish performance targets for funded projects.

This is no way to manage billions of dollars of taxpayers money.

Indigenous Australians deserve better.

Particularly when this year’s Closing the Gap report showed five out of the seven targets are not on track.

The Government is establishing a new agency within the existing department to manage Indigenous programs – but it will take much more than a name change to fix the deep-seated problems with the IAS.

Indigenous polices and programs should be evidence based, transparent, locally driven, co-designed and effective.




SUBJECT/S: Changes to Indigenous Legal Services, Cashless Debit Cards, John Setka

MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY, SENATOR FOR THE NORTHERN TERRITORY: I want to acknowledge that we’re standing on the country of the Larrakia people and we were able to discuss some issues today which are quite critical to First Nations people right across the Northern Territory. I’d like to introduce and welcome Mark Dreyfus, our shadow Attorney General, and to Linda Burney, our shadow Indigenous Affairs Minister. It’s wonderful to have both of them here. We are dealing with some very serious issues in terms of the legal concerns and I’ll hand over to Mark.

MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Thanks very much, Malarndirri. This morning Malarndirri, Linda Burney and I have been meeting with Priscilla Atkins, the CEO of NAAJA. And Priscilla has explained to me a very serious concern that NAAJA has – that every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service in Australia has – about a proposal that the government has made in the budget, which is to reverse decades of self-determination in the provision of legal services to Indigenous people in our country by rolling the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services into a single national mechanism for legal assistance. It’s Labor’s view that this is completely inappropriate. We call on Mr Porter, the Attorney-General, and Mr Wyatt, the Minister for Indigenous Australians, to immediately reverse the decision that they announced in the budget, which was in effect leading to an abolition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services.

NAAJA, which is where we are standing today, is the largest legal practice in the Northern Territory. It has provided excellent legal services to Indigenous people across the Territory together with CAALAS based in Alice Springs for decades. So too have the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services across Australia provided excellent services to Indigenous people across Australia. Without NAAJA the court system of the Northern Territory would collapse. Legal services generally would collapse without the vital role that NAAJA plays.

The government should reverse the decision it has announced. It’s inconsistent with the Indigenous Legal Systems Program Review that was provided to the government in December and released by the government in early April just before the election was called.

In the heat of the election campaign, I suspect that some of these issues might have gone unnoticed. Well, they’re now being noticed and it’s essential that the government actually return to governing properly and not going against a very complex review that was conducted into Indigenous legal assistance programs, which recommended that they continue to be separate services, that self-determination continue, which recommended that they not only continue with separate service but they receive five year funding agreements – and recommended an increase in their funding. It’s a very clear call that they’re making, it’s long past time for Mr Wyatt and Mr Porter to not proceed along this path but to actually start talking properly to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Legal Services in Australia.

JOURNALIST: So what’s your argument as to why it is so important that the services remain independent?

DREYFUS: It’s a vital principle of self-determination that’s underlain Indigenous services in our country for decades now. The Australian Labor Party has fully committed to self-determination. I fear that this government is only paying lip service to self-determination.

Some of the policy documents that the Liberal Party took to the election talked about continuing to support independent Indigenous-controlled services, not just in legal services but across the board. They need to actually put their money where their mouth is and carry through with that principle that they say they support by not abolishing Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services everywhere in Australia by rolling them into a single stream.

JOURNALIST: Anyone can answer this one, but if they were rolled into one and brought under one umbrella, what would be some of the biggest problems to come out of that?

DREYFUS: Well, just for a start, the separate focus that Indigenous-run services bring to legal services for Indigenous people would almost certainly be lost. There’s a risk that the funding, the very large amount of funding that comes to NAAJA and services like it across Australia would dissipate because it would be used for other purposes within the legal system and within legal assistance. But it really comes down to the core principle of self-determination. We think, in particular in the legal services area, self-determination has worked. We’ve got 170 staff at NAAJA right across the Territory. Four of them are Aboriginal lawyers. There are more Aboriginal lawyers coming. Fifty percent of the staff of NAAJA, we’ve learned this morning, are Aboriginal people. That’s a terrific achievement.

All of those achievements I fear – and the very, very strong reputation that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services have within Indigenous communities, particularly here in the Northern Territory – that would be lost if rolled into a single stream of legal assistance funding.

LINDA BURNEY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: Can I just add to that? I mean, when you look at the level of incarceration rates of First Nations people here in the Territory, as well as across the country, and young people as well, it is absolutely critical that there be a strong Aboriginal legal services provision to make sure the needs of those Aboriginal people are being met. We are the most incarcerated group in the world and it is absolutely fundamental that there be a good guaranteed line of funding to Aboriginal Legal Services.

JOURNALIST: Another sort of legal policy question that I’ve been talking to NAAJA about post-Royal Commission phase and implementation of those recommendations - the Territory Labor Government looks like it is not going to follow through with a plan to enshrine in legislation that arrests should only be used as a last resort for young people. They say that they’re going to consider changing that legislation because of concerns from police about how that would work in practice. They also had – they haven’t raised the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 and we’ve learned in the last couple of weeks that that wasn’t the first draft of the piece of legislation before Parliament that’s now been taken out. What can Federal Labor say about what the Territory Labor Government isn’t doing in implementing those recommendations from the youth detention Royal Commission?

DREYFUS: I would want to see the detail of what the Northern Territory government is proposing to do along with the detail of the legislation. It’s very much in these areas, as you’d understand, about the detail. I’m not aware of what you’ve just told me about those changes of position of the Northern Territory government but we’ve got long standing principles we’ve expressed in this area. We are committed to looking at the age of criminal responsibility at a federal level but obviously it’s also a state and territory matter. We are opposed to mandatory sentencing – that’s part of the national platform of the Australian Labor Party – and as always, there’s an ongoing discussion between federal and state authorities, between federal and state parties because criminal law is a shared responsibility.

JOURNALIST: I do have a couple of caucus questions but one last Australian politics question. Mr Setka has announced this morning that he doesn’t have any plans to step down from his position despite pressure. Do you have a view on what he should have done?

DREYFUS: Ms Burney is going to answer that one.

BURNEY: I’m not going to go into the details and the toing and froing about John Setka and his membership of the Labor Party. Our leader, Anthony Albanese, has been very clear and decisive in relation to Mr Setka and his continued role or position within the Labor Party.

What I think we need to focus on is that domestic violence in any form, be it harassment, be it emotional, be it physical, be it sexual, any type of harassment or sexual violence towards women is completely unacceptable. I’m aware that there is a court case on foot and I respect that, but I’m making a broad point that domestic violence for us in Labor is unacceptable. There are no bits and pieces, there are no ‘a little bit, a little less’ on this. It’s completely unacceptable and that is our position.

JOURNALIST: Malarndirri just some caucus questions, after your meeting yesterday, is there an issue or some issues that you say are going
to be your focus of your attention?

MCCARTHY: Firstly, I’d like to just say it has been really important to have some of the members of the Shadow Ministry here. Obviously with the First Nations portfolio responsibilities: Linda Burney, Senator Patrick Dodson and Warren Snowdon as Assistant Minister to Linda Burney.

What we’ve been able to do is obviously look at the issues that matter to us going into the election. Clearly the matters that we still stand strongly by, is the CDP program – the Community Development Program. We are deeply concerned about the ongoing entrenched poverty of First Nations people on this program, not just here in the Northern Territory but right across Australia. We’re talking about over 30,000 Australians who are on that program and certainly one of the conversations we want to have with Ken Wyatt is to change that program immediately.

The other area that we know that the Australian Labor Party has been passionately supportive of is a voice to the Federal Parliament and that is the role of Senator Pat Dodson – now with the responsibility of reconciliation and the voice.

We do want to see a First Nations voice to the Parliament. We are passionate, we are committed and we are firmly focused on the fact that the absence of the First Nations voice is not good for this country, it’s not good for Australia and we certainly call on all those organisations and businesses who put their hand up to support this journey to continue to fight for a First Nations Voice to the Federal Parliament.

JOURNALIST: And what is Labor’s position on the proposed changes to the income management cards in the Territory?

BURNEY: That legislation has not been drafted as we understand it. Legislation in terms of the basics card and transfer of people on basics card to the cashless debit card in the Northern Territory has been announced by the Federal Government. It has not introduced legislation. Obviously we need to see that legislation and we need to consult with people that are directly affected by these changes.

We’re also wanting to say very clearly what will be the quarantine amounts that people transferring to cashless debit card will be. It’s complicated but this is going to affect people’s lives here in the Northern Territory. Anyone that’s on a welfare payment other than the aged pension will be affected. We need to see the legislation, we need to have those consultations and we’ll be making a decision closer to when it’s introduced into the Parliament. But obviously one of the fundamental principles which we are looking at is people’s choice and people’s rights when it comes to this particular program.

JOURNALIST: That’s all

DREYFUS: Thanks very much.



Labor is calling on the Government to urgently review the pension deeming rates, which are leaving Australian pensioners out of pocket.

On Tuesday, the Reserve Bank cut the cash rate to a record low of 1.25 per cent.

Yet, the Government’s deeming rates for the purposes of testing income for the pension remain as high as 3.25 per cent.

It is clear that the deeming rates no longer reflect the actual return that many pensioners are able to earn on their savings.

It has been over four years since the Government last adjusted the deeming rates.

In this time, the cash rate has fallen from 2.25 per cent to a record low of 1.25 per cent today. Standard term deposit rates are now two per cent or less.

And yet, the Government’s deeming rates hold steady at 3.35 per cent.

This week, the Treasurer demanded banks pass on the Reserve Bank’s rate cut to home loan customers in full.

Why won’t he do the same for pensioners? It’s hypocrisy.

By refusing to review its deeming rates for adjustment, the Government is short-changing pensioners.




SUBJECT: Indigenous affairs

JONATHAN GREEN: Linda welcome.


GREEN: This is an extraordinary moment. For the first time in its settler history Australia has a minister for Indigenous affairs and a shadow minister – both Indigenous. How significant is that?

BURNEY: It’s incredibly significant. And the great thing is that I’ve known Ken for about 30 years. He worked in New South Wales in the Department of Health for a long time when I was at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. So not only do we have a professional relationship, we have a personal relationship. That does not mean I’m not going to be holding him and his government to account. But I am saying that the Aboriginal world is a small world and most of us know each other one way or another.

GREEN: Have you talked?

BURNEY: Haven’t had a conversation with Ken since the election. I’ve sent him a message congratulating him. But I suspect that we’ll be speaking in the next couple of days. But I have very much listened to his statements. I’ve read the newspaper articles. I’ve also seen the excitement in the Aboriginal community about Ken’s appointment and I hope that with my appointment yesterday there is even more excitement. You are right. It is truly a historic moment.

GREEN: Now the truth of it is that if we are to have progress on the voice to parliament – if the Uluru Statement is to be honoured – that will need to be an area of bipartisan agreement, politically.

BURNEY: I think that’s right. I mean Anthony Albanese almost every time he’s stood up made the point that there are a number of things where we would be reaching across the aisle and hoping to have a collaborative approach. And certainly he’s identified this as one of those. Of course, this has been a very long process. And it’s just two years since the Uluru Statement. And Labor did take to the last election the commitment to the Uluru Statement. We lost that election. And obviously now need to be very careful about where we and how we move, noting of course that at the last budget did have $7 million or so attached to it for consultation on the voice and also I think some money for a potential referendum.

GREEN: Now Ken Wyatt, he supports that idea of a voice but says that with a cautious approach here I think that he doesn’t want to put up a proposal that fails. And I guess the thinking is there that the risk of a failed referendum would put this process back significantly. Do you agree with that sense of caution?

BURNEY: It’s not just Ken who has made that point. Certainly, in the joint parliamentary committee that I served on, chaired by Julian Lesser and Patrick Dodson, there were a number of submissions including those from the present social justice commissioners that actually said that there was a choice about whether or not you go to a referendum quickly, or that you would have a model so that people knew what they were voting on. The one thing that we do know about referendum Jonathan, in Australia, is that it is a very difficult and high bar to jump to have a successful referendum. And generally, referendums that are successful need unilateral, if you like, agreement across parliaments. But in this case there’s also the important point that – well in all cases really – of not only embracing the hearts and minds of First Nations people, but the hearts and minds of all Australians to have a successful referendum.

GREEN: It’s of course Mabo Day today –

BURNEY: It is!

GREEN: - and a day of tremendous significance in the sort of process that we’re talking about. And I guess it points to the ambition of Indigenous Australians which goes beyond in many cases things like a voice to parliament towards the idea of treaty. I mean, the stepping stones here are difficult to obtain – each and every one of them.

BURNEY: They are challenging things to attain, but let’s not forget that there are a number of state and territory jurisdictions that are already embarking on that treaty journey. We’ve got Victoria and Northern Territory; South Australia to a lesser degree; and other states certainly thinking definitely about it. I think when it comes to treaty we need to be really quite lateral with it. I mean the Noongyar agreement in Western Australia is a treaty in every way except by name. Land use agreements are a form of a treaty. And you know, with a national treaty you’d have to examine very carefully who would you make a treaty with? What would it be about? But I think the most important point on this one is for Australians to get used to the idea of treaty. It’s well established in many other first world nations with a colonial history. It’s not a scary thing. It’s an agreement. So let’s proceed with that vein.

GREEN: It feels almost as if the times are with that kind of thinking. I mean, there’s something going on with that collective Australian mind of both settler and Indigenous Australians – it seems to be moving slowly towards a point of some agreement.

BURNEY: I think that’s true. But it hasn’t come overnight. I mean, think about –

GREEN: - it’s taken a while –

BURNEY: It’s taken a while. I mean, if we go back to the 30s with the first day of mourning and the wonderful, amazing groundwork that that laid; the groundwork of the 67 referendum; the Barunga Statement between the Barunga festival and Bob Hawke, who we’ll be remembering next week at his memorial service; the amazing speech that Paul Keating made in Redfern Park; Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generations; the Reconciliation process that I was part of with Patrick Dodson and others – 10 years of that; the bridge walks; the rise and rise and fall and fall of Hanson; the white arm bands view of history. I mean there has been a lot of water under the bridge. But one of the great things that I think that we have now in this country: a better understanding than ever before among the general population about the social justice issues facing Aboriginal people. But also the education process: of truth telling in terms of curriculum.

GREEN: Pat Dodson, you mentioned there was touted for the job that you’re now occupying – what happened there?

BURNEY: Patrick didn’t nominate to be a shadow minister in the caucus processes that we went through. And he was very clear about that. But the great thing is is that he is an assistant minister. So Pat and I will be working together. In fact, I’m going to visit him in Broome, hopefully next week. He is the assistant minister with responsibilities with respect to reconciliation and a voice to the parliament. So what we have with Labor is myself as the shadow minister responsible for Indigenous Australians; Warren Snowdon as the assistant minister to me; Patrick Dodson in the Senate as the assistant minister with responsibility for those two areas; and of course Malarndirri McCarthy with her leadership along with my caucus colleagues in terms of a First Nations caucus in the Labor caucus. Now that’s a pretty good setup. I think.

GREEN: Well, Linda Burney congratulations on your new role and thank you so much for your time this evening.

BURNEY: Thank you so much.