Sky News, AM Agenda Interview with Kieran Gilbert

Release Date: 
11 March 2015
Media release

Topics: Remote indigenous communities E&OE…

KIERAN GILBERT:

Mr Tudge, thanks for your time.

ALAN TUDGE:

Good morning Kieran.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Your thoughts on Mick Gooda's contribution and his reaction to the Prime Minister's comments?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well Mick Gooda is partially correct that you need to have a basic education and basic capacity to exercise choice and that's part of the reasons for the Western Australian Government making the decisions that it has: you can't build a school for a single family, you can only build a viable school where there's a critical mass of people.

My overall view is each family, each individual has a right to live wherever they like. The Governments has to make choices also about where to invest their money and it's very difficult to invest money into very, very remote locations where there may only be one or two families. You simply can't build a viable school and you simply can't get reasonable jobs in those locations.

KIERAN GILBERT:

What do you say to Mick Gooda's suggestion that lifestyle choices as the Prime Minister put it, that these impoverished people in many respects don't have the luxury of such choices?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well the reason why they may not have a reasonable choice is because they don't have a good
education. Now that's our absolute top priority; our number one focus is at least getting kids to school and getting a decent education, because with an education comes opportunities and gives you choices.

Part of the problem with the very, very remote locations is that it's almost impossible to give the kids a very good education.

As I said before you can't build a school for a single family. In fact even if you've got all the money in the  world it's still very difficult to give a good education to one or two individual families in a very, very remote location and hence the reason wanting to focus more of the resources at some of the larger towns so that kids can go to school and so that there are more opportunities for the adults to get real jobs.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Yeah and that all makes sense absolutely, but when you're talking about individuals who have links to the  land, ancient links, over tens of thousands of years is that something the Prime Minister should have made reference to, should've paid respect to in those particular comments? That's certainly the take of a number of indigenous leaders and their reaction to the comments.

ALAN TUDGE:

Kieran, connection to land is very important for many aboriginal people, but a good education and good health is also very important.

Now as you know Kieran before I was a member of parliament I worked with Noel Pearson and his view was that we need to encourage orbiting, where people maintain their connection to land but are willing to orbit in and out if you like, to Brisbane, to Melbourne, to Sydney. In fact one of his favourite sayings was "From Cape York to New York", because that was the culture and capacity that he wanted to develop in his aboriginal people up in Cape York. the ability to make choices to go from Cape York, to take opportunities in New York should they choose whilst still maintaining that connection to their land.

I think that's the vision that we should have so that each individual, each family, can have those real opportunities and real choices to exercise and take the opportunities which are available for everybody else.

KIERAN GILBERT:

That certainly makes a lot of sense absolutely and I guess there are many Australians who would think that the Prime Minister's comments make a lot of sense as well in saying that if you want to close the gap you've got to get the kids to school, you got to get the adults to work. I guess the question that's being asked is should the PM have sat down with the communities in the first instance as opposed to floating this through media interviews?

ALAN TUDGE:

Kieran I think he was responding to some decisions which the Western Australian Government has made in relation to the very small communities. So he was being frank, he was being upfront and in some respects saying some common sense.

The other point that I'd make Kieran is I was actually bitterly disappointed with Labor's response to this, in part because they made similar decisions when they were in government. They made the decision, for example, to no longer invest in public housing in what's called the Homelands Communities, which are very small communities, well removed from even the remote settlements.

Now if was good enough for Labor to make that decision then, why isn't it the right decision now?

KIERAN GILBERT:

OK, from here, I know this is an area that you know well as you said earlier- you worked with Noel Pearson  who is a great leader- indigenous leader- and has made such a wonderful contribution. Where to from here though to make this viable, to close the gap with respect to, but maintaining respect to the ancient links to the land that our first peoples have?

ALAN TUDGE:

Kieran as you know our key focus is to ensure that kids are in school, adults are working and communities are safe because when you've got those three ingredients then people have capacity to make decisions and to take advantage of all of the opportunities which are available to you and me and other Australians.

KIERAN GILBERT:

It's very sensitive isn't it? It's very sensitive to the links to the land as you know and you know this very well, better than most, it's such a sensitive area. How do you manage that?

ALAN TUDGE:

As I said before, connection to land is very important for many people but at the same time it's hard to maintain a strong culture if people aren't educated. So I support this view- or Noel Pearson's view- of orbiting, of people being connected to their land but also orbiting for work and coming back, or orbiting for education and then coming back to their land. In many cases I think that's the only viable, strong option for people to both be educated and have that connection to land.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Alan Tudge I appreciate your time and your reaction to that, thanks very much.

ALAN TUDGE:

Thanks very much Kieran.

[ENDS]