SKY News AM Agenda

Release Date: 
30 July 2020

Annelise Nielson A new National Agreement on Closing the Gap is being released today, bringing the government and Aboriginal groups together to change housing, early childhood and justice outcomes. Joining us live now is Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt. Ken Wyatt, thank you for your time.

Ken Wyatt You're welcome Annelise.

Annelise Nielson What's changed now from the previous Closing the Gap targets?

Ken Wyatt Well, the previous Closing the Gap targets are still built within our thinking. This is about building a stronger and better life for Indigenous Australians and health - the expansion to sixteen. But is being done in conjunction with Aboriginal people, it's been co-designed between the Commonwealth, Indigenous peak organisations, and state and territory governments, and that's what the critical difference is.

Annelise Nielson For those who've been following the targets closely, many of them have been largely unmet up until this point, what's there to change this and make it not just another instance of having more targets that we don't need after this?

Ken Wyatt I think the difference is the intent of the targets developed by Tom Calma and the group that he had with him and being adopted by Kevin Rudd did work to achieve outcomes, and outcomes were incremental. But what was left out was the important ingredient of having Aboriginal people see it and negotiate paragraph by paragraph, and for states and territories to endorse it, to accept responsibility, to be accountable, and they themselves will report in their own parliaments. The peak organisations will report on their success in achieving these targets, so the collective approach will be very different to where it was just the Commonwealth reporting. And I think the other thing that's critical in this is we will look at the targets, identify what needs to be done better, how it will be done, how existing resources can be utilised, and then what are the additional levels of commitment that will need to be given?

Annelise Nielson When we talk about Indigenous incarceration rates as well, that's very firmly at a state level. Do you expect that there will be strong reform in that area?

Ken Wyatt Well, given the last meeting in particular when we went through the final agreement, the ministers sitting around that table committed to achieving all of those targets, now they know there are challenges. WA, for example, has removed the legislation for which the outcome was that if you had a bench warrant for an outstanding fine, you were incarcerated, they have altered that legislation so that will have an immediate effect for WA. But I know that there is another jurisdiction considering options in respect to another matter that will also see a reduction so states will turn to what it is they can do to alleviate the pressure points, but look at other options that have better outcomes. And it also means that we will see mothers not being incarcerated and taken away from their children. So I think that we will watch this evolve because we do have a monitoring process that is ongoing and every three years we will review what we're delivering in respect to each of the targets and what we need to then consider about what change is needed to gain a better outcome.

Annelise Nielson And in that example, you've mentioned of mothers being taken away from their children, one of the issues has been that women reporting domestic violence against themselves have gone to police for help and then end up incarcerated because they have an outstanding fine against them.

Ken Wyatt And that's been an important change for WA, because what we have to think about is a mother is often the bedrock of any family, and that's not just detracting from men as fathers. But what's important is we've seen a jurisdiction make that choice and take the positive steps and amend their legislation. So all of these factors contribute to a better life outcome because children need stability around them. And when you look at the targets, all of them are premised on a better outcome in life, even incarceration rates. If we get the foundation in the early years right, and we have a solid start in the first eight years of a child's life, then evidence shows they are less likely to end up in the pathway to recidivism, to incarceration and to the downsides in life because they are better placed to take the journey through to tertiary studies and into employment or economic development, whatever, opportunities prevail. And we're seeing that with a number of young Indigenous Australians who have established businesses, they have been highly successful.

Annelise Nielson Is today's announcement in response to the Black Lives Matter rallies?

Ken Wyatt No, no, no. Look, if we take 10 years ago, Tom Calma starting this work, and then just over two years ago, the then Minister Nigel Scullion meeting with the group at Redfern based on the Redfern statement, that journey began then. And it has always been at the forefront of our thinking around the way in which we would engage with Aboriginal people. The former Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said we are going to do things with Aboriginal people, not to them. And equally, Prime Minister Morrison said, we will now address the issues around how we partner better with Indigenous Australians. And that's been demonstrated in all of this, negotiating to the point that we have and the agreement encapsulates the partnership, listening to the voices of Indigenous leadership, but equally state and territory and Commonwealth governments coming together along with the Australian Local

Government Association, to achieve better outcomes for Indigenous Australians over the coming decades.

Annelise Nielson And just finally, you're a West Australian, there's a bit of a border battle heating out with Clive Palmer's High Court case. Do you think that this should go ahead with the federal government's support to pressure W.A. to reopen the border?

Ken Wyatt Look, I think if you just take the point of Clive Palmer has challenged the WA border closure. He's taking it through the court processes. I'm a Western Australian, the closed borders have meant that we've not had outbreaks of coronavirus in the way in which I see my fellow Australians in Victoria and New South Wales experiencing. I really feel for the Victorians because listening to those figures today means that that virus is having a greater impact. And WA has not had that, the majority of ours have been from people who've flown in from overseas, they've been quarantined, or those who've come in on ships. Locally we feel very confident about our lifestyle and the fact that we take extreme precautions and I still urge people to socially distance,wash their hands, and if you're ill, do not go to work and infect others.

Annelise Nielson Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, thank you for your time.