28 July 2016 - Territory Labor is disappointed that adequate consultation has not taken place with Territorians, in particular Indigenous organisations and the Territory’s Youth Justice sector.
Given the real fears of many in the community that the involvement of the current CLP Government will compromise the independence of the Royal Commission, it is inappropriate for the NT Government to be involved in the drafting of the terms of reference, the selection of the Commissioner and the administration of the Royal Commission.
If elected, Labor will fully co-operate with the Royal Commission but will not seek to have any involvement in its administration.
The Royal Commission must provide a roadmap for youth justice which focuses on early intervention, prevention and rehabilitation and the reduction of the incarceration of young people in the Northern Territory.
Media contact: Gino Luglietti – 0401 119 794
Shadow Minister for Child Protection, Lauren Moss, today said the CLP Government continues to fail in delivering responsive and appropriate standards of protection for our children.
“Territory kids are being let down by the CLP Government,” Ms Moss said.
“The most recent example is their failure to ensure the protection of a young woman in the care of the Department, who subsequently became pregnant to an older man who has since been charged.
“This incident has now been referred to Police and the Children’s Commissioner.
“This is the inevitable consequence of the CLP Government’s cuts to the child protection budget, high staff turnover nearing a staggering 25 per cent per annum, allegations of staff bullying, failure to meet agreed standards of face to face contact with kids in care and failure to maintain up to date care plans for all children in the child protection system.
“We also continue to see increasing notifications of child neglect and child abuse with an expected 400 more children requiring care in the next 12 months.”
Ms Moss said it is time for the CLP Government to get its priorities right.
“The CLP Government needs to build on the investment of the former Labor Government in Child Protection to ensure that the Territory does not go backwards in protecting our children,” Ms Moss said.
“The Chief Minister is happy to spend $30 million every year on spin for himself and the CLP Government while Departments and their staff work tirelessly, focusing on the need to reduce child neglect, to protect vulnerable children and to provide appropriate care for children under the care of the Department of Children and Families suffer cuts.
“Territory kids deserve better.”
Media contact: Cathryn Tilmouth 0427 500 667
Shadow Minister for Child Protection, Lauren Moss, today said as the Northern Territory’s first ever Children’s Commissioner, Dr Howard Bath, is farewelled as he exits the role, no indication has been made as to who will occupy this role in the future.
“Dr Howard Bath has worked tirelessly over six years for the safety and well being of vulnerable children in the Northern Territory,” Ms Moss said.
“Dr Bath, who trained as a clinical psychologist, has extensive experience which has included consultancy and training to address the needs of children and young people at risk prior to taking on this important role.
“He co-chaired the Board of Inquiry into the Child Protection System in 2009, and has been an exceptionally strong advocate during his time as Children’s Commissioner.
“It is clear that Dr Howard Bath is highly respected by his peers and I thank him for his continuing efforts to make a difference for our most vulnerable Territorians; children.”
Ms Moss said it was the Children’s Commissioner’s Annual Report in November this year which revealed the backlog of over 1,000 unresolved cases in the Child Protection System, a situation which requires urgent attention.
“The Commissioner provides important independent monitoring of the Child Protection System and notifications are on the rise,” Ms Moss said.
“It is important that the CLP Government make clear their intentions for recruiting to the role as a matter of priority, so that the sector can have certainty on this in the New Year.”
Leader of the Opposition Delia Lawrie has called on Chief Minister Adam Giles to urgently reinstate child protection and early intervention funding to address the child protection crisis.
“The number of child protection notifications falling through the cracks is at crisis levels, and on current trends will more than triple since the CLP were elected,” Ms Lawrie said.
“This follows savage CLP funding cuts that has seen massive job and capacity loss across the child protection system, critically at the important preventative end.”
“Latest figures indicate 1347 child protection notifications were not completed within the mandated 28 day timeframe in just the first six months of this financial year, up from 389 over the 12 months ending 30 June 2012.
“Every notification requires a response and it is not good enough for the Minister John Elferink to whitewash these numbers and suggest the problem is due to police over-reporting”
“The CLP have shown the have the wrong priorities. In just this year’s budget $8 million was cut from crucial prevention support services and the agency, while the Chief Minister added $30 million to his department and spends millions on self-promotion.
“The sector has seen significant funding cuts resulting in the loss of preventative programs.
“It has been reported 90 jobs have been lost from within the child protection system, and staff turn-over at 30 per cent, is creating a capacity crisis in the Children and Families Department.
“Caseload targets are 20 per worker, yet it was revealed in the Estimates process last year that under the CLP, some caseworkers had more than 50 cases to manage and no child protection office in the Territory met the target, a situation that has since likely worsened.
“The CLP have abandoned the recommendations of ‘Growing them Strong, Together’ report that focused on building child protection response capacity and early intervention and preventive programs, to prevent child abuse occurring and strengthen parenting support.
“Labor calls for an independent audit of child protection, including action on the ‘Growing them Strong, Together’ recommendations to address the current crisis.
“It is clear the Minister is not up to the job of protecting children when he states the core function of his agency is “the ambulance turning up at the crash scene.” *
(*) John Elferink MLA, Parliamentary record, 10 June 2014
Media contact: Louise Connor 0438 241 211
17 December 2015 - Labor today wholeheartedly welcomed NTCOSS’ vision for a coordinated service system to promote child and family wellbeing.
“We congratulate the NGO sector in working together over an 18 month period to develop a framework that supports the wellbeing of children and families through early intervention and prevention support,” said Lauren Moss.
“The NGO sector has shown real leadership in developing a framework which reflects contemporary childhood development evidence and has considered the recommendations of numerous inquiries and reviews of child protection, health and disability services in the Northern Territory.”
Lauren Moss said Labor is committed with working in partnership with the NGO sector to achieve better outcomes for Territory children.
“Territory Labor recognises the importance of investing in universal health and education programs for all children aged 0-4 years and targeted services for vulnerable children and families to divert individuals and families away from child protection and justice systems,” said Lauren Moss.
“Labor’s Early Childhood policy paper Changing the Future released in August has already committed to re-organising Government’s focus to support each and every child to start school on an equal playing field.
“Establishing a Minister for Children and investing in pre-school programs, parenting support, improved universal health services, increasing our Aboriginal workforce, and NGO support for vulnerable families are key initiatives that Territory Labor will pursue.
“The great enabler for Labor’s policy plans is housing, that’s why Labor has outlined an extensive billion dollar program to improve housing and wellbeing for all Territorians.”
View or download a copy of Territory Labor’s policy paper on Early Childhood here: http://tinyurl.com/pjuee65
View or download a copy of Territory Labor’s policy paper on Remote Housing here: http://tinyurl.com/nq63eq3
Media Contact: Gino Luglietti 0401 119 794
10 November 2015 - Shadow Attorney General and Shadow Justice Minister, Lynne Walker, said today that the Territory’s youth justice system continues to lurch from crisis to crisis.
“This is the third relocation of youth detainees in a year, which will yet again lead to another budget blowout for the Youth Justice system,” Ms Walker said.
“This latest crisis is not about difficult detainees, this is about a system that is not working – not for the youths detained, not for staff and not for the community.
“Just this year, the Alice Springs Youth Detention Centre received over $200,000 in works to install a 4 meter high anti-climb mesh fence and an electronic fence on and over the new mesh fence.
“Despite this, three youth escaped last month climbing over the fence.
“Earlier this year, the Vita report made damning findings and recommendations about the Alice Springs facility, including that there were ‘non-existent, outdated and inadequate detention centre procedures and standard operating procedures at Don Dale, Holtze and Alice Springs YDC’s’…. ‘and that their procedures manual had not been updated since 2009’.
“CLP ideology is to lock people up first and ask questions later. The latest 2014/15 annual report shows this. In 2015 the Government has budgeted for the daily average of youth detainees to increase from an average of 41 to 100 youths detained at any one time.
“By contrast, John Elferink is failing in the areas we know to work in youth justice:
“Young people in the justice system hold the best prospects for rehabilitation, but this is not possible 1,500 kilometers from home and family and the social and health supports needed to successfully turn their lives around.
“It’s not good enough for the Minister for Corrections to cry legacy issues. This is the one portfolio that has not had a revolving door of Ministers as part of the CLP Government’s own chaos.
“Minister Elferink needs to be accountable for this latest decision in a string of bad decision making. Minister Elferink needs to explain what is really going on in youth justice.”
Media Contact: Gino Luglietti 0401 119 794
***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***
I rise today to speak on behalf of the thousands of Territorians who know they deserve a better Government.
Territorians deserve a Government with integrity and a Chief Minister that they can trust.
A Government that understands education is the key to unlocking the potential we all share.
A Government that has a plan to create and secure safe, high wage jobs for all Territorians.
A Government that invests in delivering health services right across the Territory because it’s the fair and decent thing to do.
And a Government that trusts and respects local decision making.
Labor is the party of jobs, growth, health and education.
We share the confidence of Territorians about our future and the determination to tackle the many challenges that lie ahead.
Today I will outline the values that would underpin the Labor Government I want to lead, and begin to give shape to some of the key policies we will develop with Territorians over the next 16 months.
These values will underpin Labor budgets.
We will listen to the aspirations of Territorians, and channel their ingenuity and creativity into strong policies for good government.
We look forward to having this mature conversation.
Restoring Integrity to Government
Territorians want and deserve a Government they can trust.
An open, accountable and transparent Government is essential for this trust to exist.
Without confidence in the integrity of public officials and without confidence in Government processes, it will not be possible for the Territory to meet the considerable challenges that we face and to grasp the opportunities that we share.
Not only is open government the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.
Open Government and the trust that it builds is the bedrock for the partnerships and collaboration we need as a community to improve the lives of all Territorians.
It is the only way we take advantage of modern technology and find new ways of connecting, engaging and organising Government.
Open and accountable government is a core Labor value.
That’s why we passed the Territory’s first ever Freedom of Information laws and introduced the first budget estimates process.
When the CLP came to power in 2012, they inherited the most open and transparent system of Government in the Territory’s history.
... and they have trashed it every day since.
Territorians do not trust this Chief Minister or his Government and hold no faith in the political institutions which are supposed to serve them.
Trust is critical in this budget, as it has been framed by the Chief Minister and the Treasurer. And they are asking Territorians to trust them to deliver the services Territorians need.
But they cannot- there is a trust deficit between this CLP Government and Territorians.
And there is a trust deficit between the Chief Minister and his colleagues.
The Member for Araluen said, and I quote:
“I have no faith in a government led by Adam Giles. I have stated publicly that I believe Adam Giles has no integrity. I stand by that statement. That alone is enough to mean he should not hold a position of community leadership.”
She went on to say:
“In addition to having no faith in the Chief Minister, I have no faith in the Treasurer, nor do I believe he is an appropriate person to be a leader in our community.”
Removing the stain this lack of integrity has left across our body politic requires a new approach to governing the Territory.
An approach that restores integrity, shines light on the processes of government and regains the community’s trust in our public officials and government.
Labor has begun to outline how we would begin this task in Government.
On coming to office Labor will introduce an independent body to deal with allegations of corruption, a body at arms lengths from politicians and public officials.
It will be called the Northern Territory Anti-corruption Commission.
This body will be structured to suit Territory circumstances.
My colleagues and I will seek input from Territorians into its shape and practice.
A body such as this is now an important feature of jurisdictions around the country except the Northern Territory- and this is a situation that should not continue.
I have publicly outlined reforms to overseas travel by Ministers.
To restore public trust in Ministerial travel a Labor Government will ensure that:
This is surely a basic set of rules that any government committed to accountability would undertake. Only a Government allergic to accountability would object to these rules.
The community must have confidence that all Territorians are treated without fear or favour by Government, and that the resources of Government are always employed in the public interest. They have the right to know that their dollars are being spent properly.
We will have further to say in the coming months about how we intend to restore integrity to Government and we look forward to discussing and refining our plans with Territorians.
Labor believes that education and training are the most important keys to changing people’s lives.
Unlike the CLP, we will invest in them.
Invest in the knowledge, creativity and ingenuity of Territorians. This is the best insurance in a complex, uncertain and volatile world.
And it’s the only way we can hope to fulfil our potential as a community.
My government will create a world class education system.
It will be planned in consultation with the educational experts we have and the community as a whole.
It will be long term. It will be a long journey and it will take time. We acknowledge that there are no quick fixes in education.
We will ensure good evaluation processes are also in place.
Investing in education today requires patience to see the results but we will make that investment.
The focus of our investment will be in our schools.
This government has made a lot of mistakes but none has been graver or more damaging to the future of our community than the attack on Territory schools.
I see it in every school council that I attend, every assembly, every event.
My colleagues and I hear it in the anxiety expressed to us by parents, teachers and principals.
Schools feel battered.
Educators feel they have borne the main brunt of every cut the government has made.
The CLP has ripped $82 million in real term from Government education since 2012.
The latest CLP budget cuts $7.5 million from Pre Schools and cuts $12 million from Primary schools.
Mr Speaker, this must stop.
I will detail Labor’s plans for investment in schools over the coming months.
I will do so in consultation with educators, students and parents.
In addition to investing in our schools Labor will be investing in knowledge, science and creativity right across the community, economy and at all stages of peoples life – before school, pre and primary school, secondary school, university, training and lifelong learning.
But I intend to define the next Labor Government by its commitment to the children of the Northern Territory.
The years between birth and four years of age are the most crucial in determining future educational, health and social achievement.
Get it wrong in these years and the impact can be life-long.
Get it right and the impact WILL be life-long.
I intend to lead a government that heavily invests in our youngest Territorians.
Just as our government, public service, non-government organisations and community come together to meet challenges such as cyclones I will bring the Territory together to address the future of our children.
It will be done collaboratively, in partnership with parents, educators, non-government organisations and service providers.
It will be done through engaging the Australian Government.
Labor will have a detailed, integrated, whole of government policy that drives our support for children.
This early childhood policy will have the goal of ensuring that on day one of term one of year one at school every child is able to learn, ready to learn and given the chance to unlock their potential.
This policy will work to support all children across the Territory.
It will ensure that those children who begin life behind due to social circumstances will be picked up and supported.
We will ensure that those who don’t reach the benchmarks by age 4 continue to get the support they need in the following early years.
It will also ensure that those who begin life comfortable, loved, protected and supported have the support to excel.
Investing in this stage of Territorians’ lives is the only way we will start to turn around the crime figures, educational disengagement, poor health, anti-social behaviour and substance abuse that confronts our community.
It is not just an investment in the future of those children, it is an investment in the future harmony, cohesion and productivity of our society.
It is a long term challenge.
And it will be hard.
But it is the right thing to do and Labor will do it.
This package will form a centre piece of our policy work over the next 12 months.
Among many other things it will see increased investment in the Families as First Teachers policy, another Labor success story.
It will ensure that all government agencies act together in a joined up way.
It will remove the silos between health and education and will focus on the child and their needs.
And we will work seamlessly with all levels of Government.
I look forward to detailing the elements of this policy in the future.
The right to be healthy and to be able to access quality health services is a core Labor value – Labor in the Northern Territory and Federally has a strong track record of delivering better health services.
From delivering Medicare and saving it from attacks at the Commonwealth level, to building the Alan Walker Cancer centre, securing funding for the Palmerston Hospital and investing expanding health services in the bush, Labor stands for healthier Territorians.
Investing in healthier Territorians is also the corner stone of a smarter, more prosperous and more harmonious community.
The 2015 Budget fails the health test.
We know that health costs rise higher than inflation. You really need to put in around 7% extra every year just to keep pace.
Last year the Government spent $70 million on primary health care last year. This year they are budgeting $64 million.
Our Top End Hospitals have been cut by $4m.
When you combine this budget with proposed slashing of Federal funding to this critical area there must be alarm about the support for health services.
The Federal government’s shift in hospital funding from an activity-based model that recognises the reality of health needs across the Territory, to a population based model with our funding determined by numbers is a bad, bad decision especially for the Territory.
I have outlined Labor’s approach to shifting the long term effort by investing in Territory children. We must tackle the causes of ill-health before it reaches our health clinics and hospitals.
In the meantime I expect Government to get on with the job of providing decent health services and building the Palmerston Hospital, hospital construction that would be well underway under a Labor Government.
The CLP has missed every deadline for the Palmerston Hospital.
Labor wants the government to get on with its promise of an upgrade to the existing children’s ward. We have seen little progress on this front.
Similarly we have seen no progress in the development of a new private hospital in Alice Springs, as promised by the CLP.
There is no progress in securing new funding for additional aged care beds, especially in Darwin, to help provide adequate services for our ageing population and reduce bed block in RDH
No movement on the CLP promise of a new Katherine hospital.
No progress in improving morgue facilities in the bush.
Critically we see continuing delays in the CLP accepting $10 million dollars in new federal funding for support of renal patients in the bush.
There have been five ministers for health. And this constant rotation and distraction has removed attention from the work required to get the health job done.
The CLP need to just get on with the job.
The most vulnerable Territorians deserve so much better from their Government.
Empowering local decision making
How we empower people living in the bush is an important decision for government.
Labor has listened to Territorians in the bush and in Government we will restore local decision making to the people on the ground.
A Labor Government will work with community members, the Chief Magistrate, magistrates and the legal profession to allow local courts to hold community courts where appropriate.
Under this model senior local community members will be invited to assist the court with sentencing. This will help empower community members to participate more fully in the justice system.
This will be a significant formal advancement on the informal arrangements some magistrates and community leaders already have that properly recognises the importance of traditional leadership and decision making.
We recognise every community is different and any move to change current arrangements will be done in careful consultation with communities.
In coming months we will make further announcements regarding restoring local decision to Territorians living in the bush.
Jobs and Training
Securing safe, well-paying jobs has been the Labor ethos for the 124 years of our existence.
Ensuring that our economy is strong and providing jobs and that people are skilled and ready to take them on is at the core of Labor’s values.
We have a solid record of driving training and job creation.
We have delivered major projects against the odds.
We delivered large infrastructure budgets focussed on supporting small and medium sized businesses as well as large projects because we acknowledge that they are the life blood of jobs across the Territory.
However, investing in infrastructure alone is not enough. Government’s need to invest in training so that Territorians can reap the benefit of the jobs that have been created.
One of the most important tasks a Government can undertake is to transition a student from school to a job or an unemployed person from unemployment to work.
In Government Labor will re-introduce Jobs Plans that focus on strategies to provide strong jobs growth and set clear jobs and training targets. That plan will be developed in partnership with industry, unions, investors and the community.
But critically, that plan will be backed up by a training plan that develops and skills Territorians from school age through their life.
The development of the Northern Territory will be hampered if we do not invest in training.
Labor will train Territorians to take on the jobs created by economic growth. Territorians must benefit from the riches produced by growth. Our priority will be to ensure that local people, as much as possible, benefit from the available jobs.
I went to school in the Territory, university in the Territory, got a job in the Territory and I want other Territory kids to have the same opportunity.
To achieve this Labor will invest in vocational learning and vocational education and training in our schools.
70 per cent of Territory students transition from school to a job or further training at the end of their 12 years of education.
We will ensure that those young people are supported by providing the opportunity for them to gain skills they need.
We will bring our schools, industry and business together to ensure that these pathways to the workforce and into the economy are clear and supported.
I believe that planning is essential for the post INPEX construction Territory economy.
We are already seeing the effects of this reality. In its budget yesterday the Government sought to diversify the economy.
I support this approach.
What is required is a sensible plan, created together with the business community and clearly articulated to Territorians.
The Chief Minister has to give up his addiction to thought bubble policies and quick fix deals.
The future economic growth of the Territory depends on proper planning.
I know that there are jobs to be created in the pastoral and rural industries.
There is no doubt that the efforts of successive governments in creating strong overseas live cattle trade markets as well as the growth in demand for meat by the growing middle class of Asia provides a shining opportunity for our beef industries.
Government must continue to cultivate those markets and I support the efforts by the Deputy Chief Minister to do so.
Importantly Government must have the infrastructure in place to ensure that the beef industry can get its product to markets- and that is through better roads and improved port infrastructure.
Roads are vital to all areas of the economy and continued investment in roads will have a strong push from a Labor Government.
However, unlike the CLP, we will not be driving the expansion of the Port by selling it or selling a lease. Our recent study of Ports shows there is an alternative approach.
Beyond the beef industry the rural sector in general provides strong opportunities. I understand the significant work that is being done to develop horticulture in Central Australia. This is particularly the case with new industries such as almonds.
Work is also being done in the west of the Territory linking us to the Ord project.
Labor supports the work being done by the people engaged with the Developing the North program. This combined public sector and industry approach is a good one.
Strengthening the tourism sector, developing the relationship with Asia, supporting the expansion of the mining industry and ensuring that our red tape is not a hindrance to development has been a bipartisan approach for decades. This will not change.
We may disagree from time to time about some of the elements but Labor believes in jobs and development and we clearly demonstrated that in government.
In looking at these larger industries we cannot ignore smaller industries including important micro industry development in indigenous communities.
Labor supports the work being done to develop community based fisheries industry across the Top End.
Territory Labor also has a strong record of protecting and looking after workers through appropriate conditions and safeguards – including a fair and decent workers compensation scheme.
Territorians injured and incapacitated deserve fair and just compensation.
It’s the fair thing to do. It’s the decent thing to do. It’s the Labor thing to do.
The efforts by the CLP to water this down through the changes to the Territory workers compensation scheme passed just weeks ago will be repealed by a Labor Government.
Today’s budget, especially the fiscal position of the Government is not the result of planned economic management by the Country Liberals.
It is about spending the returns achieved by selling off the TIO.
This is the same approach that the Government will take to other Territory assets and it is not supported by the Labor Party.
Selling off the silver ware has never worked as a strategy for proper economic management.
It certainly does not get to the underlying issues that Territorians struggle with each day.
The Government’s fiscal position going forwarded is also predicated on GST figures that I would best describe as vulnerable.
Should Western Australia get its way or the national mood on the GST carve up change then those very minimal surplus figures are unlikely to be achieved.
The 2015 budget indicates our GST position shifted negatively due to population decreases. Population growth is predicted to be slow.
This will damage our fiscal position over time and says to me that the Government needs to have a strategy in place to attract more people to live and work in the Territory as a matter of urgency.
One of the key underlying reasons why we are losing population is because of the cost of living, especially the cost of power.
The budget has failed to address this.
It has failed to reduce crime by 10% every year.
It’s failed to provide the promised infrastructure in bush communities. It lacks the innovation required to address the growing public housing waiting lists.
This all stands in stark contrast to the push by CLP Ministers to travel in high class around the world.
We’ve seen the Minister for Health spend $45 000 and six weeks in the United States while the child protection system crumbles around him.
We’ve had the Minister for Education jet between London, New York and Honolulu, at a time when he has cut the budget to schools.
And we’ve seen the Minister for Housing spend $50 000 living it up at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, while she depletes the Territory’s public housing stock, and breaks her commitment to deliver housing in remote communities.
Nothing could paint a clearer picture of the CLP Government’s priorities than this obscene waste of taxpayers’ money.
Territorians know they deserve better.
Madam Speaker, the Territory has a bright future.
We are a place of incredible opportunity.
But we also face many challenges.
Only a government with the right values and the right priorities can work with Territorians to meet these challenges and opportunities.
Territorians cannot afford an arrogant and untrustworthy CLP Government, focused on themselves and more interested in junkets overseas than investment in jobs, health and education.
Labor can restore trust in Government.
Labor will invest in Territory children.
Labor will invest in jobs, health and education.
We will listen and consult as we develop the policies Territorians want and the Territory needs.
We look forward to continuing this conversation with Territorians as we work together to build a better future for all.