Shadow Attorney General Natasha Fyles today welcomed the Federal Government’s backflip on community legal service funding cuts but called on the CLP Government to do more to reverse other Federal funding cuts affecting Territory services.
“Public and legal sector pressure has forced the Federal Government to reverse legal funding cuts that would have risked Australian’s losing access to legal representation, including victims of domestic violence.
“The Federal Government recognised their mistake here and while the CLP joined the call to reverse legal aid funding, the CLP need to do more to force the reversal of other federal cuts that will see important services close across the Territory.
“The Federal funding cuts to the Environmental Defenders Office, which provides specialised community legal services to Territorians on environmental and planning laws, needs to be reversed.
“Despite the Australian Productivity Commission recognising the value of this service, the CLP has rolled over to federal funding cuts that will disadvantage Territorians, and also failed to fund the EDO despite other state governments doing so.
“The CLP also need to come clean on what it is doing to lobby the Federal government to reverse funding cuts to the Territory under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.
“Community pressure has seen CLP Senator Nigel Scullion finally release a list of organisations that received IAS funding, and surprisingly it reveals the NT Government is a beneficiary.
“Adam Giles hid the fact the NT Government even applied for funding, let alone what he money is for, and it begs the question, has the NT Government benefitted at the expense of Indigenous and community organisations and Indigenous jobs?”
“Organisations like the GREATS Youth Service at Maningrida, which delivers vital services, is facing closing its youth centre and ceasing programs because it has been hit with an 80 per cent cut to its Budget under the IAS cuts.
“GREATS is a successful community-driven service that has done significant work to reduce youth suicide. To lose this service would be a tragedy and a Government agency cannot replace a service with community connections.
“Adam Giles has broken every promise he’s made to the bush and the CLP Government has proven incapable of working with Indigenous Territorians to Close the Gap.
“Funding the CLP Government instead of Indigenous organisations makes a mockery of self-determination.”
Dramatic CLP changes to workers’ compensation in the Northern Territory will favour insurance company profits over the injured worker, Shadow Minister for Business Gerry McCarthy said.
The changes, first flagged on the day TIO was sold to Allianz last November, are being debated in the legislative assembly today.
“The changes will see many Territory workers no longer under the workers’ compensation scheme because the definition of an employee has changed.” Mr McCarthy said.
“The CLP government’s new scheme will abandon Territory workers and won’t help promote safe workplace practices. It will promote more litigation with injured workers pitted against their employer in a true definition of a worker.
“The current scheme is a ‘no-fault’ scheme providing for the rehabilitation and compensation of injured workers and funded on this basis since 1987.
“The amendments now introduce a 5 year limit for payments and a 6 year limit for medical or other costs for injured workers.
“Only a handful of workers will meet the very high bar – over 15% of what’s termed ‘whole person impairment’ - to be able to continue receiving payments and support,” Mr McCarthy said.
“A childcare worker or nurse who’s severely injured their back and needs spinal fusion requiring multiple surgeries over many years, only gets to 14%.
“Under these amendments, their compensation payments end after five years, with no future medical costs paid a year later.
“A crane operator who suffers knee injuries and can’t climb a ladder or walk up any kind of mild gradient, still injured after 5 years, will be cut off.
“The CLP’s government’s new amendments ignore ongoing psychological or psychiatric effects of being injured, completely denying justice for the worker.
“We applaud the firefighters in their long campaign to have occupational cancers covered by workers’ compensation.
“Well done, you’ve finally got what you deserve.
“Territory Labor has given a commitment that, if elected, we will amend the Act that limits claims to firefighters contracting cancer within 10 years’ of their last shift.
Territorians are feeling the pain of a divided, chaotic CLP as urban crime spikes and regional and remote communities face jobs and services cuts, Shadow Minister for Government Accountability Natasha Fyles said today.
“Adam Giles is out of touch with the crime wave hurting Territorians as he continues to ridiculously maintain crime is reducing," Ms Fyles said.
“While the CLP Chief Minister exists on a bubble of denial his colleagues are breaking ranks.
“The Member for Greatorex, Matt Conlan, has seen the writing on the wall and announced he will retire at the next election.
“The Member for Araluen Robyn Lambley yesterday predicted Adam Giles will not lead the CLP at the election."
Ms Lambley has kept open the prospect of standing as an Independent at the next election.
“The Tiwi Islanders are confirming Adam Giles is looking for someone to run for the CLP instead of his own Member for Arafura Francis Xavier Kurrupuwu," Ms Fyles said.
"The CLP continues to brawl with Kezia Purick and John Elferink in a public spat over the Bees Creek backflip.
“With all this chaos, the CLP Govenment is failing to protect basic services from Canberra cuts and denies an urban crime wave."
Ms Fyles said the CLP failures pile up while they continue infighting.
The CLP are continuing to fail miserably when it comes to law and order for the residents of Darwin and Palmerston with crime on the increase, said Shadow Minister for Police Lynne Walker.
The latest crime statistics show assaults in Darwin are now up 12.5% with motor vehicle theft up 35.1% in Darwin and up 52.5% in Palmerston.
The news just gets worse with house break-ins in Darwin up 64.8% and 56.95% in Palmerston where commercial break-ins are up a staggering 102.5%.
“These figures are higher than the Christmas crime wave and Darwin and Palmerston residents are rightly asking what the CLP is doing to stop this out of control crime.
“We know TBLs have had some impact in lowering crime statistics but they are not sustainable and what is also clear is that drinkers are heading up the Stuart highway to avoid the TBLs in Katherine and Tennant Creek.
“The CLP cannot ignore the recommendations of the bipartisan report of the Senate Inquiry into domestic and family violence which recommends the reinstatement of the Banned Drinkers’ Register,” Ms Walker said.
A Territory Parliamentary Committee into the prevention of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder recommended further analysis be undertaken on Temporary Beat Locations and the Banned Drinker Register and to implement personal point of sale restrictions.
“Police, including highly trained members of the Tactical Response Group, need to be able to get back to the police work they were trained to do to keep communities safe and catch criminals, not being bouncers outside licensed premises at TBLs.”
Once again residents of our cyclone vulnerable communities, including major towns and homelands along our northern coast, are taking shelter from cyclonic winds or having to be evacuated to a safer place, Labor Member for Nhulunbuy said today.
“Our thoughts with all these Territory families, particularly the aged and young children who again have to shelter from a dangerous cyclone, uncertain as to their well-being and what they will find after cyclonic winds abate,” Ms Walker said.
“This is a particularly stressful time for residents in many Top End communities experiencing the same fear and uncertainty they felt just a few weeks ago.
“We thank again all the emergency services, local organisations and residents working together to make sure people are safe and ready so that recovery operations can commence as soon as it is safe to do so.
“It is also time for the Giles government to be clear on what it is doing in terms of new housing and repairs to community infrastructure following Cyclone Lam at Galiwin’ku, Ramingining, Milingimbi, Gapuwiyak and surrounding homelands.
“That includes funding for more cyclone shelters and necessary improvements to existing shelters.
“At Galiwin’ku alone over 250 adults and children continue to be housed in a temporary tent accommodation set up for 8 weeks use. These families need certainty about their future housing and that should be a key priority of the Giles government.
“We have heard a lot from Housing Minister Bess Price about the amount of damage caused to public housing by Cyclone Lam but very little about actual plans and a real commitment to fast track housing repairs and replacement.
“Schools at Milingimbi and Ramingining also require urgent work to replace damaged class rooms and ensure all school programs can continue as they should, especially important programs focusing on early childhood learning and development.
“Territorians are once again showing their strength and resilience, working together to keep people safe as well as quickly responding to damage in the first important weeks after being hit by Cyclone Lam.
“But now they look to the Giles government to be clear on what action they are taking to ensure long term recovery, permanent housing for displaced families and strengthening of community safety.”
The CLP government needs to explain why it has taken so long to commence the criminal investigation into former NT Police Commissioner John McRoberts.
They must also assure the public that the memorandum of understanding and terms of reference are broad enough to cover the serious allegations made by Chief Minister Adam Giles in early February, Labor’s Shadow Minister for Police Lynne Walker said today.
“I am alarmed to hear that the criminal investigation can’t start because the government hasn’t drawn up the paperwork,” she said.
“I’m also concerned that the terms of reference won’t be wide enough to investigate the CLP’s involvement or receive the evidence that Adam Giles said he’d collected when he raised very serious allegations about senior police and CLP politicians colluding to damage him.
“Adam Giles has undermined public confidence in the criminal justice system and has made public comments which tarnish our hard working police men and women.
“He promised to hold a Judicial Inquiry into these serious matters but walked away from that undertaking.
“Media reports yesterday indicated that the Police Minister, Peter Chandler is confused about the arrangements.
“This is just more dysfunction from an incompetent government.”
“Peter Chandler needs to confirm that the memorandum of understanding and the terms of reference for the investigation are wide enough to capture all the allegations made by the Chief Minister.”
“Has the Chief Minister referred all the evidence he says he has to the AFP – emails, phone records, text messages to find out – in his own words ‘who knew what, when’?”
The CLP Government should implement the findings of a Senate Inquiry and immediately reintroduce the Banned Drinkers Register to protect women and children from domestic and family violence, Shadow Women’s Policy Minister Lynne Walker said today.
Ms Walker said the Senate Inquiry sitting in Darwin last week heard compelling evidence from witnesses that the BDR worked to reduce alcohol-related violence against women.
“The Inquiry’s interim report has recommended the BDR be reinstated after hearing horrific stories from frontline services dealing with the Territory’s appalling rates of violence.
“We know the BDR was effective at tackling alcohol-related domestic and family violence.
“The fact is that Temporary Beat Locations provide a false sense of security when it comes to reducing domestic and family violence,” Ms Walker said.
“TBLs aren’t a permanent solution and there is growing anecdotal evidence of black market sales in towns like Alice Springs and Tennant Creek.
“Anecdotal evidence suggests hardcore drinkers are also being pushed up the track into Darwin and Palmerston.
“We need to be looking at a suite of complementary measures to make women and children safer and I call on CLP Minister Bess Price to take up the Senate Inquiry recommendations.
“If Minister Price is serious about making Territory women and children safer, and not just talking about it, she should be lobbying the Federal Government hard to restore funding to housing and homeless services, legal aid and increasing the capacity of services.
“And she should be going straight to the Chief Minister and telling him to reinstate the BDR.
“The women and children of the Northern Territory deserve to live in safety and the Senate Inquiry recommendations give Minister Price a clear path to make it happen.”
Shadow Minister for Indigenous Policy Ken Vowles has called on Chief Minister Adam Giles to stand up for Territory jobs and services and tell his Federal CLP colleague Nigel Scullion to reverse the Indigenous Advancement Strategy funding cuts.
“It would have been timely on National Close the Gap Day to have our only Indigenous head of government make a strong statement about the devastating impact of these cuts on our local community,” Mr Vowles said.
“But Adam Giles has again chosen to ignore Indigenous Territorians.
“He should be asking his close mate Senator Scullion to make public the list of organisations that have had their funding cut and those who have missed out altogether.
“We know hundreds of Territory Indigenous jobs are at risk and some organisations may have to close their doors.
“We should not have to wait for the findings of a Senate inquiry to find out exactly who has got what, who has missed out and the clear impact this will have on the Territory.
“Surely the Chief Minister is asking these questions because the NT Government may very well have to pick up the shortfall in some service delivery areas.
“The CLP has shown it has no ability nor interest to Close the Gap of Indigenous disadvantage in the Northern Territory.”
Media Contact: Peter Wellings 0428 832 825
Shadow Minister for Education Nicole Manison said the CLP Government education cuts have put more pressure on schools in 2015.
“Education Minister Peter Chandler promised no school would be worse off under global school budgets,” Ms Manison said.
“Instead, schools are dealing with more cuts because of the global school budget rollout.
“That means less teachers, less support staff, less programs and bigger classes under global school budgets.
“Many schools are now receiving their final budgets for the year ahead and are still having to deal with tough decisions on money, when we want them to be able to fully focus on education outcomes.
“The additional money that the government has allocated to try to smooth out the problems caused by global school budgets fell far short of covering the cuts.
“Most of the additional funding was to be allocated to special, middle and senior schools, despite many primary schools also experiencing shortfalls.
“New school councils have only just been established and they will have to work even harder to do more with less.
“The global school budgets policy roll-out has been a mess and has forced principals and school councils to make hard choices on what they would have to cut.
“Education is vital to the future of the Territory and needs strong support from government, not cuts by stealth.
“Labor is committed to investing in education and giving students, teachers and schools the support they need.”
Leader of the Opposition Delia Lawrie will travel to Timor Leste tomorrow for the official opening of a new hotel in Balibo and senior ministerial meetings.
The Balibo Fort Hotel is part of a project to restore the old Portuguese colonial fort built between 350 to 375 years ago.
In addition to visitor accommodation, the project includes a cultural centre and museum, a café and restaurant and visitor information centre.
“Balibo, situated close Timor Leste’s western border, was the last refuge of five Australian-based journalists employed by Channel 7 and Channel 9 who were killed on 16 October 1975 during the invasion," Ms Lawrie said.
“The hotel and visitor services will provide income, employment and training opportunities for the community. Profits are also returned to the community through the Balibo Trust."
Ms Lawrie acknowledged Australian investors who include the industry superannuation fund for journalists and media workers, Media Super, Channel 9, Network 7, the Harold Mitchell Foundation and Rotary Victoria.
"The restored fort and hotel will bring tourists to the region, which will provide a welcome boost for the local economy,” Ms Lawrie said.
During her visit to Timor Leste Ms Lawrie will travel with the Australian Ambassador Peter Doyle and meet with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Hernani Coelho, the Minister of Petroleum and Natural Resources, Mr Alfredo Pires, the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Mr Kalbuady Lay.
"The Northern Territory enjoys a wonderful relationship with Timor Leste - our closest neighbour," Ms Lawrie said.
"I have a strong and enduring relationship with the Territory Timorese community and look forward to strengthening people-to-people, tourism, business, cultural, administration, education, health and trade opportunities in the future."
Media contact: Louise Connor 0438 241 211