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Sunday Agenda -

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Interview with Labor Senator, Mark Arbib

Sky News Australian Agenda program, 19th September 2010

Peter Van Onselen: So what happened with Q&A when the Prime Minister's office pulled you from the
show?

Mark Arbib: It was a difficult time for obviously the Labor Party. At that stage we didn't know
whether we were going to be in government or not.

Peter Van Onselen: So therefore don't let Mark Arbib be in the public eye?

Mark Arbib: I had agreed earlier to go on the show, much earlier, weeks earlier. Unfortunately at
that time I think the program was going to analyse the campaign and go through every element of the
campaign. It was called I think CSI, so they were going to have an analytical look at it. Given we
didn't know we were in government at this stage, I got a call from the Prime Minister and she asked
me not to. Of course when the Prime Minister rings you and asks you to do something, you say yes.
So I did.

Patricia Karvelas: Do you agree with her assessment though?

Mark Arbib: Of course I do. In the end, the Prime Minister was right. It was a very, very tense
period at that time. She was moving into negotiations with the Independents, and of course what we
needed at that time was stability, and I agreed with that.

Peter Van Onselen: One of the things that we obviously are going to talk about to you in some depth
is this issue of Kevin Rudd being deposed. You were one of the so-called ringleaders who put the
knife into Kevin Rudd. How are you going to be able to work with him moving forward?

Mark Arbib: Kevin and I are both professionals. We're professional politicians. We've been around
for a long time, so we will work together. There is no doubt about that, just the same way as he'll
work with every member of the cabinet and every member of the ministry and the caucus, and I do the
same.

Patricia Karvelas: Senator Arbib, one of the criticisms, even in your own caucus and I've spoken
off campus to a lot of backbenchers about this, and one of them even raised it at your most recent
caucus meeting, was that Rudd was not given any warning. The job of a factional boss like yourself
is to take Rudd aside and say, look mate, this is not working out, there are massive problems in
the party, we're losing our profile. Why didn't you do that earlier? Why did it come as such a
shock to the Prime Minister that he was losing his job that night?

Mark Arbib: Well Patricia, this has been discussed ad nauseam. We have seen telephone books worth
of articles discussing these sort of issues.

Patricia Karvelas: But you haven't answered that question.

Mark Arbib: My position now is this, and I think this is something that most people in the Labor
Party agree with. We've got to get on with the job. We were elected by the Australian people into
government and now we've got to get on and actually deliver on our commitments. But also at the
same time we've got a responsibility to ensure that our program going forward meets up with the
expectations of the community. That's exactly what we're doing.

Patricia Karvelas: Do you think leaders like Julia Gillard in the future should be given warnings
when things are not going according to plan?

Mark Arbib: I think it is not helpful for the Labor Party to look back at that time and debate it
ad nauseam. What we need to do now . . .

Peter Van Onselen: . . . Can I jump in on this and ask, because we're in a new paradigm, Julia
Gillard has said that she wants to open the curtains and let the sun shine in. So let's do that on
this issue. Did you give Kevin Rudd warning ahead of that night or that week that things were going
astray and he needed to change?

Mark Arbib: Peter, I'm not going to go back and talk about conversations I may or may not have had
with the Prime Minister or any other ministers at that time. I don't think that's going to surprise
you. They're private conversations. For that reason, I'm not going to talk about it here. What we
need to do now though, just the same way as Tony Abbott said yesterday, we need to all start
looking at the future and getting on with our jobs. The Australian people are sick and tired of us
debating this ad nauseam. They want us to get on with it.

Paul Kelly: But as a senior caucus figure and faction leader, do you accept a degree of
responsibility for the change of leadership?

Mark Arbib: Of course I do. I accept responsibility not just for that, I accept responsibility for
elements of the campaign, elements of policy development; that's part of life when you are a
minister. You have to accept responsibility and I do that. I don't shirk it and I don't run away
from it. But the best way to analyse what happened in the campaign, and we should never forget, we
won the election, but the best way to analyse it is to actually do it properly through a review.
That's what the Prime Minister and that's what the National Secretary have said will happen - an
in-depth review going through the campaign period, but also looking at the two and a half years
period of government. There are obviously issues. The Prime Minister has said that, and you've got
to learn from that, you have to do a proper review based on analysis and evidence, not knee jerk
reaction, not trying to scapegoat people.

Paul Kelly: But do you also accept responsibility for the fact that the method of leadership change
and the consequences, all the leaks we saw at the start of the election campaign, almost cost Labor
the election? That this was a ham-fisted operation in so many ways?

Mark Arbib: Paul, let's have a look at what the review says. The review will go back and obviously
look at every element of the campaign and also our term in government. But at the same time as
that, let's not forget we have been able to get over the line. We have won government and now we've
got to get on with it, because Australian people are sick and tired of this.

Paul Kelly: Can I just ask you about Kevin Rudd? Have you had a recent discussion with Kevin Rudd,
the new Foreign Minister?

Mark Arbib: No, I haven't, Paul.

Paul Kelly: You haven't, why?

Mark Arbib: But Paul, can I tell you, our paths haven't crossed in terms of our portfolio areas.

Peter Van Onselen: Not since when?

Mark Arbib: Hang on, Peter. I'm happy to talk to Kevin and I'm sure I'll be working with him in
future. We both serve in the same caucus, we both serve in the ministry, and obviously there will
be areas in our portfolios where we will cross over.

Paul Kelly: But it's important for you to do this, isn't it?

Mark Arbib: Of course it is. But Paul, can I tell you, it's important for me and important for all
ministers to be working together and putting the national interest first. It's not about
self-interest; it's about ensuring that the national interest is served, and that's what I'll be
doing and I'm sure Kevin will be doing exactly the same.

Peter Van Onselen: Senator Arbib, part of working together is speaking to each other. I accept that
you won't divulge private conversations, but when was the last time you and Kevin Rudd had a
conversation?

Mark Arbib: Peter, I'm not going to go back and talk to you about conversations that may have
happened or may not have happened. You can ask that question a million times; I'm not going
backwards.

Peter Van Onselen: Sounds like it was so long ago that you may not remember!

Mark Arbib: Can I just say, I'll be very professional going forward in the future and I know Kevin
will be exactly the same.

Paul Kelly: Can I just ask you, do you think that this government can function effectively, given
the enormous tensions between Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd?

Mark Arbib: It definitely can function properly, and I've seen it already. You're seeing it
already. The Foreign Minister was already in Pakistan, already in the United States. I got
agreement out of the Prime Minister to . . .

Paul Kelly: . . . But you've also told us that ministers aren't talking to Kevin Rudd. You haven't
spoken to Kevin Rudd. How many other ministers haven't spoken to Kevin Rudd? What sort of
arrangement is this?

Mark Arbib: Paul, I don't know how many ministers have spoken to Kevin Rudd. He looked pretty happy
on the front of Government House, and he was talking to Senator Conroy and many of the other
ministers. So that's probably a question for Kevin and the other ministers. But can I tell you, we
will provide a stable government for the future. All of us in the Labor Party, all of us in the
ministry, know that we have to put our constituents first. This is not about self-interest; this is
about the national interest. We've been given a wonderful opportunity by the people of this country
to have a second term. We know we've got a lot of work to do and we're trying to get on with it.

Patricia Karvelas: Senator, on this I don't want to look back business, everyone knows you need to
look back to do things right in the future, and you need to do that beyond just a review. You say
people are bored by it, I don't think so at all. I've seen ordinary people raising this issue of
factional bosses and so-called faceless men. I think it's something that's really penetrated among
people who are beyond the political class. I'm asking this more as a concept moving forward, do you
think prime ministers need to have more open dialogues with their caucus in terms of their
performance, so that shocks like Kevin Rudd being deposed don't happen in the future? Is that
something you think that needs to change about the way you operate in terms of your relationship
with the Prime Minister?

Mark Arbib: The Prime Minister has said that there will be a more open relationship with caucus
members. She's said that in the media, so there's no doubt about that, and we need to ensure that
the caucus is fully involved in policy and fully involved in process of government. Can I just come
back to something you said, the issue about the faceless men. This is something that I take
personal issue with, because in the end let's just remember where this started. This started with
Tony Abbott who got up and talked about the faceless men of the Labor Party. I'm here today, I did
Sky Agenda I think for almost 12 months, every Monday morning, I do Lateline, I do Q&A, I've done
all those programs. I'm a member of the caucus. There is no faceless man here, and the same with
Bill Shorten. This is just a ridiculous line that's probably come out of a focus group from Tony
Abbott and has pervaded into the media and into the general community. But it is absolute rubbish.
Absolute rubbish. I just want to make sure people understand that.

Peter Van Onselen: Senator, there was a time when you had the ear of Kevin Rudd quite closely, you
were considered to be very close. But my understanding is that one of the reasons that Kevin Rudd
backflipped on the ETS was because people like yourself and Julia Gillard urged him to do so. Do
you see the irony that one of the things that cost him credibility and ultimately the leadership
was to backflip on something that the woman that ultimately took over from him, as well as one of
the key powerbrokers behind her ability to do that, had actually advised him to do?

Mark Arbib: Peter, I'm sure the issue of climate change and emissions trading will all get caught
up in the review that the party's undertaking. There's no doubt about that. It's a very important
part of the two and a half year history of the government. But I think we should never forget that
the Rudd government and the Gillard government have been the governments that have been committed
to fighting climate change. We were and I was in the senate when we voted for an emissions trading
scheme.

Peter Van Onselen: But you did advise the Prime Minister to dump it for political reasons, didn't
you?

Mark Arbib: Peter, I would never talk to you about what advice I provide any prime minister or any
other minister. That's just something I wouldn't do. But can I say to you, just think about what we
faced as a government, and I think people have forgotten parts of the dilemma we faced. After
Copenhagen obviously there was a change in some of the public's mindset about the issue of an
emissions trading scheme. But going forward into an election, there was no possibility of us
getting an emissions trading scheme through the senate. Tony Abbott had said he would oppose it. He
didn't believe in climate change, he said it was crap. At the same time as that, we couldn't get
agreement from the Greens and the Independents weren't supporting it either. So we faced a
difficult dilemma of having a policy that we could not get through the senate.

Peter Van Onselen: But these issues of whether you did or didn't advise Kevin Rudd about the ETS,
to dump it, about when he was spoken to, if at all, about his leadership going off the rails, you
don't want to talk about all of these things, but I don't believe they're going to go away unless
they are openly discussed. They are going to continue to dog the government as it does try and move
forward. Surely there is a time and a place where you need to discuss these issues so the public
knows what happened, so you will be given the clean air to move forward?

Mark Arbib: I am sure, and there are many people I know who are writing books all about this, so
this debate will go on. But I think it needs to be done from a party's perspective, analytically.
That's the best way to do that is through a review. But just moving forward on climate change, if
you care about global warming, if you want to actually fight climate change, then the only option
is through the Labor Party. The only option is with Julia Gillard. When you look at the policies we
took into the election, when you look at what we were doing in terms of renewables, connecting up
renewable energy plants to the grid through infrastructure, that's the sort of policies that we're
putting forward.

Paul Kelly: If we just take that point, does that mean that you would like to see this current
parliament legislate a carbon price? Would you like to see that?

Mark Arbib: Our policy on that is set and the Prime Minister made a number of comments during the
week about that. There is now a cross party committee that needs to sit down and start looking at
those issues in-depth. We've got to start building the consensus to move forward.

Paul Kelly: But would you like to see it? You've just been talking about how the Labor Party is the
only party you can look to for action on climate change. Given that statement you just made, would
you like to see the current parliament legislate a carbon price?

Mark Arbib: Paul, within the policy, yes, I would.

Paul Kelly: You would?

Mark Arbib: Of course. The Prime Minister has made this clear, we have a policy and we have targets
on that. But at the same time as that, I think the Labor Party wants to see a price on carbon.
There is no doubt about that and I personally want to see a price on carbon. The only way, the only
way to fight climate change is to act.

Paul Kelly: Are you frightened of Tony Abbott's campaign against a great big new tax? Do you think
Labor can combat that campaign in the coming parliament?

Mark Arbib: That's exactly why the Prime Minister is trying to build a consensus with the
Australian community with business and across the parliament.

Paul Kelly: But do you think Labor can combat the Abbott campaign?

Mark Arbib: Paul, that is exactly why the Prime Minister has set up these processes to build the
consensus, and that is the best way for us to combat the scare campaign that Tony Abbott will run.
And again, Paul, it is a scare campaign.

Paul Kelly: Last time Labor was intimidated by Abbott, it ran away from its policy.

Peter Van Onselen: And that's when you had a more popular Prime Minister than now, and better two
party . . .

Mark Arbib: . . . But again, it was futile, given the senate was going to block the legislation.

Patricia Karvelas: But hang on a minute . . .

Mark Arbib: . . . This is something that I have talked about before publically. I have said we had
Tony Abbott lining up with the Independents, with the Greens, to block the legislation. At the same
time as that, Tony Abbott running a scare campaign across the country. I mean these are things that
all governments and all political parties need to take into effect.

Patricia Karvelas: Sure, but you can certainly go to an election and say these guys are holding
this up, we believe in it, we went to the last election with it, support us.

Mark Arbib: But we did.

Patricia Karvelas: That's what called fighting for what you believe in, isn't it?

Mark Arbib: Patricia, we did say that. What we also did was put a pathway in towards an emissions
trading scheme or towards a price on carbon, and we did that and you've seen that through funding
for transmission, through funding for energy efficiency, also rewards for businesses that act
early. These are the areas that are a pathway to a price.

Patricia Karvelas: Alright, the electoral campaign and the climate debate, how about the citizens'
assembly? Do you think that was a mistake?

Mark Arbib: It's an important part of building up a consensus amongst the community and amongst the
parliament.

Peter Van Onselen: Did you know about it before it was made public?

Mark Arbib: I'm not going to go into what I knew or what I didn't know. What's important is that is
an element of what we are doing, building towards a price on carbon. At the same time as that, I
just want to remind people, that is only one element of what the government is doing under
renewable energy target.

Peter Van Onselen: Senator, if I can ask you, this issue of the election, you said to the Sunday
News Limited papers that the one thing that really matters and that drives the Labor right in NSW
is winning elections. Doesn't that just feed into the cynicism of voters that it's not about ideas
and policy?

Mark Arbib: In the end it's where you start. If you're in the Labor Party, then you've got a social
conscience.

Peter Van Onselen: I'd hope it's where you finish. I'd hope where you finish is trying to win the
election, but where you start is policy development and ideas.

Mark Arbib: Okay, so if you'll let me answer! Where you start as an individual, and if you join the
Labor Party, you've got a social conscience, you believe the government there is to try and lift
people up out of disadvantage. That's exactly where I come from. So in terms of to do that, the
only way to do that is to be in government. If you're in opposition, you're impotent. You can't
make changes to policy, you can't make changes to programs to improve people's lives. That's why I
got in the Labor Party, to actually make changes, to be a minister, to go out and implement
programs that are actually going to improve people's lives. That's why winning is so important.
There are millions of Australians, disadvantaged Australians, families who are relying on the Labor
Party, relying on us to do our job. That's why abolishing WorkChoices was so important. That's why
the childcare rebate was so important, the education tax rebate.

Peter Van Onselen: How do you make sure you don't lose the line though between winning in order to
implement, for example things like the ETS, or winning for the sake of winning because you want to
be in power?

Mark Arbib: That's the whole point I'm making. From the Labor Party's perspective, we are people
who actually believe in something. We have a social conscience and that is exactly why I'm in
parliament, and that's why it's important for us as a Labor Party to win elections, because party
members are relying upon us, but people, Australians are relying on us.

Patricia Karvelas: Senator Arbib, Julia Gillard said at that caucus meeting, where you were
obviously at that caucus meeting, that Labor has to renew it sense of purpose. Now where did you
lose that sense of purpose? And how are you going to find it?

Mark Arbib: In terms of sense of purpose, there are a number of areas that obviously we looked at
in the review, in the policies that we put in place. But we obviously had difficulties
communicating what we stood for during the election but also over the two and a half years period.
There's no doubt about that. I'd be the first to say that talking to many Australians, they didn't
actually know 100 percent where we were coming from.

Paul Kelly: Just on this point, as an experienced campaigner, do you agree that the parties put too
much emphasis on focus groups, and the way it has interpreted focus groups leading to its campaign
strategy has been flawed? Do you accept that proposition, there's something wrong there?

Mark Arbib: I hate to say this because I'm sounding like a broken record. Issues of research and
obviously campaigning will be looked at and analysed by the review.

Paul Kelly: I understand that.

Mark Arbib: But Paul, what I will say is this. Not one of the party's policies came through or was
developed by a focus group. I think we need to be clear about that. Not one of our policies. When
you compare that to Tony Abbott's campaign, I'll stop the boats, we know exactly where that came
from - a Crosby|Textor focus group.

Peter Van Onselen: How many policies were junked because of focus groups?

Mark Arbib: None that I've seen.

Paul Kelly: But I think the criticism here applies to both sides. It's been made by a number of
people, such as Rod Cameron who was formerly the Labor Party's pollster. So I'd just like to ask
you again, do you think the party needs to revise the way it deals with focus groups and translates
these findings into campaign strategy and policy?

Mark Arbib: So let me just generally talk about focus groups, and hopefully this is the last time,
because I'm not involved in that side of the campaigns. But focus groups are a tool that political
parties use, and it's the same tool that corporations use, it's the same tool that newspapers use
to obviously refine what they are doing and ensure they are in step and in tune with the
population. The thing about focus groups though is that they can be manipulated easily. There is no
doubt about it. What you need to always be careful of is that you are not just following, but you
are also leading. As a government, you can't be focusing and following focus groups all day,
because you would never do your job.

Paul Kelly: It sounds to me as though you are not conceding any mistakes here, that you are not
conceding that Labor needs to revise the way it operates. Is that right? Do you think everything's
okay?

Mark Arbib: No, I'm saying to you there is going to be a review that's going to look at every
aspect of this. But what I'm also saying to you is, putting aside the campaign for a second, just
talking about focus groups, focus groups are a tool, that's all they are. As someone who has seen a
lot of them in the past, if you just follow them then obviously you are making a mistake. The best
way to understand what is going on out in the electorate is to be out there talking to people. Any
politician that is worth their weight in salt is out there door knocking, out there doing the
community stalls, talking to Australians. That's what it's about - staying in touch.

Paul Kelly: Are you trying to tell me that Julia Gillard's position on a sustainable Australia was
not driven by the focus groups?

Mark Arbib: Paul, this will again be looked at all during the review. But my understanding, just so
you know, my understanding about sustainable Australia, it did not come out of a focus group.

Paul Kelly: Weren't you aware of this evidence coming from focus groups yourself, as a result of
what Kevin Rudd had said about a big Australia?

Mark Arbib: Paul, I'm not going to go back over that time period and start looking at what may or
may not have happened. That'll all be discussed in the review.

Peter Van Onselen: Senator, we will get to your portfolio responsibilities in a moment.

Mark Arbib: I was going to say, it's a pretty important portfolio.

Peter Van Onselen: One more question though, it relates to the media coverage. Now there's been
some suggestion and some debate about whether or not News Limited and The Australian in particular
were targeting the government. Were you happy or unhappy with the coverage of The Australian and
News Limited?

Mark Arbib: Peter, I'm not going to talk about individual newspapers or News Limited or Fairfax.
There was plenty in the media I was happy with; there was plenty in the media I wasn't happy about.
But that's part of life. You roll with the punches and you move on. As a politician you get used to
it.

Peter Van Onselen: But you were no more or less unhappy with particular brands? Just the coverage
was the coverage?

Mark Arbib: Personally for me, and I agreed with the Prime Minister, I think more could've been
done in terms of the coalition's costings. But overall I thought there were some good stories and
there were some bad stories. But I'm not going to talk about one individual publication or
organisation.

Paul Kelly: Can NSW Labor win the election?

Mark Arbib: It is tough. There is no doubt about it. It is very tough. I think a lot of people have
forgotten that when we hit March next year it's a government that has been in place for 16 years.
That is a long period of time and it is very difficult to win an election after that.

Peter Van Onselen: Tough's the understatement though, isn't it? If you think it's only tough,
you've got to have a bet. I think there are about $7 or $8 on the betting agencies.

Mark Arbib: There is no doubt that it is higher than Everest. They've got to climb higher than
Everest to win this election campaign. But in the end there are two things I think working for them
that most people haven't factored in. The first is Kristina Keneally. I think she's actually liked
by a vast number of people in the community. I think she's doing a very decent job and I think that
she provides the party with some hope. That's first. I think she's been underrated by most
commentators and some media organisations. The second thing is I just do not see, you've talked
about what the Labor Party stood for, really the Barry O'Farrell led opposition is the smallest
target I've ever seen - they are microscopic.

Paul Kelly: So can you win?

Mark Arbib: Any election is winnable, any election is losable. So I would never say one way or the
other. I think though what you're going to see are some strange results in that next election. You
are going to see some seats picked up by the Greens, you're going to see some seats picked up by
Independents. So it could be a strange result. If O'Farrell continues to play the microscopic
target he is now, and Keneally can pick up from where she is, then anything could happen.

Peter Van Onselen: Let's rule a line under this discussion and let's get to policy. You've got a
fair few portfolio responsibilities. One of them is homelessness. Kevin Rudd said that he wanted to
halve the number of homeless people by 2020. Is that a commitment that you think's achievable?

Mark Arbib: It is achievable and we are working hard towards it. It is not going to be easy and, as
I think everyone on this panel would understand, it is hugely complex. Every individual requires a
different policy response. There is no one size fits all policy that covers across the board. In
terms of when you're dealing with young people, you are dealing with some serious issues there.
You're dealing with issues of abuse, broken homes, people are on the streets, travelling on trains.
You're dealing with mental health issues, you're dealing with drug abuse, and you can't just
provide them with one policy and hope that you can find them a home. It just doesn't work that way.
The government has done a lot, and one of the areas I think that's been undervalued is the work is
the stimulus package. The stimulus package, when it's completed, will actually increase dwellings
by something like 30,000, which means 30,000 extra dwellings that state governments will use for
their public housing waiting lists, and many of these people are homeless people. Again, when
you're looking at homeless though, there are people who are short-term homeless and there are
people who are rough sleepers. There are about 105,000 overall, 16,000 rough sleepers. The thing
that I'm about, coming from the employment portfolio, is to intervene as early as possible,
especially when people have temporary displacement, try and wrap the services around them as early
as you can, before families break up. At the same time we've got to drive employment programs. We
must drive them.

Patricia Karvelas: On that, your other portfolio is this indigenous economic development. Will you
embrace radical policies that change indigenous lives?

Mark Arbib: I'm willing to listen and I'm willing to learn. I've spent 12 months dealing with
indigenous employment and I've seen how complex that portfolio is. Every time you think you're on
top of a problem, another one comes along. In terms of employment, it is not a job matching
exercise. If it was as easy as matching demand and supply, then we could solve this overnight. But
it's not. Again, every individual requires care, every individual requires personal support.

Patricia Karvelas: On that, Bob Katter during negotiations raised indigenous issues more than any
other of the Independents did. He raised two crucial issues - wild rivers, he wanted action on
that, and he also wanted action on private home ownership and business ownership on communal land
in Queensland. He said while superficially it looks like there is a possibility of it, it's not
happening and it's not simple. Julia Gillard did not accommodate him on either of those things, and
they're crucial economic development issues. Are you willing to take those on as Minister?

Mark Arbib: These are issues that the government is obviously already working on. So let's just go
through them one at a time. In terms of home ownership, that is something that the government
believes in, in terms of private home ownership for indigenous people. Jenny Macklin has done an
enormous amount of work in terms of secure . . .

Patricia Karvelas: . . . It's still not happening very much. That's the reality.

Mark Arbib: Jenny Macklin has done a huge amount of work in terms of secure tenancy. That's a very
important point on the pathway towards home ownership. The issue with home ownership though is not
just about having a principle, indigenous people should be able to own their own home. It's about
housing affordability. In many of these areas it is very, very difficult in the remote areas to
build housing that is affordable for indigenous people to actually buy. In the end, you are talking
about completely rebuilding the wheel here in terms of getting access to finance, getting access to
affordable housing. But it is something that I'm willing to work with indigenous communities, and
I've already visited Cape York and I've sat down and had a look at some of the housing proposals
they have. I'm certainly willing to keep working with them in the future.

Peter Van Onselen: What about languages in indigenous communities, particularly in the Northern
Territory? Do you support what some of those communities are after, which is basically their
indigenous language being taught first and foremost, rather than English?

Mark Arbib: I'm all for, can I say, having a look at the history of our indigenous, and I think
it's important to look at other indigenous cultures, and the American Indians is a culture where
there are a great deal of similarities. One of the things I'm about is cultural empowerment. We
need to empower indigenous people. They are a very proud race and we need to empower them to help
themselves. We need to empower communities.

Peter Van Onselen: How do you do that?

Mark Arbib: We need to work with communities, and it is happening. Anyone who went to the
Indigenous All Star game and saw the tribal warrior dance that the indigenous people put on, and
then straight afterwards everyone stood up and sang the National Anthem, it was probably one of the
proudest moments I've ever had as an Australian to be at that game. In terms of languages though,
it's important that indigenous communities teach their own languages and keep their traditions
going throughout their communities. But at the same time as that, as someone who's come from the
employment portfolio and is dealing with these problems, it is going to be impossible for us to
solve indigenous employment unless English is taught as the first language. When you talk to
employers, the number one concern they have about employing indigenous people is lack of reading
and writing skills. So the thing that I'm going to be focused on and driving obviously Peter
Garrett and all the state governments is to ensure that indigenous children are being taught
literacy skills, because they need it.

Peter Van Onselen: Even if the communities disagree?

Mark Arbib: In the end, we need to sit down with those communities and convince them that while
their traditional languages should be taught, at the same time we have to be putting the focus on
English, because that is the only way for them to get jobs, and that's the only way you're going to
get economic development.