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Minister discusses a proposed shared responsibility agreement with the Mulan Aboriginal community in the Great Sandy Desert.



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This transcript has been prepared by a source external to the Department of the Parliamentary Library.

 

It may not have been checked against the broadcast or in any other way. Freedom from error, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.

 

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AM

 

Thursday 9 December 2004

Minister discusses a proposed shared responsibility agreement with the Mulan Aboriginal community in the Great Sandy Desert

 

TONY EASTLEY: The Indi genous Affairs Minister, Senator Amanda Vanstone, is an enthusiastic supporter of the shared responsibility agreements. She says if communities aren't happy with the sorts of conditions in the contracts, they simply won't sign them. 

 

The Minister is speaking here to Louise Yaxley. 

 

LOUISE YAXLEY: Is this agreement enforceable? Will there be checks on whether the faces are actually washed twice a day? 

 

AMANDA VANSTONE: Well, look we haven't finally signed off on the agreement at this point, but the Western Australian government, the Australian Government and the Mulan community have been discussing it for sometime.  

 

I have to say it looks pretty good to me. If we sign it and it goes ahead, I hope it works. No, we're not going to have people out there every day checking, but it'll be pretty clear after a year whether the community's done what they say they're going to do. And I've got no reason to believe that they won't. 

 

LOUISE YAXLEY: So that means you'll be able to tell because you expect the health will improve? 

 

AMANDA VANSTONE: Absolutely. If this agreement goes ahead, and it works, what could anyone complain about? A community gets what it wants - a petrol bowser.  

 

It gives them a chance for a bit of economic development - people might stop to get petrol, they can put a store there, and don't have to drive themselves 70 kilometres away to get petrol and then back again. And the kids get better health outcomes. Who could complain about that? 

 

LOUISE YAXLEY: Part of the Government's side of the bargain is that economic development boosting tourism suggestion, but how realistic is that for a community that's in the Great Sandy Desert? 

 

AMANDA VANSTONE: Well, there's a lot of Australians that want to know more about the Great Sandy Desert, going out to places like Balgo. You know, just because the people in the capital cities aren't out there travelling across this great, wide expansive country, doesn't mean other people aren't. And I'll tell you what, when you're out there, you're very grateful to see a petrol bowser. 

 

LOUISE YAXLEY: Now, the water for the showers that are expected to be taken every day, is that available? It had been piped to central points - do you know if it's possible to have a daily shower? 

 

AMANDA VANSTONE: Well look, we wouldn't go ahead with the agreement if it isn't.  

 

LOUISE YAXLEY: So is the water available? 

 

AMANDA VANSTONE: Well, as I said, we haven't signed off on this agreement yet. This proposal in effect has been put to us by the Mulan community and you know, when we finally sign off on it, I'm very, very encouraged that it will work and if we have a problem with water, we'll have to set about fixing it. 

 

LOUISE YAXLEY: Is that one of the things that might have to be checked before it's signed off on? 

 

AMANDA VANSTONE: Well, look, we'll check off on a whole range of things. I'm not going to discuss individual agreements bit by bit with the media. The concept of this agreement is what's important and that is, we'll put something extra in and the community will do something in return.  

 

I think we're pretty happy with this sort of agreement. I understand the community's pretty happy with it. I understand the West Australian Government's pretty happy with it. It seems only Senator Carr and the ABC that have a concern. 

 

LOUISE YAXLEY: He says that it's one sided in that the commonwealth's putting in $172,000 for those fuel bowsers, but that the people of Mulan have 10 obligations in return. What do you say to that? 

 

AMANDA VANSTONE: Look, I'm not frankly interested in what Senator Carr says. He and the Federal Labor Party are the only people who aren't with the programme here. We want to get on and make shared responsibility agreements, partnerships if you like, between us, state governments and local communities.  

 

We want to put things in, in order to make those communities better, and we want to work with the local communities and the state and territory governments. Senator Carr just doesn't understand that. He's not with the programme and I'm not going to waste my time commenting on his ill-informed views. 

 

TONY EASTLEY: The Indigenous Affairs Minister Senator Amanda Vanstone speaking there with Louise Yaxley.