Press Conference – Fairfield



Topics: Youth Off The Streets; tobacco excise; Papua New Guinea

CHRIS BOWEN: Well, thanks for coming everybody. It’s a great pleasure to welcome Jason Clare, the Minister for Home Affairs, to Fairfield as a fellow Fairfield and Western Sydney MP, also, of course, Father Chris, a much loved member of our community.

Just a few matters of housekeeping. Minister Clare will make an announcement in a few moments. We’ll talk about that and then you can ask questions about that. Then I’ll say a few things about broader matters and that’s when you could ask Jason or I about those broader matters. So if we could just do this press conference in two halves. The first just on Youth Off The Streets and then we can do other matters after that. Minister Clare.

JASON CLARE: Thanks very much, Chris. It’s great to be here in Fairfield. This is where Chris and I grew up and where we went to school. Actually, my first job was just around the corner where Neeta City is now. My first job was collecting the trolleys in the car park of Woolies and it’s great to be back here in the place that we love so much.

We’re also here with Father Chris Riley, another great friend, a good man who’s done remarkable things for the people of Western Sydney over more than two decades and it’s great to be here to announce that we’re going to expand the services of Father Chris Riley’s Youth Off The Streets outreach service.

Occasionally as a Minister you get to do things that you know are going to make a real difference, a big difference, and this is one of them. A couple of months ago I announced $5 million for Father Chris Riley’s Youth Off The Streets outreach service to expand the work that they do. Currently, Father Chris’s organisation run eight outreach services across New South Wales. Now we’re going to double that to 16 outreach services from Brisbane to Tasmania, and that will include Logan in Queensland, Guildford here in Western Sydney, as well as Mount Druitt in Western Sydney, La Perouse in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, Bridgewater in Tasmania, Berkeley on the South Coast, another location that we’re still to finalise on the South Coast, as well as right here in Fairfield.

Father Chris and the team at Youth Off The Streets have selected these locations based on where they believe they can make the biggest difference and these locations have been selected working with the local community, communities that have said we want you to come in here and we want you to help, and – almost invariably – these are locations where unemployment is higher than the national average and where crime rates are higher than the national average.

This is a model that works. It’s been proven to work. In 2005 after the Macquarie Fields riots, Father Chris and his team set up an outreach service there. The work that’s been done in Macquarie Fields has been nothing short of remarkable. In the years that followed, it saw a significant drop in crime and now we’ve got a permanent structure there, the Koch Centre, that’s providing services to the local community in Macquarie Fields.

One of the key parts of this, and I’m sure Father will talk about this in a moment, is getting young people from the local area to be the outreach workers, to work with the local community. That’s one of the reasons that this model works.

As I said, it’s been proven to work and it’s run by a dedicated man, a compassionate man, who has done so much to help young people keep on the right track and help to change people’s lives and it’s a pleasure and a privilege to be part of a government that’s going to double this work, expand the amount of work that Father Chris and his team can do, not just for young people here in Western Sydney, but for other parts of the country as well.

Father, I invite you to say a few words.

FATHER CHRIS RILEY: It’s great to be here. I guess I really have been calling for a youth intervention in a big way across this country for years now. We’re going again into about 13 new suburbs that are really in crisis and we know we can turn those around very quickly by employing the right people. Our trainees will be people from the area. We see relevant ethnic groups as well being represented.

And so to the Treasurer and to Minister Clare, I’m really grateful that you’ve acknowledge the need that our young people have across this country and know by this announcement that you’ll have made a great difference across Australia and we will certainly work hard.

Some of those outreaches are ready to go. We’ve got staff ready to go, we just – once the money arrives in the bank account, we’ll be out in La Perouse, South Maroubra, and also down – up in Logan, we’re ready to go there as well. So these things will happen quickly.

So thanks to everyone today and the Treasurer and Minister Clare for their incredible support.

CHRIS BOWEN: Thanks, Father Chris. Well, obviously as Treasurer, I very much welcome this announcement. I also particularly welcome it as member for McMahon. The fact that we’ll have two new outreach services, one here in Fairfield, another one at Marylands, just near the border with McMahon, is a great thing.

It complements the recent announcement by Minister Albanese and I of a new youth centre for Fairfield, developed in conjunction with Fairfield City Council and Mayor Carbone. A very substantial grant from the Federal Government to see that new youth centre built on the other side of Fairfield here.

We are a young community. We are a community with high unemployment, high youth unemployment, in particular, and with a very strong representation of new migrants to Australia in need of support, in need of intervention, as Father Chris says. Father Chris provides a wonderful service throughout the country. He’s picked these locations because it’s where he thinks the need is and, of course, he’s right about that.

Whether it be Logan, whether it be Fairfield, whether it be the other locations that Father Chris is announcing today, these services will make a very big difference for communities across Australia and Jason and I and the government are very pleased to be able to support the work that Father Chris is doing.

As I said, we’ll take questions on the Youth Off The Streets initiative and then we’ll have a broader discussion.

QUESTION: How exactly will this benefit the lives of the disadvantaged?

CHRIS BOWEN: Well, Father Chris might be the best person to…

FATHER CHRIS RILEY: I guess what we saw at Macquarie Fields is that I guess we’ve proven we can make a difference very quickly. When we moved into Macquarie Fields, within 12 months just with an outreach, crime rate dropped by 40 per cent. By getting kids out there and I believe just connecting with kids is the way to do it. You just get out there, you play with them, barbecue, feed them, and you’ll get kids out, you know, 100 kids we got out at Macquarie Fields in the early days over 18.

So we attract that age group that other services don’t get and that’s because we do get trainees who are well respected in the area. They may have had a shady past, but they turn their lives around and they’re real leaders in their community. That’s our secret weapon. It’s local kids looking after local kids.

CHRIS BOWEN: Okay, no more questions on Youth Off The Streets?

Okay, let me just say a few things to open. Of course, today, the Minister for Health and I are confirming the government’s decision to increase tobacco excise. This is a decision which makes a contribution to returning the budget to surplus in 2016-17. But even more importantly, it’s a decision which has a big impact on the health of Australians. We looked closely at this, we looked closely at the evidence. Last time there was an increase in the tobacco excise, it lead to a reduction in smoking of 11 per cent. Substantial evidence that that’s the case despite some of the commentary I’ve seen this morning from others.

We’ve looked at the evidence from doctors, from the Cancer Council that this could stop a very considerable number of people smoking, and I’ve seen figures in the vicinity of 200,000 people from smoking in Australia and particularly important, stop young people smoking, taking up the habit for the first time. It’s much better to stop people taking up the habit, much easier to stop them taking up the habit than it is to get them to kick the habit at some point during their life.

We all know that far too many people die from cancer in Australia. There are 16 types of cancer caused by smoking and every Australian family, I think, would have been touched by one of those cancers caused by smoking. And we do need to have a concerted effort to reduce smoking in Australia.

The World Health Organisation recommends that 70 per cent of the retail price of a packet of cigarettes should be taxed. We’re way below that in Australia and this will get us closer to that standard. It will bring us closer to the tax rate in New Zealand, for example, for which Australia is considerably below.

So this, I know, won’t be universally popular with all. It’s a difficult decision, but a decision which is taken in the best interest of the nation, taking into account all the impacts it has both on the Government’s budget and also on the health outcomes for Australia.

Here in this community, Western Sydney, where cancer rates are higher than elsewhere, we see the impact of cancer every day and, therefore, this is an appropriate decision for the Government to take, that the Health Minister and I are confirming and announcing today.

We’re happy to take questions.

QUESTION: Minister, is the cigarette tax likely to represent the – one of the biggest measures – revenue measures in your economic statement?

CHRIS BOWEN: Yes, it is a substantial measure. It will be reflected in the economic statement and it will be, obviously in terms of revenue impact, one of the biggest measures, yes.

QUESTION: Joe Hockey says you’ll be hitting the banks next to find more money. Is that fair?

CHRIS BOWEN: Well, we have no plans to tax banks, of course. Of course, we’re in discussions with banks about various matters in relation to financial regulation and financial services, consulting with them about recommendations that have been made by the financial regulators, and that consultation will continue.

QUESTION: A quick question on PNG, Peter O’Neill says you’ll be spending about 500 million extra in aid and that’s part of the PNG deal. Is that figure accurate?

CHRIS BOWEN: The economic statement will reflect all the costs of the PNG arrangement, including aid, including development, including construction, including operational costs. The economic statement, when Minister Wong and I release it, will put all those figures out openly and transparently. I would call on the Opposition to do the same about their Nauru proposal.

Of course, they won’t be bringing down their economic statement before the election. They’ve torn up the Charter of Budget Honesty in what I believe is an act of vandalism, walking away from the legacy of Peter Costello, and really trying to pull a swifty when it comes to their costings and their impact on the budget bottom line.

When we announce our economic statement, our proposals, all our funding, all our costings, our budget bottom line will be there and very clear for all to see.

QUESTION: Assuming there is going to be a big increase in the amount of aid going to PNG as a part of the deal, you know, can we expect that money to come from other parts of the aid budget, and if not, where else is it coming from?

CHRIS BOWEN: All the funding, all the costings will be revealed in the economic statement. Okay. Thanks for coming today. Good on you.