Rptr Frist day of Federal Parliament today and our CLP Senator Nigel Scullion who is also of course the Minister for Indigenous Affairs has stepped out of some busy meetings to catch up with us this morning.
Rptr Nigel Scullion, good morning.
SCULLION Good morning, Julia.
Rptr How’s things at Parliament House on the first day of the New Year?
SCULLION I think it’s looking the first day, there’s plenty of the normal chaos and people getting lost in corridors as I was about that time, quite a few years ago.
Rptr You’ve been spending a lot of time this year in remote communities around the Territory looking at the school attendance officers plan, trying to deal with truancy but at the start of the year you announced a grog review, a national inquiry into alcohol and violence problems, a wide ranging review encompassing all Australians. The next day Tony Abbott said that you were, it was just focusing on the effects of alcohol on indigenous people. I’ve been curious ever since then. What happened there, were you overruled by the Prime Minister or did you, did you get it wrong?
SCULLION Well look, what the situation was, was I was speaking to the ABC about a circumstance where the Member for Daly had said look, we really need to have a look at the Banned Drinking Register. So they said to me well, what do you think, Nigel. I said, well look, you know, in terms of these matters this should all be included in a broad ranging review that I knew was going to come up, that would be and I’d spoken to the Chair Sharman Stone and I knew that was going to come up and that was pretty broad ranging already. It deals with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, it and I particularly had an involvement because I have to consider in the next couple of months management, alcohol management plans that under the, that were articulated under the previous government, communities are coming up with their own alcohol management plans and yet I have nothing really to compare them with.
So I thought it would be fantastic if this committee could do a bit of work and I was encouraged on the day through some pretty articulate questions to say that look, I thought that we do need and I stand by that, I think that we do need inquiries that inform decision making across the board.
I was speaking, I spent a day with Barry O’Farrell a couple of weekends ago and we were discussing the decision making process about the variety of ways you can manage alcohol and behaviour aren’t really informed enough.
Now, I guess the mistake I made that Sharman Stone is the Chair of an organise – a committee that fundamentally looks in this case, at indigenous communities and my comments were that it needed to be done. They were taken in the context of an indigenous committee and that may not have been appropriate.
But, my comments still stand, that I think that there should be ways to inform decision makers and leaders in this area.
Rptr Just on indigenous grog use or more broadly?
SCULLION …No, no, no, no, more broadly. It may not have been a part of, it may not have been appropriate to this particular committee but I think as of you know, the circumstances where Barry O’Farrell faces, the circumstances that Adam Giles faces or Mr Barnett in the West faces are identical. The issues of, of antisocial behaviour and the effects on those people who are not drinking and the effects on those who are drinking are long term and they are a real drama in this country and I think decision makers need to know what works well and what doesn’t work well and yes, I think as a decision maker I’d appreciate some scientific, some more scientific rigour in that regard.
Rptr You have been focussing on education very strongly this year. The Territory Government is considering closing senior schools in the bush as recommended by the Bruce Wilson Review of Indigenous Education. What’s your view of secondary schools in the bush?
SCULLION Well look, I haven’t had an opportunity to read Bruce Wilson’s review, I have it on my desk but look, I think he…
Rptr …but as a basic premise, I’m sure you’ve got a view?
SCULLION Well look, I think we do need to have access to secondary education, it’s very important. Many places in the bush don’t have secondary schools and so people tend to at the end of primary school, that’s my expectation because I live somewhere where there’s no secondary school. So that isn’t good enough. We need to give people access to secondary school, and…
Rptr …in their communities?
SCULLION …No not necessarily…
SCULLION …no, no, I mean they have to have access to a secondary school education. Not every community can, has the capacity or the critical mass to maintain or deserve a secondary school. So it has to be…
Rptr …but, but, but the issue is having schools in the bush or sending the kids to boarding schools in town. Do you think having secondary schools in communities is better than having to send your kids to boarding school for indigenous families?
SCULLION Well, well, I think we need a mix and I think everyone would acknowledge that where we have a secondary school in the bush, I think that secondary school needs to deliver an absolute first class education. So a secondary school, when I say secondary school I mean a secondary school that has the same standards, the same quality and the same level of amenity as any other school will have.
Now, sometimes that’s not available and we should, we should then ensure that we have the capacity to allow those children to attend boarding schools where ever the boarding school is outside of the community doesn’t really matter. But, we do need a level of amenity to provide both but those secondary schools that are in the bush invariably and sadly I don’t, they’re failing.
Now they’re, Mr Wilson I understand reflects heavily on some of the reasons behind that but I think again, it’s something that we need to look very closely at and if we do have a secondary school in the bush it’s not so much about closing them down, it’s about making them operate better and ensuring that the kids who should be at the secondary school are in fact attending it.
Rptr So that would presumably mean a lot more funding. Are you prepared as the Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister to support that and to try and make that happen?
SCULLION Well it’s not only about funding and without escaping the question, we are where we need, where funding will fix the challenges sure, that has to be a consideration but it’s not, it’s not the only issue. A lot of people in these schools talk about critical mass and we need you know, we just don’t have the critical mass of students to maintain it…
Rptr Nigel Scullion, I’m really sorry but we are out of time, the news is coming up and it waits for no man but thank you so much for stepping out to talk to us today.
SCULLION No worries, pleasure to speak to you.
Rptr CLP Senator Nigel Scullion on 105.7 ABC Darwin, it’s ten o’clock.