Subject: Alice Springs crime crisis.
A new face off is brewing over what will become one of the biggest issues of the year – the Voice to Parliament. Opposition Leader Peter Dutton challenging the PM to visit Alice Springs with him today to talk about the impact crime is having on the region. That request has been denied.
Peter Dutton joins us now live from Melbourne. Good morning to you Peter.
‘Morning Karl. ‘Morning Sarah.
The PM told us yesterday you’ve had five meetings with him about the Voice so far. Have you raised the Alice Springs issue with him at all?
Karl, I certainly have. I was really shocked when I went up there in October. I spoke to a number of whistleblowers, public servants, who are just at breaking point from what they’re seeing and what they’re experiencing, and I said to the PM, we would support whatever measure the government would take; whether it needed legislation, whether it was additional resources, additional money going into the Northern Territory because it was clear from speaking with Indigenous elders and women on the ground, and business owners that this issue was completely beyond the capacity and the resources of the Northern Territory Government.
I think the Prime Minister, like any natural disaster, I mean you would expect – you’ve just come from Lismore, the cross there – the Prime Minister was very critical of Scott Morrison at the time for not standing up and I want the Prime Minister to stand up. I want us to really address what is the biggest issue in our country today. I was hoping that the Prime Minister would take up the offer because it does require both sides to stand shoulder-to-shoulder and that’s what we are offering to do.
Several people, including the Northern Territory Police Minister, are accusing you of playing politics with this issue. Isn’t it too important for it to become a political football?
Well Sarah, of course and that’s why I went to see the Prime Minister in late October, to go through what I’d seen, what I’d been told. I really worry that like we saw in Queensland a few weeks ago, kids running around breaking into homes with knives, it ends tragically, and there are reports now of kids running around with machetes. There are reports of children not wanting to go back home because they feel it’s unsafe to stay there, so they’re out committing crimes over the night time and then sleeping during the daytime so they’re not going to school, and this cycle continues.
The Northern Territory Police Minister, I think, is, you know, beyond incompetent. Some of her comments in the last week have just been quite amazing and completely at odds with what the Indigenous people were telling me on the ground in Alice Springs – not just Alice Springs – but other parts of the Northern Territory as well.
It’s not a race thing, it’s a law and order and a crime problem, and we want those kids to grow up in a safe environment. The Prime Minister has the resources, has the ability and should show the leadership to deal with this issue.
This is not a new issue for the Alice, let’s be honest about that. This has been building for some time. Your government had an opportunity, I guess, to see the first springs of this when it was occurring, and like I said, it’s been happening for a couple of years. Why wasn’t anything done then?
Well Karl, it’s a good point in terms of this not being a Labor problem or a Liberal problem. Again, I made that point to the Prime Minister. It’s beyond politics and if the Prime Minister needs to change legislation in the Parliament, we will support it.
We implemented a grog ban and implemented the Cashless Debit Card or the BasicsCard to stop people spending money on alcohol and drugs, instead spending money on kids and their family, and the Labor Government’s unwound all of that. So, that’s contributed significantly to the deterioration that we’ve seen across the Northern Territory over the course of the last six months or so.
But this is a problem that’s been years, decades, in the making. There’s goodwill on both sides to fix it, but if there is a strong Indigenous voice coming out of the Northern Territory at the moment, that they want the Prime Minister to lead, to act and to help them out, but the Prime Minister is not listening to that voice, then I think most Australians would say, ‘why not?’ I mean, what’s his reason for not providing that support and that leadership? Because at the moment we’re getting young boys and young girls who are into the next cycle and into the next generation of Indigenous poverty, and we just don’t want that.
All right. We’ve got Bill Shorten coming up on the show in just a little bit, too. Peter Dutton, thanks for your time today. It’s a big issue there in the Alice and more on that on the show as well.