10 March 2014



SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government cuts to Western Sydney multicultural groups, Diaz family political ambitions, Climate Council report and Direct Action con

MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CITIZENSHIP AND MULTICULTURALISM; SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Good afternoon. Today Tony Abbott was visiting the inner west of Sydney and amongst other things he said that ‘the Government, his Government, was there to support communities who wanted to have a go’.

Well I represent Western Sydney and today I was out with the Assyrian Resource Centre in Fairfield, and this is an organisation that has had $150,000 worth of fully funded Commonwealth funding scrapped by Tony Abbott. This is an organisation that works with people in the Assyrian community, and the community at large, to help people integrate into our society, to take youth who are at risk and help them out and to help aged care people.

It is absolutely appalling that Tony Abbott should come to Western Sydney and not have the courage to front-up to these organisations, either look them in the eye and explain why he has cut this funding, or even go and see the incredible work that they do. That’s not the only organisation in Western Sydney, right around Western Sydney, right around Australia, there are scores of groups whose fully funded, fully budgeted funding under the Building Multicultural Communities Program, over $10 million worth, has been abolished by this government.

It is outrageous that Tony Abbott should come to Western Sydney and talk about inclusion, talk about supporting people, and yet not do anything about the cuts he has inflicted.

REPORTER: Is there anything that can be done about these funds? They were approved and were on their way. Is there anything that can be done?

ROWLAND: You’re absolutely correct, they were fully approved under a transparent process. They were fully budgeted for. They were removed by this government in its MYEFO statement in December. What we have been doing as an opposition is calling this government to account through the Senate Estimates process. I have been taking a lot of time with local MPs visiting these groups. We want to put pressure on this government to actually deliver on what was budgeted and what was promised to these organisations.

I hear a lot about prevention funding, this is funding that goes into preventing people at risk of falling through the cracks. We need to make sure that these investments are carried out and the right time to do this is before the Budget is concluded, and the right time for the government to reverse this terrible decision is now.

REPORTER: What do you think this says about the Government’s views on multiculturalism? There’s been a lot of talk about scrapping the portfolio and all of that.

ROWLAND: I think this is a very short-sighted decision. I think when you look at inclusion. Where you look at where small amounts of money are best spent, it’s through grass-roots programs and this is what this program is about. It wasn’t a one size fits all pot of money. It was saying to community groups, tell us what you need to foster harmony and inclusion in your society. And also they weren’t just given to multicultural organisations. They were also given to a number of very reputable community groups who do outstanding outreach work, such as the Ted Noffs Foundation and a number of local councils. These all need to go ahead if we are going to actually foster the inclusive, harmonious society that I think all Australians want.

REPORTER: On another issue, there is speculation that Jaymes Diaz’s family might make a comeback in the upcoming state election. Do you have any thoughts on that?

ROWLAND: I’ve only seen the media reports and I have no comment about the shenanigans and factionalism currently underway within the New South Wales Liberal Party.

REPORTER: I’m sure the Labor Party would welcome this considering all the blunders we’ve seen from Jaymes Diaz?

ROWLAND: I would merely welcome, if he does seek to run in Riverstone, the residents of Riverstone getting what they were promised under this government. A resolution to the Riverstone overpass for example is a big issue, one where the current local member didn’t turn up to the most recent public forum. The people of Riverstone deserve the best representation.

REPORTER: The Climate Council says more than 150 records have been broken this summer, is the Coalition’s policy for climate change the right one to tackle the problem? 

ROWLAND: Absolutely not and you won’t find a single economist or environmentalist who backs this as the most preferred option. I can’t even find a member of the Coalition who can explain succinctly what Direct Action is. All we know is that it’s about subsidies for polluters, it’s about planting how many millions of trees and assuming that somehow they are all going to mature, that somehow we will have magic soil that’s going to make all this happen, and somehow that consumers won’t be worse off. Direct Action will end up slugging consumers, that’s all it will be in the end for no environmental benefit at all.

My pleasure, thank you.