Northern Territory Council of Social Service

Deborah Di Natale talks to Territory FM

Deborah Di Natale CEO, Northern Territory Council of Social Service, talks NT election with Mel Little from Territory FM

MEL LITTLE:                           With the August election fast approaching, we are talking a lot of politics at the moment, and joining me now is Deborah Di Natale, CEO, NT Council of Social Services. You moderated the social justice debate last night. How was that?

DEBORAH DI NATALE:         Oh, that was great. We had the leaders of the political parties there …

MEL LITTLE:                           Who did you have, though? Did Mr Gunner appear?

DEBORAH DI NATALE:         Yep. I was just …

MEL LITTLE:                           He did.

DEBORAH DI NATALE:         Sorry. I was just about to say, Mel, that Gunner did not come despite the fact that he was invited, but he sent Natasha Fyles instead.

MEL LITTLE:                           Okay.

DEBORAH DI NATALE:         Yeah, but we had Lia Finocchiaro from the CLP. We also had Terry Mills from Territory Alliance, and we had Billee McGinley from the Greens. So all of the four parties were represented at the debate last night.

MEL LITTLE:                           Lovely. So when we look at the scorecard, I guess, and who’s able to meet the growth and social prosperity for us all here in the Northern Territory, who do you think came out on top overall?

DEBORAH DI NATALE:         Well, in terms of our social policy positions, the Greens ended up having a tick in every box.

MEL LITTLE:                           Wow.

DEBORAH DI NATALE:         Second to that we got Territory Alliance, and then Labor, and then the CLP. In lots of ways, what we were excited about is that there were a hundred people who attended who were as excited about social policy as NTCOSS is. So that’s always very energetic and exciting to be in a room with people that are policy nerds like I am.

MEL LITTLE:                           Excellent.

DEBORAH DI NATALE:         So that was good. Look, I have to say that the current government has done a lot of work in terms of the youth justice and child protection space, and we’ve seen some really good outcomes there. So, we want to keep those reforms going. And I also need to say that they’ve done some really good work in terms of the Aboriginal justice agreement. So, we just want whoever makes government in August 2020, that they continue with the reforms that are working.

MEL LITTLE:                           Yeah, okay. And so, when you were looking at leaders, asking them to answer questions, what sort of things were you asking them? What were some of the big ticket items apart from those ones that we’ve just talked about?

DEBORAH DI NATALE:         Oh look, there are number of big ticket items. Cost of living is a big thing for us. I mean, everybody who lives here is saying, how can it be that things are actually costing more? And if you live in a remote community, you’re paying about $840 for a basket of food. And if you came to Darwin and you’ve got access to all of this, you’re paying around $540. So we’ve set ourselves up in a situation where people who can least afford it are the people who are paying the highest prices. And that kind of stuff needs to change. We need some systemic reform there.

MEL LITTLE:                           Yeah. It really does. When we do get images and pricing information coming out of some of our remote communities; when you look at what they’re being charged for fresh, healthy food, it would be out of a budget range of myself who works full time. And that’s the thing. I’m not on a welfare payment but I could not afford the prices that they’re being charged.

DEBORAH DI NATALE:         Exactly, Mel. And I’ve worked across those remote communities, and I have to say, it is absolutely unforgivable that we have health issues out in those remote communities but we’ve actually put fresh fruits and vegetables, which provide better health outcomes for people, out of reach. So, you can’t be complaining about why do we have such poor health outcomes for Aboriginal, remote communities when you’re not providing the very things they need to be able to improve their health.

MEL LITTLE:                           Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, that is one thing that is unforgivable and we need to be able to work with whichever government takes power to make sure that that is resolved or, in some way, just made fair. All we want is fair.

DEBORAH DI NATALE:         Absolutely. Yeah. And that’s one of the core principles for NTCOSS, that we want nobody left behind. And we’ve got a situation where we can create economic prosperity with good social outcomes for people who are vulnerable. And we know that you need an economy that works. I mean, we’re not- and I just want to make your listeners know, because a lot of people think not for profits and NGOs, that we just take money from government. We actually generate more money ourselves and we get from government, and $614 million of our sector wages goes directly to support your next- your local IGA store, your Woolies, your local business. And so, what I said to the leaders last night is the single biggest thing you can do in government to support the economy is support the NGO sector.

MEL LITTLE:                           Yeah, absolutely. How did they stack up when you were talking about domestic and family violence and sexual violence? I mean, that’s something that’s sadly huge here in the Northern Territory.

DEBORAH DI NATALE:         Absolutely, Mel. In fact, you’re three times more likely to experience DV here than if you live in any other part of Australia. So we need to do something about it. I have to say, that was probably the most pleasing area where all four parties made a commitment to the reforms, and all four of them said that we need a DV Resource Centre. So that was actually unanimous. And I think we’re going to get some traction in that space.

MEL LITTLE:                           That would be excellent. But, I mean, one thing you and I both know that our politicians are really good at is highlighting what we need, but we need to make sure it’s what we get.

DEBORAH DI NATALE:         Absolutely, yeah.

MEL LITTLE:                           You know? It’s like, no, we can do this, we can do this. And then after the election, it’s like oh, we’ll get there. Oh, maybe next month. Oh, I don’t- you know.

DEBORAH DI NATALE:         Yes. And my favourite line from Terry Mills was we want to- what we want to do is under promise and over deliver. And I couldn’t help but say, wow, in all my life I’ve never heard a politician who actually manages to under promise and over deliver, but I hope I live to the day where that does happen.

MEL LITTLE:                           Yeah. Fingers crossed, because historically with Terry Mills in the Northern Territory, we haven’t seen that come to fruition. So, we’ll see. And I don’t think I’m out of school saying that, because when we’re looking at who is going to lead the Territory, our leaders that are standing up before us, they have political history in our town. And so, we can’t just wipe that out because they’re heading up a brand new party. Let’s hope that moving forward things will change.

DEBORAH DI NATALE:         You’re right, Mel.

MEL LITTLE:                           I do like that promise, though. And that’s something that you and I both know working in business is what we always try to do, is under promise and over deliver.

DEBORAH DI NATALE:         That’s right. That’s right, Mel.

MEL LITTLE:                           So, we’ve talked about cost of living, we’ve talked about the domestic family and sexual violence area. What about climate? How are we feeling about climate justice?

DEBORAH DI NATALE:         Look, in terms of climate justice, we have to say that all the parties are talking about delivering our ask, which is the net zero emissions by 2050 and 50 per cent renewables by 2030. That’s great. But what we’re saying at NTCOSS is we want the Northern Territory to come in line with other states across the country and introduce a climate act to ensure that it happens. Obviously, a number of our lobby groups and advocacy groups are pretty concerned with fracking, and they’re asking themselves how are you going to reach these targets if in fact you are going to introduce fracking? So, we’re saying, introduce a climate act, and we didn’t get any of the three major political parties last night agreeing to introduce legislation.

MEL LITTLE:                           Were you surprised? I mean, disappointed is one thing that we’re allowed to be, but were you surprised?

DEBORAH DI NATALE:         I was not surprised. But I’m an optimistic person, so I came in hopeful that someone would make some great announcement last night that they were going to introduce an act.

MEL LITTLE:                           Yeah. Deborah, were you disappointed that Michael Gunner wasn’t there?

DEBORAH DI NATALE:         I was disappointed, because we wanted the leader of all the parties to come. But I have heard that he hasn’t been attending any other debates, so I haven’t taken it personally.

MEL LITTLE:                           No, that’s the thing. We don’t take it personally, but as voters we do a little bit. Because it would be nice to see him up there. We know he’s incredibly busy, and the response to this pandemic has been incredible. I don’t think any Territorian would say anything different. But it would be nice to hear him speaking and to talk about the future as he sees it for his party.

DEBORAH DI NATALE:         I agree, and it would have demonstrated a commitment to social justice issue for one of the largest sectors in the Territory.

MEL LITTLE:                           And anything else you want to leave us with after this debate? Anything you want to leave in the minds of people listening?

DEBORAH DI NATALE:         The one thing I want everyone to know is that NTCOSS will work with whoever forms government to get really good outcomes for vulnerable Territorians. And that we will keep advocating for things, including raising the age of criminal responsibility. We don’t think 10-year-olds should be in jail, so we won’t stop asking for what we think is the right outcome for kids.

MEL LITTLE:                           Before we say good morning, I do have to tell you that I’m enjoying your squid dress.

DEBORAH DI NATALE:         Thank you.

MEL LITTLE:                           Look at you! I know its radio, and people can’t see, but Deb’s wearing a squid frock. Is it just a top? I can’t see-

DEBORAH DI NATALE:         It’s just a top.

MEL LITTLE:                           A squid top. Where did that come from?

DEBORAH DI NATALE:         It actually came from Melbourne. So very, very excited to hear that you’re enjoying this squid top. I’ll let the designer know that you’re enjoying it.

MEL LITTLE:                           Yes, please. I’m loving it, it’s awesome. So, thank you so much for coming in today.

DEBORAH DI NATALE:         Thank you. I really appreciate the opportunity, Mel.

MEL LITTLE:                           Any time, and thanks for moderating that debate and getting those details out to us and we’ll catch up again real soon.

DEBORAH DI NATALE:         Terrific. Thanks.