Minister Ruston Interview - Sky News

E&OE

ANNELISE NIELSEN:
Now let's check in on another major story today, and that has been this major report from the Australian Institute of Criminology, surveying 15,000 women, finding that there has been a significant increase in domestic violence since the beginning of the pandemic. Joining us live now is Social Services Minister Anne Ruston. Anne Ruston, thank you for your time. These figures are really concerning, what's the Government doing to counter this issue?

MINISTER RUSTON:
Well look they are very sobering Annelise I don't think anyone can move away from that. But we imagined that there was a fairly good chance that we were going to see some quite significant issues around domestic violence going into this pandemic, simply because people were being locked away at home and weren't able to get out of the house for a lot of the time. So early on we put in place a program assisting both the states and territories who deliver frontline services, but also to make sure that we did a campaign so that Australian woman were aware of what services were available to them and where they could get them through our Help is Here campaign. So whilst the information is very sobering out of the Australian Institute of Criminology report, we're still receiving mixed reports across the country but we just want to make sure that every Australian, particularly every Australian woman, knows where she can get help if she feels that she is in danger or she's experiencing domestic violence

ANNELISE NIELSEN:
So, the Government's announced this $3 million to support domestic violence access - I don't know if it's just the context of COVID money, that we're used to talking in billions, but it doesn't seem like much money. How is that going to support the access to those services?

MINISTER RUSTON:
Well that's on top of the $150 million that was made available at the start of the campaign in addition to the $340 million that we put behind the Fourth Action Plan to assist women and their children who were subject to domestic violence. So the $3 million, it was just an additional amount of money, recognising particularly the need for counselling services for children. And so last week we added an additional $3 million to 23 providers who specialise in providing counselling services to families, and particularly children, so that we could really target that particular issue. But yes you're quite right. In the relativity we spend a huge amount of money in assisting the prevention and the responses to domestic violence, and you know it is disappointing that we are sitting here today discussing yet another report that has some damning statistics about the incidence of domestic violence in this country.

ANNELISE NIELSEN:
If I could ask about JobSeeker, JobKeeper. It's been a big push from Labor in the last week that they want certainty around the end date, they want to know if it will be extended and pushing, hopefully, for it to be extended from their perspective. Has the Government made any decision about the level of JobSeeker post-September?

MINISTER RUSTON:
Well we've been very clear, the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and myself in comments that we have made that right now we're still in the middle of a pandemic. We don't know how long it's going to go for, we don't know what the trajectory of recovery's going to look like, and what's happened in Victoria in the last couple of weeks is absolutely best testament to the fact that we're a long way from over in this pandemic. So what we're doing as a Government is we're looking at what measures need to be in place to reflect the current market conditions, the current health conditions and next week the Treasurer and the Prime Minister will be making an economic statement, and in that economic statement, it will plot the pathway forward for the next period, recognising that we still are in a very transitory state with the pandemic and that we will continue to have to monitor it and respond to the conditions as they present themselves.

ANNELISE NIELSEN:
So, just when you're looking at what the level of JobSeeker should be, what kind of things are you considering?

MINISTER RUSTON:
The most important thing right now is actually looking at the level of and the speed and trajectory of the economic recovery. Clearly, in some states the recovery has been much stronger than in others, and of course in Victoria it's regressed as they've gone back into lockdown. So, we're taking into account all of the economic figures, all of the health data, the health advice, the likelihood of border restrictions, the capacity for industries to start up because of the restrictions that exist within the state. And so we've being very mindful that we're targeting what we're doing to reflect the conditions that are at the moment. Because we recognise that things are going to continue to change over coming months. We hope they continue to get better and the market continues to open up but we also have to be prepared to make sure that we're quick and fleet-footed, should we see a situation like is happening in Victoria, happen somewhere else in Australia because there is a very real likelihood that we could see other outbreaks of the virus in other states and territories and then the response will have to be appropriate and proportionate to those outbreaks if we see them.

ANNELISE NIELSEN:
And just finally, you've been pushing the case for social impact investing. What is it and why would it be useful at this particular point in time, with the economy the way it is?

MINISTER RUSTON:
Well I've always been a great believer that you need to actually deliver real and measurable outcomes. Just throwing more money at something or measuring the inputs into a situation doesn't actually give you a good picture of whether you're achieving any outcome. So what I'm very keen to do is to work with the private sector, the philanthropic sector, the community and social services sector, to make sure that we're actually delivering real and long term outcomes, good and positive outcomes for Australians because our welfare system is about actually improving the lives of Australians. Unless we can actually demonstrate that we're doing that, I think we're letting ourselves down. So it's a new and innovative way that many countries overseas have looked at to try and drive better outcomes for people so that we can get a better quality of life and better wellbeing. And hopefully, as we come out of the coronavirus pandemic, that we're actually able to deliver really good outcomes for Australians because it's a long road ahead of us to be able to get people back into employment and get the economy back running. But to do so with outcomes as our main objective, I think is a really good place to focus.

ANNELISE NIELSEN:
I guess the concern of some of the observers of social impact investing, is that you're dealing with, generally, vulnerable people in the service that's being provided. Investments need a return, they need to make money. And so, that's when you're likely to see cost cutting that impacts those who you're supposed to be serving. If you think of aged care homes for instance, some that are run by those social kind of impact groups [inaudible] that in their pursuit of making money, that peoples care and wellbeing can be forgotten?

MINISTER RUSTON:
Well clearly the wellbeing of the individual and the outcome for the individual is absolutely paramount. And that's why, when you do make an investment and create a bond or an impact investment product, you have to make sure that it's actually the outcome of the person who's receiving the benefit of this action is the one that the outcome is measured against. And so it's not about cost cutting, it's actually about the outcome. So the inputs that go into delivering the outcome have to actually be to achieve a better outcome for the individual and I think if you focus on the people that are actually receiving the outcome and making sure that their lives are better and you're measured against those metrics, you actually, by the process, largely negate the problems that you see, that are problems that you were just describing. Because it actually has to be the outcome that is measured and if somebody is getting a poor outcome because they're having a service cut or a cost cut as they're going through, they're not likely to get the right outcome. So I actually think it actually goes a long way to dealing with the issue that you just said about the private sector cost cutting because if you cost cut you're not going to get the outcome that you need.

ANNELISE NIELSEN:
Social Services Minister Anne Ruston, thank you for your time.

MINISTER RUSTON:
Thanks very much, Annelise.