Topics: Commission of Audit
RICHARD PERNO: With his short hand note pad and his pen ready is Alan Tudge, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, good morning.
ALAN TUDGE: Good morning Richard.
RICHARD PERNO: What do you do, 40 words per minute or what?
ALAN TUDGE: (Laughs) I’m pretty quick Richard.
RICHARD PERNO: This Commission of Audit is a heavy document isn’t it Alan?
ALAN TUDGE: Yes it is a very heavy document, but when people wake up this morning, listening to you, reading the newspapers, it is important to emphasise that these are recommendations to the Government, they’re not Government decisions. We will look very carefully at these recommendations, some of which we may be able to adopt, others we might look at in the future, and others simply won’t be feasible. What is highlighted though by this heavy report is the absolute financial mess we inherited from the Labor Government. We now already pay $10 billion in interest alone on our debt. $10 billion this year, $10 billion next year, and this will go up further and further unless we start getting control of our finances.
RICHARD PERNO: Alan, the Commission of Audit suggests that even if we go back now we will be suffering, being in the red for years.
ALAN TUDGE: For years, that’s exactly right. If we don’t act now, the debt will go all the way up to $667 billion. Now that is $25,000 for every single man, woman and child in this country of debt. Ten to twelve billion dollars of interests every year, just gone. We could build ten to twelve tertiary hospitals with that sort of money.
RICHARD PERNO: We’re west of the great divide in regional Australia, we have pensioners living on their own, little country towns that need money as much as possible, the report suggests schools should be handed back to the New South Wales Government, schools’ finances should be handed back to the schools, how’s that going to affect regional Australia?
ALAN TUDGE: Let me emphasise again that there’s some big recommendations here, but they are just recommendations. Some of them do concern our Federation. What is the role of the Federal Government, what is the role of State Government?
RICHARD PERNO: And the Prime Minister is going to address this today?
ALAN TUDGE: The Prime Minister is going to be addressing this in part today through a COAG meeting. We are going to commission a white paper, a public document open for public discussion, of what the right role of the Commonwealth Government is versus the State Government. Should the Commonwealth Government be involved in schools as much as we are presently? Arguably you get duplication of responsibilities there.
RICHARD PERNO: Will that apply, Alan, to health, to hospitals?
ALAN TUDGE: As you know, Richard, sometimes you get the blame game occurring between the States and the Commonwealth, because whereas the Commonwealth might be the main financiers of hospitals, they are actually run by the States and Territories. So these are some of the things this Commission of Audit report has made recommendations on. We’re not going act on those things now. What we have said we’ll do about some of those bigger structural things is commission a white paper into the Federation, which we’ll undertake later in this term, a very open public discussion paper so we can have a full public discussion.
RICHARD PERNO: Mark Coulton and Alan Tudge, the lines between what the Federal Government and the States are responsible for have become a bit blurred haven’t they?
MARK COULTON: (inaudible) I think we need to go back to clear lines, because it’s not a case of double money, it’s a case of no-one having the final responsibility, and quite frankly in relation to this school argument, since the states pay for the schools they should run them as they see fit.
RICHARD PERNO: You have been to small schools in country towns with two rooms and children go there from Kindergarten to year 12, how would the Federal Government or a State Government know what they need?
RICHARD PERNO and MARK COULTON: (inaudible)
RICHARD PERNO: Alan Tudge, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister Tony Abbott, how long is it going to be before we know how many of these recommendations in the Commission of Audit report have been included in the budget? Has the budget been done and dusted now, or were you waiting for this Commission of Audit report?
ALAN TUDGE: This Commission of Audit report is going to feed into the budget.
RICHARD PERNO: So I can’t go to Canberra and pick up the budget now?
ALAN TUDGE: No, you can’t pick up the budget now, it will still be finalised over the next couple of weeks. On Budget day, you will see there are some things that will be picked up and which are included through the budget process.
RICHARD PERNO: You weren’t aware of some of these recommendations and just held back, were you?
ALAN TUDGE: You would have seen some of these recommendations being filtered out through the media over the last week or two.
RICHARD PERNO: Some were about the debt levy?
ALAN TUDGE: Some were about the debt levy. Actually the debt levy wasn’t included in this report, but some of the other recommendations.
RICHARD PERNO: You were waiting for this to become public knowledge?
ALAN TUDGE: This is being released now by the Government so every member of the public can see it, read it, and digest it. It will be taken into account in our budget deliberations. Some of them may be picked up in the budget, others might be considered for the longer term, and there will be a third category that are simply not feasible, not practical.
RICHARD PERNO: Thank you Alan Tudge, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Mark Coulton, local Member of Parliament for Parkes.
ALAN TUDGE: Thank you Richard.