Skynews AM, Agenda

Release Date: 
21 January 2014

Subjects: Welfare reform review, Indonesia, Bill Shorten

REPORTER: Live now to Melbourne where Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister Alan Tudge joins me for a bit of a reaction from some of the comments we heard this morning from Bill Shorten. Well firstly, Mr Tudge, your reaction to Bill Shorten’s suggestion that you’re out to reduce the indexation rate to the aged pension following the comments from Kevin Andrews that the welfare system is unsustainable.

TUDGE: Well Bill Shorten is again running a scare campaign because had he read the front page of the Australian today he would have seen Minister Andrew’s comments that the aged pension is not part of the welfare reform review. What is part of the Review though, is the other income support payments. We are particularly looking at the DSP and the Newstart payments because we have seen tremendous growth in welfare payments particularly over the last six years. Today 1 in 5 Australians are on welfare payments. That’s over 5 million Australians. It’s an extraordinary number. It’s been growing rapidly and it’s unsustainable.

REPORTER: But the Minister has said the indexation rate of the pension can be looked at as part of the audit commission, that’s what Bill Shorten was alluding to.

TUDGE: Well the main focus of what Minister Andrews was talking about is his review of the welfare system, which is being undertaken by Patrick McClure. And that review is not looking into the aged pension.

REPORTER: Now in terms of the $70 billion bill, where is the core problem in all of this? Where does the government have to start?

TUDGE: The main problem has been the growth in the disability support pension and NewStart, the dole basically. And those are the two areas that Mr McClure is going to provide some advice to us and in essence we want to look at areas which provide disincentives for people to go into work. Now for example in the Disability Support Pension there are over 800,000 people who are now on that. Many of those people have profound disabilities and of course they will be able to do little or no work. But in other cases there will be some people who have disabilities which mainly last for a small amount of time and we should be encouraging those people to work where it is possible. Similarly for people who are on Newstart payments, unemployment benefits that we want to look at avenues where we can encourage those people to take up jobs where they are available. Now sometimes that may mean moving to other locations where there may be jobs. And we have put in place, come 1st July, additional relocation payments to encourage people to move. On the 1st of July we are also going to provide some additional incentive payments for long term unemployed people to go back into the workforce. And thirdly on 1st of July we will be providing incentives for employers to employ particularly mature aged people who are sometimes overlooked for employment in the employment market

REPORTER: Now I want to get your reaction finally Alan Tudge to these comments by an Indonesian MP, a member of their foreign affairs commission who has said that Australia is stupid for suggesting that the naval incursions into Indonesian territory were inadvertent. He said he can’t believe, I think there is no way that they did not know that they had crossed the border – was his quote

TUDGE: Well Minister Morrison, as you know has apologised to the Indonesian government for our vessels crossing over into Indonesian territory. We said that our vessels wouldn’t, but they did, so we have unreservedly apologised to the Indonesian government. Now how did that occur, we do not know at this stage. But what has been put in place is a full investigation into how that has occurred and also additional measures have been put in place so that it cannot occur again in the future. And I think those are the right two actions to take.

REPORTER: Well there’s certainly a sentiment within the Indonesian parliament, this MP, a member of their foreign affairs commission, who doesn’t believe it.

TUDGE: Well I don’t think that is the case. But we are having full review headed up by the Chief of Defence as to how this did occur and we’ll get to bottom of it.

REPORTER: Bill Shorten finally says he’s going to be constructive with the audit commission. And constructive in Opposition. Do you welcome that?

TUDGE: Absolutely, if he’s fair dinkum about that, we welcome that. But to date he hasn’t been fair dinkim about trying to get the budget back under control. And I’ll give one clear example of that Keiran. The previous Rudd Government outlined over $5 billion of savings measures, which they banked in their budget projections. And we are now trying to legislate to introduce those savings measures, Labor’s savings measures. And what is Bill Shorten doing? He’s blocking his own savings measures in the parliament. So if Shorten is fair dinkum that’s terrific, but to date he has not shown that he is.

REPORTER: Alan Tudge, thanks for your time, appreciate it.