2GB Sydney Interview With Alan Jones

Release Date: 
12 August 2015
Media release
E&OE

Topics: Centrelink debit card E&OE…

ALAN JONES:
Alan Tudge, good morning.

ALAN TUDGE:
Good morning Alan.

ALAN JONES:
Where are we on this cashless welfare debit card?

ALAN TUDGE:
The Government has made a decision that we want to trial this idea and we're going to do so in two or three locations across the country. We'll be introducing legislation next week to authorise these trials.

ALAN JONES:
Will the Senate pass that?

ALAN TUDGE:
Well I'm hoping that they will because the local community leaders at the trial locations we're proposing want this to occur and I hope that they listen to those community leaders.

ALAN JONES:
But that doesn't seem to matter. You must have been lobbying these people. What have they been saying? I understand you don't have numbers in the Senate.

ALAN TUDGE:
I've had very constructive discussions with the crossbenchers and indeed the Labor Party. I've been engaging with them at every step of the way with this. I'm hoping that this will get through the Parliament.

ALAN JONES:
So this is about blocking certain purchases, in other words, the welfare payment can't be used for certain purchases.

ALAN TUDGE:
That's right. The concept is a remarkably simple one, that instead of just putting all of the welfare dollars into a cash account which we do today…

ALAN JONES:
Sorry to interrupt you and getting simple here. Currently if I was on welfare of some sort, some benefit available to me, that is automatically plonked into my account?

ALAN TUDGE:
That is just automatically plonked into your savings account every fortnight.  That's your income support payment, that's your family tax benefits, it might be your disability support payments.

ALAN JONES:
And then you would say down the track you would hope that I would be issued with a card?

ALAN TUDGE:
That's exactly right, and you could only access the vast majority of those welfare payments through this debit card. Now that card will work at every single location across Australia. You could purchase whatever you like with that debit card, similar to any other debit card, but it will simply not work at the bottle shops and it won't work at the gambling houses, and you won't be able to get cash out from it, which means you can't purchase illicit drugs.

ALAN JONES:
What about if the bloke can go somewhere else to get the grog at the bottle shop?

ALAN TUDGE:
No we will switch…

ALAN JONES:
I mean if a bloke sells for example, a mixed range of goods, like vegetables and alcohol, can I go in and the retailer will only take the money from me for the veg, and the card won't accept the alcohol?

ALAN TUDGE:
It won't do that just yet, but in most states there's some very clear liquor licencing laws where you can only sell liquor in a dedicated liquor outlet, so this problem you're alluding to only applies to a couple of states in Australia. In New South Wales…

ALAN JONES:
What about going to a brothel?

ALAN TUDGE:
If people are going to a brothel, they'll still be able to go to a brothel.

ALAN JONES:
Buying pornography?

ALAN TUDGE:
The main objective of this card is to address the community harm which is caused by the welfare fuelled alcohol, drug and gambling abuse. In some occasions as you know Alan, this is absolutely
extraordinary. The first trial site that we've already announced in going to be in the Ceduna region in South Australia.

ALAN JONES:
So this hasn't started yet?

ALAN TUDGE:
It hasn't started yet. It will actually kick off early next year but we've already announced the first trial site which is in Ceduna.

ALAN JONES:
Will that be for everyone on welfare?

ALAN TUDGE:
Every single person who is on an income support payment.

ALAN JONES:
Any kind of welfare?

ALAN TUDGE:
Anybody who is on an income support payment, i.e. if you're on Newstart, you're on a disability support payment, you're on a carers payment, if that's your main source of income, you'll be captured by this trial if you reside in that geographical area.

ALAN JONES:
How long do you reckon it would be- well you've got to get the damn stuff through the Senate- how long do you reckon it would be though, to make this an adjunct of welfare? You can't have welfare without the card?

ALAN TUDGE:
We're going to do this in several locations on a trial basis…

ALAN JONES:
I wish they'd have some debate about this instead of some of the other rubbish they talk about!

ALAN TUDGE:
We're going to do this in several locations on a trial basis for 12 months. We're going to assess this...

ALAN JONES:
Alan how is this different from the Healthy Welfare Card which I understand that people like Marcia Langton and Andrew Forrest- that's the same thing?

ALAN TUDGE:
This is the Healthy Welfare Card.

ALAN JONES:
The same thing.

ALAN TUDGE:
It actually came out of a recommendation from Andrew Forrest who made this recommendation to apply across Australia.

We've just made the decision to let's just take this one step at a time. We'll trial it first in a couple of high welfare communities where there is significant welfare fuelled alcohol and gambling and drug abuse. Let's assess it, see how it works before we make further decisions.

Now I point out Ceduna for example, now it has a hospitalisation rate from assault which is 68 times the national average, much of which is due to alcohol abuse. If we can, through this card, reduce that figure, I think it will be absolutely worth it.

ALAN JONES:
Brilliant, brilliant, so that's a 12 month trial. I'm just looking at how far down the track we are. So you don't have the legislation through now, I think the idea is brilliant, and I'm sure everyone listening here thinks the idea is brilliant, but Ceduna would be on its own I understand it on this cashless debit card for 12 months.

ALAN TUDGE:
That's right.

ALAN JONES:
Then you'll review the results there?

ALAN TUDGE:
So in Ceduna and we're also having some advanced discussions in a couple of other areas. We will trial it in those areas. We'll do a proper evaluation, then we'll make decisions from there as to whether or not this indeed can be rolled out further.

ALAN JONES:
The principle is you want to better target the welfare money so it's spent on those things which are essential but not on grog and gambling?

ALAN TUDGE:
Grog, gambling and drugs are our main target.

Those three things particularly, because not only do they cause you individual harm, but they end up causing community harm, because as you know if you drink very excessively which some people do in these locations, you're not only killing yourself but then in many cases you become violent and cause absolute havoc in the community, keeping the community up at night, kids can't get to sleep.

ALAN JONES:
How can you be sure from the research that's done for you, for the consultations that you've had with retailers and banks and so on, how can you be sure that this is fool proof?

ALAN TUDGE:
We've done a lot of work underpinning this with the banks who are designing the card for us, discussing it with retailers…

ALAN JONES:
So you don't think people can side-step it?

ALAN TUDGE
People are very creative and they will try to get around it. In some cases that will happen. I think the best analogy actually in terms of this, are where alcohol restrictions are introduced, typically in the very remote locations. Yes you will still get people who will try to get around it. You'll still get a grog runner into that community for example. But at the same time you typically halve the amount of violence, you halve the amount of assaults overnight despite the fact you still get some grog runners.

ALAN JONES:
We've got to go but can I just say to you though one of the problems here? I don't think anyone listening to us this morning has ever heard of this. We've got a selling job to do, haven't we? It's a very, very good initiative.

ALAN TUDGE:
Yeah I think it is a terrific initiative.

ALAN JONES:
A terrific initiative, well done.

ALAN TUDGE:
We've got to get it through the Senate and then it will kick off early next year and there will be a fair bit of noise around it.

ALAN JONES:
Thanks for talking to us Alan.

ALAN TUDGE:
Thanks so much Alan.

[ENDS]