2UE Breakfast interview with John Stanley and Garry Linnell

Release Date: 
23 March 2015

John Stanley: Mr Tudge, good morning.

Alan Tudge: Good morning John.

Garry Linnell: Mr Tudge, why are you doing this?

Alan Tudge: We’re doing it because we know in many places that welfare is fuelling considerable harm, including violence and assaults against women and we think that there are better ways of delivering welfare and we want to trial that.

Garry Linnell: How are you going to apply it? Where are you going to trial it?

Alan Tudge: We’re going to trial it in just a small number of locations around Australia.

They’re going to be chosen on the basis of two criteria. Firstly where there’s at least an openness from the community to engage in a trial, and secondly where there is high welfare dependence leading to social harm and grog and alcohol abuse particularly.

John Stanley: This card was first raised by Andrew Forrest last year, he recommended it to the Government. It will apply to some Indigenous communities but it’ll also apply to non-Indigenous communities as well. How do you go about selecting them?

The card will be neutral in terms of who it applies to. The proposal is to trial it in just a small number of locations initially to test it, to see how it works, to see what the results are going to be. They won’t be exclusively Indigenous communities, but they will be communities where there is high welfare dependence and where there is often welfare fuelling alcohol and drug abuse.

John Stanley: Is it fair enough to assume that there will be pockets of western Sydney that you’ll be trialling it in?

Alan Tudge: No I wouldn’t assume that.

John Stanley: So you’re talking more about regional areas?

Alan Tudge: We just haven’t determined that and I don’t want to announce on the programme where we’re proposing to trial it. We need to have a lot more consultations first with community leaders; with various leaders from various places across the country before we settle on exactly the locations where we will.

John Stanley: How do you answer that and it’s quite a strong criticism that you’re vilifying welfare recipients that they’re not responsible enough to make the right decisions when it comes to spending their own welfare cheque.

Alan Tudge: A couple of responses, firstly that this will be a very targeted response, particularly to communities where there is considerable welfare-fuelled alcohol and drug abuse. That’s the first point.

The second point is that if you’re a responsible person in one of the trial sites and you’re on welfare, then the impact on you will be that instead of reaching for cash in your pocket, you’ll have to reach for your card and tap it. Because the card is proposed to be an ordinary Visa debit card whereby you can buy anything, anywhere but you simply cannot purchase alcohol and gambling.

John Stanley: What about tobacco?

Alan Tudge: No, tobacco is not being proposed.

Tobacco....of course we don’t encourage people to purchase tobacco, but the objective of the card in this proposal is to address the social harm which is caused by welfare.

In some communities, people are using the welfare, they’re spending nearly all of it on alcohol and then causing considerable social unrest. With tobacco, we don’t want people to smoke but it doesn’t have the same impact on the broader community that drugs and alcohol has.

John Stanley: How long will this trial be going for? 

Alan Tudge: We’re likely to support a trial for about a year. But those details are still to be worked on over the months ahead.

John Stanley: If it is successful, will you roll it out to all welfare recipients down the track?

Alan Tudge: No we won’t be doing that. It will always just be a very targeted measure but we’ve made no decisions at this stage, we’re going to take this very carefully, very steadily. We’re going to trial it and assess the outcomes but the proposal is never intended to apply across the board.

John Stanley: Just to clarify will the whole welfare amount of money, the payment go into the card?

Alan Tudge: That was the initial recommendation from Andrew Forrest. But we don’t think that’s sensible at this stage, in part because we don’t live in a completely cashless economy.

John Stanley: So they’ll get some cash?

Alan Tudge: You still need some cash. It might be for the kids tuck shop, it might be for a bus trip or something like that.

John Stanley: But a responsible person who may be on welfare who wants to go and have a break at the local club for an hour, with a friend and have a couple of wines will still be able to do that?

Alan Tudge:They’ll still be able to do that because there still will be a cash component. We need to have the amount on the card to be relatively high in part to address that overall objective that we’ve got in mind of minimising the welfare fuelled alcohol and drug abuse.

John Stanley: If you go to a shop where there’s liquor involved in your shop and you try and do the tap and go, the liquor won’t register on the card, that’ll be excluded?

Alan Tudge: In some states John you can only buy liquor at liquor stores, so the entire store will be excluded.

John Stanley: OK, Mr Tudge good to talk with you, good luck with it. Thank you.

Alan Tudge: Thanks so much John.