3AW Drive, Interview with Tom Elliot

Release Date: 
14 January 2015
Transcript
E&OE

Topics: Youth unemployment, "Earn or Learn" policies, Medicare

TOM ELLIOTT
Our next guest may be able to explain whether we can force jobless Australians to go and pick cherries as Wendy did when she was young. Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Alan Tudge, good afternoon.

ALAN TUDGE
G’day Tom, great to be with you.

TOM ELLIOTT
The fruit picking industry says more than 40,000 backpackers work on Australian farms every year and a lot of those are in Victoria. Now, presumably these backpackers are working because Australians don’t want to do the job. Why?

ALAN TUDGE
Well there is a bunch of reasons for that. Sometimes it is the choice of young people; other times it is simply the seasonal nature of the work, particularly in the northern parts of Australia and more remote parts of Australia, where they simply don’t have the workers there. What we are determined to do though Tom, is to ensure that every young person is working or training for a job and is not on the dole. We have already introduced some policies and we are going to be introducing some more and create incentives to make it less hard for a person to start a job.

TOM ELLIOTT
Well I was in America recently, now America has a rather different view of welfare then what we do in Australia. For example, basically if you lose your job you get three months of unemployment benefits and that is it. Now, I guarantee in America if there are fruit picking jobs going and it was either do that or have nothing, people would go and pick fruit. I don’t

understand why if someone is unemployed here and even if the work is only seasonal they wouldn’t go up to wherever fruit picking jobs are; Shepparton, Kyabram, places like that and pick fruit for a few months.

ALAN TUDGE
I completely agree with you. In fact we want to encourage people to relocate to get work, so we have already introduced, for example an incentive to encourage people to move locations if there is not a job at their doorstep. There is up to twelve and half thousand dollars now available for a person to move, to relocate, take up a job and stick at that job for a couple of years.

TOM ELLIOTT
Do you think Australians think that certain jobs are beneath them? Foreign backpackers are willing to do it. They’re just kids, teenagers and young adults from other countries. If they are willing to do it, why are Australians not willing to do it?

ALAN TUDGE
I think there is a bit of job snobbery around Tom and I’ve met people who have decided not to take a certain job and rather sit on the dole. Now we don’t think that is acceptable. Now the other thing that I was saying was we want to introduce legislation, which is in the Senate presently, to a have a six month waiting period before you can access the dole. So if you are a school leaver you can’t go straight onto the dole, you would either have to take a job or you would have to do a training course, in which case there would be youth allowance available. Or indeed if you are an older person and you decide to quit your job you can’t go straight onto the dole, but rather you have to go into another job or take a further training course to get into work. In addition to that, we are also introducing full time work for the dole for young people, as a further encouragement for them to take up work; as well as a mechanism for them to keep their skills high.

TOM ELLIOTT
Do you think there are many genuine dole bludgers that would say, you know the doles not a lot of money- less than $300 a week, who sit there and also say, well I don’t feel like working, I can fill these bits of paper pretending I’m looking for work, but I would rather just get money from the Government. Do you think there are many people that do that?

ALAN TUDGE
I think there are some people who do that, who make their choice not to take a job which is available. Now in some cases there is no choice for those individuals; simply there is not a job available for them or they don’t have the requisite skills or they have some other incapacity.

TOM ELLIOTT
In fruit picking you don’t need new skills. I can understand if you were disabled.

ALAN TUDGE
Perhaps if you have got a child in school and you’re a single parent, it would be more difficult for them to move locations for just three or six months. But if you are a single

person and you do have an ability to relocate to another area to take that fruit picking job, then I think it is great thing for that person to do and we absolutely want to encourage it.

TOM ELLIOTT
Ok, a separate issue, yesterday when the news broke, your government was planning to cut back on Medicare subsidies for doctor consultations for less than 10 minutes, at the moment the doctor gets $37. The proposal is to cut that down to $17. Now I have a counter proposal where you pay all doctors by the minute. So if they see someone for five minutes that is five times the minute rate or ten or fifteen and then that way, there is no incentive to see a patient for a short or longer amount of time. But in any case, Bill Shorten has already come out and said it will be blocked in the Senate and it simply won’t get through. Is the Senate proving to be particularly difficult for you?

ALAN TUDGE
We are working steadily with each Senator, cross bencher to try and get our measures through. Yes it is a difficult Senate. On this particularly measure we are disappointed with the Labor party. They are being opportunistic, they said in the past that they wanted Medicare to be sustainable; they said they wanted to see the end of six-minute medicine, where people are just shovelled it and out of a doctor's clinic. Now these measures are designed to address both those two points; to end six-minute medicine and to also make Medicate sustainable in the long run. We seek the cross benchers support, we seek Labor’s support and we are disappointed with their measure.

TOM ELLIOTT
Well, you know you won’t get Labor’s support. Nick Xenophon, Palmer United, have any of those people been listening to what you have to say?

ALAN TUDGE
We have been in discussions with them. I think they understand that the Medicare system costed $8 billion dollars 10 years ago, it costs $20 billion dollars today and in another decade's time it is forecasted to be $34 billion. It is on a tremendous increase and it is just not sustainable. We want to make Medicare sustainable for the long run. That means we are introducing some of these measures we are talking about, so that Medicare is here for years and decades to come.

TOM ELLIOTT
So as well as cutting back the subsides for doctors for two minute consultations, are we still also going to propose to have a seven dollar co- payment fee on top of that?

ALAN TUDGE
No it will be up to the doctors in terms of what they charge.

TOM ELLIOTT
But the doctors will get less money; presumably a lot of them will have to charge?

ALAN TUDGE
Part of the aim is to end six-minute medicine as well; so people aren’t going through the system in 3, 4, 5 minute blocks and rather having time to spend with their doctor. (Inaudible)

TOM ELLIOTT
I had a couple of doctors on air yesterday, for 9 minutes they get a $17 subsidy but if they go to 11 minutes they get a $37 subsidy, well frankly you would just turn 9 minute consultations into 11 minute consultations. The pace may be no better off, but the doctors will have this bizarre economic incentive to do that. What about my idea of paying them by the minute, 2 bucks a minute or something like that?

ALAN TUDGE
We think our proposal will encourage doctors to spend a bit more time with each patient. That was something the AMA in the past talked about as well. They wanted to change the incentive structure to end this so called six-minute medicine and we think this will encourage doctors to spend a bit more time with each patient and that is exactly what the measure is aimed to do.

TOM ELLIOTT
If it gets through the Senate?

ALAN TUDGE
If it gets through the Senate, now we already have a number of measures through the Senate as you know: the carbon tax, the mining tax and all sorts of others measures, and many of our budget measures. Each measure we have to work carefully, methodically with the cross benches, deal with their concerns and negotiate with them and that’s what we will do here as well.

TOM ELLIOTT
Alan Tudge, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, thank you for your time.

ALAN TUDGE
Thank you very much Tom.