ABC Capital Hill Interview with Julie Doyle

Release Date: 
19 August 2015
Transcript
E&OE

Topics: Centrelink Cashless Debit Card trial, constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians, Cabinet, Government program, Canning by-election

ALAN TUDGE:
The concept is remarkably simple. Instead of placing all of a welfare recipient's payments into their cash account, instead we will place 80% of their payments into an account which is only accessible via a VISA or mastercard debit card.

That card will work everywhere, you can purchase anything but it will exclude the purchasing of alcohol and gambling.

JULIE DOYLE:
How will you judge if that's a success?

ALAN TUDGE:
We'll have a full evaluation on it but we'll be monitoring some of the social harm indicators. The overall objective of the trial is to reduce the welfare fuelled alcohol drug and gambling abuse which is rife in some communities.

We've announced already that Ceduna will be our first trial location. In that location the hospitalisation rate from assault is 68 times the national average, most of which is due to alcohol. So we would hope that that figure will come substantially down.

JULIE DOYLE:
What about the other two sides, you haven't chosen them yet?

ALAN TUDGE:
We haven't chosen them yet. We said at the outset that we'd choose sites based on two criteria. Firstly, where there is significant welfare fuelled alcohol and drug abuse, and secondly where there is a willingness from the community leaders locally to want to participate in a trial.

Ceduna satisfies both of those criteria. I think we'll be able to announce in near future that the east Kimberley will be a trial site but we still have some work to go there and we're in discussions with two or three other areas also.

JULIE DOYLE:
What about the argument that doing this restricts personal freedoms?

ALAN TUDGE:
This is welfare dollars provided by the taxpayer and it's provided for individuals to spend on clothing, on housing, on looking after their kids. That's the purpose of welfare payments.

And I would also say that the entire design of this card is that people will be able to spend their money on whatever they like but they simply can't spend it all on alcohol or gambling or illicit substances.

JULIE DOYLE:
Let's talk about the indigenous recognition in the constitution as well. The PM has invited four indigenous leaders to Canberra tomorrow for talks. Last month he said that he'd rejected the idea of indigenous only consultation as part of this process. What's changed his mind here?

ALAN TUDGE:
So what we have agreed to do is to have a number of conferences around the country to discuss indigenous constitutional recognition, to engage Aboriginal Australia and non-Aboriginal Australia. We want to discuss with these very senior indigenous leaders exactly how those conferences should be comprised, where they should be, what period of time etc,

It will be a good meeting. It's with Noel Pearson and Pat Dodson, two of the most substantial indigenous leaders in the country and I hope that we can work together to agree to a process forward.

JULIE DOYLE:
Let's talk more broadly now about how the Government is travelling and what we've seen in the past couple of weeks. The Prime Minister yesterday it's reported that he read the riot act to ministers when it comes to public squabbling. Did he read the riot act to you?

ALAN TUDGE:
I'm not going to comment on what happens in or outside of the Cabinet meetings. I'm not a member of Cabinet. He hasn't read the riot act to me. We've got a terrific Cabinet, we've got a big agenda, as you know we're absolutely focussed on jobs and growth and on national security. Those are the key things that people are most concerned about, that's our square focus.

JULIE DOYLE:
Today the Government Senator leader Eric Abetz said that his colleagues who leak to journalists are gutless. Do you agree with that?

ALAN TUDGE:
I don't like ever seeing leaks out of our party room, out of Cabinet, anywhere. Across all Governments in all of history there have been leaks out of Cabinet so it's not completely unusual but I don't want to see any of it.

JULIE DOYLE:
Is it gutless?

I probably would agree with Senator Eric Abetz in that regard.

JULIE DOYLE:
What do you think should be the consequences then for ministers who leak?

ALAN TUDGE:
Often you don't know who it is that is leaking but I don't want to get into this. We're absolutely focussed on the task ahead. People want us to be focussed on job creation.

JULIE DOYLE:
If it's gutless should there be consequences though?

ALAN TUDGE:
They want us to be focussed on cost of living, they want us to be focused on national security, rather than our internal discussions.

JULIE DOYLE:
How do you stop the leaking though, as I was saying, if there's no consequences?

ALAN TUDGE:
Again, the more that we're talking about leaks and Cabinet processes, the less we're talking about the issues which concern the Australian people.

JULIE DOYLE:
Let's talk about the Canning by-election which is coming up. What's the measure of success for that? Is it if you hold the seat or keep the margin, how will you judge?

ALAN TUDGE:
We obviously want to retain that seat but it will be very difficult. Typically in any by-election there's a swing against the Government, on top of that Don Randall who passed away a short time ago and the reason for the by-election, was a very popular local member.

So he commanded a personal following if you like, so we are not taking the by-election for granted. We're going to be working very, very hard on it. We've got a sensational candidate who is a former SAS Captain who has served in Afghanistan, on several occasions, and I think he'll be a terrific candidate.

JULIE DOYLE:
My question was how do you judge the success of the campaign? If there's a swing against the Government will you look at the margin and will there be ramifications? How will you judge that?

ALAN TUDGE:
The key thing we want to achieve is to hold the seat of Canning. That's our key thing. We've got a remarkable candidate who I think would be an outstanding member of parliament. He brings great experience to the broader parliamentary team, having been a decorated SAS soldier.

JULIE DOYLE:
Alan Tudge we'll leave it there.

Thanks so much Julie.

[ENDS]