JOHN MCGLUE: Your legislation is being debated in the Senate today and even if it gets through, you have this hitch with Halls Creek which is one of your target trial sites. Why do you think it is you haven’t been able to convince the people there of the merits of your scheme?
ALAN TUDGE: John you’re right, the legislation is being debated in the Senate as we speak and we are hopeful that it will pass in the next hour or so. From there we’ll be making decisions as to where we do trial it.
We’ve already announced that we will trial it in Ceduna. We’ve been working hand in glove with the Ceduna leadership to design the trial. It has been an absolute co-design process. Where the card will be introduced will be a series of drug and alcohol support services and financial management support services.
In relation to the East Kimberley, we’re in advanced discussions there but we’ve still got more work to do before we do make any announcement.
I’ve been out to Halls Creek. We have had our officials in Halls Creek speaking to many, many people and there are many people in the town who are supportive of the idea and there are some people including Rodger who I’ve just been listening to who do not like that idea.
At some stage we’ll have to make a decision as to whether or not to proceed in that region or to look somewhere else or to define the geography more tightly as to where the trial will occur.
JOHN MCGLUE: If the idea of this welfare card is to sort out the underlying problems, why won’t you simply run the trial somewhere else because Halls Creek turns out to be a difficult site for you? It seems to defeat the purpose in my mind.
ALAN TUDGE: In part because we said right at the get-go that we would trial this card in areas that satisfy two criteria. The first being where there is significant welfare fuelled alcohol, drug or gambling abuse. The second being where there is at least openness if not a willingness of the community leaders to want to participate in that trial.
When you have that, you have the best chance of that trial being successful.
In Ceduna, we have very clearly satisfied those two criteria. I think that we certainly satisfy, in relation to Halls Creek, the first criteria. There is still very significant welfare fuelled alcohol abuse in that town. But we do not have the complete support of the community leadership across Halls Creek but we’re still having ongoing discussions.
In Kununurra and Wyndham the situation is a bit different. There is much stronger support from the broader community leadership in that area.
JOHN MCGLUE: It was interesting, Alan Tudge, that Rodger Kerr-Newell said that a couple of the problems were fundamentally, one was that you had overestimated the number of domestic assaults in Halls Creek. He was unhappy about that. Also, that he had learned about Halls Creek being a trial site from the media, not from you or from the government.
Has he got a point?
ALAN TUDGE: In relation to the trial site, it’s basically been some of the regional community leaders in the East Kimberley who have been publicly calling for this card to be introduced into the region. In part we responded to them.
We have not announced that we are going to do the trial in the East Kimberley yet although I’ve indicated that of course we would like to, but we’ve still got more work to do.
Before formally announcing and before defining what the geographical boundaries are, we would go through a very thorough consultation process. That is what we’ve done in Ceduna and that is what we are doing in the East Kimberley including in Halls Creek.
As I’ve said, I’ve been out there myself. We’ve had officials from my department who have been out there regularly speaking to as many people as possible. There is significant support but there is also some people who don’t support it.
At the end of the day, we’re going to have to make a decision as to where we might proceed in terms of this trial.
JOHN MCGLUE: And potentially, Alan Tudge just very quickly, there is the potential for the trial to be rolled out in some parts of Halls Creek but not others?
ALAN TUDGE: The East Kimberley is a very big area and the major towns, as you probably know, are Kununurra, Wyndham and Halls Creek with some smaller satellite communities around them.
The way that the trial will work is that we will define a geographical area and people who reside in that geographical area will be issued with what will be a VISA debit card…
JOHN MCGLUE: We’re going to have to wind it up. We’re just heading towards news. I apologise for running out of time but I’m so grateful for your time today.
ALAN TUDGE: No problem John, thanks so much.