Doors, Canberra

Release Date: 
19 August 2015
Transcript
E&OE

Topics: Centrelink Cashless Debit Card, Cabinet, Government program, China Free Trade Agreement E&OE…

ALAN TUDGE:
This morning I'll be introducing legislation for the trial of the Centrelink Cashless Debit Card. This trial will authorise up to 10,000 people to be covered.

The concept is a simple one. Instead of putting all welfare payments into an individual's cash account, instead, most of people's welfare payments will be placed into an account which can only be accessed via an ordinary Visa, or EFTPOS debit card. That card can be used anywhere, to purchase anything but it simply won't work at the bottle shops and won't work at the gambling houses and you won't be able to get cash from it.

We're proposing that 80 per cent of all payments be placed into that account. The main objective of the card is to address the very serious welfare fuelled alcohol, drug and gambling abuse, as you'd be aware is rife in some communities. We hope it will have a serious impact on those issues.

In my view this could be a watershed moment for Australia in how we deliver welfare payments and I hope that the Parliament will support it.

JOURNALIST:
Is it an opt-in process for communities that said they were willing to take part in this, but if a community has agreed to do it does everyone on welfare have to do it?

ALAN TUDGE:
That's right. We're determining the trial locations on two criteria. Firstly where there is significant welfare fuelled alcohol, drug and gambling abuse. Secondly where there's an openness, if not a willingness from community leaders to want to participate in the trial.

The Ceduna region is the first region we have announced who will be the first trial site, and they certainly satisfy both of those criteria.

What that means is that every single person on a working age payment will be covered by the trial and be issued with this Centrelink Debit Card.

JOURNALIST:
Is it a special card or is it different Visa card?

ALAN TUDGE:
It's going to be a card which is very similar to the card which probably most of you have in your pockets right now- a Visa debit card, or a MasterCard, or an EFTPOS debit card- which will be operable absolutely everywhere, you'll be able to purchase anything you like with it, but it simply won't work at the liquor stores, and it won't work at the gambling houses.

JOURNALIST:
When will this be rolled out?

ALAN TUDGE:
It will be rolled out from February of next year.

JOURNALIST:
There's evidence that in the past in indigenous communities the Basics Cards were used for gambling purposes and swapped around within communities, what mechanisms and safeguards are there to ensure that doesn't happen with this card?

ALAN TUDGE:
Some people will always try to get around the system, but the best analogy that I have are when alcohol restrictions are introduced into a community. Inevitably, you'll still get the grog runners which will occur, you'll get people who will try to get around the system. But at the same time, you nearly always halve the violence and halve the assaults overnight as a result. I think we'll have a similar impact here.

JOURNALIST:
What about shops where- I know here in Canberra where you can buy alcohol and groceries in the same store- how does the card know that you're buying booze?

ALAN TUDGE:
The ACT and Victoria are relatively unique in terms of their liquor licencing laws. In most states, the liquor licencing mean that you can only purchase alcohol in a dedicated outlet, so it's much more straightforward in those locations.

The locations where we're likely to trial it are, as I say, in Ceduna in South Australia. We're having advanced discussions with the leadership in the East Kimberley, and we're also looking at a couple of other locations in other states.

JOURNALIST:
How will you measure success in six months' time? Will you be looking at statistics or looking at anecdotal evidence?

ALAN TUDGE:
We'll be having a full evaluation of this trial. That will be part of it. We will be tracking all of the harm indicators, the hospitalisation rates for example, we'll be getting some qualitative data as well to assess whether or not this is successful or not.

JOURNALIST:
How much does the Government expect this card to cost per person?

 

ALAN TUDGE:
We're still determining that in part because we haven't signed the contract with the financial services provider. What I can tell you is that the operating costs of this card will be significantly lower than the operating costs of the Basics Card.

JOURNALIST:
Why is that?

ALAN TUDGE:
The Basics Card is a boutique card not connected to your ordinary payments platform. Individual retailers have to sign on. Secondly with the Basics Card, it has an income management structure underpinning it i.e. that is specifies how people must spend their money.

Whereas with this card, people can spend their welfare payments as they like- on anything, anywhere in the country, but simply can't spend their money at the liquor stores and the gambling houses.

JOURNALIST:
Does the Government envisage that in the future people that are currently on the Basics Card will be getting access to these new Healthy Welfare Cards?

ALAN TUDGE:
We're taking one step at a time. We're going to trial it in two or three locations first, we'll assess it and then make decisions from there.

JOURNALIST:
The Prime Minister has read the riot act on Cabinet saying everyone needs to pull their heads in and try and turn the focus back to key issues. Do you think he has control over his Cabinet?

ALAN TUDGE:
We've got an exceptionally good Cabinet and we're absolutely focused on the core pillars of jobs and growth and national security. They're the things which people are most concerned about. We are making traction in those areas.

As you know our jobs growth now is almost ten times that per month, than it was in the last months of the Labor Government. But we've got a lot more work to do.

We're absolutely determined to continue the path of job creation. We want to make sure we're on top of national security. We've got our Federation White Paper underway, our Tax White Paper underway, and other issues that we'll be prosecuting in the near future.

JOURNALIST:
Is it frustrating to see though, the issues of gay marriage and Dyson Heydon overshadow those messages that you're trying to put across about jobs and the economy?

ALAN TUDGE:
Gay marriage for many people is an important issue but for others it's a less important issue. I think most people are concerned about cost of living, whether or not they've got a secure job, they're concerned about youth unemployment. Those are the things we are squarely focused on.

JOURNALIST:
Do you agree with the Prime Minister that it's been a scrappy week or do you agree with Jamie Briggs that it's been a scrappy six weeks?

ALAN TUDGE:
Laura, I'll let you be the commentator on what sort of week we've had. We're absolutely focused on our task ahead in terms of jobs creation, economic growth and national security.

JOURNALIST:
That's not really true though is it, there's no substantive legislation before the Parliament this week, I don't know about the next sitting fortnight, there's no Cabinet meeting next week, there's no Cabinet submissions…

ALAN TUDGE:
Laura, I'm just about to introduce some substantive legislation this morning! I can't believe you said that!

We've got a very good track record already in terms of what we've already achieved. You go through some of the things we have done. We've scrapped the carbon tax, we've scrapped the mining tax, we've signed three free trade agreements which the Labor Party had in their too hard basket, we've had a trillion   dollars' worth of environmental approvals, we've stopped the boats when everybody said that was going  to be impossible.

In the areas I've had some responsibility for in the indigenous space, we've now got 13 per cent more kids- indigenous kids- attending schools in those remote locations than were in the previous year. We've got targets set for employment, so that we can hopefully close that employment gap, and of course we're making strides in terms of community safety.

Looking forward we've got the tax white paper which is going to provide a blueprint for how we reform the tax system. We've got our Federation White Paper system in place. Both are very substantial reforms which we're going through right now.

JOURNALIST:
On the Forrest Review how many of the recommendations have now been implemented?

ALAN TUDGE:
We've said that we will implement or are in the process of implementing 26 of the 27   recommendations. Many have already been embedded as you know for example, the new procurement
target which is, I think, a significant milestone for the country, lifting our employment targets, this welfare
card itself and some of the training measures are already in place.

The only one which we had difficulty with was the measure which said that there should be a company status for certain types of companies that employ a certain number of indigenous people.

JOURNALIST:
On free trade, do you think the Federal Government has botched the sales job on the China agreement?

ALAN TUDGE:
The China Free Trade Agreement is one of the great opportunities for Australians and it will create the jobs of the future because almost against every single category of export into China, the tariffs are coming  down almost to zero in most instances.

I am deeply disappointed that the Labor Party is out there now arguing against the free trade
agreement. It seems they are aligning themselves with the CFMEU who are frankly running a xenophobic campaign against the China Free Trade Agreement, rather than aligning themselves with everyday Australians who want the jobs which will inevitably come out of this agreement.

[ENDS]