DAVID LIPSON: Alan Tudge, I know you’ve been working very hard on the welfare card for indigenous communities, just trialling this card. How are the planning stages going? When will we see this rolled out and are there any other communities that are being looked at, at the moment?
ALAN TUDGE: Good morning David. Firstly it’s not just about indigenous communities but would apply to all people within a prescribed area.
We’ve already announced…
DAVID LIPSON: That’s important, thanks.
ALAN TUDGE: Yes it’s an important point.
We’ve already announced the Ceduna region in South Australia. It will be the first trial site. We’re in the detailed planning now for that and it will begin in February of next year.
Within the next couple of weeks I am hoping to be able to announce the East Kimberley as the second trial site. We’re in the final stages of discussion and negotiations with the community leaders as we speak.
I am hoping this won’t just be about the operation of the card itself, but will be a broader reform package and indeed a new way of operating and working together which I hope will be a model for future arrangements as well.
DAVID LIPSON: Are there any complications that you’re ironing out that you can mention to us here this morning?
ALAN TUDGE: It’s really down to the last details of the discussions with the community leaders in the East Kimberley.
We’ve had Ian Trust, who is one of the most substantial indigenous leaders in the country, who’s been leading the charge if you like, calling for this card to be introduced in the East Kimberley.
We’re going through what it might look like, how it would operate, and what particular additional services you might need to put in place alongside the operation of the card, similar to what we did in Ceduna.
You’re not only cutting off the cash available for the purchases of drugs, alcohol and gambling, but also putting in place support structures to assist people get off their dependence on those things, with the overall aim of course being a more stable, safer community, particularly for women and children.
DAVID LIPSON: A lot of these sorts of things have been tried in the past and haven’t gone very far, but there seems to be a bit of positivity and optimism in their reaction to the rollout of the welfare card. You must be pleased with that?
ALAN TUDGE: I am. We’ve spent a lot of time on the ground working with the community leaders in really what I would describe as a co-design process. Sol there is very strong buy-in and ownership from the community leaders. I think that’s vitally important when you’re doing a reform such as this.
When you have the community leader’s support, when they’ve co-designed it with the Government then I think you’ve got a much greater chance of the reform being successful at the end of the day.
DAVID LIPSON: Let’s look to the GST and this debate rolls on. Indeed we see two different points put forward today, one by Tony Shepherd, the former Business Council of Australia President who says that Australians are going to have to accept higher taxes in order to address the debt problem.
Others in the Liberal Party- and we heard from Jamie Briggs earlier- suggesting that the overall tax burden should actually be reduced as a result of tax reform. Which camp do you sit in?
ALAN TUDGE: I, like all Liberals, would like to see the tax burden reduced. We’re in the discussion stage of this tax reform process and we welcome all contributions including from members of our backbench. We’re having very constructive discussions with the state treasurers, with the parliament and indeed with the broader Australian public.
I think though where we do have some broad agreement is on some broad principles. They being: any reform should not just be about increasing the tax burden. It has to be tax reform, not tax increases. Secondly, we must look after those people who are on lower income and ensure they are not disadvantaged as a result and the Prime Minister’s made that very clear. Thirdly and most importantly, the overall objective of the reform is to try to create greater incentives in the process for people to work and for individuals and companies to invest. By doing that, you create more jobs, you create greater wealth for the entire community, and therefore have more money additionally to put into services down the track.
DAVID LIPSON: Do you have a view when it comes to the increasing of the tax? Some suggest we should be following the New Zealand model, increase it up to 15 per cent. Others say we shouldn’t touch the rate and perhaps be more lenient in broadening the base.
Do you see either of them as better or worse than the other?
ALAN TUDGE: I think there are advantages and disadvantages to each. Certainly I think the Treasurer has already made some comments that it’s unlikely that health and education would be included.
We’re at the early stages of discussions. Different options are being put on the table at the moment, partially at a request from the state treasurers.
We’ve still got a long way to go in terms of discussing these options, modelling these options, discussing it with the state treasurers at the meeting next February and continuing the debate with the Australian people.
DAVID LIPSON: Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister Alan Tudge we’ll have to leave it there. Great to talk to you this morning. Thanks for that.
ALAN TUDGE: Thanks so much David.