Sky News AM Agenda - Interview with Kieran Gilbert

Release Date: 
7 October 2015

KIERAN GILBERT: Alan Tudge, thanks for your time. Your reaction to these latest raids in Sydney?

ALAN TUDGE: Good morning Kieran. Yes it’s an incredible development what has occurred this morning. I understand there are about 200 police who have been involved and there’s been very good cooperation between state and federal agencies as there often is.

I have great confidence in the police forces and they will be undertaking these raids for very good reasons and I hope that it leads to ultimately a safer community.

As you know, we’ve got significant challenges with radicalised young people in our community, particularly in Western Sydney. There’s no single answer to it but all of us have to be engaged throughout programs, through law enforcement, through the leadership of the Muslim communities and indeed from families themselves looking out for the elements of radicalisation in their children.

KIERAN GILBERT: Let’s move on to areas of your responsibility now. As Assistant Minister for Social Services, this issue of the welfare card, I know you’re going to be trialling this in various places like Ceduna over coming months. But one area in the Kimberley, its local council voting against being a part of this particular trial. Is that a disappointment?

ALAN TUDGE: I was disappointed with their resolution to vote against the trial occurring but I know from my own consultations in Halls Creek that there are many community leaders in that town who do want to be part of the trial.

We’ll be making a decision over the next two or three weeks as to the exact geographical scope of our trial in the East Kimberley and whether or not Halls Creek should be included in that. But I just make this point: there is a reason why we’ve been in discussions with the Halls Creek leaders. That is, because they do have very significant welfare fuelled alcohol abuse in that town. Our welfare card is specifically aimed at addressing that.

One example I give is that this is a town of 1,570 people and yet last year there was 1,593 domestic assaults, most of which is alcohol related. That’s an extraordinary figure. We do need to be taking action in relation to that. We’ve put this card on the table to discuss with the community leaders and we’ll continue with those discussions and we’ll be making a decision in the next few weeks.

KIERAN GILBERT: This shire President, Malcolm Edwards, is quoted in The Australian this morning saying that ‘you take away money and you still have the problems of people addicted to alcohol and drugs but not enough community health workers to deal with those problems.’ That’s his concern, that you might give certain individuals cards but other relatives who might not be on those cards might be, in his words, ‘humbugged for money by relatives.’

ALAN TUDGE: That’s exactly why we’ve designed this trial whereby everybody who’s on an income support payment will be issued with this card. Eighty per cent of their welfare payments will be placed into that card account and that card will work like an ordinary debit card that you or I might have in our pocket i.e. it will work at any store, you can purchase whatever you like, but it simply won’t work at the bottle shop, it won’t work at the gambling houses and you won’t be able to take cash from it.

This idea of humbugging; yes we have excluded aged pensioners from being included in the trial, but what we’ve said is that they can volunteer to be on the card should they choose to do so. I believe that in fact many people would want to do that to prevent being humbugged from others.

KIERAN GILBERT: By seeking to wish away these problems without having appropriate health workers in place, doesn’t Mr Edwards make a valid point in that regard, that you can’t wish away the addiction of those people? They’re still going to be addicted, that doesn’t just change at the issuing of one of these cards.

ALAN TUDGE: It’s going to be a package. The card is important because it reduces the amount of money that is available for alcohol. Twenty per cent of people’s payments will still be available in cash and we hope they don’t spend it on alcohol but they may well choose to do so.

At the same time, there also will be in place additional support services including drug and alcohol counsellors, there will be financial management assistance. We’re just about to announce a package in Ceduna which precisely goes to those elements to complement the issuing of the card.

We’re absolutely serious about getting on top of this welfare fuelled alcohol abuse. It destroys these communities. It is the poison in these communities and we have to get on top of it.

KIERAN GILBERT: Alan Tudge, thanks for that. We’ll stay in touch and keep track of just how that trial is going across those particular areas that you’ve referred to including Ceduna. We’ll stay in touch. Appreciate it.

ALAN TUDGE: Thanks so much Kieran.