Topics: Knighthoods, PPL, childcare, opinion polls, Queensland, leadership
TOM ELLIOTT: Alan Tudge, good afternoon.
ALAN TUDGE: Good afternoon Tom, how’s it going?
TOM ELLIOTT: Good. Now I know that the job of Parliamentary Secretary is to have a lot of the Prime Minister’s work farmed out to them. Was it your idea to knight Prince Phillip?
ALAN TUDGE: No it wasn’t my idea Tom. As you know he consulted just with a handful of people in relation to that decision. My message on that is, let’s just keep it into perspective. Unlike many of the Labor decisions there was no millions of dollars wasted, there was no people drowning at sea or dying in fires as a result of that decision. It was a simple recognition of a bloke who- he has made a contribution over many decades and I think we just need to keep it into perspective.
TOM ELLIOTT: Well I agree with that, it’s not going to change our living standards one jot, it’s not going to cost us any money but it is a bit odd, I mean I don’t want to spend much time on this, it’s just that the Prime Minister re-created the knights and dames- or the sirs and dames- the knighthoods and it said they were for Australians and the third one has been given to Prince Phillip.
ALAN TUDGE: Tom, I’m a republican but I can understand the rationale behind the Prime Minister’s decision there but as he said at the Press Club today, in the future there will be no unilateral decisions by him. Every single decision for all of the Australia Day awards will be made by the Australia Day Council.
TOM ELLIOTT: Did you help Tony Abbott write today’s speech?
ALAN TUDGE: I did not. He wrote it himself, largely with his team, there were some people who looked at it before it was delivered.
TOM ELLIOTT: One of the key policy changes that came out of course was the dumping of the Paid Parental Leave Scheme. He made reference to improved childcare and some sort of families package. Would you like to explain to us what was meant by that?
ALAN TUDGE: Yeah that’s right. So there was a decision to basically dump the Paid Parental Leave Scheme, which as you know Tom is an expensive and controversial scheme.
TOM ELLIOTT: It was an election promise though.
ALAN TUDGE: Yes and essence the same objective is being pursued. The purpose of the Paid Parental Leave Scheme at the end of the day was to try to boost the female participation in the workforce. Now that can be done a number of ways. The Paid Parental Leave Scheme was one such way, but he’s come to the conclusion that actually putting additional support for childcare (inaudible). For seven years under the Labor Party, fees went up by 50 per cent, making it unaffordable for so many people.
TOM ELLIOTT: Well that’s because there’s a lack of places, so the places that there are seem to go up. But to me it seems obvious. I remember when we had our daughter, she’s now five, but back when she was born, the hardest thing for my wife going back to work was not her work itself, they I must say were very flexible and I really appreciated that about Channel Nine- that’s where she works- it was more being able to get someone or somewhere to mind our daughter and we ultimately had to rely upon relatives and a succession of different nanny’s because we simply couldn’t get a childcare place.I mean to me that’s the obvious way to help women get back to work. If they know that their child is being well taken care of, they’re more likely to go back to work a few days a week.
ALAN TUDGE: Yeah and I think that’s exactly right. Listen I’ve got young kids. I’ve been in exactly the same situation with my wife who works part-time as well. It’s a combination of two things I think Tom. One is actually having a place available for your child to go, but the other factor is the affordability of it. Now in my instance and I know with many, many families it almost becomes unviable to work part-time, for a woman particularly…
TOM ELLIOTT: Yeah because you lose as much money...
ALAN TUDGE: …because you’re losing all the money on the childcare.
TOM ELLIOTT: So are you going to do something about that?
ALAN TUDGE: We are. We’ve already had a Productivity Commission review into this and we’ve got the draft report and it makes a number of recommendations. But in essence it’s saying that we need a simplified system and we need a system which is going to allow greater accessibility and more affordability for men and women to be able to put their children into the childcare centres so that they can go to work if they want to.
TOM ELLIOTT:Ok but again, will you subsidise individual people, will you pay for more government childcare centres to be opened? What exactly is going to be the policy or we don’t know yet?
ALAN TUDGE:We don’t know yet and as I said the Prime Minister indicated today that the Productivity Commission report will guide our initial thinking. In essence what it recommends is that there be a simplified structure which makes a payment directly to the childcare centre of your choice and in the process making it more simple and more affordable. So that’s the broad concept which the Productivity Commission recommends but we want to consult broadly with the sector, with the Australian public before making any conclusions.
TOM ELLIOTT: This all sounds very welcome, let’s consult with people, let’s accept that there’s an issue here and try and find out the best way to deal with it, but I mean if I can be so bold, this is at odds with some policy making where it’s been bang, it’s now going to cost $7 to go to the doctor or we’re going to reduce doctors subsidies by $20 or something like that. Throwing out policies and then being aghast at the reaction which can I say is quite redolent of the way Kevin Rudd used to govern. He used to just throw things out there and people will be left to pick up the pieces.
So is this a new change where you identify a problem, go out and work out the solution and bring people along and then hopefully you get support for it?
ALAN TUDGE: That’s exactly right, I mean Tom, we made mistakes in the past, absolutely but we have to learn from those mistakes and one of the things which the Prime Minister is determined to do is to be more consultative with his colleagues, with stakeholders and with the broader community.
TOM ELLIOTT: Will that work? I mean you know, all sorts of negative polls whether it was two party preferred votes or Tony Abbott’s standing as Prime Minister, I think only 29 per cent of people in one poll regard him as being suitable. I mean do you think, doing this will be enough to resurrect his fortunes?
ALAN TUDGE: Well at the end of the day Tom though being Prime Minister and being in Government is not a popularity contest…
TOM ELLIOTT: Well but it is though.
ALAN TUDGE: Well it is about fundamentally the Australian people want results, they want jobs, they want increased wages, they want their cost of living pressures down. Now some of the results already achieved just in the last 16 months- jobs growth was three times the rate last year than it was in 2013 for example. Housing approvals are at record levels at the moment, the boats have stopped as you’d know (inaudible) starting to come under control so we’re not burdening our children with today’s debt.
TOM ELLIOTT: I accept some of these things but you can’t ignore the fact, you say it’s not a popularity contest but it is. I know polls are just polls but they sort of give an idea of what people are thinking and it is a popularity contest called an election in 2016. Now don’t tell me you don’t think about that?
ALAN TUDGE: Of course we do and of course we look at the polls when they come out and I think anybody who tells you otherwise is kidding themselves. We need to rebuild some of the trust which I think that we’ve lost and we need to start focusing precisely on the things that matter to everyday Australians. We’ve got to stop talking about ourselves frankly, stop talking about our internal machinations and focus on the Australian people.
TOM ELLIOTT: Well you do, because once Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd had this sort of speculation surrounding them that was the end of it. I mean it might have taken six months or nine months or however long but it still happened.Now we saw Campbell Newman’s Government got, well not obliterated but the Labor Party in Queensland went from nine seats back up to- it may well be the next government of Queensland. Do you think the electorate has now got far more short-term? I mean here in Victoria we had a Liberal Government under Baillieu and then under Denis Napthine turfed out after one term. Campbell Newman with a massive majority turfed out after one term. I mean is the whole electorate now demanding sort of instant solutions?
ALAN TUDGE: I think the electorate is more volatile and we’ve seen this progressively occur over many, many years now. There’s a greater proportion of people who are swing voters, where as in the past there was only a smaller number who were swing voters and I think that politics is faster because you have a 24 hour media cycle and there is a greater culture of instant gratification. Now we’ll take a look- a very close look- at what happened in Queensland. We need to learn the lessons from that and I think one of the lessons is that we need to absolutely focus on what matters to the Australian people, stop talking about ourselves, stop naval gazing and continue to deliver for the Australian people in jobs, in cost of living pressures, in national security. Those things which are the bread and butter for everyday Australians and that’s what we’re determined to do.
TOM ELLIOTT: Final question will Tony Abbott lead the party to the next election in late 2016?
ALAN TUDGE: Yeah he will. My colleagues today would have seen an impassioned leader with a plan for the future, focusing on economic growth. They would have seen his concessions to do things differently, to consult more, and I think there was a realisation that you can’t change leaders every five minutes like the Labor Party used to do.
TOM ELLIOTT: Alan Tudge, thanks for talking with us.
ALAN TUDGE: Thanks so much Tom.