Sky News Karvelas - Interview with Patricia Karvelas

Release Date: 
14 February 2016
Transcript
E&OE

Topics: New Turnbull Ministry, appointment as Minister for Human Services, Closing the Gap report, Indigenous constitutional referendum.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

My first guest tonight is one of the big winners in this reshuffle. Alan Tudge moves from an Assistant Minister role to Minister for Human Services. Congratulations.

ALAN TUDGE:

Thank you PK.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Does this satisfy the conservative wing now of the Liberal Party; the wing that felt a bit miffed five months ago?

ALAN TUDGE:

Malcolm Turnbull has made a number of decisions that has included some additional conservatives onto the front bench, but his overall objective was to put up people who he thought we deserving of it, were talented, where there is a good balance across the states and of course we are adding an additional woman into the cabinet as well which I think is a good thing.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

But, back to the conservative wing – you are happier now, not just on a personal level, you have obviously been elevated, but I mean overall are the conservatives happier now?

ALAN TUDGE:

PK that is a tough question. There is a broad church within our party as you know and each of us does our best. You all like to contribute as much as you possibly can. I am certainly thankful for the opportunity I have been given.

I am sure some of the other more conservative members like Angus Taylor are also thankful. I think he is an absolute superstar and so I am glad that he got that opportunity to be an Assistant Minister as well as people like Darren Chester from the Nats who is into the Cabinet and Fiona Nash who I mentioned.

Steve Ciobo is into the Cabinet as well. I think we have got some really solid people going into the Cabinet and replacing those more senior people who are retiring.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

You were the Parliamentary Secretary for Indigenous Affairs and that is really how we know each other, historically we have worked closely on those issues. That area now appears to be downgraded to me because your role hasn’t been replaced.

ALAN TUDGE:

No, but in some respects, we have still got Nigel Scullion there who is the senior Indigenous Affairs Minister. The Prime Minister is still there as the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs. Every portfolio leader has to be taking that into account as well and be thinking about the Indigenous issues.

I know for example that Simon Birmingham, the Education Minister, was just speaking to the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council just the other night about some of the education initiatives which he will be pursuing.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Sure, but Tony Abbott set it up that you as the Parliamentary Secretary, and then you became the Assistant Minister, were really a special adviser to him on this issue and there was an Indigenous Affairs Minister. Now that is gone. 

ALAN TUDGE:

I will still be doing some work in that space through my existing role which is in the broad Social Services portfolio and of course one of the pressing issues in the remote Indigenous communities particularly is welfare passivity. That is something that I will still be having an eye on and wanting to address from where I am.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Alright, well I will take that as a yes, it has been downgraded.

ALAN TUDGE:

I did not say that Patricia.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Alright, you didn’t quite say that. Human Services, now you are taking Human Services; notoriously difficult issue, good luck.

ALAN TUDGE:

Thank you.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

You know it well from doing work on welfare reform. What do you want to change?

ALAN TUDGE:

Our overall objective is to have a welfare system which is targeted, which supports those in need and which is financially sustainable and there is almost three things you have got to do to achieve that.

Firstly you have got to have the parameters designed correctly so that those who should be receiving it are and they are getting the right payments.

Secondly I think you need to ensure there is integrity in the assessment process and finally you need to ensure that any mutual obligations are rigorously applied.

And so, across those three areas I will be focusing on and of course working very closely with Christian Porter the Social Services Minister.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

There has been a story out that the Medicare payments system might be privatised. That really has a lot of links to Human Services and that will affect you as well. Do you think that is the right strategy in the future with more of our payments systems, Centrelink payments systems potentially?

ALAN TUDGE:

The Health Minister is actually examining that issue and I will leave it to her. I will be getting briefings this week in relation to that and other issues. I have only just been announced yesterday and I will be happy for…

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

…But as a concept do you think the payments system, as the Prime Minister says, needs to come into the 21st Century?

ALAN TUDGE:

As a concept, absolutely. We have got a huge IT project going on in Human Services at the moment to replace the existing system, which is almost 30 years old now.

The new IT system is designed so that it is not only good for the government but it is cheaper for the taxpayer and will get a better outcome and better interface for the recipients as well.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

That would be good because I have interacted with Centrelink and I am – I know enough about the world as you know, I have been around; I know how to operate a basic system. It is impossible so I have no idea how people on welfare with no education do it. 

ALAN TUDGE:

There is certainly room for improvement and one of my tasks is to do that. We want to have a very good safety net for people. They need to be able to easily access those and there needs to be professionalism in terms of how people interact with that as well.

I know there are some issues out there. I’ll certainly be getting some briefings on those this week and applying myself to them.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Well it looks like you are taking a very strong interest in that area.

This week was the Closing the Gap report and the Prime Minister delivered that. Let’s hear him.

[plays excerpt of Prime Minister’s Closing the Gap speech]

That was the Prime Minister this week in Parliament delivering his first Closing the Gap statement. You were, and you still are until Thursday, his Assistant Minister in this area. It seemed to me a shift in rhetoric but not in policy. Is that right?

ALAN TUDGE:

Inevitably when you have a new Prime Minister there will be a new tone and there will be some new initiatives. He announced for example a $20 million language preservation initiative during that speech.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

And spoken language for the first time.

ALAN TUDGE:

And spoken language for the first time which I thought was a nice touch as well right at the beginning of his speech.

The policy settings are broadly the same; however the tone is slightly different. He certainly emphasised the desire to work more closely with Aboriginal people in the program design and program implementation.

I think that has been an intent of the government for the last couple of years and he is indicating we are going to redouble our intent there. Certainly my experience from almost 15 years in and around this space is that if you have got local leaders on the ground who are working hand in glove with you designing programmes, you have got a much greater chance of succeeding.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

And [inaudible] very specifically said ‘work with us, don’t tell us what to do’.

ALAN TUDGE:

I think that is exactly right.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Was Tony Abbott telling people what to do too much?

ALAN TUDGE:

I don’t think he was. Our intent was always to work very cooperatively with Aboriginal people and… 

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
…but do you concede that Aboriginal people thought he was telling them what to do?

ALAN TUDGE:

Inevitably some Aboriginal people would have thought that and no doubt they will for many years to come. We have a very strong intent to work incredibly cooperatively with them.

Certainly the work that I was doing over the past couple of years in a couple of regions introducing this welfare debit card was done on a co-design basis with the regional leaders in Ceduna and the East Kimberley respectively.

As I said before, I think if you do it that way where you have the buy in from the local leaders on the ground, where you are co-designing the programmes, then the chances of succeeding and seeing real change are so much higher. It does not guarantee it, but the chances are so much higher in my view.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Bill Shorten put constitutional reform on the agenda by saying he wanted to meet Tony Abbott’s deadline of next year. Can that happen? Can Malcolm Turnbull meet that deadline?

ALAN TUDGE:

We still could.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Do you think it is likely? I know…

ALAN TUDGE:

It is a nice ambition to have because next year, May 2017, would be the fiftieth anniversary of the 1967 referendum so there is a nice symbolic reference, if you like, to that date. We have always had that in the back of our minds that ideally we would hold the referendum on that date. 

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

You are running out of time, aren’t you?

ALAN TUDGE:

The key thing, and we have said this all along as you know PK, we are not going to rush this and we are going to choose a date when it has the best chance of succeeding rather than rush to a failure.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

So, maybe?

ALAN TUDGE:

So it is still a maybe; it is still an aspiration but we are not locking ourselves in. We never have locked ourselves in on a timeframe.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Alan Tudge, I’ve really enjoyed talking to you tonight. Congratulations again.

ALAN TUDGE:

Thanks PK.

[ENDS]