Transcript: Sky News interview with Laura Jayes

5 April 2016

The Hon Alan Tudge MP

Minister for Human Services
Topics: 
Cashless debit card trial, Newspoll
E&OE

LAURA JAYES:

What message do you take from today's Newspoll?

MINISTER TUDGE:

Oh Laura there's probably been about 30 polls this year alone, there'll be another 50 or so polls between now and the election. It's just one poll. At the end of the day, as the old saying goes, the only thing that really matters is the vote on the day.

LAURA JAYES:

I thought you might say that, but it was 30 Newspolls that Malcolm Turnbull cited 6 months ago when he said he was rolling Tony Abbott, so are you telling me that the Government's taking no notice of these polls today?

MINISTER TUDGE:

Inevitably we have a look at those Newspolls and we see what's going on, but we also have a look at the Morgan poll, which came out last night. It showed that the Coalition was in front 53/47.

I would say about the Newspoll, it's only a couple of point change from the last Newspoll which actually is within the margin of error. So let's just keep all of this in perspective, we're focussed on the task ahead and we're not deviating from that.

LAURA JAYES:

That's right, polls are retrospective and it's probably a litmus test on the last 2 weeks of the Government. Was everything smooth sailing, was it a messy week? Could things have been better?

MINISTER TUDGE:

It was probably a little bit untidy, but you can always look in hindsight and say where you could improve things. But at the end of the day, some very important things were discovered over the last couple of weeks.

And that is that there's no desire from the State Governments to want to raise revenue. There's no desire from us to want to increase taxes, and therefore the conclusion of that is that all of us must live within our means, and that we have to get expenditure under control rather than raising new taxes.

We have no desire to raise new taxes. The States were given opportunities themselves to be more sovereign, but they didn't accept that.

So let's now focus on being more efficient and living within our means.

LAURA JAYES:

Living within your means, is that the new campaign slogan?

MINISTER TUDGE:

We've been talking about that for 3 years Laura, about living within your means. It's been 1 of the key things that we have said, 1 of our key critiques of the Labor Party is that they went from having a $20 billion surplus which they inherited, to having the biggest budget deficit in all of Australian political history.

Unfortunately, we inherited that and we're still trying to come to grips with the huge deficit which Labor's left.

LAURA JAYES:

One of your colleagues today said to me that he was frustrated by the lack of narrative, it would seem, at this stage going into what is already effectively a campaign now. The other point that has been raised today as well is that the Government's trying to fight Labor on its own turf, and this is really a gift to Labor – talking about health and education. Do you agree with that sentiment?

MINISTER TUDGE:

We have to be talking about health and education, they're important things which we provide a very significant amount of funding to. We've made the point that in both cases money is important, but at the same time it's not the only thing.

In schools for example, we've had a massive increase in funding over the last decade but results have actually gone backwards. So it's clearly not just about money.

Broadly though, our most important priority, as everybody will know, is to grow the economy and create more jobs.

Of course we're also keeping a very close eye on our national security settings in order to keep people safe. They're our twin pillars – economic security and national security – that we think that most Australians care most about. But of course we're also concerned about education and health and we'll be ensuring there's funding there, and that they're done well as well.

LAURA JAYES:

You've just been in Ceduna, this is after the healthy welfare card has been rolled out. What is the lived experience of that card?

MINISTER TUDGE:

The trial is just beginning this month, and we met some individuals who have now been in receipt of this cashless debit card, and 80% of their welfare payments are being paid into this cashless debit card account.

One of the women who we met, she was purchasing some items in a store, she was buying a toy for her daughter. She said it was absolutely fine by her, she wasn't a drinker in any case, so no problem.

The overall aspiration of myself, of the Government, and indeed of the community leaders there in Ceduna is for this card to have a dramatic impact on the welfare-fuelled alcohol, drug and gambling abuse which unfortunately is very present in that community, as it is in many communities.

LAURA JAYES:

Sure, but can I just ask you about some of the more negative aspects of this card? There's been some anecdotal evidence that there's been a few issues with PIN numbers and establishing these cards, so as you'd expect with a new system there are some issues to iron out – is that correct?

MINISTER TUDGE:

Well this is a world-first trial and inevitably when you're trialling something new there's going to be some little issues which you have to fix up right at the very beginning.

But we've got people on the ground precisely to be able to fix up those issues. For example, that issue which you mentioned where there was a person who was struggling to get her PIN number texted to her, that was resolved within 2 hours.

Now there'll be other little issues like that, we'll fix them there on the spot. It's the very nature of a trial.

LAURA JAYES:

Now the aim of this healthy welfare card is obviously to change behaviour as well – stop people from using their money to gamble and drink. That is the stick approach if you like, but what's the carrot approach to this? Because if you are getting people to change their behaviour, what kind of extra services is the Government offering? Any extra counselling, rehabilitation services that people can turn to?

MINISTER TUDGE:

It's a very important point actually Laura, that this trial is not just the card, but is both the card - which has the impact of reducing the amount of cash available for the purchase of alcohol, drugs and gambling - but at the same time we're investing $1.5 million in additional services, and particularly in residential rehabilitation services, financial counselling, a 24/7 outreach service so that if people are in trouble at night they can be assisted and delivered back to where they can get some help.

The card works to reduce the cash, the services are there to help people get off their addictions. Together we hope it will make a real impact in terms of some of the alcohol abuse particularly.

(ENDS)