Transcript: Sky News interview with Patricia Karvelas

4 September 2016

The Hon Alan Tudge MP

Minister for Human Services
Topics: 
Procedural voting in the house, Section 18C, Superannuation reform, Upcoming visit to East Kimberley WA - Cashless Debit Card

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
Joining me in the studio now is the Human Services Minister Alan Tudge, welcome Alan Tudge.

ALAN TUDGE:
Hi Patricia.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
Labor's Anthony Albanese says the Turnbull Government lost votes on the floor of the House of Reps because it is lazy and adopted a born to rule mentality. I - is the Government lazy?

ALAN TUDGE:
The Government's not lazy, in fact last week we introduced 26 bills into the parliament.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
So why was [indistinct] skiving off?

ALAN TUDGE:
It was a stuff up. At the end of the day it was a stuff up on our behalf. We were embarrassed by it and it won't happen again but let's just keep Thursday night in perspective: there was no major vote lost, there were procedural votes which were lost and also the last time this occurred was in the Menzies era and Menzies went on to be prime minister for a further 10 years after that lost vote occurred.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
He predicts that the Parliament won't last a year.

ALAN TUDGE:
Well I predict it will last three full years.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
Three full years.

ALAN TUDGE:
Absolutely.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
Will this mistake never again?

ALAN TUDGE:
This mistake will never happen again.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
How can you be sure?

ALAN TUDGE:
Well I think all of us have been a bit embarrassed by it and particularly those members who did leave the Chamber early. So it's not going to happen again.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
There is something arrogant isn't it about just jumping in your car and trying to go back to Sydney in John Alexander's case?

ALAN TUDGE:
Listen I don't think so I mean for viewers who are listening here...

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
I'm not allowed to leave the show early and drive off.

ALAN TUDGE:
No but the convention is we go into what's called the adjournment debate at 4:30 and it then finishes at five and that no votes occur in that time. Now some people for whatever reason will try to leave at that particular point in time in order to catch a particular flight to get to an event at the other end. That occurs from time to time it's not going to occur again over the next three years.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
Couldn't you see it coming though because one thing I absolutely with Tony Burke on is that they made it crystal clear that they were going to test this parliament. How did you miss it because I didn't?

ALAN TUDGE:
You're probably right Patricia and I think we are really embarrassed by it but let's keep it all in perspective too. It was a one off, it's not going to happen again and we're just going to get on with business now. As I said, 26 bills were introduced into parliament in that first week. That includes important bills like protecting the CFA volunteers.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
Sure a lot of them were re-introductions of old bills.

ALAN TUDGE:
That includes getting the budget back under control, it includes things like the ABCC legislation. That's the real meaningful things which people want us to get on with and that's what we're doing.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
Tony Abbott is reported to have clashed with Scott Morrison over his superannuation changes labelling them deeply unpopular with the Coalition's base. Do you agree that they are deeply unpopular with the Coalition's base?

ALAN TUDGE:
Certainly there were some members who did not like them but the overall intent of course of our superannuation changes was to address some of the more generous tax concessions at the very top end and half of those - half of the money generated from that went back into the bottom end in terms of providing additional benefits for lower income people.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
But this notion that it's deeply unpopular, do you agree with that?

ALAN TUDGE:
Oh listen some people were upset by them but some people who spoke to me also sort of said listen I can understand this, there have been very generous concessions at the top end and they're being addressed. By the way...

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
Deeply unpopular or just unpopular?

ALAN TUDGE:
At the end of the day Patricia, these were taken to an election as well and the Australian people voted and so we now have a mandate to introduce them.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
Okay so Tony Abbott's wrong?

ALAN TUDGE:
I don't think that they were deeply unpopular as Tony Abbott said, some people were upset by them, however we've got a mandate to introduce them and that's what we're going to do.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
Okay support is building for the Treasurer to increase the cap on after tax contributions to $1 million; it's a very different amount of money than you took to the election.

ALAN TUDGE:
You're talking about the $500,000 cap and increasing that to $1 million. I mean the...

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
They will cost the budget too according to The Australian newspaper.

ALAN TUDGE:
Yeah of course it will, now no decision has been made on that by the way. I think Scott Morrison has identified that the $500,000 cap is perhaps the more contentious elements of the overall package and he and Kelly O'Dwyer have been having good discussions with my colleagues, with the sector and they'll be bringing forward a package in the next few weeks.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
Do you think $1 million is too high?

ALAN TUDGE:
That question is being looked at in terms of a $500,000 cap. Now some people have said to me for example during the campaign that they were concerned that it was too low because they might get a bit of inheritance or they might sell their house and therefore come across the $500,000 cap, it otherwise would never actually have that much superannuation but this has been looked at sensibly, we're having proper discussions and Scott Morrison and Kelly O'Dwyer will bring a package to the party room in due course.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
You're Human Services Minister though, so you deal with a lot of Australia's poorest people. That's partly your job, given that do you think it's a bit rich for people like Tony Abbott to be so worried about these very wealthy Australians like the Treasurer says when you have other people who have been asked to face some cuts in this omnibus bill for instance?

ALAN TUDGE:
Well and that's what this package of superannuation reforms does, it does reduce the concessions at the top end and half of the money generated from that goes down into the bottom end. For example, it provides additional money for those people on very low incomes, so effectively they're paying very little tax if any at all when they make a contribution into their superannuation account. It also helps with people who are part-time workers or who may be out of the workforce for a few years and then are going back in there and there's catch up provisions and this particularly helps women who may be out of the workforce for childrearing.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
Has it all just taken a bit too long though?

ALAN TUDGE:
What do you mean, in terms of getting...

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
For legislation? I mean you went into parliament, no legislation, Tony Abbott's turning up to meeting and telling Scott Morrison his policies are dud. It's all getting a bit messy isn't it?

ALAN TUDGE:
This is a very big reform package and it's one of a number of economic reforms which we're introducing. Now these were announced just before the election campaign only a few months ago they will be introduced in the near future and they come into effect from 1 July of next year. But we've also got so many other elements which are being worked on at the moment. We've got the ABCC, we've got the Registered Trade Organisations Bill, we want to reduce that small business company tax so that companies can be more profitable and employ more people. We've got our elements to grow the economy. So we're getting on with the job of what we said we would do during the campaign. That is focus on jobs and growth.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
Given all of that, the Racial Discrimination Act, which we're about to very soon on Sky News have a debate on, after the break but Senator Liberal Cory Bernardi says that amending 18C, and I'm looking at his language exactly, will enable the Government to reconnect with its base. Would it?

ALAN TUDGE:
Many people would like to see 18C amended and clearly many of our backbench would and they've signed a document to that effect.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
And your base?

ALAN TUDGE:
And I must admit I've got some reservations in relation to the wording and the interpretation of 18C because it means that someone can get prosecuted for putting up a Facebook post and that doesn't seem right. Now at the same time we've said that we didn't take this to an election, the Prime Minister has clearly said that it's not 1 of our priorities at the moment and that the priorities at the moment are those things that I've been talking about: the economic growth, the national security, dealing with the CFA volunteers.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
[Interrupts] You've just admitted that you still are troubled by 18C and the language in it; although you're a Minister and you haven't signed up to Cory Bernardi's push, although it happened in the Senate. You're in the house of reps so you're free here. [laughs]. Free pass. Lucky you. But ultimately you are concerned by the language, it's not a priority is the language I keep hearing. While there's a lot of things that aren't a priority, that doesn't mean a no.

ALAN TUDGE:
Listen I think many of us have reservations in relation to the wording of 18C and how it has been interpreted by the courts. But the Prime Minister has made it abundantly clear that this is not a priority of the Government. We've got a lot of other priorities, including all of those things which we took to the election. They're the number 1 things.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
[Interrupts] But how about to the people who say, why can't you walk and chew gum? Why can't you deal with this as well? The people who were concerned, because clearly you are concerned by 18C.

ALAN TUDGE:
Sure Patricia, but at the same time we've just gone through an election, we had a package which we took to the election - which did not include section 18C reform - and we are dealing with those elements that we took to the election as the priority because that's what we said during the campaign we'd do.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
The Federal Executive on Friday, I think Malcolm Turnbull raised issues about Jamie Briggs, and he shouldn't have necessarily been the candidate given he lost that seat. And he said in that meeting, don't leak. This is a test, don't leak. And then Samantha Maiden had the story. What's going on?

ALAN TUDGE:
I wasn't at that meeting Patricia, I don't know.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
[Interrupts] What is with the leaking? I mean it's unbelievable, isn't it? The Prime Minister says don't leak and then someone goes and leaks.

ALAN TUDGE:
That's a meeting of, from memory, I think it's of 18 to 20 people. It includes the Party Presidents from each of the respective State and Territory jurisdictions. Now I wasn't at that meeting, I don't know what was discussed, I've read Samantha Maiden's story.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
[Interrupts] Is it poor form?

ALAN TUDGE:
It's always poor form to leak from important meetings. It's poor form to leak from the Party Room. It's certainly very poor form to leak from the Cabinet, and hasn't done so to date from the Turnbull Cabinet. And it's poor form to leak from this meeting also.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
The Turnbull Cabinet was leaking on the Rudd issue, so I think you're wrong there I have to correct the record. You're going to have to accept that one, aren't you? Alright, on donations. Do you want to ban foreign donations?

ALAN TUDGE:
I think there's a case for looking more broadly at donations, and the Prime Minister has made that clear yesterday. The issue of foreign donations is a more complex one. Because it does raise a series of questions. For example: if you're a duel citizen, what should the rules be? If it's a company which is half owned by Australians and half owned by overseas interests, what should the rules be? So it's not straight forward. And I think that the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters will properly undertake a review of what occurred during the campaign. And it may well include looking at campaign finances.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
Alright and just finally on your own portfolio. I know you're going to the East Kimberley next week to see the early impacts of that cashless debit card. Do you have any evidence yet that it's successful? That it deserves a broader rollout? Because of course there's only some communities that are seeing this card.

ALAN TUDGE:
Sure, sure. It's been tried in two communities right Patricia, as you know. And the early evidence that we've got is more in Ceduna, the second location, rather than the East Kimberley. And in Ceduna, the pokies revenue is down by 30 per cent, the early data on sexual assaults is down by a considerable margin. Very early data though, and I state that clearly. There's strong anecdotal evidence that food sales are up, that the community is calmer. Now we've still got a number of months to go of this trial, and I want to see the concrete hard data, but every indication is that it is working and doing some of the things which we said it would do.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
So you're going to be getting some data from East Kimberley next week?

ALAN TUDGE:
Yeah, so I'm going up on Tuesday and Wednesday to the East Kimberley. I'll be speaking with the Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders up there, with the police, going out to the Sobering Up centre - which I understand the numbers are down at those centres compared to what was occurring - and just getting the on the ground feel for, is this working, what are the issues, what more do we need to do.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
Alan Tudge, thanks for coming in.

ALAN TUDGE:
Thanks Patricia.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
And on Father's Day too, happy Father's Day.

ALAN TUDGE:
Thank you very much.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
I'm sure your children brought you lovely gifts, am I right?

ALAN TUDGE:
They did actually, in bed as well. It was so nice.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:
That's Alan Tudge, the Human Services Minister there.

[ENDS]