Transcript: 774 ABC Melbourne, Mornings with Jon Faine

24 November 2016

The Hon Alan Tudge MP

Minister for Human Services
Topics: 
Cashless Debit Card, Mis-use of Medicare branding, Peter Dutton
E&OE

JON FAINE:    
Alan Tudge is the Minister for Human Services in the Turnbull Federal Coalition Government. Mr Tudge good morning to you.

ALAN TUDGE:
Good morning, Jon.

JON FAINE:    
What's wrong with Medicare being used in a save Medicare campaign?

ALAN TUDGE:
Using the name Medicare is fine. The key thing that the Department's and the Australian Government's solicitors are concerned about is when the Medicare brand is being used in a way which could be misleading to the Australian public …

JON FAINE:    
[Interrupts] And how is that in this case?

ALAN TUDGE:
… so that they may think that it's actually some sort of official website in which case they get the wrong impression. So that's what they are concerned about.

So a decision has been made by my Department and the Australian Government's solicitor - they're not my decisions - they've made the decision that they would like to see this person not using the Medicare logo in the way he has been using it.

JON FAINE:    
Have you had a look at the website?

ALAN TUDGE:
I have had a look at the website and I've spoken to our chief lawyer in my Department. And their view is that it's a combination of the fact that Medicare is mentioned in the domain name as well as the fact that the Medicare logo and the colours and everything is very prominently displayed in the website …

JON FAINE:    
[Talks over] But the Liberal Party used their logo in your election campaign.

ALAN TUDGE:
… means that it could be misleading to some citizens in the Australian community. It might not even be misleading to the average citizen, but it could be misleading to some vulnerable Australians whose education may be poor or who may be elderly. And that's the key test.

JON FAINE:    
[Talks over] It's completely over the top. Your political party used the Medicare logo in some of your election material in the last Federal election to counter what you said was a scare campaign about it. You've done the same thing yourselves.

ALAN TUDGE:
Bill Shorten has also used the Medicare logo on his Facebook page and there hasn't been a problem with that when it hasn't been used in a misleading and deceptive way where a person might believe that this is actually the Medicare entity which is being represented here. And that's the key test.

Now a clear example of this, Jon, is during the campaign when thousands of people received a text message which said it was from Medicare itself. Now, to me, that's a very clear example that that was deliberately misleading to try to represent that they were from the Government agency being Medicare.

Now clearly that is something that should rightly be protected so that vulnerable Australians don't feel that there's something bad about to happen to them. Now, the Australian Government solicitors believe that this is in a similar category where some people could be misled by this.

Again, if people are using the Medicare name or logo in a way which isn't misleading to the Australian public, that is fine, but when it could be misleading and deceptive, that's what the Australian Government solicitors are concerned about.

JON FAINE:    
Are you being bullies or are you just trying to stop dissent?

ALAN TUDGE:
This is in relation to what the law is. It's in relation to copyright law …

JON FAINE:    
[Talks over] No, that's how you're using the law. You could overlook this and just go yeah well, hardly anyone's visited his site - although now it's had a lot more publicity than ever before …

ALAN TUDGE:
And Jon, these aren't my decisions, these aren't the Minister's decision or political decisions; these are officials' decisions, lawyers' decisions within the Department to protect the Medicare brand so that it doesn't mislead or deceive citizens of Australia.

JON FAINE:    
I've had a look at the website. You haven't.

ALAN TUDGE:
No, I have. I've had a look at the website.

JON FAINE:    
Oh okay, I thought I asked you before and you started talking about misleading and deceptive.

I quite honestly say to you, Alan Tudge, I have absolutely no idea how anyone could get any impression of this website other than the fact that it's exactly what it is: an activist who has the public interest in mind. There is no way you could think this was official.

ALAN TUDGE:
The judgements which the lawyers in my Department have made is that for some vulnerable Australians they could be misled by this website because the Medicare name is in the domain …

JON FAINE:    
[Talks over] Have you got anyone who's been misled?

ALAN TUDGE:
… the name in the domain name and because of the full branding and the colours associated with Medicare. That's their view and ultimately it's their decision, Jon.

JON FAINE:    
Has anyone said they've been misled?

ALAN TUDGE:
It's exactly the same law by the way, Jon, as applies to when people receive text messages from the Labor Party, but the text message came up on your phone from Medicare itself.

JON FAINE:    
[Talks over] Has anyone said they've been misled, Mr Tudge?

ALAN TUDGE:
They were absolutely throughout the campaign, I had many, many people say they received text messages where they were confused.

JON FAINE:    
[Talks over] No. Has anyone complained that they have been misled by Mr Rogers' use of savemedicare.org as a public interest campaign? Has anyone complained?

ALAN TUDGE:
That's not the test for when the lawyers make decisions, Jon.

JON FAINE:    
[Talks over] No. I'm not suggesting it is, but just answer the question. Whether it is or isn't is a separate issue. Has anyone complained?

ALAN TUDGE:
I have not asked that question of my Department. I have not heard of any formal complaints.

JON FAINE:    
[Talks over] But I'm asking it of you. I mean the answer's no, no one's complained.

ALAN TUDGE:
Personally. No one's complained to me personally in relation to this …

JON FAINE:    
Exactly.

ALAN TUDGE:
… I can say that. But that is not the test, Jon. The test is whether or not it could potentially mislead and deceive some vulnerable Australians.

Medicare is particularly something which is a very important brand in Australia where Australians absolutely rely upon this brand. They want to know that when they have a message from Medicare, when they see the logo, that they can trust that this is representing what Medicare is all about.

JON FAINE:    
[Interrupts] Malcolm Turnbull campaigned in the last federal election on a save the CFA slogan. CFA, Country Fire Authority. The Andrews government didn't throw the lawyers at them and say to the Liberal Party, stop using the CFA brand, you might mislead people.

ALAN TUDGE:
Well, and again I know on- Bill Shorten has used the Medicare brand, I believe on his Facebook page, and the Australia Government solicitors didn't make a decision at that stage to take any action because they didn't believe that that was going to be misleading anybody.

So, these are not political decisions, Jon. I want to make that very important point. These are legal decisions by officials which are made to protect the copyright and to protect the integrity of the brand so that people aren't being misled.

JON FAINE:    
I think you know as well as everybody that you could cheerfully say to the government lawyer and the Health Department bureaucrats look, this is so small and trivial. Don't monster this grandfather in Sydney who's got about, you know, 150 hits on his website.

Leave him alone, it's doing more harm than good to magnify his importance in the scheme of things.

ALAN TUDGE:
[Talks over] Jon, you'd be the first one that would say to me, don't interfere with legal processes. That's not the role of the politicians to do that. You need to have a clear separation there. You would be the first one that would say …

JON FAINE:    
[Talks over] No you'd let it go through to the keep and you say actually by telling him to pull it down we're going to give him a platform for more publicity than he'd ever get any other way.

ALAN TUDGE:
Well, Jon, I gave you a very clear example before which I think people would very clearly know and understand. That when people are deliberately using the name Medicare - which the ALP did in a very misleading, deceptive way - to send messages to vulnerable Australians to say that something is about to happen to Medicare, that is clearly wrong.

It was clearly designed to deceive and it absolutely did deceive many Australians. And the concern is that this website and other misleading uses of the name Medicare could have that same level of deception.

Maybe not as great as what the atrocious things that the ALP did during the federal campaign, but nevertheless could mislead some Australians. And that's what they're concerned about, and I think they're quite right to defend the copyright of that Medicare brand because it's so important for Australians.

JON FAINE:    
I know you're busy but if I may for a moment, have you got any members of the Australian Lebanese Muslim community in your electorate?

ALAN TUDGE:
Probably very few. The proportion of Muslim people in my electorate - which is in outer Eastern Melbourne, in the Knox area - is quite small. There may be a small number who would have Lebanese- who would have Muslim Lebanese heritage.

JON FAINE:    
Do you agree with Mr Dutton's comments that Malcolm Fraser was wrong to allow some of those people to migrate?

ALAN TUDGE:
I think Mr Dutton was making a statement of the fact that two-thirds of the people who have been charged on terrorism offences are Lebanese Muslims, or have Lebanese Muslim heritage

JON FAINE:    
[Talks over] No, Australians. They're Australian citizens, Mr Tudge.

ALAN TUDGE:
They're Australians, and I said that they have Lebanese Muslim heritage, or heritage which is Lebanese. And that was the statement which he was making.

And I think that Australians want us to speak quite frankly about some of these issues, and if two-thirds of the Australians- of the people who have been charged on terrorism-related offences in recent times are from the same group, then we should be discussing that. So that's what I think that he was saying.

JON FAINE:    
There are so many people who have advised from the CIA and FBI and the anti-terrorism experts in Europe and France and Belgium and all around the world including here in Australia also.

They say the worst thing that you can do to trigger the radicalisation of disaffected young boys in the Muslim community - whether they're Lebanese Muslim or anything else, doesn't matter - but any of those boys in the vulnerable group, the worst thing you can do is make them feel more marginalised.

Doesn't Mr Dutton's comment lead exactly down that path? It's exactly what the advice says you shouldn't do.

ALAN TUDGE:
I disagree with that. I mean, if you heard the full statement which he said, he made a statement of the fact that two-thirds of the people who have been charged on terrorism offences are Muslim with Lebanese heritage, that’s the first point he made.

He then went on to make the point that the vast majority of Lebanese people, Lebanese Australians, just get on with life like everybody else, make great contributions just like everybody else. So I think you've got to put that into context, Jon. He didn't just say the one without the other.

JON FAINE:    
My time is very tight. I'd love to find out how the cashless card trial that you're rolling out in Ceduna…

ALAN TUDGE:
[Interrupts] It's going very well, Jon. It's going well, so it's having a real impact on the ground reducing some of those social harms from welfare-fuelled alcohol abuse particularly.

JON FAINE:    
Well when you've got some stats or an evaluation I would love to spend some time learning about that too as well. Thank you very much for your time this morning.

ALAN TUDGE:
Thanks so much Jon.

JON FAINE:    
The Minister for Human Services in the Turnbull Coalition Federal Government, Alan Tudge. Have a look at the website, see if you're misled in any way.

[ENDS]