Transcript: 6PR Perth, Interview with Oliver Peterson

7 August 2017

The Hon Alan Tudge MP

Minister for Human Services
Topics: 
Automatic Rent Deduction Scheme
E&OE

OLIVER PETERSON:   
Two thousand three hundred public housing tenants get booted out every year because they do not pay their rent. To fix it, should the rent just be automatically deducted from welfare payments? Let me know what you think – 9221 1882.

It is in a proposal on the table at the moment by the Federal Government and joining me is the Human Services Minister Alan Tudge. Alan, welcome back to the show.

ALAN TUDGE:
G'day Ollie, how is it going there?

OLIVER PETERSON:   
I am very well, it has been a busy day for you I am sure. But we will talk…

ALAN TUDGE:
It has been a busy day.

OLIVER PETERSON:   
We might talk about this first: you are saying here, effectively, that instead of asking public housing tenants to pay their rent, it would just be automatically deducted from their welfare payments with the Automatic Rent Deduction Scheme.

ALAN TUDGE:
That is exactly right. Everybody knows that if you are down on your luck without a job or with a disability, you get welfare payments and those payments are there for the essentials, for housing, for food, for clothing, education expenses and the like.

We think that if you are in a public house and getting welfare payments that you should have your rent paid automatically out of your welfare before you get the remainder into your bank account. And what that will do is prevent people falling into arrears and potentially prevent people getting evicted from a public house, in which case you have got very few options.

OLIVER PETERSON:   
More than 9,000 Australian households owe the Commonwealth more than three weeks rent. Obviously, that means that public servants are spending hours and hours every single day chasing up people who have not paid their rent on time.

ALAN TUDGE:
That is right. It is about $30 million a year actually in rent which is not collected and there is a lot of money spent obviously, trying to chase that rent as the same time.

Not only do I think will this help individuals so they do not fall behind and do not get evicted, but also think it will encourage more investment in public housing because what it does is it guarantees the rent for those public housing stock.

If you are a public housing provider, and sometimes they are non-profit providers, they are more encouraged to invest in public houses because they have got that guaranteed rent coming in.

OLIVER PETERSON:   
Minister, it seems like a no-brainer to me, really, that it just seems like a logical next step.

ALAN TUDGE:
I think that is the case. We have got to put through legislation in the coming months to get this through, then it will come into place next March. But believe it or not, the Victorian Government, which is a very left wing Labor Government, I am from Victoria, is not supportive of it.

The State Government in Western Australia is supportive and other Labor governments are supportive, which I am pleased about and I hope that Federal Labor will be supportive of it to get the legislation through. I think it is a no-brainer.

OLIVER PETERSON:   
Ultimately if it can mean that people are not being evicted either and they have paid their rent on time, as you say, it is a win-win, it encourages more investment and it frees up people who are chasing up those people who are in arrears to do other tasks.

ALAN TUDGE:
That is exactly right. I am particularly concerned when I saw this stat that 2,300 people are evicted from public housing each year because they fall into arrears, even though they are getting welfare payments which are specifically for paying your rent and other essential goods.

And of course, as you know Ollie, if you are in a public house and you get evicted, there are not many other options available. So the chances of you becoming homeless after that are quite high.

I think this is a really important social policy measure. I am pleased that the new Labor Government in Western Australia is supporting the measure. Certainly the previous government was very supportive of it and we hope it will make a real difference.

OLIVER PETERSON:   
As I said, been a busy day for you, Alan Tudge, and all of your Liberal Party colleagues of course, talking about same-sex marriage.

So ultimately, our understanding is now that the legislation will go back to the Senate to ask for another plebiscite. If that says no, then a postal plebiscite will be the solution.

ALAN TUDGE:
Yes. That is exactly right, Ollie. It was a very strong affirmation in our party room this afternoon that we will stick to our promise to offer a plebiscite to the Australian people so every single Australian can have a say on this important issue.

A very strong principle that was reconfirmed and we are going to try to put it back through the Senate and hopefully convince the Labor Party to support that principle. If they do not through the Senate then we will have a postal vote, which does not require legislation as such.

We can do a postal vote without having to go through the Parliament and that is what action we will take. So that is still, one way or the other, we are going to give Australians a say on this important issue and if the Australians say they want same-sex marriage, they will get it. If they say they do not, then it won't go ahead.

OLIVER PETERSON:   
Do you think some of the commentaries from some of your backbench colleagues has been a distraction for the Government?

ALAN TUDGE:
I do. I do over the last week. Everybody can raise issues if they want to raise issues but I think that while same sex marriage is important for some people, the feeling that I get in the community is that people are very concerned about electricity prices.

They are concerned about jobs; they are concerned about the infrastructure. Over in WA, they are obviously concerned about the GST contributions and they are the issues which are more important on people's minds which we want to focus on, those essentials.

National security, obviously, when we have got terrorists who are trying to highjack planes. These are the matters which are most important and what we want to be focussing on in the months and years ahead.

OLIVER PETERSON:   
Thank you very much for your time on Perth Live, Alan Tudge.

ALAN TUDGE:
Thanks very much, Ollie.

OLIVER PETERSON:   
The Human Services Minister, there, Alan Tudge.