Transcript: Sky News, AM Agenda, Interview with Kieran Gilbert

23 August 2017

The Hon Alan Tudge MP

Minister for Human Services
Drug Testing, Dual citizenship

Joining us now the Human Services Minister in Brisbane. Changing our focus now to the welfare trial, announcing the second trial location today in, I believe, Logan city in Brisbane. Can you explain the decision for that Minister Tudge?

That is right Kieran. Yesterday we announced the first trial location in Western Sydney. Today, Christian Porter and I will be announcing that Logan, just south of Brisbane will be the second site and in some respects for the same reasons as the Western Sydney location.

That is, where there has been higher incidences of drug issues where we know that there are good drug and alcohol services already in place and also in Logan there is already a form of income management in place as well so we can leverage the existing infrastructure to be able to roll out this trial.

In relation to the criticism that has been coming, it has been coming thick and fast, hasn’t it, in the last 24 hours since you and your colleague, Minister Porter made the announcement in the Bankstown area.

A lot of experts in the field saying there is no evidence to suggest it is going to work, doctors groups are worried about it. Labor is opposed as well.

The main critique from the health groups is that there is no evidence. This is a trial in the very sense of the word, where we want to try something new that has never been tried before in this way anywhere in the world.

We want to evaluate it, and if it works we might roll it out further. This is very similar to the cashless welfare card trials, and we had our critics for that as well, and we decided to proceed. We trialled it, we evaluated it, it was proven to work, now we are rolling that out further.

In relation to the Labor Party, I cannot understand their objection. I think it is ideological more than anything else. I just cannot understand why they would want to see welfare recipients continue to have a drug habit and not try to provide some assistance to them to get off.

Obviously, no one would begrudge the aim of trying to get welfare recipients using more of their money on food and other necessary day-to-day things for their children, whether they have got kids or not, that sort of spending of their welfare bill.

But if someone has got an addiction, it is not as easy as a just flipping from one day to the next, is it? You can see that.

No, absolutely, and that is exactly why, if you tested positive a second time, you will be required to undertake drug treatment. It will be a tailored program for that particular individual, and continuing through that program will be condition of the ongoing receipt of welfare for that person.

The entire trial here is designed to actually identify those people who may have a drug problem and provide them with the assistance to hopefully get off drugs and back into the workforce.

We know, Kieran, if you have got a drug problem it is going to be so much harder to get into a job, and particularly those jobs which require you to be drug free and have regular tests, and that is so many jobs these days.

In the construction industry, the transportation industry, the mining industry, Defence Forces, et cetera. We want people to be drug free so that they have got a better chance of getting into the workforce.

Do people have to wait until the second test before they can get Government help for referral for treatment, or can they refer themselves after the first test and get that Government support?

In essence there is a range of Government drug and alcohol services already in place across the nation. If a person feels as if they have got a problem, of course they can go and seek assistance now.

We have put in over $600 million in recent times towards that end. The second test occurs within 25 days of the first test. It is only if you test positive that you will be required to undertake a drug treatment program as a condition of your ongoing welfare receipt.

Okay. So there is no capacity for them to seek help themselves after the first test?

There is because you can obviously go and see a counsellor tomorrow if you believe that you have got a drug problem, if you are tested positive or if a family member knows...

Will your Government help?

We fund, I mean, dozens upon dozens upon dozens of drug service programs across the nation. I think it is $685 million that we have put in in recent years, including the $300 million ice package, most of which went towards drug and alcohol treatment programs.

Those services are there. In this particular instance, we are putting in an additional $10 million to make sure that there is capacity so that if a person is tested the second time, they hopefully won't have to wait, they can get into the treatment program that they need.

Let's hope the program, despite the criticism, works and it does help people find jobs and get off those substances that we are referring to.

Just on another matter quickly. My understanding is that Cabinet, there are differing views in the Turnbull Cabinet as to whether or not the Government should refer Labor MPs to the High Court over the citizenship issue.

One view is that you have gone too soft on Labor MPs, the other is that you do not want to open up an all-out war so that you might suffer some collateral damage on your own side. What is your view?

Should you be targeting Labor and have MPs referred to the High Court? Because they are certainly going at your side quite hard.

We have been very open and transparent on our side. Whenever there has been a person in any doubt, we have referred those people to the High Court.

Bill Shorten just a couple of weeks ago was saying, very vocally, saying that we should be revealing our documents to prove that we do not have dual citizenship. Two weeks later he is saying, oh no, no, no, I am not going to reveal even my own documents.

I think it is pretty hypocritical of the Labor Party now to be criticising us. It is obviously up to each individual what they do. We would hope that if there are clouds over the Labor Party members, that they would come clean and just reveal what their circumstances are.

Mr Tudge, we are out of time. Appreciate it. Thanks for that.

Thanks, Kieran.