Transcript: 2GB Sydney, Interview with Ben Fordham

5 September 2017

The Hon Alan Tudge MP

Minister for Human Services
Topics: 
Cashless Debit Card
E&OE

BEN FORDHAM:        
The Federal Government is being urged to roll out the cashless welfare card to more communities. Western Australia’s Goldfields region has been announced as the next site for the card rollout. This follows successful trials in the East Kimberley and Ceduna.

There is one particular community that is begging for this cashless welfare card, but the Government is yet to get the hint to roll it out there. We have been speaking for some time with Camilo Blanco, the Mayor of Port Hedland, who says his town is falling apart largely because of alcohol abuse.

That is why he wants the cashless welfare card rolled out in his community. We told him we would take him directly to the minister involved, Alan Tudge, the Human Services Minister.

First Camilo Blanco, the Mayor of Port Hedland. Good afternoon to you Camilo.

CAMILO BLANCO:     
Ben, how are you going?

BEN FORDHAM:        
I am alright, I know how passionate you are about this which is why we have spoken on a number of occasions. I am about to talk to Alan Tudge, the minister responsible.

Just tell us where it is at, at the moment before we try and give the Minister a bit of a nudge.

CAMILO BLANCO:     
The Minister and the Prime Minister did say that they requested us to initiate public consultation about the cashless welfare card, but that is all very well for the Federal and also State Government to say that, but the fact remains that it is a state or federal responsibility.

They keep saying we need to consult but I think that is a cop out on their part. If they need consultation then get over here, get it done. That is quite easy for me. It is their responsibility.

The fact remains that we have hundreds of kids running the streets, and that is documented because of the dysfunction in the home environment that is directly linked to excessive alcohol and drugs consumption and the welfare system.

BEN FORDHAM:        
Let me bring in Alan Tudge, the Human Services Minister. Minister, good afternoon.

ALAN TUDGE:
G’day Ben.

BEN FORDHAM:        
Thank you for taking the time to have a chat to me and also Camilo Blanco. He is the Mayor of Port Hedland.

ALAN TUDGE:
I know Camilo, I have met him a few times actually, including with the Prime Minister just a couple weeks ago here in Canberra.

BEN FORDHAM:        
Alright. You can hear his passion, you can hear what is making him tick. He is saying please Minister, please Prime Minister, let us have this cashless welfare card in Port Hedland. Why can’t you make it happen for him?

ALAN TUDGE:
I can understand Camilo’s passion, and he expressed similar passion to myself and the Prime Minister, and there is some very serious issues going on in Port Hedland and indeed across the Pilbara in WA, similar to the Goldfields and the East Kimberley where we do have the cashless welfare card in place.

We have committed to him that we are going to start the consultation process there on the ground this month and that is exactly what we are going to do.

What I have said to him and I will say to you as well, Ben, is that the success of the cashless welfare card to date, in the locations where we have had it, has been in part because we have worked very cooperatively with the community leaders on the ground.

We have consulted properly. If there is a strong Indigenous element we make sure that there is Indigenous leaders consulted and on board before we roll it out and that way we have got a much greater chance of it succeeding.

BEN FORDHAM:        
Let me go back to you, Mayor. Has that consultation taken place? Have you spoken to the relevant community leaders, Indigenous leaders about this proposal?

CAMILO BLANCO:     
We have. We have spoken to a number, actually a big number, of Indigenous leaders and a community group. But I think the issue, and I have spoken to Alan Tudge about this, is we are talking to the same leaders all of the time and those same leaders are objecting to rolling out such a program.

But when you talk to the actual people on the ground, the community around, based around Indigenous people, they want this card rolled out, they know that it is going to work. They can see the benefits that have happened in Ceduna and also up in Kununurra, and they want the same sort of benefits for their own community.

BEN FORDHAM:        
He makes a fair point, doesn’t he, Minister? If it is good enough for Ceduna, if it is good enough for the East Kimberley or for Kununurra or for anywhere else, why isn’t it good enough for Port Hedland?

It is not like - let me go to another example which is where we are going to be drug testing welfare recipients in some areas and if they test positive then 80% of their payments will be quarantined for essential services.

I spoke to Christian Porter about this this afternoon. It is not like you are too much worried about the feedback of the Australian Medical Association on that one who is saying look this is non-evidence based and it is mean.

You have made a decision that this is right for the community, it is right for taxpayers so we are going to do it. Why doesn’t that same approach apply here?

ALAN TUDGE:
In part it does, but what we have done with the drug testing is to say that we are going to have trials and then if the trials work we may roll it out further. We are following exactly the same model we used with the cashless welfare card.

We announced, a year and a half ago now, that we would do trials. We have done those trials. We just announced the final evaluation last Friday and we are now rolling it out into two new regions.

If there are other regions that are ready to go and prepared for it we are very happy to look at that, look at those regions. And that includes the Pilbara.

As I said we are keen to actually start that process there, but you have got to do it properly.

You do not just walk in and slap this thing down; you work with the community leaders, you do the proper consultation, you tailor it specifically for the community, because each community is slightly different, and that way you have got the best chance of success and that is what we intend to do in the Pilbara area.

BEN FORDHAM:        
Alright, well Minister you know that the Mayor of Port Hedland, Camilo Blanco, the bloke on the other line is going to pester me until he gets this cashless welfare card.

ALAN TUDGE:
Good on him, and I know Camilo’s passion. As I have said I have met with him a few times now and I am the most passionate person in Australia in relation to the cashless welfare card.

I have advocated for it, I have designed it, I have implemented the trials and now we are rolling it out.

Don’t get me wrong, that we are hesitant here, but you have just got to do it properly if you want to have the same sort of success that we have had in South Australia and in the East Kimberley.

BEN FORDHAM:        
Alright, well we will keep on talking to the Mayor and we will track your progress via him, how does that sound?

ALAN TUDGE:
Good stuff Ben.

BEN FORDHAM:        
Good on you. Thank you very much. Alan Tudge, the Human Services Minister and Camilo Blanco, the Mayor of Port Hedland. Mayor, we will be in touch. We will keep across your progress with the Minister okay?

CAMILO BLANCO:     
Thanks Ben.

BEN FORDHAM:        
Good on you mate. Mayor of Port Hedland, Camilo Blanco, talking to Alan Tudge, the Human Services Minister.