Transcript: 6PR Perth, Interview with Oliver Peterson

6 December 2017

The Hon Alan Tudge MP

Minister for Human Services
Cashless Debit Card, Citizenship, Same sex marriage plebiscite

You know that Perth Live and I have been quite hot to trot on the cashless welfare card and the rolling out of this card across communities across our country.

Now, we know that there have been trials of the card in Kununurra, there have been trials in Ceduna, and they have had great success. There are more communities putting their hand up.

We even spoke to Camillo Blanco in the last week here on Perth Live, the mayor of Port Hedland. You might remember he went cap in hand, along with Andrew Forrest from the Minderoo Foundation and others, to Canberra to campaign for the welfare card to be rolled out.

We know that the Port Hedland Council has voted not to support the rollout, despite the mayor's wishes and community consultation still taking place, but only a few months ago it was revealed that the Goldfields and Bundaberg would become the next trial sites, but that is looking a little more unlikely at the moment.

Labor and the Greens, they are not interested in supporting moves to the Social Services Amendment Bill, which would enable the cashless welfare card to continue to be rolled out.

The Human Services Minister is Alan Tudge and he joins me on the line from Canberra this afternoon. Minister, welcome to the program.

G'day, Ollie.

Okay. This is no doubt quite frustrating for you this afternoon, Minister, that the Greens and Labor are not looking to expand the program despite its success so far.

I am very disappointed with the Labor Party. The Greens have always been opposed to it, they will always be opposed to it for ideological reasons, but we have had bipartisan support on this card up until yesterday.

Labor have said they are not going to support the rollout to the Goldfields, and yet the Goldfields, as your listeners would know, has many of the same issues that the East Kimberley has and many remote communities have.

And that is too many kids born effectively brain damaged from foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, too many women getting bashed because of drunk men boozing up on the welfare dollar, and it is just too much violence generally.

This card helps to stop some of that because it stops the welfare dollar being spent on the booze and spent on the drugs, and Labor has now said no to that.

It obviously quarantines 80 per cent of a welfare payment by ensuring that you cannot spend the money on gambling, on booze, on drugs. That is making some positive changes in the communities where you have introduced it here, including Kununurra, and the cries come from the communities, as you and I know - we want this card.

That is exactly right. It has had a demonstrable impact up in the East Kimberley. We have been trialling it there for the last 18 months. We have had 40 per cent of people drinking less, half of people taking fewer drugs and gambling less, and now we have got community leaders in the Goldfields saying that they want this card introduced.

All five shire councils are in support of having the card introduced. Many of the key Indigenous leaders are pleading to us, sort of saying that they are desperate because the kids are roaming the streets at night because they find the streets safer than they do their own houses.

We want to introduce this card, we are still going to because we are confident we will have the crossbench support, but I am just deeply disappointed in the Labor Party, who seem to be prioritising Green votes in Melbourne and Sydney above the interests of children and women in the Goldfields.

Do you suggest that this is politically motivated, Alan Tudge? Because, as you said, prior to this point you did have bipartisan support with the Labor Party. To all of a sudden change their tune, is it an opportunistic political point that they are trying to make?

I honestly do think they are trying to chase those inner city Green votes in Melbourne and Sydney where some of their seats are under pressure from the Greens, and so they are willing just to sell out the children of the Goldfields, sell out the women who are being bashed to chase those inner city Green votes.

Frankly, I am just so disappointed in the Labor Party because they know the issues in these communities, as your listeners do. They know that the alcohol particularly is the poison that runs through them and underpins all of the problems, and it is all paid for by the welfare dollar, and we have now got a vehicle through this Cashless Debit Card which restricts the amount of money which can be spent on the booze and the drugs and Labor is now saying no to that.

When you have community leaders, together with local mayors, together with Andrew Forrest, and of course our former police commissioner Karl O'Callaghan travel across the country to Canberra to make representations to all sides of politics, you know, don't forget about Western Australia and some of the communities here that need your help and assistance.

For the Labor Party to turn their back on the wishes and desires of the community, it just does not seem to add up.

It doesn't, and that is why I am so deeply disappointed, because Labor has people that have been there. They know the issues. They know the damage which alcohol does, paid for by the welfare dollar.

They know the impact which this cashless welfare card is having on the ground up in the East Kimberley, and yet they have clearly got too much pressure from their Melbourne and Sydney representatives who are scared about the Green votes in Melbourne and Sydney, and so they are willing to chase those votes and abandon the children in the Goldfields and abandon the women.

That's what they are doing. I am flabbergasted, I am disappointed, but we are not going to let them slow us down because the leaders there, including Rick Wilson, the federal member, have been so strong on wanting to give this a go there to address some of the issues there, and so we are going to press ahead.

We wanted bipartisan support for this. We are not going to get that now, but we will press ahead nevertheless and back those community leaders, back the children, and back the women.

Yeah, alright. Well, Alan Tudge, before I do let you go this afternoon, it would be remiss of me not to ask you about the citizenship scandal that continues to engulf the Australian Parliament.

Obviously your Opposition today tried to move that nine MPs would be referred to the High Court. That isn't happening at this stage. Where will all of this end up? Because we are talking about it, it is going to drag on, you have only got a couple of days left of Federal Parliament.

Will there be some decision made across all sides of politics to refer this person and that person to the High Court and resolve this once and for all? Because, quite frankly, I think we are all pretty sick of it.

I think the Australian public is sick of it and wants us to deal with it, and that is what we will do this week.

There are several members now who have very significant clouds over their heads, and they will be referred to the High Court. One of them, David Feeney, the Labor member for Batman in Melbourne, he has been a British citizen for 10 years and has not renounced and has only come clean now.

The disappointing thing here is that Bill Shorten has been saying forever and a day that all the issues are on the Liberal or the National side, knowing that one of his factional allies, David Feeney, has been a British citizen for a decade and not renounced.

I renounced a decade ago from my British citizenship because my father was British, and yes, it is a process which takes several weeks. But David Feeney has said that he tried to do it in 2007 and never got around to completing it, but he still sits in the Parliament.

I mean, this is what really annoys the Australian people, I think, but they should be rightly annoyed with Bill Shorten as well for protecting this person for so long.

We were talking to our federal political editor Michael Pachi last hour that the mood has changed in Canberra at the moment.

It seems as though the Government, and you are part of that, seems to have the upper hand this week in what has been a difficult few weeks, nonetheless of course for the Government with by-elections, and still a few on the horizon.

Do you think the mood is changing there, Alan Tudge?

We said we wanted to deal with a couple of things this week, being the final week. One was to deal with the same-sex marriage bill, to pass it and properly enact what the Australian people want us to do and to allow same-sex marriage to occur.

We will do that. Secondly, we said we wanted to deal with the citizenship issue, and we will complete that by the end of day tomorrow as well, then after that everyone can have a bit of a break.

We will come back and then we will focus on the things that really matter to the Australian people. That is obviously jobs, getting cost of living pressures down, dealing with the infrastructure which people need, community safety.

They are the things that people are really worried about, and that will be our square focus from the beginning of next year.

Alright. Good to catch up this afternoon. Human Services Minister Alan Tudge, thanks for your time.

Thanks very much, Ollie.