Transcript: Sky News, Interview with Ashleigh Gillon

6 December 2017

The Hon Alan Tudge MP

Minister for Human Services
Cashless Debit Card

Let's bring in more reaction to this now. Joining us live from Canberra is the Human Services Minister Alan Tudge. Minister, appreciate your time.

I assume you'd welcome that move from Labor's Katy Gallagher. Will the Liberal Party now follow Labor's lead and also refer Liberal MPs and senators with clouds over them, people like Arthur Sinodinos for example. Should they too be referred by the Coalition if they don't provide more evidence about their status?

Well there isn't a cloud, Ashleigh, over Arthur Sinodinos. He has made public the fact that he is not a Greek national.

However there are significant clouds now over many of the Labor members, and what is at stake here is not just the fact that many of those members should not be in the Parliament today, but it is the integrity of Bill Shorten who at every step of the way has criticised us and said that there is nothing to see on the Labor side, and yet he must have known that people like David Feeney has been ineligible for 10 years now to sit in this Parliament.

He is a British citizen because his father was British, just like mine was. I renounced at a similar time to David Feeney. That is a straightforward process. It takes a few weeks, yes, but David Feeney said: oh no, I put in my paperwork but the dog ate it. Well, for goodness sake.

He knew that he is not eligible. I believe that Bill Shorten knew that David Feeney was not eligible, and what it absolutely reveals is the lack of integrity of Bill Shorten.


David Feeney has acknowledged he has a problem, he's going off to the High Court as well. Labor's point though in other cases …

What took him so long, Ash? But what took David Feeney so long? What took Bill Shorten so long to identify this, when David Feeney said he renounced it in 2007?

Well what took John Alexander so long? What took Stephen Parry so long? We can go onto your side of politics as well here, Minister.

And Stephen Parry has resigned.

But when it comes to this point of reasonable steps, the others that the Coalition is targeting this morning - people like Katy Gallagher, people like Justine Keay, Josh Wilson - they did take these steps but there was a delay by, I don't know, some bureaucrat in London. Doesn't mean that these MPs should see their careers put in doubt.

Katy Gallagher, in her speech to the Senate, then pointed out it took more than 100 days for her renunciation to be confirmed by British authorities, but just days for some of your Coalition colleagues. It comes down to timing.

Ashleigh, I was a British citizen because my father was British, and yes, it took several weeks for that to occur, but I knew it would take several weeks as everybody does to do a bureaucratic process with the British Government, so what did I do? I did it with plenty of time, as did many of my colleagues beforehand, as did many of the Labor members.

And yet, we hear - we have their excuse being that: oh no, because it did not happen overnight, I am still eligible. Well, I am sorry, and particularly in relation to David Feeney: he said he renounced in 2007 and he is still waiting for the answer 10 years later.

For goodness sake. He has known for a decade that he has been ineligible. I believe that Bill Shorten has known for a decade that he has been ineligible, and yet he still sits in the Parliament today voting. And Bill Shorten knows this and Bill Shorten should have the decency to say: resign today, resign today David Feeney. You have not been truthful and Bill Shorten has not been truthful.

Well, Labor at least is setting a precedent here with Katy Gallagher resigning from her frontbench position, which is quite a step that we haven't seen from your own side, taking Barnaby Joyce being the key example there. When it comes to the broader issue, does the constitution need changing? Should this issue go to the Australian people in a referendum to allow dual citizens to sit in the Parliament? Is this getting beyond a joke now?

Well I do not believe we need to change the constitution and I think the Australian people would like us just to have a single allegiance to Australia and not have an allegiance to another country. We could look at this from a legislative perspective to make it clearer, because so many Australians, of course, were born overseas or have parents like mine who were born overseas.

But, let us not muddy the waters here. The question today is Bill Shorten's integrity for effectively lying to the Australian people over the last several months in relation to many members of the Labor Party who we now know have serious clouds over their head, not least of which is his factional mate from Melbourne, David Feeney.

Minister, I do want to ask you about your portfolio which I did invite you on the program for. Labor's going to vote against rolling out the cashless debit cards at two new trial sites; at Bundaberg and in the WA Goldfields. It cites a flawed and inconclusive evaluation process of those cases.

What evidence convinces you that those cards are actually working, because as you know, the research that has been done has been heavily criticised by critics of the program. Why expand those trials instead of just continue the ones that are already underway until there is a clearer picture as to whether or not they're really working?

Ashleigh, we started this process a year and a half ago now, and committed to an independent evaluation. And that independent evaluation surveyed hundreds of people in the area, analysed all the data in the area, and then found it was having a demonstrable, positive impact on the ground.

Almost half the people were drinking less, taking fewer drugs, and were gambling less, and all the anecdotal evidence was that the communities were quieter. So this is having an impact like so few other initiatives that we have tried in these remote communities.

And I have got to say, Ashleigh, that I am not just disappointed with the Labor Party but I am angry about the Labor Party in terms of opposing the expansion of this card because they know that alcohol is the poison that runs through many of these remote communities, that underpins so much of the child abuse, so much of the neglect against children and the assaults against women.

Minister, we do appreciate your time with us on Sky News this morning. We'll hear more about this today. The welfare reform bill, due to go through the Senate a bit later today, I understand. Minister, thank you for your time.