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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 41154

Doorstop with the Minister for Human Services, the Hon. Alan Tudge MP, and Rick Wilson MP, Member for O’Connor

Photo of Turnbull, Malcolm

Turnbull, Malcolm

Period of Service: 15/09/2015 to 24/08/2018

More information about Turnbull, Malcolm on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 01/09/2017

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 41154

Subject(s): Cashless debit card trial; WA GST; Philippines terrorism; Gas; Power bills

Location: Kalgoorlie, WA


Well ladies and gentlemen welcome to Kalgoorlie, and it’s a real privilege to welcome the Prime Minister to Kalgoorlie-Boulder and also Minister Alan Tudge.

The Prime Minister is here today to make a very significant announcement for the Goldfields, something that we’ve been working on for a long time and it’s fantastic to have you here Prime Minister to make that announcement, so I’ll hand over to you.


Well thank you very much Rick, and I just want to say what a great job Rick has done as the federal member representing these communities and in particular, bringing together the community support for the introduction of the Cashless Debit Card here in the Goldfields region.

Now, as Alan Tudge will go into some more detail in a moment, we've had the cashless card operating in Ceduna and the east Kimberley’s for some time now. There’s been an independent evaluation of the card's operation and it has shown that it gives a very, very substantial benefit to the community; a big decrease in alcohol abuse, in drug abuse, in violence, in domestic violence. It is a massive, massive factor in improving the lives of those communities.

That is why it has the support in this community in the Goldfields. It’s particularly had some very strong support - as we heard in our meeting with local government leaders and community leaders - from Indigenous leaders. Betty Logan and her niece Amanda Bennett, both spoke very, very powerfully, as did Bruce Smith and others, about the importance of the card. But Betty and Amanda - Betty is a councillor on the Coolgardie Shire as I'm sure you all know - but she spoke so movingly of the damage to young children who are being brought up in families where alcohol reigns over the family. Where money isn't being spent on food, on clothes and the deprivation that these kids face, because money is being spent on drugs and alcohol and all the neglect and violence that follows. And so she and Amanda both spoke so powerfully about the transformative benefit this card can have and how this is an act of compassion.

I mean, the fact of the matter is, if you love somebody and they are spending all their money on booze and drugs, what are you going to do? You’re going to try to get them to stop it and get them to spend it on food and clothes and necessities of life. So this is what the cashless card is about, it’s an exercise in compassion and in love.

Now, it is also important to remember that in this community, in the Goldfields, most of the people who will be on the cashless card are non-Indigenous. In Coolgardie-Boulder itself, the Chief Executive John Walker was saying it would be about two-thirds of the people using the card will be non-Indigenous and we believe across the whole of the Goldfields it is about 58 per cent non-Indigenous. So that’s a very important factor.

But above all, this is an exercise in practical love, in compassion, in ensuring the taxpayers' dollars are not being spent on substance abuse and drugs, leading to violence. But above all in ensuring that those families spend their money where they should be spending it, on the food, clothing, the necessities of life and making them better able to look after those kids that Betty and Amanda spoke so movingly about, and how that has prompted them, of course, to do so much work to support them as well.

I’ll now ask Alan to say some more about the two trials so far and the way in which they've succeeded and how he’s built the support here with Rick for the introduction of the card here in the Goldfields. Alan.


Thanks very much, Prime Minister, and thanks very much Rick.

So today we released the formal independent evaluation of the Cashless Debit Card which has been operating in Ceduna in South Australia and up in the East Kimberley for over 12 months now.

The evaluation showed that this is having a considerable, positive impact on the ground, and in particular in reducing alcohol, drugs and gambling. I will go through a few of the interesting facts.

Almost 41 per cent of people are saying that they’re now drinking less as a result of this card, 48 per cent of people are saying they’re taking fewer drugs, 48 per cent of people are saying they are taking, they’re gambling less.

In Ceduna, the poker machine revenue in the region is down 12 per cent - that translates to almost $700 per card participant. Now you think about that, that's $700 which is not going into the poker machines, that instead is going towards food and rents and other things which it is supposed to be going towards.

Hospitalisation admissions are down. The number of people being arrested on the streets for drunk and disorderly is down. The other interesting thing from the evaluation is some of what's called the spill-over benefits of the card.

And just a couple I might emphasise here is that a very significant proportion of people say they’re now able to better look after their children because of this card. Almost half of people are saying that they’re better able to save money because of the card, because you’ve got a savings mechanism effectively with this. And of course there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that they are seeing just less violence in the streets, seeing fewer pregnant women who are drinking and other things.

So this trial has gone better than we could possibly hope for. We’ve got a positive evaluation coming out of it, and now we are in a position to roll out the card to additional regions, of which of course, the Goldfields is going to be the next region here.

Now with Rick, we've been working - well, for over a year here now, talking about this card, and in particular very intensely over the last three or four months since we announced in the Budget that we’d have two additional locations.

Over 270 consultations have been done across the region, and today, of course, as the Prime Minister just said, we’re announcing that it will begin here, and it will begin early next year - the rollout.

It will be accompanied by a significant investment in services and service coordination, of well over a million dollars of federal funds. And of course we will work hand in glove with the community leaders in terms of how we go about the implementation phase as well.

I’d like to thank Rick for his leadership here of this, he’s the one that initially brought me out, brought the Prime Minister out, and has been largely the key leader driving this. I’d like to thank the other leaders who have stepped up and said, "Yes, we want to give this is a go."

This is an important measure, it’s a difficult measure, but it can have a real impact on the ground at reducing some of those very significant harms, particularly from alcohol and drugs.


Very good. Thanks, Alan. So do we have some questions?


Prime Minister, this trial won't cover every town in the Goldfields region. There’s a significant problem with itinerant travellers coming from the Ngaanyatjarra lands in particular coming here to Kalgoorlie and sleeping rough. What’s going to be in place to stop them circumventing the restrictions on alcohol and gambling that are put in place by the card?


Yeah well we discussed the possible extension of the cards to the Lands - but perhaps Rick do you want to go into that? We just discussed that in the meeting.


At this stage Ngaanyatjarra lands are not included and in our initial consultations they were reluctant to go ahead, and so we concentrated on those five shires that were interested and were keen to come in.

We had the Shire of Menzies this morning announce that certainly part of their shire, they agreed last night, would come in. So we are not saying that the Lands won't come in, we’re still going to work with that shire, just as we worked with Menzies and we weren't going to announce Menzies today, but they came to a decision last night so that's great news. And that just shows we don't have to make a decision on those other surrounding shires and the Shire of Dundas may well be interested as well.

So we’re going to continue to work with those shires and try and bring them in and as the evaluation that Minister Tudge has released today is made available, I'm sure that people will see the massive benefits that this card will bring and that may well bring them over the line.


If they aren't on board though, will there be mechanisms put in place to, because I mean what's to stop people from these communities coming into Kalgoorlie and simply loading up on grog, sharing it with their friends and family?


One of the things the local government authorities, the five local government authorities have talked about is liquor accords, which they may well introduce as part of the implementation of the trial. That will be up to the local government authorities and we will certainly be working with them to facilitate that, but of course liquor licensing laws are a state government responsibility and we would hope the State Government would come to the party as well.


Okay thank you. Thanks, Rick.


So a third of people reported though that life was made worse on the card. You’ve said it is an act of love and compassion, so how is it an of love and compassion for those third of people who have said that life is not better because of it?


Well, let me just repeat what Betty and Amanda said to us in the room a moment ago. They said if you looked into the eyes of the children who are suffering from foetal alcohol syndrome, who are suffering from neglect, who are suffering from violence at home because their parents are on the grog all the time, you wouldn't hesitate to say that this card is an act of love.


Have you received any backlash from the community yet, and how have you, when you’ve been here on your visit and how have you addressed those concerns?


Well, I’ve only been here a short time and all the feedback I've had in the community has been overwhelmingly positive. Very, very positive indeed.


Prime Minister, what's your message to people in the region who may be on welfare and may be doing the right thing, who feel like they’re being stigmatised by this rollout?


Well, Alan can perhaps may say a little bit more about this, but it is - ultimately this is an exercise in practical love, it is an exercise in compassion, and I just repeat what I said a moment ago.

If you look as Betty Logan and Amanda Bennett invited us to do, if you look into the eyes of the children they take out into the bush and protect, they take out into the bush over a weekend and make sure they get some meals, make sure they’re fed and looked after. If you look into their eyes, you’d know this is right. Those kids, they’re the ones we have the greatest obligation to.


I’ll just add something to that. I mean, the issue of stigma gets raised all the time. You have a look at the independent evaluation, only 4 per cent of people raised the fact that this had any stigma attached to it and that’d dropped over the last six months.

The other thing about the independent evaluation, almost every indicator became more positive over time, which is a really great thing I reckon, in relation to this. So people are getting used to it in the trial sites, they’re becoming more comfortable with it.

Those people are doing the right thing, they’re not a big drinker, they’re not a drug taker, they might not be a gambler. I say to them, that the only real impact on their lives is going to be instead of reaching into your pocket for cash, they’ll reach into their pocket for their card, swipe it and off they’ll go.

Because it's specifically designed to work exactly like any other Visa debit card. It looks like another Visa debit card, the only difference is that it doesn't work at the bottle shops, doesn't work at the gambling houses and you can't take cash out from it. Otherwise, purchase whatever you like.


Well said.


This is the largest trial of the card you would have run and obviously there’s another one set up in the legislation that was put to Parliament a couple of weeks ago. Do you see this at all as a dress rehearsal for a broader rollout of the card, or are we talking about just rolling out trial sites for 5-10 years before deciding whether it can work across the country?


Well look, it is a trial and it’s still early days, but we are learning more as the trials progress. But so far the feedback, the results, have been outstanding. Wouldn't you say, Alan?


Absolutely. I mean, we are taking this just, slowly and steadily. Being very careful and deliberate about working with the community leaders on the ground where we roll it out.

We rolled it out to two locations initially. In the Budget the Prime Minister announced we would have two additional locations to roll it out to. If it continues to be successful, then of course we might look at rolling it out further. But we're just taking it slowly, steadily, to make sure we get it right.


Do you this it can work in metropolitan areas, outside of the trials, which have all been regional so far?


There is another trial site being released shortly.


In some respects, there’s no reason why it can’t. It’s been regional locations to date in terms of the three regions now, in Ceduna, the East Kimberley and now in the Goldfields. We’ll have another region or another area which we will be announcing shortly as well. But there’s no reason why it couldn't apply in an urban area.


Do these trials, do they have an end point? Is there a point where you reach and go: "This has been successful," or we’re going to see the current sites and any future sites that have run onwards into the future?


So the commitments with the Goldfields is for 12 months and then we’ll obviously assess it after that, talk to the community leaders and continue it on, if indeed they want to continue it on with.

We’ll seek authorisation from the Parliament every 6-12 months for them to continue it on as well.

In the east Kimberley and in Ceduna, it's almost business as usual now with the card, but of course it's under constant assessment and evaluation. We are making constant tweaks to it to improve it and technology is changing rapidly in this space as well. And as the technology advances, we will obviously incorporate that as well, as we go along.




PM, just onto questions of the day?


Alright, yes sure.


Bill Shorten’s increased pressure on the GST debate. You’re over here, can WA expect any surprises, any more commitment to further GST top-up payments, while you're here?


Well we've already made $1.2 billion in top-up payments to Western Australia and we've also got $2.3 billion in infrastructure investment underway in the state.

We're open to investing more in West Australian infrastructure and I've had a very good discussion with the Premier about that. In particular under our National Rail Fund, $10 billion National Rail Fund, there’s a lot of opportunity for investment in rail, including in further investment in the MetroNet project in Perth.

But the big difference between our position and that of Bill Shorten's – is well, first thing is you can't trust Labor when they make promises to Western Australia. Kevin Rudd made some pretty big promises to Western Australia in terms of infrastructure spending and never delivered on them, not one dollar.

But equally importantly, what Shorten is saying is, he is saying that he will take a payment three years from now, a cash payment. But what he is not doing, is a giving a commitment to reforming the way the GST operates.

The fact is, the GST formula is not operating fairly. Western Australians are not getting a fair deal. It does not pass the pub test in Western Australia. It doesn't pass the pub test anywhere else, the idea that you would get 30 cents or thereabouts in the dollar.

So clearly, a reform to the GST is a very big reform. What we’ve suggested - what we’ve proposed some time back, is that when the West Australian share adjusts - as it will, as it is forecast to do - up to a higher level, around that 70 cent in the dollar level, 70 cent level. That would be a good time to set a floor, so that you could set it at a time when no other state would actually lose out. So that is a practical, political way to go about it. In fact, it was originally suggested to me in discussions I had with Colin Barnett when he was the Premier.

Now we have the Productivity Commission doing a work, an analysis of the way the GST formula operates. There is a lot of submissions that have gone in there, particularly from Western Australia, arguing that the formula is actually counterproductive, it actually holds back economic growth right across Australia.

So we’ll be getting an interim report from the Productivity Commission in a month, but we’re committed to real GST reform and that, I'm afraid to say, is something the Labor Party has squibbed.


So why has Australia offered to send troops to the Philippines to help fight against the Islamic State?


Well let me be clear about this; the ISIL insurgency in Marawi City is a real threat to our region and to Australia. We do not want Marawi to become the Raqqa of South-East Asia. We have a vital, vested interest in that ISIL insurgency being defeated.

Now, we are working closely with the Philippines Government. We are providing, as you know, support in intelligence, in the operation of our P3 Orion aircraft there and we’re open to offering further assistance in capacity-building, training and so forth.

But I'm not going to speculate on the scope of any additional work that may be done there, because it's obviously dependent on discussions with the Philippines.

But believe me, we do not want ISIL establishing a stronghold in South-East Asia. That is vitally in our interests to see that insurgency defeated.


And how soon can we expect to see soldiers there?


Again, you're making some assumptions, I’ve addressed the issue, we are providing support, we’re open to providing further capacity-building support. The scope of that will depend on discussions between the government of the Philippines and my government. My Defence Minister Marise Payne will be in the Philippines shortly.


We understand you met with the energy retailers on Wednesday, power prices are a big issue everywhere. Was there any outcome from that meeting?


With the energy retailers? Yes, there was a very big outcome. It’s obviously of most significance in the eastern states where there is a more competitive market than you have in Western Australia, but in particular, they have all committed to contacting their customers who are either on plans that have expired or on standing offers and drawing to their attention that they can get a better deal.

I want to say to everyone who’s watching this, go to the website. That is an opportunity to check what deal you've got and get a better one. People are getting - as a result of our initiative - hundreds of dollars a year in savings. 4-5-$600 savings are very common.

Our determination is that no Australian family should be paying more for their electricity than they need to pay. The truth is that complacency, inertia, whatever you want to call it - all of us are busy running around after our families, work, we don't pay attention to our bills - all of that helps the retailers, because it means you are not actually asking for the best deal. So I want every Australian to get onto the best deal.

Now, let me just turn however, to the stunning admission that has been made by the Labor Party in the last 24 hours.

If you want to know why electricity prices have spiked up in most of Australia in recent times, it is because of the shortage of gas on the east coast.

Now here in Western Australia, there’s a big gas export market and there’s a gas reservation for the domestic market. But over on the east coast, a few years ago when the Labor Government was in power federally, they allowed gas to be exported from the east coast for the first time.

They did not pay any regard to the need to protect the domestic market. They didn't put a ring-fence around it, they didn't do anything about it. They were warned that this ran the risk of putting real upward pressure on gas prices on the east coast.

Now, they denied that. Only in April, Mark Butler went on Insiders and he said: "Oh, we were given assurances. No, no one thought it would put prices up."

Well, he was not telling the truth on Insiders and he’s finally had to admit that Labor knew when they made that decision, that that was going to cause gas prices to rise.

Bill Shorten's government, the government he was a minister in with Julia Gillard, they made a reckless decision to allow gas to be exported from the east coast of Australia, without putting in any protection for Australian families, households, businesses.

So this is a mess, a shocking mess that Labor created, one of many in the energy space. It’s due to their complacency, their combination of left-wing ideology and idiocy has led us to one decision after another by Labor, that has put upward pressure on prices.

So what we've had to do, my government has had to take the tough step of putting limits on exports. Obviously, we did that with a heavy heart. We don't like to limit any exports. We want lots of exports, but we've had to take those strong steps to protect Australian jobs.

The reason gas prices have gone through the roof in eastern Australia is because of Labor's decision to allow exports without putting in any protections for the domestic market. That’s why the domestic market has been short of gas.

So Mark Butler finally fessed up to that yesterday. So Australians that are paying too much for electricity and too much for gas, they know who is responsible. It’s Bill Shorten and the Labor Party, and they've finally admitted it.

Thanks very much.


Transcript 41154