ABC News 24 with reporter Julie Doyle – 01 August, 2014

Doyle: The idea of a ‘ healthy welfare card’ is this something the Government would ever contemplate?

 

Minister: Well we do have income management which involves effectively the use of a card for about 26,000 people, the majority in the Northern territory and around Australia and we’re looking to expand that to Ceduna in South Australia later this year. So it’s something that’s been in place. Mr Forrest is suggesting a much more expansive use of it I think that’s a little ambitious to the extent that he is suggesting but it is something that has been quite useful for many people.

 

Doyle: Why is what he’s proposing too ambitious?

 

Minister: Not everybody because they’re on welfare are unable to manage their affairs. Yes there are people who have difficulty in managing their finances in buying food for their kids, paying rent and things like that so there are a group of people for which this has been quite useful and one of the interesting things on its use so far is in indigenous communities in particular is that people who have come off it in the formal sense have asked to stay on because it stops the humbugging practices that can occur so yes it has a place probably some expansion of it but whether it should be as universal as Mr Forrest proposes is a little a little ambitious at this stage.

 

Doyle: Is The idea of putting payments onto a card that you can only buy essential items with and items such as gambling and alcohol would be blocked is that to prescriptive for the Government?

 

Minister: Well that’s happening in some places now so it’s not to prescriptive and many aboriginal communities want this. I’ve spent time with Aboriginal women in particular who say this is very useful because they say they we san’t be humbugged in the community we can care for our children and they get the other supplies that they need so this has got a very real place so we will have a discussion about Mr Forrest’s report and see what the community says. We’ll also have to look at the cost of doing this because income management in quite expensive and the more remote the community the more expensive not just in the provision of the card but the counselling around this so a remote indigenous community this costs around 8 to 9 thousand dollars a year where in a suburban area of a major city it’s around $2000.

 

Doyle; The Prime Minister said back in 2008 that welfare quarantining should be applied right across the country, has he changed his mind on that?

 

Minister: Well we’re looking at what works and what is available we’ve got to balance two things here. We don’t want to be a nanny state and say that everyone on welfare, we’re going to manage things for you because that’s really removing from them the responsibility we want them to take on but we recognise in certain circumstance there are substantial personal and family difficulties where this can be a helpful instrument if you like where this can help and be a balance between the two.

Doyle: One of the other ideas of Mr Forrest is linking family tax benefit to school attendance that it will help in families where children aren’t attending school regularly, what do you think of that?

 

Minister: Well three things are important: one is that kids go to school, secondly that adults have a job and thirdly that communities are safe and that’s the real essence of what we are trying to do where indigenous communities are concerned. We’ve got to get the states on board to report in a timely way that kids are turning up for school so there are some steps we need to take for the states and territories to do their jobs and ensure that kids go to school we’ve rolled out truancy officers which is a help to do that in places like the Northern Territory but there is more to be done. There’s some steps to take here, Andrew Forrest’s report is expansive, it’s forward thinking, it’s out there for discussion now. We’ll take into account what the community thinks about it, we’ll also be looking at it in the McClure review which is out in the consultation period at the present so we can bring this all together with that community input and look at where we go into the future.

 

Doyle: Just on the issue of truancy, Tony Abbott has said today he wants the states and territories to enforce truancy laws, how do you do that?

 

Minister: We can’t force states to do something in their area of responsibility, but if the states can see what we see as those three things that if we can get kids to go to school, if you can get people into work and make safe communities its going to make an enormous impact in many communities around Australia and we would hope that the states see the sense of doing this.

 

Doyle: You say this will all be looked at as part of the McClure Review, what sort of response have you had, where are submissions at now>

 

Minister: Submissions are coming in the closing date isn’t until the end of next week as well as the round tables consultations that McClure will wrap up, and we’re expected in having done that they will report back to Government with recommendations in September.