Subjects: ‘Culture wars’, the economy, law and order, Multicultural Affairs, cashless card
We are also engaged, now in something that is being universally described as the culture wars. That puts Alan Tudge right in the thick of things.
He is the Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship in the Turnbull Federal Coalition Government and represents outer eastern suburban electorate in Melbourne here.
Alan Tudge, good morning to you.
Good morning Jon.
To the cashless card in a moment, first up, the culture wars. Is the federal election going to be fought on cultural issues or economic ones?
I think the federal election will be largely fought on who is better at managing the economy and who is better at keeping the community safe. We have certainly got a strong record on both of those things.
On the economic front, we have had record jobs growth, we have got economic growth which is amongst leaders in the pack globally and certainly we are working very hard to keep the community safe through our national security settings.
And yet, over and over again the so-called culture wars, things to do with Australia Day for instance, or settlement programs, refugees, asylum seekers, all of these things. Over and over again, it seems to be that is where the focus seems to fall.
I do not agree with that. Inevitably those things come up from time to time and people are interested in those topics and we debate them forthrightly, as we do many other topics.
I think the most important thing which everyday Australians think about and are concerned about is their job security, their wages, the cost of living and making sure their community is safe. That is firmly our focus.
I suspect that, well we are certainly seeing that there is a state election and undoubtedly it is fixed for November. We are seeing that there is an attempt, perhaps successful, to try to characterise Australian society as deeply divided.
Do you think we are a deeply divided society?
Again, I do not agree with your assessment there in terms of trying to characterise Australian society like that…
I didn’t say you. I said, there are attempts.
I am not convinced there even are attempts to categorise Australian society as deeply divided. I do not believe we are, in fact I think we are largely a very harmonious society, relative to many other countries in the world.
We are the most successful modern multicultural country in the world, in my view and we are trying to continue down that path.
I think what the State Opposition, particularly, is going to be focused on leading up to the state election is going to be in relation to crime in the state.
Everybody know that is a problem. We have had a criminal justice system set up by the Labor Government which has been too soft. The bail laws have been too soft, some of the sentences have been too weak and the police have not always been as empowered as they should be.
Consequently, we have crime rates which are higher in Victoria and in Melbourne particularly, than in other states. I think that Matthew Guy is absolutely focused on that and will make a difference should he become Premier, later this year.
Wow. I thought you were a Federal Minister.
You started referring to, in Victoria, some of the things which we were discussing. That is absolutely one of the things which we are discussing in Melbourne.
I am a Melbournian, I live out in the Knox area and it is one of the top issues which people are concerned about.
We have a federal dimension to this, in terms of national security and also booting out people that are on temporary visas who are criminals. We do not want them being in the country if they are conducting serious criminal activity.
That is one of our roles, but it is largely up to the state of course, to ensure that the police are empowered, to ensure sentences are proper, to ensure the bail laws are adequate.
Hang on, let me just check, it says here you are the Minister for Multicultural Affairs.
Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, that is right.
Every other Minister for Multicultural Affairs has been more than willing and keen to talk about all the bridge building they are doing, the re-settlement programs, language programs, job assistance, mentoring for youths who are struggling to find their way in a different society than the one they grew up in. All that sort of stuff.
But you have kind of gone the opposite direction.
Jon, you started asking about what is on people’s minds. You talked about the culture wars. What I think is on people’s minds – it was a broad political question you were asking me - is cost of living pressures.
It is job security and wages. They are the things which I think are most pertinent to people today, as well as the community safety, particularly in Melbourne.
I will talk all morning to you about what we are doing broadly in the multicultural space, absolutely. We have been a tremendously successful country integrating people from around the world.
I think we are the most successful country in the world and we need to make sure that that continues. Some of our reforms which we have got already tabled to ensure that continues.
Okay, and just finally also, the cashless card, are you going to expand it or just wait and see whether it works?
We have already seen that it is working. We have had an independent evaluation and it has absolutely had an impact on the ground, particularly in reducing alcohol consumption in some of the more remote communities where alcohol is the poison that runs through them.
We have announced, which I announced last year, that we will expand into the Goldfields in WA, and over into Bundaberg and Hervey Bay up in Queensland.
That is still on track. Dan Tehan is now in charge of that particular program and I am sure that he will be following through on that.
When Parliament is not sitting and you are back in Melbourne, can we get you to come in and have a longer discussion about these issues? The text messages have gone completely nuts.
In between those saying, Dave says “Alan Tudge for Prime Minister”. Another saying “what a disgrace, fear mongering and sowing seeds of concern”. Others saying “absolute rubbish about crime rates, Queensland crime up much more than in Victoria”.
Anyway, we need to have a longer discussion. Are you up for it?
Happy to discuss those anytime Jon.
I will get my people to talk to your people. Thank you Alan Tudge, Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs in the federal Coalition Government of Malcolm Turnbull.