Subjects: Budget; Labor tax plans; African scholarships; dual citizenship; Newstart Allowance; live sheep exports; Parliament.
Joining me now to discuss his own portfolio, the Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge. No doubt you've got a view on the Budget. You were listening in there to what Jim had to say. What's your reaction?
Sam, I only caught the back end of Jim's press conference. But what he confirmed is that Labor is all about spending more and taxing more.
He confirmed again that if Labor gets into government, there will be a tax on your business, a tax on your savings, there will be a tax on your income, there will be a tax on your investments, there will be a tax on pretty much anything that moves if Labor comes into government.
That is a very clear difference now between what we are proposing, which is lower taxes, versus what Labor is proposing, which is more taxes on everything.
There's been a lot of interesting developments, as there always are, in your portfolio. I wanted to ask you about this debate that has been running in relation to Pauline Hanson.
She's been criticised for putting out false information in relation to some of the debates about multiculturalism and citizenship in your area. What are your thoughts on that?
Pauline Hanson will do what she wants to do. I am focused on what our overall objective is, and that is to ensure that we maintain strong social cohesion in this country; that the right people come in to the country, and that they integrate well so that we can sustain our successful multicultural model.
I don't always agree with everything Pauline Hanson says, and there's many things in this space that I particularly disagree with her on. But we are not getting distracted by her.
I am having great engagements with people across the country, including multicultural leaders. We are firmly focused on what we want to achieve.
Yeah but I mean, she's putting out information that's wrong. Do you think she should apologise for that and own up, and not try and sort of blame other people, or blame the Government for it?
I don't know which pieces of information here you are referring to. Obviously every single Member of Parliament should put out information which is accurate. And if that information is found to be incorrect, then they should correct the record.
That applies to us; it should apply to Pauline Hanson as well. As I said, though, I am not going to make a commentary on everything that Pauline Hanson puts out, or everything that Labor or other crossbenchers put out.
We have got our own agenda and we are firmly focused on that.
Yeah. I mean, this was obviously in relation to the 10,000 African scholarships. There was a bit of a correction in that space. But in terms of your own portfolio, now, I know that constitutional matters are not necessarily your area. But we have had this confirmation that, at least from a personal perspective, that there are some Liberals who would like to see a constitutional referendum on the issue of citizenship as it pertains to Section 44.
Tony Abbott has a different view. He was saying that if you're a dual citizen, you shouldn't be in Parliament or you can relinquish that dual citizenship. What's your view? Do you think we need to clear it up by just allowing dual citizens in Parliament, or do you think we should stick with the status quo?
Sam, I do think there is a problem in relation to Section 44. Because there are some people who have been caught up with this, without any knowledge of the fact that they might be caught up, and no reasonable basis for them to believe that they might be caught up in it.
What the Government has done is ask the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters to investigate it because it is quite a complex issue. They are going to be reporting back to the Parliament, I believe in the next few weeks. We will take a close look at that report and decide what course of action to take subsequent to that.
That is, I think, the proper course of action. Let's be sober in relation to this. I think the Australian public do want us to have an absolute single focus of allegiance just to Australia.
But I do think there is that issue about people not reasonably being aware that they may be caught up in Section 44.
So, you would propose then a change that would allow you to relinquish it more easily or with just one letter or something simple. Or are you saying that you should actually be able to be a dual citizen?
I don't want people to be dual citizens. That is my personal view, but there should be a single allegiance to Australia, and that was the intent of Section 44.
I think the complexity arose because the High Court interpreted Section 44 so literally. That meant that some people could potentially get caught up now or in the future, without them even reasonably knowing that they may have been a dual citizen due to a change in an act from another country.
That is why this is being investigated by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters. They are taking a sober look at it. They will do it in a bipartisan fashion. And hopefully it presents some good recommendations for the Parliament to consider.
Now, this is not completely in your current portfolio, but you have held portfolios in this space before. There's obviously this debate now about whether or not we should increase Newstart, and the idea that it's pretty tough living on $40 a day.
We have heard Tim Storer suggest that. Bill Shorten seemed to be hopping on the bus yesterday. And of course there are budgetary implications in some cases for this, in terms of the Immigration portfolio as well. We have heard a lot of evidence over recent years that at least some of the cohort of the people that are coming to Australia are often on welfare five or 10 years after they migrate. Do you think that it's time to actually increase Newstart?
I do think it is difficult to live on $40 a day. But you have got to put this into context. And the context is that 95 per cent of people on Newstart also receive other payments.
Other payment could be in the form of rent assistance, which is worth up to $134 a fortnight. It could be family tax benefits. It can be energy allowances and other allowances.
So it is only a very small section that just live on Newstart. And even of those people who are just on Newstart, about 96 per cent of people come off it within six months. So they come off it and get work. And ultimately, that is what we want people to do.
We want people to get a job, and the Government is tremendously focused on this and we're creating 1000 jobs a day.
We are trying to encourage people to get off welfare. Take the jobs that are available. Because ultimately, the best form of welfare is employment.
I know that the suburb that you grew up in is no longer - you wouldn't call it rural or regional anymore. The Melbourne sprawl has gotten further and further out.
But there's obviously been this big debate in relation to live sheep exports, and we spoke to Sussan Ley last week, who suggested that there should be some sort of phasing out of this. Do you have a view, a personal view on live sheep exports at all?
You know what the Government's position is on this, Sam. We don't want to see any animals face any cruelty under any circumstances.
We have got a very good track record overall. But there are some instances which are plainly wrong.
And we need to crack down on those, and the Agriculture Minister has already announced some things which he has put in place, including a whistle-blower mechanism.
But the industry themselves have also put up proposals, such as having webcams on those ships so that we can properly assure that animals are being looked after when they are travelling abroad.
I personally don't want to see animals suffer any cruelty either. But I do support the industry continuing.
Okay, and just finally, in relation to this debate that Tim Hammond's really started about dads. It's a really interesting debate, I think, because we often talk about work, life, family balance, and we only really talk about women. And the suggestion is that women need to work part-time, they need to take time off work to look after their families – something many women are very happy to do. But we don't always have the same conversation quite so much about men.
Now, you have a young family yourself. Your job would take you away from Melbourne quite a lot. Did you have any personal reflections or pause for thought after Tim Hammond's decision yesterday?
I can absolutely feel for Tim, and particularly because his seat is in Western Australia. It is tough enough being a Melbourne Member of Parliament, which I am, let alone if you are based in Western Australia and you are travelling across the country constantly and having a three-hour time difference in the process.
This job is very brutal on families. But there is no easy solution to how you change this. We obviously want to get more women into the Parliament as well. But the expectations of the Australian public is that we are available, that we are present in different states, particularly when you are a frontbencher. Obviously the expectations of your electorate is you try to get to as many things as possible as well.
So I don't think there is an easy solution to this problem, but I do have great empathy for Tim's position.
Yeah, I think most people do. Alright, well Alan Tudge, thank you so much for your time today. We appreciate it.
Thanks very much, Sam.