Transcript by The Hon Scott Morrison MP

3AW with Tom Elliot


TOM ELLIOT: Are you aware of this New Zealand version of this system of cashless welfare?

MINISTER MORRISON: Yes I think from memory it is covered off in the Forrest Review and they are doing some very good things on welfare over in New Zealand actually and some of those were picked up in the McClure report as well. So they are showing the way a bit on these issues but what we are talking about here Tom, I should be clear, is a pilot we are doing in a very select number of Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities where there is significant disadvantage. At this stage there is no suggestion of broader application. You have to make sure it works. There are always implementation issues around this and unintended consequences and you have to work through all of that before you get too excited and take it to the next level.

ELLIOTT: Ok. Last year I did speak to Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest about this. He said it would work in Indigenous communities. But tell us in the pilot you are running in various communities how will it work?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well it is different to the Basics Card which is currently being used in various parts of Australia in that it just precludes a couple of items from being spent with what is in effect a debit card. So it is not quarantining purchases of other types of things so there is a lot more flexibility around it but it just means there isn’t as much cash in the system and it is designed to ensure there isn’t the cash there for things like drugs and various other things which are just an absolute poison in these communities. There is also a lot of flexibility to work with stakeholders in those communities where you can be quite tailored about how you apply, how much can come in cash and how much doesn’t come in cash. There would still be a cash component of any payment here it would just be having this as a device, a tool, to ensure that you have got at least some way of restricting the flow of benefit payments into things that are basically destroying families and destroying the lives of the people receiving the payments.

Ok. So in the communities where you are going to trial this will you apply it to everybody who is on welfare or just people who have demonstrable problems with their spending?

This is one of the issues you can work through with the community and that is why a lot of those decisions are still being worked up as part of a stakeholder consultation process. We are not getting ahead of ourselves here Tom. We are trying to take what is a very good idea from Twiggy and then put it into a format where you can trial it with the technology that has to support it. We have been talking to banks about this as well and technology providers. We are not rushing into it. We are just going to take it methodically step by step because you don’t want to rush to failure with something like this, you want to get it right and that’s what we are doing.

ELLIOTT: Now what about the reaction from the minor parties because of course unfortunately with the Senate the way it is you have to battle issues through the Senate. I mean the Greens have said it is paternalistic. They say it is actually offensive to see the Prime Minister stand up with a wealthy privileged white man – this is their language not mine – I think they are referring to Andrew Forrest, telling people how to spend their money. Do you anticipate that the Greens might come round on this issue?

MINISTER MORRISON: I don’t have a high level of expectation about the Greens doing anything sensible when it comes to something like this. They should go and explain that bunch of political garbage rhetoric to families that are being destroyed by parents who are on the grog or things like that and people who have had to live in families like that and grow up like that, when the government is there trying to work with communities to try and break that cycle. So they can get all very indignant about this sort of thing and get on their high horse and spout out rhetoric but that is not going to help a family that is struggling with issues of addiction whether gambling or alcohol or anything like that. This is what Twiggy has seen and dealt with in his experience over a long period of time and we are now trying to translate that into something that is quite workable in a lot of communities that frankly could really do with it.

ELLIOTT: Ok so say someone in one of the communities where this is being trialled – so someone has their debit card and it has got for arguments sake $250 worth of spending on it and in a moment of weakness spending on it they go to the local bottle shop and say I will have a slab and a bottle of whatever, it just won’t go through?


ELLIOTT: Ok. They can take out some cash, you were saying?

MINISTER MORRISON: Some payments would be made directly into a bank account and so it wouldn’t be – the debate is about how much of the welfare benefit do you put on this card. There may be in some of the trials the opportunity for people to volunteer onto the card. We support a lot of financial counselling services around the country and if this was there as a tool for people where they wanted to opt in to a scheme like that then I think there is a lot of merit in that. It is all about having a good tool, a tool that is going to help people get back on their feet, get control of their own circumstances and not continue to fall victim to something which is killing them and destroying their family and their community.

ELLIOTT: Ok, finally before – I want to ask you about another issue to do with funding for homelessness but I mean ok so at the – the way it would work is you go to your pokies venue the card won’t work, you go to a bottle shop the card won’t work, could you buy cigarettes on one of these cards?

MINISTER MORRISON: Again that is detail we are still working though. There is a view that you shouldn’t be able to do that.

ELLIOTT: Ok, well I would probably agree with that. Now just moving on I understand and I have got a media release in front of me, you are committing $230 million to prioritising – well reversing funding cuts on homelessness and helping victims of domestic violence. What is that about?

MINISTER MORRISON: That’s right, the Labor party when they left government they also shut the door on the continued funding of homelessness programmes from the federal government. We continued that funding when we got back in for a year and now we have decided to continue it for a further two years. So that is $230 million, $115 million a year. The programme the previous government we thought was quite woolly and wasn’t really getting results. In Victoria for example they spent some $13 million on career progression for people working in the homelessness sector. We are more interested in frontline services and we are interested in those services particularly going for families affected by domestic violence and for young people who are either homeless or at risk of homelessness. So it is a partnership agreement with the states, as soon as the States are prepared to stump up the money then we will match it for these priority programmes. They can spend it on other issues that are frontline services and we will work through that detail with them. Labor cut the funding for homelessness after trumpeting it when Kevin Rudd was running around. But when push came to shove in their last budget they ripped the money out.

ELLIOTT: Now what about Malcolm Fraser, David Leyonhjelm the NSW Liberal Democrat Senator complained today that an entire day of Parliament no work would be getting done because of all the condolence motions. Are those motions going on as we speak?

MINISTER MORRISON: They finished at 12.30 earlier today and as a mark of respect the House was adjourned until tomorrow. I can assure you there is still plenty of work going on down here, Tom, there always is until late into the evening as people would expect and that is the nature of the work that we do. I thought that was a pretty ordinary comment from David, he is usually a pretty sensible bloke.

ELLIOTT: I was surprised by it I must say.

MINISTER MORRISON: I have dealt a lot with him and we have been able to work through a lot of issues together but when a Prime Minister passes away I think it is an appropriate thing for the country to mark that, for Parliament to mark it. Malcolm Fraser was a great Prime Minister, he was a Liberal Prime Minister, he achieved a lot particularly for immigrant communities and established the Australian Federal Police after the Hilton bombing in Sydney and he was a person with a great record. He might not have agreed with the Howard governments and the Abbott governments on issues that I have had a particular involvement in but I respected him greatly and I think the Parliament has shown that respect to him today as they should.

ELLIOTT: Scott Morrison thank you for your time.

MINISTER MORRISON: Thanks Tom, good to talk to you.