This morning the Senate will be tabling its report into the Welfare Debit Card legislation. And the debate on that legislation in the Senate will occur shortly afterwards.
Last Friday, the Labor Party sent a letter to me outlining a series of concerns in relation to the legislation and they asked for those concerns to be addressed before they could support it.
Yesterday I sent them this 26 page document which goes through in intricate detail the response to each of their concerns.
This is a trial which has been designed in intricate detail with the community leaders in Ceduna. They want this trial to occur and indeed some of those community leaders are in Parliament House today to send that message to the Labor Party and the crossbenchers.
Why is this trial going to occur in Ceduna? In part because there is significant welfare-fuelled alcohol and drug abuse in that community. For example, last year there were 4,600 admissions to the local sobering-up centre despite the population being only 4,400 people.
As I said, this has been a trial which has been co-designed by the community leaders. It will consist of the distribution of a cashless debit card and will also consist of the introduction of several new services to help people get off their dependence from alcohol, drug and gambling abuse.
It is supported by the local community leaders. It is supported by the local council. It is supported by the state Labor Premier and of course it has been led by the federal government.
I am asking the Labor Party: do not turn your back on these community leaders who want this trial to occur. We want this bill to go through the Senate with bipartisan support because it could be a decisive measure to break the back of some of the welfare dysfunction in that community.
What’s the indication so far? You’ve only given them the letter as a response yesterday.
I was only sent a letter from Ms Macklin on Friday and I’ve responded on Sunday in great detail to those concerns. The legislation is likely to be debated this afternoon and may indeed come to a vote this afternoon.
I’ve had constructive conversations over the last few months with Ms Macklin and I hope the Labor Party will do exactly what they said they would do and not turn their back on the community leaders who want this trial to occur.
Tony Abbott is expected to return to Parliament today to take up a seat on the backbench. Are you worried about the tensions it could create within the government?
No I’m not worried about that.
How confident are you that he won’t undermine the new Turnbull government?
I’m very confident. We’ve got a new team and they’ll be on the frontbench today and I’m sure they will all perform exceptionally well.
Any thoughts on the reception to Malcolm Turnbull at the event on Saturday?
I’m a member of the Victorian Division of the Liberal Party, not the New South Wales Division. I don’t know what that was about. I only saw the TV footage of it.
Malcolm might have been better received in Victoria [inaudible] saved a few seats there?
He is well received in Victoria and he is well liked in Victoria. He’s been down there several times already. We’re confident about our prospects in Victoria. There are a number of key marginal seats there and we’ll be fighting very hard to defend those seats and fighting also to try to win some seats from the Labor Party at the next election.
Are you surprised at all by what seems to be a bit of a muted poll bounce, if you like, 51 back to 50, so far with Malcolm Turnbull?
I don’t think that Labor will be celebrating the fact that their primary vote is 35 per cent. There is a long way to go until the next election.