Transcript by The Hon Christian Porter MP

2GB Breakfast Show with Alan Jones


ALAN JONES: Minister, good morning

MINISTER PORTER: Good morning Alan. You don’t change the welfare system without a few early starts.

ALAN JONES: You’re a good man – you are a good man.

Just a couple of questions – I mean I’ve got a stack of questions from listeners, they are saying to me – is it possible that a married couple can be on the aged pension and still access a carers pension?

MINISTER PORTER: Well, one could be accessing a carers payment and one could be accessing the aged pension, yes.

So as a couple that’s quite possible, so one might be caring for the other, and the carers payment is a payment that is meant to provide for recognition of the fact that someone’s providing full-time care – so that’s possible.

ALAN JONES: But you’re mother and father cared for one another, this is the point people are making aren’t they. We’re breeding a mentality that someone else picks up the tab.

I mean, we’re talking about unmarried mothers. I mean is it valid, one other listener said, well I heard the Minister talk about unmarried mothers, isn’t it valid first to ask ‘where’s the father and why aren’t they paying?’

MINISTER PORTER: We have a very sophisticated and pretty well-operating system that tries to make sure that dad’s take their responsibility.

Alan, as you point out the taxpayer is very important in all of this, an even more fundamental question is – are we doing any favours to groups of people in the system who receive welfare payments without mutual obligations, and get tracked in the system.

For instance, one of the things that this report has found, based on this $33 million worth of data systems we’ve put together is that, there are 400,000 young students, these are young Australians we pay to study – cash payments, Austudy, Abstudy, Youth Allowance – and that represents $3.3 billion worth of taxpayers expenditure every year. But even inside that group that we’d probably expect fairly solid results from, in any given year over the next 60 years a minimum of 30 per cent of those 400,000 young students will still be in the welfare system.

There are target groups that we’re looking at, smaller groups, about 6000, who tend to not finish a degree and then transition onto Newstart, and these young Australians have terrible results.

I think the fundamental question is, is this what we want for a young Australian parent, or a young Australian student? A situation where you move from the payment to Newstart to the pension…

ALAN JONES: Yeah but see it’s too easy, it’s too easy Christian, it’s too easy.

One of the key – listeners are not stupid, they do appreciate what you’re doing, and the limits of what you’re doing, I must say that, but one listen said to me, well, if as Christian Porter says, the system’s being rorted, why are we making these phenomenal payments to public servants to administer a system that is being rorted?

I mean, you’ve got a phalanx of public servants down there who can’t address these issues, you can’t, but the advice you get is crook or they are not closing up, I mean there is a story today on childcare, where it appears as though, according to legislation governing these so-called Family Daycare Centres, and for my listeners that’s where a childcare centre is run from a private home, the legislation doesn’t require centres to actually care for any children in order to collect the taxpayer subsidies.

MINISTER PORTER: Indeed, and look we were left two systems, the first in childcare the other, as you would be aware, in VET fee help, which is if you like a diploma system, which were absolutely hopeless in the way that they were structured by Labor.

So with Vet Fee help, I know the Minister will make some announcements about that, the system was open to the most terrible abuses.

And with respect to childcare, we have been attempting for the past several years to reform that system. Under Labor while they were in government, the cost of childcare went up 50 per cent in six years. And they structured the system, which was massively inflationary, which was open to the sort of abuses that you’ve noted and that we see in the paper.

And the idea that the ACTU is sending officials out and never sight a child…

ALAN JONES: Yes, that’s right.

MINISTER PORTER: Don’t take action earlier than…

ALAN JONES: No children being cared for at a Family Daycare centre is getting subsidies.

People are smart Christian, I mean, they are rorting the system.

In 2013, that’s only a couple of years ago, there were 472 Family Daycare Centres in Australia. That’s where you can run a childcare centre from a private home – 472.

Now there are 1089, and the number of centres in Victoria has increased by 303 per cent in four years, they just see it as easy money.

MINISTER PORTER: Yes and this system is in dire need of reform. We’ve been attempting to do that for the past several years and Labor has been thoroughly, 100 per cent uncooperative. And it’s a mess that they created, which they are now refusing to assist in fixing.

And all of this begs the question, how efficient we are being with the very large amounts of money that we spend on welfare?

Where there are financial constraints you’ve got to make sure that you’re doing the best by people.

In many instances the recipients are not benefiting from the system that doesn’t place proper mutual obligations, so that they are preparing for the point in time where they are going to enter the workplace.

ALAN JONES: But you can’t on the one hand tackle childcare without attacking corporate welfare.

People cannot understand why we’re paying $3 billion a year in renewable energy subsidies. Why we’re in fact subsidising, the taxpayer subsidises wind power to the tune of $42 per megawatt hour of electricity produced. Solar power, $412 per megawatt hour, you cannot justify this corporate welfare, as you say, there’s no evidence that welfare of the kind you’re talking about produces the kind of outcomes we seek, and there’s no textbook anywhere that tells you that this kind of corporate subsidy works.

MINISTER PORTER: Well when you look across the system, obviously these are questions that have been raised very recently, you’ve got a whole different range of targets and subsidies and feed-in tariffs both at the state level, in fact many at the state level and of course there are targets federally as well. But you’ve got, say for instance in Queensland, a target that they’ll reach 50 per cent renewables and at the moment they’re at 4.4 per cent.

ALAN JONES: But why wouldn’t you and I get into solar power and wind power?

I mean, they are massively subsidised. This is Ludacris.

There are people listening to you saying, well I don’t have solar and wind power, I actually make cakes for a living. Or I actually repairs people’s tyres for a living. No-one gives me a subsidy.

Here is a childcare rebate, coming back to that, $7500 per child per year, no means test.

We’re not serious are we?

MINISTER PORTER: And again, can I say to you Alan, we’ve got legislation ready to go that reforms that system, that provides appropriate caps, that tightens up loopholes, that makes the system less inflationary, fairer, simpler.

One of the problems is that there are, at present, three different types of childcare subsidies.


MINISTER PORTER: The system we inherited is in real need of reform, but that side of politics, who left the system in disarray, refuses to do anything to assist us to fix it.

ALAN JONES: I understand that, I understand that.

But what I would be doing, is I would be shoving the legislation into the Parliament, ignoring the Senate and then tell the people, this is what we’re seeking to do and this mob won’t approve of it.

But you’ve got to prove that you are fair dinkum, and I’m sure you are.

I just want to come back to that speech at the National Press Club, you made two very critical statements:

One -Young people enter the welfare system and remain inside it for their entire lives, what an indictment of the nation.

The other thing – recipients can receive more in welfare than the minimum wage without being subject to on-going obligations to become work ready.

Now, somewhere this has got to stop. We’re destroying the country.

MINISTER PORTER: What we’re doing is we’re destroying the lives of those targeted groups of young people that we can now identify. They get drawn into the system, and because of its rules and the lack of mutual obligation, lose formative years in education or hunting for employment, and get drawn into a system that traps them, if not for decades for small targeted groups that we can see, clear targeted groups, they get trapped for life.

ALAN JONES: But if the money’s easy Christian, they are not trapped, they are deliberately there. 4370 young parents you said, under the age of 18, under the age of 18. They get a parenting payment, 77 per cent are single and 1,580 continuously, you said, receive parenting payments for 13 years, all have at least two children, two thirds have four or more children.

Christian, there’s money in it.

MINISTER PORTER: Well this is the debate that we have to have, and when money flows to recipients it’s never unfettered, and there always and should always be mutual obligations.

But there are simply too many groups to whom the money flows to inside the system where there’s not a reasonable obligation. Now for instance, with that group of young parents, it might raise the question, it certainly does in my mind, whilst there might be periods where because they are caring for children they are unable to work full-time, what are we requiring of that group by way of preparation for the inevitable point when they will be able to re-enter the workforce.

I think the honest answer to that is with the system that we have inherited, we are not doing enough to make sure that there’s a mutual obligation to prepare for work.

ALAN JONES: It’s too easy, it’s too easy for me to put my hand in your pocket.

Let me go, we can’t discuss everything, corporate welfare we’ve talked about, this is personal welfare, what about political welfare?

It’s 700 days since the House of Representatives passed legislation to scrap the life Gold Pass for retired MP’s. That has not been passed in the Senate, it’s still there, it’s welfare.

The entitlement for MP’s in $425 million a year. The cost of running the federal bureaucracy is $57 billion a year, reduce that by 20 per cent and you’ve got $10 billion straight away.

I mean, this is what the public out there are saying, we’re agreeing with what you’re about Christian Porter, but hang on, there’s something wrong with the political system as well.

MINISTER PORTER: And you won’t get disagreement from me, or members of my government, and of course that’s legislation that we introduced, and that Gold Pass is a relic. Not something that the next generation of politicians, which I include myself, have ever had access to or ever will and neither should we.

But as you point out, we have to have cooperation through the Parliament to help us repair the budget, to help us ensure that relic systems like that are ended. Because of course the erode people’s faith in the system. But it is a very difficult process, unfortunately with the Parliament we have had and the one we have at the moment. But you’ve got to keep trying.

ALAN JONES: You have to keep trying. Of course, this is why they say in New Zealand, John Key does a wonderful job – John Key has no upper house. John Key just goes to the people and says this is what I’m going to do, and they then say ‘we want you to do that Prime Minister’, and he can go and do it.

You’ve got to battle with stupid people in the Senate.

Look, I thank you for your time; I thank you for getting up so early. Keep up the good work, we’ll return to the subject again, but really grateful for your time.

MINISTER PORTER: Thank you Alan. Cheers.