5AA Breakfast interview with David Penberthy and Will Goodings

Will Goodings: But first in Adelaide and in the 5AA Breakfast studio, it is the Minister for Population and Cities, Alan Tudge.

Minister, good morning to you.

Alan Tudge: Good morning.

David Penberthy: Great having you here again, Minister. Now before we get into a couple of issues in your new portfolio, could we just do a bit of a recap on something that we spoke to you about on several occasions which is this cashless welfare card that was rolled out here as part of the initial trial in Ceduna.

Alan Tudge: Yeah that's right.

David Penberthy: And I saw a story the other day; there was some discussion about some research that had been critical of the way the card was working but saw some interesting quotes from the mayor of Ceduna saying if anything is done to get rid of this welfare card, there'll be riots in the streets because people are so happy, generally, with the manner in which it's working. The evidence is that crime has come down …

Alan Tudge: Yep, that's right.

David Penberthy: … and that fewer people are blowing their dough on alcohol and drugs and so on. What's your assessment of where it stands?

Alan Tudge: My assessment is that it's still going exceptionally well. Now, this is a pretty tough intervention as you know, because everybody on income support payments is issued with this cashless welfare card and that card as you know, it looks and works like any other visa card but it doesn't work at the bottle shop, it doesn't work at the gambling houses and you can't take cash out from it which means you can't purchase drugs and other illicit substances.

And the impact on the ground is quite extraordinary in Ceduna, in the other places where it's been rolled out in addressing that—particularly the alcohol abuse which as you know just underpins much of the crime, so much of the dysfunction in these areas and it's not- this card is not a panacea. It was never intended to be so. But I think it is having quite a profound impact on the ground and I would hate to see it withdrawn prematurely.

David Penberthy: Was the plan to roll it out into other locations as well?

Alan Tudge: Yeah, we've now got it rolled out fully into three locations and we're just about to roll it out into the fourth location. The fourth one's interesting: it's in Queensland, in Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, which is almost a completely non-Indigenous area and it will be the largest site as well.

So that'll begin early next year, and we think that'll have a really profound impact there as well. The interesting thing about that area is that you've got very high youth unemployment at the same time as you have thousands of backpackers going to Bundaberg to do the entry level jobs.

David Penberthy: They're picking the fruit and so on.

Alan Tudge: To pick the fruit.

David Penberthy: Yeah.

Alan Tudge: And it is so frustrating to have that situation where the businesses can't say they- the businesses say I can't get an Aussie to do the job and meanwhile you've got 23.5 per cent youth unemployment.

David Penberthy: [Indistinct]

Alan Tudge: So hopefully the card will create a further incentive for those young people to actually take the jobs that are available.

David Penberthy: Yeah, absolutely.

Alan Tudge: And Keith Pitt, the local member there, has been very strong in terms of supporting the roll out there. I hope it has an impact like it has in the other areas.

Will Goodings: We were having a conversation before you came in the program Minister, about housing affordability in Australia and housing prices have taken a rather dramatic turn on the eastern seaboard downward. Are you comfortable with the trajectory of house prices in Australia at the moment?

Alan Tudge: The- certainly in Melbourne and Sydney house prices were very high and we probably needed to ease the pressure off the house prices just steadily. And that has been the case in Melbourne and Sydney where it has come off.

I know here in Adelaide the prices have still held up. The real risk that we see to be honest is, is if Labor gets in and introduces- or abolishes the negative gearing policy, what will that do to house prices?

And we're concerned it could actually have quite a very significant impact on house prices which not only impacts people's assets, but it has- can have corollary impacts on the economy at large and that's what we're most concerned about.

David Penberthy: One of the big drivers of housing affordability and one of the big variables in that whole equation is population. We've been fascinated by comments you've made about regional centres and directing new immigrants to different areas around Australia and where Adelaide and South Australia fits in in that?

We're not a centre as large as Sydney or Melbourne. Are we technically regional and as such, in your view should we receive an influx of new migrants?

Alan Tudge: We'll certainly I've been speaking to Premier Marshall about this and he would like to see South Australia to be- to grow faster and bigger. We've got a fast-growing population in Australia but nearly all the growth is in the three big capitals in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane.

In my home city of Melbourne, we grew by 2.7 per cent last year off a big base. You guys grew by about 0.8 per cent. In absolute terms, that means you grew by 10,000 people last year. In Melbourne we grew about 10,000 people every 28 days.

Right? So- and that puts enormous pressure on a city like Melbourne whereas in somewhere like South Australia arguably you can grow faster and so if we can get a better distribution of that migration growth and the population growth, then I think we both take the pressure off Melbourne, but also assists Adelaide to grow faster, create more opportunities for you, and improve your overall economic base.

David Penberthy: But is the political problem in terms of the sell job that the sentiment among a lot of people here in Adelaide where we look to the east and go we don't want to end up that crowded?

Alan Tudge: Yeah but I think there's also great opportunities when you have a slightly larger population as you know, and I mean we have people from Adelaide who still- who might leave the city and go east for the further opportunities which are available in a bigger city.

Now if you're slightly bigger here, then you're going to have more of those opportunities here for young people to stay in Adelaide or stay in South Australia and grow the place, make it a more vibrant city, it's already terrific and every year it's getting better.

So that's the opportunity here. Now we want to do it steadily. We want to do it in cooperation with the state government obviously and the local mayors. But they're the types of things which we are looking at.

David Penberthy: Let us know what you think folks, 0448 083 095. Minister Alan Tudge, thank you so much for coming in.

Alan Tudge: Thanks very much Dave. Thanks Will.

David Penberthy: Cheers.