ABC Radio Melbourne - Interview with Jon Faine

Jon Faine: Alan Tudge is the Federal Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population, he joins me in the studio. Mr Tudge, good morning to you.

Alan Tudge: Good morning Jon.

Jon Faine: Do you think there is a climate extinction emergency at the moment? Sorry, extinction emergency.

Alan Tudge: I wouldn't use that language. Clearly, the Government believes that climate change is occurring and we all globally need to take action and that's what we're doing.

Jon Faine: Is it an emergency?

Alan Tudge: I mean, I don’t like what these protesters are doing in terms of blockading Melbourne and other cities around the country. Have your protest if you want to have your protest, make your point known, but don't interrupt everybody else's life as you go about it.

Jon Faine: But the whole point of the protest.

If they do, I hope the police are there, and will move them on so that people can get on with their lives.

Jon Faine: The whole point of a protest is to cause people some disruption, to force them to stop their normal patterns of behaviour and think about something differently.

Alan Tudge: Sure. I mean, you can still do that, have your banners there on the side of the street, make your point known, but you don't have to disrupt everybody else's life as you go about it.

Jon Faine: Have you ever protested about anything in your life?

Alan Tudge: When I was a university student, I do recall being part of some protests.

Jon Faine: What about?

Alan Tudge: I mean the thing is about this particular group is they're deliberately going about city to city, constantly interrupting people's lives.

Jon Faine: That’s the whole point of it.

Alan Tudge: And I hope that the police are there, can move them on. So make their point. They've got some air time on prime time radio this morning, so they’ve been able to make their point with you.

But for goodness sake, let people get to work, get home, do the things which they want to do. We’ve just been through an election, Jon.

Jon Faine: We have, and I made that point.

Alan Tudge: And you made that point early on.

Jon Faine: Do you support the protesters in Hong Kong like your Parliamentary colleague Tim Wilson, who went over there to march with them?

That's a very different issue over there when you've got China who is aggressively muscling up in relation to residents in Hong Kong. And we obviously support what China had agreed to in terms of a one country, two systems ruling for the next 30 years, which is what they committed to do.

Jon Faine: Do you support the street protests?

Alan Tudge: It's up to residents of Hong Kong what they want to do.

Jon Faine: Should Australia supports human rights over an oppressive and tyrannical regime that's using military and police muscle to assert control over people protesting for liberty, freedom, and democracy?

Alan Tudge: I can understand where some of these protesters are coming from. However, the Australian Government's formal position is that we support a one country, two systems approach, which has been in place and which China had agreed to, and we’d want everybody just to de-escalate and resolve things peacefully.

Jon Faine: You're trying not to offend China.

Alan Tudge: I'm not the Government's spokesperson on these issues either, Jon, Marise Payne is, and the Prime Minister is, and I'll just leave it up to them to make further commentary on it.

Jon Faine: I hope you're a fan of the ABC TV satire Utopia. [Utopia excerpt]

Jon Faine: I have your press release here, a plan in place for Geelong City Deal rollout, Miniter. This is straight out of Utopia.

Alan Tudge: Jon, it’s your final week. I'd thought you'd be a bit less cynical in your final week.

Jon Faine: Sceptical, not cynical.

Alan Tudge: No, this is actually a really good plan that we've developed in consultation with the state government and local councils down there.

Jon Faine: Is that on the talking points?

Alan Tudge: What's that?

Jon Faine: This is a really good plan we’ve developed with the state government, local council, to revitalise Geelong.

Alan Tudge: Alright, let me at least give you a few key facts in relation to this.

Jon Faine: Yeah, and the substance please, not the spin.

Alan Tudge: And there’s substance, Jon, and it's your final week. So listen, this plan is $370 million of new money going towards revitalizing the tourism economy from Geelong down the Great Ocean Road.

Jon Faine: To be spent on what?

Alan Tudge: So, it's to be spent on a number of things. Now, the major point, though, is that outside of Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road down there is the most popular tourist attraction in Victoria.

Jon Faine: One of the most popular in Australia, more people go to it than the Great Barrier Reef and Uluru combined.

Alan Tudge: Absolutely, that’s right. About six million people go down there. But two-thirds of them literally just drive down there and back again. And the tourism infrastructure down there, in some respects, is a bit tired, as you probably know, particularly down towards the Twelve Apostles. So this money starts at the Twelve Apostles actually, a brand new visitor centre there. There's going to be a new seating area, where you can sort of sit and have your lunch under cover.

Jon Faine: There’s one that was just built, it was finished about a year ago.

Alan Tudge: New steps down to the-

Jon Faine: [Talks over] At the Apostles. It’s just been built, new toilets, facilities, café, it was only finished a year ago.

Alan Tudge: This is a whole new precinct down there with a new visitor centre. It's going to be upgrading the old homestead nearby. There's going to be new steps at the Gibson down to beach and it will actually go through the cliffs, so you walk down through the cliff down to the beach. It's going to be terrific new development down there, so that people hopefully go down there and stay.

We're also putting in place electricity and sewerage and other things so that other businesses may be able to start up.

Jon Faine: What, so people don’t go to the toilet in the bushes anymore.

Alan Tudge: Well there’s obviously that, it is a lot more than that, Jon, in terms of upgrading the Twelve Apostles precinct which anybody who's been down there recently would probably acknowledge is pretty tired. But then from there there's also money going into other parts of the Shipwreck Coast and then all the way to Geelong where there will be a new Convention Centre built in Geelong.

Jon Faine: Well there's not a new convention centre being built, there's planning for a Convention Centre.

Alan Tudge: Well there’s money set aside for the actual construction as well, so the planning is the first piece of the puzzle. And then there’s money set aside for the construction.

Jon Faine: When?

Alan Tudge: Oh well the planning will take, say, 12 months and then the construction will be the two or three years thereafter.

Jon Faine: Ten years it says in your press release.

Alan Tudge: Well, we want to get on with it as quickly as possible, so our money is there. The State Government is the major funder of the Convention Centre. But we want to get cracking on it.

Jon Faine: So why is Senator Sarah Henderson, the former member who failed at the last election to be the Member for Corangamite, why is she on your press release instead of the actual sitting members who happen to be from your political opponent’s party, the Labor Party?

Alan Tudge: Well this is a three levels of government who have agreed to this, and Sarah Henderson is a member of the government.

Jon Faine: But the local member?

Alan Tudge: And she is our Senatorial representative in that part of Victoria.

Jon Faine: She’s not the Senator for Geelong and the Ocean Road. She’s the Senator for Victoria.

Alan Tudge: She’s the Senator for Victoria.

Jon Faine: So- but if you are in fact partnering with the State Government and the local member’s not even been given a look in, isn't that just you playing party politics with a major announcement?

Alan Tudge: No, not at all. I mean, I can see you've got the press release there in front of you. You've got three levels of government there at the top of the press release. We’ll be making the formal announcement down in Geelong today.

Jon Faine: But you've added on Sarah Henderson who lost the seat of Corangamite.

Alan Tudge: Well, she’s a Senator now, so she's a Senator from Victoria. She still lives down that way. She represents the area. For us, that is a very typical way the governments operate Jon.

Jon Faine: Alright. And just finally are you concerned about Donald Trump's plans for withdrawing US troops that have been between the Turks and the Kurds, which it's widely expected will lead to, well, possibly a massacre on worst case scenario of Kurds. You yourself were personally involved previously in bringing people from that troubled area and finding them sanctuary here in Australia.

Alan Tudge: I mean, this is a decision of the United States, not ours. And President Trump has been making the point that he'd be withdrawing troops for some time I think since he's been elected. We're, look we're obviously in close consultations with United States and our other allies in the region. We have some concerns for some of the Australians who are still in the region and Marise Payne, the Foreign Minister, is obviously dealing with that as we speak.

Jon Faine: Should we be bringing those women and children home?

Alan Tudge: Just let me finish on the previous point. I mean, she has said in her statements overnight that she's just calling on everybody just to de-escalate and just be calm in relation to the response here. President Trump has issued some statements in relation to Turkey.

Jon Faine: I don’t so much want a potted summary of where the geopolitics is, I'm more interested in what you, Alan Tudge, think we should do about Australian citizens who are trapped in this.

Alan Tudge: There's about 64 largely women and children who are trapped in one of the camps there.

Jon Faine: Should we bring them home?

Alan Tudge: We're not rushing to repatriate those people.

Jon Faine: So we've brought the Yazidis in because they're Christians, but we won't help these people because they’re Muslim?

Alan Tudge: No, it’s nothing to do with that. It's to do with there’s 64, these were typically the wives and children of some of the ISIS fighters. Some of them aren't Australian citizens at the moment. They may be eligible for Australian citizenship by virtue of having been married to one of the ISIS fighters who was Australian.

Jon Faine: Should we be bringing them back?

Alan Tudge: There may be some security risks associated with some of them as well, so we just need to tread carefully in relation to this and this is exactly what the Foreign Minister is doing.

Jon Faine: Thank you for your time this morning. It's always been fun to engage in the contest of ideas.

Alan Tudge: Well thank you Jon. It's been a pleasure having these discussions with you over the last, oh, a great many years over a lot of topics.

Jon Faine: I don't think you believe that, but you’re saying it anyway.

Alan Tudge: Well some of them have been fun, some of them less so, Jon, but congratulations to you on an outstanding career and you've made an absolutely terrific contribution to Melbourne so well done.

Jon Faine: That’s kind of you and thank you. Alan Tudge, Federal Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population and no, it's not true that he's the role model for utopia.