Sky News Live, with Peta Credlin

Peta Credlin: So joining me tonight to discuss more of the government’s plans is Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population, Mr Alan Tudge.

Welcome to the show Minister Tudge. We’re going to get into a whole range of policy issues in relation to your areas of population in particular. I want to ask you though today, Tanya Plibersek the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party had a motion in the Parliament, went very hard on the issue of the Morrison Government, accused the Morrison Government of abandoning women. You were pretty vocal; has she got it wrong?

Where’s the Liberal Party on women? You’ve copped a bit of flack in recent days.

Alan Tudge: I think what most people are concerned about is that our policies are direct towards supporting women and we certainly have very strong policies there, particularly providing women choices to whether or not they want to work, childcare policies and the like.

I was particularly vocal today though because the Labor Party wanted to suspend standing orders i.e. interrupt the debate in order to put forward this motion, when in fact the next item for discussion was about domestic violence. And I thought that was a more important bill to be debating and to pass rather than going through what ended up really being a stunt by the Labor Party.

Peta Credlin: The other issue that’s derailing the government today, I mean, I think you got through the women’s issues last week, you dealt with the defection of Julia Banks one of your Victorian colleagues. But of course, Malcolm Turnbull entered the fray last night and again today. He went very hard, he says—the government should go to the polls before the New South Wales election scheduled for the 23rd

Alan Tudge: Former prime ministers are entitled to their views, but we are absolutely focussed on the policies which matter to the Australian people, rather than getting distracted by any commentary about when an election might be or any of our internal machinations.

The Australian public reward us when we deliver for them on the issues that matter. It is the economic growth, it’s the national security, its building infrastructure, it’s doing things like that which are important to everyday Australians. If we start talking about ourselves every single day, I think that they rightly punish us for it.

Peta Credlin: On one of the areas that I think you listened as a government recently, was a decision by the Prime Minister where he announced that Australia would not sign this global compact on migration set for discussion in Morocco in about eight days’ time.

Now, this is something Australia under Julie Bishop as Foreign Minister was a co-author of. So for about the last 12 months Australia had been at the table and nutting out a document that when you looked at its final draft form, put at risk things like our ability to prosecute a policy of detention centres as a last resort on keeping control of sovereign borders. Now a lot of your colleagues, the more they knew about it were up in arms. Your supporters certainly didn’t like it. Why did you not sign it in the end because that’s a big move?

Alan Tudge: Well in the end, the most important thing was that we maintained our own sovereignty over our borders and my understanding was that there was concerns by Prime Minister Morrison and by Peter Dutton that we would lose some sovereignty if we did sign it.

Now, we've got a very good track record in relation to border protection. We stopped the boats once again. We've got 2000 children out of detention, we've closed down 17 detention centres overall and we must maintain that strong border protection regime so that the people smugglers business can't start again. That was the primary reason why we didn't sign that agreement so that we can be in control of our own destiny.

Peta Credlin: Yeah. But it's a close run thing; it wasn't that Australia [indistinct] slipped under the radar to somebody. It's only the issue now that a change of prime minister has killed off this agreement for Australia to sign. There are now many other nations around the world who have also walked away from this global compact. But as I said, under the former foreign minister, under the former prime minister, you were at the table.

Now, I don't know how much of this is debated internally, but why on earth was Australia part of this in the first place?

Alan Tudge: Peta, I don't know the answer to that question in terms of how advanced the proposals were. Now, sometimes as you know though, we will be at the international table so that we can have a shaping of what an agreement might look like and if the agreement ends up being a good one for Australia and in our national interests, we’ll then sign it.

But other times you can be at the table, try to shape an agreement and it ends up not being in our interests and that may well have been the case here. At the end of the day we didn't sign it, we maintain our absolute sovereignty over our borders and that's how it should be.

Peta Credlin: Okay we're talking about plans and agreements and deals; will the coalition have a population policy—an actual document with a number inside it as a target population or a cap- best expressed a cap, ahead of the next election, will you actually have a policy?

Alan Tudge: We are developing our policy as we speak Peta and we will have a policy which is well articulated before the next election and a couple of things which that policy is going to do.

Most importantly though, it's going to better align what our population growth is with what the infrastructure and service delivery is on the ground because this is part of the problems that we've had particularly in our larger capitals, is that whereas we control the population levers—the growth levers, the states and territories are largely responsible for on the ground services and infrastructure.

And we need a better alignment of those two things so that you don't get the build up of congestion, so that roads are built in line with population growth rather than behind it, so the schools and hospitals are being built concurrently. That's almost going to be the most important thing which comes out of it.

Now, we've asked the states and territories to let us know what they're carrying capacity is and we're going to build the population or the migration settings bottom up, if you like, through that process rather than what we've typically done is a much more top down approach.

And I think through that process we will get that better alignment. It may well end up in a slowdown overall in population through a reduction in the migration intake, but we certainly will have a population policy well before the next election.

Peta Credlin: So when is the material coming in from the states and territories, what’s the deadline there?

Alan Tudge: Yeah, so that's going to be by the end of January. So the states and territories have been written to by the Prime Minister, effectively asking them—what's your carrying capacity of your city, in your state today and into the future?

What do your forecasts and plans look like in terms of infrastructure, hospitals, schools and the like and therefore, how many people do you need for those or for your state or for your capital city? And then we will incorporate that as we set our migration settings because migration…

Peta Credlin: [Interrupts] Okay Minister, I’m just going to jump in there.

Alan Tudge: …is 60 per cent of the population growth rate.

Peta Credlin: Let me just jump in there. So if, for example, for round figures we're talking about 100,000 people coming to Australia once you get the views of all the states, you'll get a case say out of New South Wales saying no more. You might get a case out of South Australia saying—well we can carry another 20 or 30,000 in an ideal world.

You set your national target for 100,000, how do you ensure the distribution of people once they get through Sydney Airport or Melbourne Airport or Brisbane Airport that the distribution matches the forecasts that the states gave you?

That there is none that goes to New South Wales, that there is the 30,000 that end up in South Australia? How do you make that happen?

Alan Tudge: So, I would be firstly very surprised if the New South Wales Government came back and said they don’t want any migration into New South Wales. I mean, I think that would have very serious consequences for the overall economy of New South Wales. For some service provision, you think about aged care, it’s so reliant upon new migrants delivering those services.

What I do expect is that most of the smaller states, though, will be asking for more people. And so, we’re going to aggregate those here.

Peta Credlin: [Interrupts] Yeah, but I’m not asking you about that, Minister. I’m asking you how on earth—how do you, as the federal Minister, make sure there is a match between what the states want or don’t want in terms of migration? How do you ensure the distribution meets requirements?

Alan Tudge: Listen, in some respects, we already do a little bit of this. So, it’s not a new concept. And that is that you can create incentives for new migrants when they come into the country to go to certain areas. And then you can place conditions upon their visas to stay in that area for at least a few years. And in that time, you hope that they put down roots, their kids go to school, and they make it their home. And we can do that at a much more aggregated level to what we have done in the past, but the tools are already there.

I should also point out that a large part of our migration intake is actually—it’s demands driven, if you like, i.e. it’s employer sponsored or it’s family reunions [audio error] smaller cities in any case, and that will still be a significant part of the overall migration program.

Peta Credlin: So, will we see an actual document that details the splits per state? Will we see the mechanism, whether it’s a visa class particular mechanism or other, that you will employ to ensure that this distribution occurs? And will we see this outside and before an election campaign, or is it something we’re going to have to wait until the 33 days in May?

Alan Tudge: No, you will see the mechanisms which we are able to deploy in order to encourage people to go to certain states or to cities and to stay there. You will also what the overall migration level is going to be. Now, that cap is set on an annual basis, but we’ll be able to also put out some better forecasts as well.

Now, all of these things which we’ve articulated at a higher level, we’re working closely with the states on and developing the further detail, which we’ll be able to release and announce early next year, well before the election.

Peta Credlin: Okay. On another related matter to the fortunes of the Government going into what we know now will be a budget in April, an election in May—a federal election, at least. How does the Victorian Liberal Party—you’re a very senior member now- how does the Victorian Liberal Party rebuild?

Alan Tudge: Oh, we’ve got a bit of soul searching to do just in terms of what happened at the state election. And we’ve lost some very good members of Parliament there. And we need to ensure that we have a new president who can be a uniting force for us. And I think the Members of Parliament have a responsibility to come together and work together coherently and bring the party together over the next six months, certainly, but in the years ahead as well.

Now, this is—it’s always a difficult time for a party after you’ve had a significant defeat in your state. And we’re addressing that; we’ll have a review of that election campaign. But then—we will rebuild. And we’ve done so in the past, we will do so again because ultimately, I think, Australians want the type of policies and values which the Liberal Party represents.

And that is—they want economic growth, they want strong national security, they do want individual responsibility to be infused throughout it. They do want us to support the family and to support small businesses and ultimately, those are the core principles upon which our party is built and which we’ll continue to build from.

Peta Credlin: Alan Tudge, before you came into Parliament, you worked very closely with Noel Pearson in Cape York creating, architect wise, the new Family Responsibilities Commission, as it was then and it gave elders the autonomy, the authority to deal with issues in their community, to basically kick parents into gear if kids weren’t going into schools, to deliver some sort of Indigenous based community justice.

These centres have now been going for a decade—you correct me if I’m wrong—hugely successful, turned around the fortunes of crime in these communities, truancy, and other things that really matter in Indigenous communities. Unfortunately, the Palaszczuk Government has pulled up stumps and will not fund them.

What’s gone on? Why is this such a big issue?

Alan Tudge: You’re right, Peta. And I was involved in the design of this before I became a member of Parliament a decade ago, working very closely with Noel Pearson—I was his Deputy Director.

And what it did is set up a state statutory authority which empowered local elders, so that when a family wasn’t sending their kids to school or misbehaving and getting to trouble with the police, that family had to go and front up to the local elders. And through that statutory authority, the elders were empowered to make quite substantial decisions over those individual members of the community.

Now, it’s worked well. The principle is right about empowering the responsible elders and I was hoping that that would be spread further abroad. But, the Queensland Government’s pulled the pin; it’s cancelled that Family Responsibilities Commission. And I think it’s a very disappointing outcome, because it’s a model which could’ve been used further afield, indeed, around the country, rather than destroyed as has been occurred in this instance.

Peta Credlin: Alan Tudge, thank you for your time. If I don’t get a chance to speak to you before Christmas, have a very merry Christmas.

Alan Tudge: Thanks very much, Peta. You too.