Transcript - ABC Radio Mornings with Jon Faine

Jon Faine: Also this morning, on behalf of the government, I’m joined by Alan Tudge, Federal Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population. And I think he won one of the most sartorially elegant prizes last night at the ball. Alan Tudge, good morning to you.

Alan Tudge: Good morning, Jon. I don’t know who gave me that prize but anyway, I’m happy to take it.

Jon Faine: Yeah. Best joke for the night?

Alan Tudge: No. Not from me. Absolutely not. But Scott Morrison did pretty well actually last night. I was impressed. And they’re tough speeches and Albo did pretty well as well.

Jon Faine: So great bonhomie, is that what you’re trying to tell us?

Alan Tudge: These nights- it’s the- I mean it is the one night of the Parliamentary year where everybody does get together; they let their hair down a little bit because it’s all for a good cause. It’s raising money for charity and conducted by the Press Gallery. So it’s always in good spirits.

Jon Faine: Yup. Indeed, it is and that’s a good thing. On family law, we were just talking to Mr Albanese a moment ago about it. Do you think Pauline Hanson has shown bias even before the inquiry started?

Alan Tudge: Pauline Hanson has had a very strong view in relation to family law issues for a long time and people know that. She will be the Deputy Chair of this inquiry. It’ll be chaired though by Kevin Andrews and other members of the Parliament on it.
They’re going to be in a listening exercise largely for the next 12 months, which is understanding what the issues are that most concern people and then we’ll formulate their recommendations having gone through that exercise. So it’s a standard operating inquiry but looking at a really important issue which many people raise with elected members on a very regular basis.

Jon Faine: But I asked if you thought she’d demonstrated bias?

Alan Tudge: It’s an odd question. I mean we all come with our sets of values to this place and bring those to the table. But I would hope that through a committee process, everybody can just stop and listen to the evidence which was put before them and make conclusions based on the evidence.

Jon Faine: The Electoral Commission of Azerbaijan recently released the results of an election the day before the poll was held. We laugh at Azerbaijan releasing the results of an election the day before it’s held, but isn’t Pauline Hanson announcing her views of family law reform before the inquiry she will be the Deputy Chair of has heard a single piece of evidence?

Alan Tudge: Well as I said, I hope that every single member of the committee will consider the evidence, and no doubt they’ll hear gut wrenching evidence from the individual members of the public over the months ahead, and from that formulate some really constructive views.

And particularly actually in relation to how the operational side of family law; how court orders can be better enforced; how we can keep legal costs down so that the families who are going through difficult periods can actually get their matters resolved cheaply, efficiently and can move on with their lives.

Jon Faine: If you want to deal with those things, why don’t you pick up the report that was done in the last Parliament that’s sitting on the shelf, while the report that’s taken years prepared by no less an authority than the independent authoritative expert Australian Law Reform Commission that has 60 recommendations in its 500-page report, why not take notice of those before …

Alan Tudge: Oh, we will be taking- we will be taking notice of those and so that’s only been released in April and we’ll be responding in full to those recommendations.

Jon Faine: So why just kick the can down the road to appease Pauline Hanson, who’s already made her mind up anyway?

Alan Tudge: I don’t agree with that, Jon. I mean this inquiry will complement the other pieces of work which have gone on. We’ve done some substantial changes already in terms of merging the family law court with the Federal circuit court, for example. And that will come into place shortly and this work will complement those other pieces of work.

Jon Faine: Your shadow minister- your shadow opponent Catherine King in Parliament yesterday accused you of sitting on your hands, said not one project from the urban congestion fund set up now more than a year ago, not any progress has been made they claim. What’s your response?

Alan Tudge: Well I think there’s a bit of politics there. This is what we announced just before the election in terms of 166 smaller scale projects around the country, really addressing those localised congestion hotspots, and we’ve got work underway on every single one of them and construction will begin on the first before Christmas.

So we’re getting on with the job. We’ve got good relationships with the state governments. They want to work with us to get these projects done and we certainly want to see them done as quickly as possible.

Jon Faine: And if indeed Josh Frydenberg makes an announcement at 10:30 about the budget update that confirms the nods, the winks and the smiles from senior figures in the Government in anticipation of that announcement, should that- does that increase pressure on you and your colleagues to concede that Newstart could rise, should rise and now has to rise?

Alan Tudge: Oh, that’s not part of our plan and the Prime Minister has indicated that. I mean what the Treasurer will be updating today is in relation to the financial figures for last financial year. And we had forecasts that we’d be in deficit last financial year by $5.2 billion but the figures are coming in more strongly than that, largely because we’ve got more people into work and there’s a higher participation rate.

And of course, when that happens, people go from being a net recipient of taxes to a net contributor of taxes and that obviously helps the budget overall. So good news it will be today. I’m looking forward to hearing the results.

Jon Faine: How come the mid-winter ball is in spring?

lan Tudge: You’d have to ask the Press Gallery organisers that.

Jon Faine: [Laughs]

Alan Tudge: But it’s probably something to do with the fact that we had the election and then, you know, getting everyone sworn in and all that sort of thing. But it was, I didn’t see you there actually, Jon.

Jon Faine: No. I didn’t get an invitation.

Alan Tudge: You didn’t get an- oh, I’m sorry about that.

Jon Faine: The ABC

Alan Tudge: I’ll see if I can organise one for next year…

Jon Faine: The ABC chair and managing director put a table together and quite rightly, Virginia Trioli was invited to attend, frocked up as only Virginia can and I’m sure she made a much more elegant contribution to the room than I ever could.

Alan Tudge: There was about three or four tables from the ABC though, Jon. And they each had like 10 or 15 members on each table.

Jon Faine: Really?

Alan Tudge: So you must have been like sixty-first on the list.

Jon Faine: [Laughs]

Alan Tudge: I’m sure if they had that extra table, you would’ve been there.

Jon Faine: Well.

Alan Tudge: I’ll work on it for you next year.

Jon Faine: Well I will be- what am I? I’m irrelevant. So more than happy about that too. Thank you indeed for your time this morning on all of those important and pressing issues. Alan Tudge, Federal Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population in the Scott Morrison-led Federal Government.