SKY news Richo program - Interview with Graham Richardson

Release Date: 
10 June 2015
Media release
E&OE

GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
Alan Tudge, Parliamentary Secretary to Tony Abbott and I think the Member for Aston.
ALAN TUDGE:
Correct.
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
Which is a pretty safe liberal seat, is it not? I don’t think you have to worry too much about the Labor Party do you?
ALAN TUDGE:
Well no seat is super safe these days. You always have to work hard for your constituents and that’s what I intend to keep on doing.
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
I didn’t say you wouldn’t work hard but you do have a safe seat. When was the last time the Liberals lost Aston?
ALAN TUDGE:
It was a couple of decades ago.
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
I think demographically it’s got better for you since then so I don’t think there are too many worries. Let’s have a look – you were not in the 39 were you?
ALAN TUDGE:
I was not. I am a very strong supporter of our Prime Minister. I am one of his two Parliamentary Secretaries and I think he is doing a terrific job.
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
I’ve always wanted to be a strong supporter of the Prime Minister and I was for a time but I was just so disappointed in a number of things. I think the first thing I was disappointed in was not necessarily the decisions which were made, it was just the fact that he wouldn’t admit they were broken promises. He had to in the end because it became too embarrassing.
But why is it that politicians seem to have to be dragged into admitting things? When you know, the mob have worked you out, you know what everyone’s thinking like when we were talking about the original PPL scheme or whether we’re talking about suddenly coming up with a co-payment system. Why is it so hard to just say ‘look, we did say we wouldn’t be touching health but things are so crook we have to’? Why not say that?
ALAN TUDGE:
Well Richo on occasions we do those sorts of things. You’re referring back to last year’s budget and we made a number of mistakes in last year’s budget. We admit that. We made too many decisions in the budget context. We hadn’t taken the Australia people along the journey with us and we’ve since gone back on some of those decisions.
I think this year’s budget has gone down with the Australian people much better. It’s focused on some of the core constituencies – on small business and making sure they are humming; on families and on pensioners. That’s our square focus in this year’s budget and I think it’s gone down quite well.
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
I didn’t say it hasn’t gone down quite well. I don’t think anyone would even begin to quibble with that. The problem is where does it take us? I know it’s a good political result for you but I’m worried about more than just the political results. Let me give you an example.
One of the things which you did then walked away from was co-payments. Now anyone who has a decent look at the health system knows that eventually we’re going to have to them. You can’t go on without them. Now you’ve ruled them out for this term.
Wouldn’t it have been a better idea to say, get some figures out, to actually stand there and say ‘this is what we spend on health. This is the growth rate over the last decade. This is where you’ll finish in five years’ time on those numbers. We don’t have the money to get there, therefore we’re going to have to cut this back. And the only way we can do this sensibly is co-payment. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to take this to the next election and we’re going to spend the next couple of years to make sure you understand why a tough decision like this has to be made.’
I mean you wouldn’t be stupid enough to do $7 again. That was just plain dumb. I support strongly co-payments but the party I’ve belonged to since I was 15 years old doesn’t (or 17, I shouldn’t exaggerate), they don’t but I do. Why can’t you get up and do stuff like that? Why can’t you be leaders rather than say ‘they didn’t like that, we’ll run away. We’ll ditch it’?
ALAN TUDGE:
We’re not going to proceed with a co-payment, Richo. But Minister Ley is leading a discussion with the medical community as to how to make the system more sustainable. We’re also looking at this through the federation white paper process.
One of the core issues with the health system actually is the interaction of the primary care system, i.e. the doctors and the physios and the like, with the hospital system. Now if you’ve just got a single procedure you
tend to be looked after very well. But increasingly chronic diseases are becoming a larger proportion of the overall healthcare budget and they will increasingly do so as the population ages.
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
Absolutely.
ALAN TUDGE:
And that’s where you need to have much greater coordination between the primary healthcare system run by the Commonwealth and the hospital system which is run by the states. We’re endeavouring to try to do that through the federation white paper process.
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
You still didn’t answer the question about co-payments. The reality is you can’t get the funding you need. The states have got nothing and unfortunately I can’t see us changing the GST although god knows I think we need to but I can’t see us doing it in the next decade and it doesn’t matter who is in power. It’s not going to happen because everyone is scared of it.
Therefore you’re really saying to the states that they’ve got to start doing something that they just can’t do. As you well know, and we used to do this too by the way, you always say ‘we increased spending on health’ but of course you haven’t increased it at the rate it needs to be increased and you decreased what Labor had in the forward estimates. Both of those statements you can’t deny.
ALAN TUDGE:
Well that’s not quite correct, so in terms of the forward estimates, we had increases in funding I think from memory 8%, 8%, 8% and 6% over those four years, and in the out years though we had a decline in increases. So very significant funding increases for public hospitals over the forward estimates.
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
Well you’re not going to convince the State Premiers of that, because the State Premiers are very upset about it as you well know, and it’s not only Labor Premiers that’s the other thing, it isn’t only Labor, I mean if you can’t convince a Liberal Premier you’ve got buckleys of convincing me or anyone watching. There’s a bottom line here, can’t convince them you can’t convince the others.
ALAN TUDGE:
I think Richo though, there are great opportunities through this Federation White Paper process which is something we are working very cooperatively with the State Governments on. Now we are all working under fiscal pressures, the Commonwealth is, as are the State Governments, but this process could potentially make the overall health system more efficient by achieving a greater co-ordination between the primary health care system and the hospital system.
Now, some of the evidence shows that if you do that, you can actually save up to 400,000 hospital admissions because you’re getting better co-ordinated care through the primary care system, rather than people going back into hospital. Now that is the type of thing we should be looking at, where we are making savings and we’re also getting better patient outcomes.
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
Unquestionably that’s part of the solution, I mean we’ve been looking at that for several decades, and we’ve got to keep doing it and I think you’ll gradually get some success, but it’s not enough on its own, that’s my problem.
But I’m not going to labour the point on health, let’s look at other things, let’s turn to this issue of citizenship which has been such a big deal of late. Now, how can you be a good international citizen, if you strip citizenship off the people you don’t like.
Now I think these terrorists are the most horrible grubs and I want you to lock them up and keep them in jail forever, but I’d have to say this to you, isn’t it your job if you’re a country that says to someone ‘you’re my citizen’, if they are a terrorist, or a paedophile, or a drug smuggler or whatever else they are, isn’t your job then as a country, as a nation, to prosecute them, pursue them, chase them, jail them and punish them, not just say to them ‘we don’t want you, we’ll let somebody else look after you’, I mean we’ll have the airport so full of crooks and terrorists that nobody will want to go and fly on a plane because that’s the only place they can go and sit.
ALAN TUDGE:
Our job is to prosecute them and put them in jail, as you said, and any terrorist that comes back will be arrested at the airport, they will be prosecuted and they will imprisoned.
Now, the question that we’re looking at is when you’ve got dual nationals, so you’ve got citizens of two countries…
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
I’ve gotta interrupt here, that is not the argument that started in Cabinet the other day…
ALAN TUDGE:
Well…
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
It was for far more than that…
ALAN TUDGE:
Hang on, hang on…
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
It was for far more than that, I was want to you to admit that. Was it more than that or not?
ALAN TUDGE:
I’m not a member of the Cabinet Richo…
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
You don’t know?
ALAN TUDGE:
I’m not a member of Cabinet…
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
You don’t believe those detailed leaks, those quotes from the decision….
ALAN TUDGE:
I’m not a member of the Cabinet, but I do know the Cabinet decision.
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
And that’s all you’re going to talk about….
ALAN TUDGE:
And the Cabinet decision was that in relation to dual nationals, if a dual national commits a terrorist offence against Australia, then we will strip them of their citizenship. Now that is exactly, by the way, what the United Kingdom does, and has been doing I think from memory since 2006…
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
And do you know how many...
ALAN TUDGE:
Putting international citizens…
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
Do you know how many times they strip their citizenship.
ALAN TUDGE:
Are they a good international citizen? Yes they are.
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
And do you know how many times they’ve stripped citizenship?
ALAN TUDGE:
22 times.
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
Exactly, that’s the point, 22 times in all that time. I mean and how many how many thousand have gone from Great Britain to the Middle East?
ALAN TUDGE:
I don’t know that figure Richo. Your question was to start with, ‘can you be a good international citizen and have this rule in place’….
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
No, no…
ALAN TUDGE:
That was your point to start with, and yes you can, and the United Kingdom is a good example of that.
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
No, no, the proposition Alan, the proposition put to the Cabinet was not that, that’s where it got to…
ALAN TUDGE:
You’re speculating…
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
The proposition, speculating! I’m mean I’ve seen the exact quotes…

ALAN TUDGE:
I’m not a member of the Cabinet….
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
That’s why I came to you at the very start and I said “why can’t pollies just stand up and say ‘we’re going to have to admit this because everyone knows it”…
ALAN TUDGE:
Richo, you used to be a member of the Cabinet. Were there ever any cabinet decisions that were made, or Cabinet discussions, which started one way at the beginning of discussion and went in a different direction by the end?
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
Of course…
ALAN TUDGE:
By definition that’s the purpose of Cabinet decision making process…
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
Absolutely…
ALAN TUDGE:
I don’t know what was taken to Cabinet in this instance. What I do know is that the outcome was in relation to dual nationals…
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
I know where the outcome was but what I also know…
ALAN TUDGE:
In addition to that….
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
Now you’ve got your backbench saying they want more
ALAN TUDGE:
Well….
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
…you’ve now got the backbench saying they want more. How many of them? How many?
ALAN TUDGE:
But Richo in addition to that we’ve now put out a discussion paper which says that if you are an Australian citizen only but you can avail yourself of citizenship elsewhere and you commit terrorist acts against Australia, then additionally we might revoke your citizenship.
That’s in a discussion paper and we’re seeking public comment on that, but there’s greater complexities in relation to that.

GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
But this is exactly where I see the problem frankly, apart from the fact the Cabinet thought that they were ambushed and they should’ve been told about this and have a think about it, then you wouldn’t have had the drama you’ve had.
But quite apart from that it seems to me the difficulty here is that if you go into a discussion like this, you know the public who aren’t going to think through all the implications of being an international citizen and they hate those terrorists and are frightened of them, as I am, because they want to murder us in our beds. We’re entitled to be frightened of them.
Of course they’re going to say ‘go for it’, ‘do whatever you want to do’. Don’t you have a job to lead those discussions responsibly? Don’t you have a job to not have a proposition put like that in the Cabinet and get all your mates upset, and also then put it in a discussion paper as if it’s something reasonable to be discussed?
How many nations just strip it? There’s several hundred nations in the world, you can name one, and good on you, I’m happy for you to be able to name one. Give me ten… just 10 countries. If you take ten countries, it’s not many out of 200, you’d have to say it’s what, five per cent? Can you name that?
ALAN TUDGE:
But you haven’t got a problem from the sounds of things with what the United Kingdom has been doing. As I pointed out, they’ve revoked the citizenship of about 22 people over that period of time, so it’s used sparingly. We would envisage that the particular provision in the proposed bill would be used sparingly as well.
It would be done on the advice of security agencies, a decision would be made, and that decision would be reviewable. At the end of the day, if you have a dual citizenship and you’re committing an atrocious act, a terrorist act, against our interests then you do not deserve to be an Australian. You do not deserve to be an Australian, Richo.
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
I’d say I wish (inaudibile)
ALAN TUDGE:
By the way…
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
(inaudible) born here.
ALAN TUDGE:
By the way when you were a Cabinet Minister and in Government, in the Citizenship Act, there is already a provision that if you, in essence, commit treason, i.e. go and fight for a foreign country against Australia, the Minister can revoke your citizenship if you’re a dual-national. Now you were a Cabinet Minister, you were in Government…
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
How many times has that been done? How many times has it been done?
ALAN TUDGE:
.....you did not seek to revoke that piece of legislation. I presume because you were comfortable with that legislation.
This in essence modernises the treason laws so that if you’re fighting for ISIS, which is not a recognised nation state, but effectively you’re still operating against Australia’s interests, the same laws should apply.
You’re effectively committing modern day treason.
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
Well I just wonder where you take it in the end. Are you going to say to someone who’s eligible to be a joint citizen? So they were born in Iraq or wherever or Afghanistan, because I think quite a number- and it’s interesting- of the people from Australia who have gone over to fight for ISIL have come from the Afghani community, which is to mind quite amazing, if they come here to escape the Taliban.
But that’s what happens. Are you going to say to them well you’re eligible? You’re may not be a citizen of Afghanistan, you were born here but you’re eligible and so because you’re eligible we’ll take off your Australian citizenship. Are you going to do that?
ALAN TUDGE:
Well that’s in the discussion paper. But that’s what the United Kingdom does at the moment.
This is in the discussion paper now and we’re seeking public comment on that. The proviso is though that we’d never render a person stateless. That is our fundamental international obligation. You can’t render a person stateless.
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
Correct.
ALAN TUDGE:
And we won’t be doing that.
GRAHAM RICHARDSON:
Well I’m very glad to hear that.
And you know something? You should do more of this. You’re actually not too bad at it. Better than some of your better known colleagues who don’t do it all that well.
Thank you very much for your time Alan.
ALAN TUDGE:
Thanks Richo, it was a pleasure.