Minister Rishworth interview with Tom Connell on Sky News


TOM CONNELL: Joining me now Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth. Let's begin with all things Scott Morrison. Social Services was rumoured to be a portfolio, so it wasn't listed by Anthony Albanese, is that definitive now, never sworn into that portfolio? 

AMANDA RISHWORTH: My understanding is that the list the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has given is the correct list. 

TOM CONNELL: Right. Does that involve a check with your department? How does that work?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I think the Prime Minister has gotten advice about this, but I think a lot of people would be scratching their heads as this news has unfolded. I think this is pretty extraordinary and pretty concerning for our democracy quite frankly. 

TOM CONNELL: We're looking at what's happened, but also what will happen. So what about the role of the Governor-General? It's not his role to publish, but he does have a role to give advice to the Prime Minister. Isn't it worth asking whether he should advise the Prime Minister to make this announcement or make these changes public?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I think it's the wrong focus to be focusing on the Governor-General. I think there should be a focus not only on Scott Morrison, but on those Shadow Cabinet Ministers that now sit around - who knew what, when? Who sat by and lead of the former Prime Minister, ordering these very odd arrangements to put in these arrangements that weren't just about the pandemic. Let's just be really clear -  these were much broader powers that he seized upon, there was a cabinet in the former government that sat by and really, I mean, while I am surprised, it shouldn't be a surprise considering the former government was a government of arrogance and deception and secrecy.

TOM CONNELL: We’re standing by now for Peter Dutton, he'll be asked those things that's fair enough as the primary focus, the Governor General acts as this backstop in our democracy. Surely his role, it's worthy of examining that role, what happened and what should happen in the future?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, in terms of the Governor General, it was not his job, my understanding is, it's not his job to go and publicise secret arrangements that were made by the Prime Minister…

TOM CONNELL:  But he could have advised that and that's a powerful thing for the Prime Minister to hand down. That's the question. Why don't we examine the role? 

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, that is a question I'm sure there will be legal advice sought and questions around this. But I don't think the focus has been enough on the whole of former government who had a track record. It wasn't just the Prime Minister, that had a track record of deception, of secrecy and of arrogance and what we've seen is potentially a former cabinet sit by and let this happen. 

TOM CONNELL: Again, I understand this question. There is a blowtorch going on the Government. That will continue to happen.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, the former government. 

TOM CONNELL: Sorry, the former government, but do you agree it's fair enough to be examining the role of the Governor-General? Because we also want to know what should happen or what could happen in the future in this circumstance if you’re worried about democracy.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, I think the power needs to be properly looked at and how it was used by the former government that will inform discussions going on. I do understand that the Prime Minister has asked for urgent legal advice and that is the appropriate course of action. I'm not able to comment on that. But I think the public, if we talk about ethics and morals here, that really as a former of government, this has probably done a lot to trash our democracy. 

TOM CONNELL: We’ll see, as I said Peter Dutton is standing by for a news conference there. We will take us there as soon as he does begin to get a full view, but you understand that if I have to rudely interrupt you. The cashless debit card you're describing the current card. You have said the communities will still be able to embrace Income Management. Does that mean a new card or new system will be developed?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: At the moment, we are consulting with communities about what they might want when it comes to Income Management and so we're going through that process on talking with people and communities about what the future of Income Management is. Let's be really clear though. The cashless debit card was a broad based Income Management card that was foisted on communities and foisted it on people that did not want it, that it has had negative impacts on many of those people and the positive social outcomes that were promised never eventuated 

TOM CONNELL: There is some inconclusive evidence, there are some suggestions it did reduce alcohol and gambling at least in part. 

AMANDA RISHWORTH: There was no evidence to suggest unequivocally of that. 

TOM CONNELL: Well, no, I didn't say that unequivocally. But they suggested that in some of these communities, alcohol and gambling reduced, they said it was impossible not to attribute it to the card. But what will that approach mean? Are you still open to some sort of Income Management across a community, if that community or that local government wants it or would an individual have to opt in?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: At the moment, for example, in Cape York, they have a community led process where it is individuals that are referred but a community decision making process. In our legislation for the Cashless Debit Card we’ve preserved that ability because that comes as a decision making process from the community with decisions made by the community. For some it is individual voluntary options for others the community is making a decision around in that… [INTERUPTED UNCLEAR]… but the individuals and so but that is a self-determined process. When we're talking about these communities we do have to talk about the difference between government foisting something on absolutely everyone, without their informed consent across the across the community versus what is a self-determined process decided by the community. 

TOM CONNELL: So what would that mean? Would there be a scope for a local government to decide anyone on certain type of welfare would have Income Management?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: What we're what we're really talking about, is a referral pathway and a process they would have to have the power to do that. In, for example, Queensland in Cape York, there is state government legislation that has been developed to give the Family Responsibilities Commission that power. 

TOM CONNELL: So you will not have a situation where it's community wide. A community would be able to make a decision on individuals being on Income Management.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: No, I am discussing that with communities at the moment, very remote communities may want to have a discussion with me about what that looks like for their community. What I'm saying is it has to be self-determined and…

TOM CONNELL: When you say self-determined it could be the community or a small local government area determining the people on a certain type of Income Management? 
What we are discussing really is with communities about what that fits and what works for them. What I don't want to see is, for example, a situation where vast numbers that are forced onto this card do not want it, they never asked for it and it was government that made that decision.

TOM CONNELL: We don't always want what's good for us though. I mean even individuals that are put on this as per community's wishes might still want not the card. 

AMANDA RISHWORTH: What I've said is broad numbers in a community. I think you've got to respect when a community has put a lot of work into that referral process. There is still options, for example, to state governments around child protection to make that referral. That is different to what it was - broad base, the Income Management decided by the one instance, what the local member wanted. The local member wanted to apply this card to everyone in his local area under the age of 35 and that's what happened. 

TOM CONNELL:  And would that be the BasicsCard? Or a new card? 

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We are working through that. At the moment, the option is looking at the BasicsCard that is the alternative on the table at the moment, but once again, I'll be discussing that with what are the needs of the communities. 

TOM CONNELL: Right so communities that are concerned that once the card goes off, it could be an increase in violence and alcohol you're saying you're looking at other solutions. Other ways to do this. You agree that you don't want a spike in these sorts of things.

AMANDA RSIHWORTH: Of course we don't want a spike in these sorts of things. But when I've been talking with communities, it has been clear that they are in many communities – they do not attribute the cashless debit card to having any impact.

TOM CONNELL: Well, some do and some don’t.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, I would say that the evidence isn't there and talking with communities, talking with community leaders, in some cases of talking with the police. They attribute it to other measures that we've seen. 

TOM CONNELL: Got to leave it there Minister, so appreciate your time.