site advertisement

Television Interview - Flashpoint WA

Press conference – Canberra | Prime Minister of Australia

LINDA BURNEY, MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: Good morning everyone and thank you so much for coming along today. Barack Obama said, “If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.” Today, after walking 650 kilometres from Melbourne to Sydney for the second time, I think it’s fair to say that Michael Long is a living example that if you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress. Michael, thank you for your decency. Thank you for your strength. And maybe most of all, thanks to your ability to bring so many people with you on this journey of reconciliation. This country is a better place for you and your leadership. Thank you so much.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Well, thanks very much, Linda. And it’s great honour for me to have the legend Michael Long here with us in the Prime Minister’s courtyard this morning. It was also a great honour this morning to be met by Djawa, the Yolgnu leader from Arnhem Land, who gave Michael this message stick to give to me from the people of North East Arnhem land. And I want to thank Djawa for the effort. And he acknowledged the message that comes from the great Yunupingu who spoke about the fire being lit at Uluru and burning brightly. Friends, in 1927, Jimmy Clements, a Wiradjuri man – like our Indigenous Affairs Minister – a Wiradjuri man walked from Tumut to join with the Duke of York for the opening of Parliament here in Canberra, just down the hill. He was joined by another Indigenous man, John Noble, the only two Indigenous people at the opening of the Parliament. Police tried to remove Clements because he’d arrived after such a long walk from Tumut dishevelled and barefoot. The crowd rose up and said, no, Indigenous people have a right to be here. What do they teach us? What do they teach us? Like Michael Long they were prepared to walk a long way to meet us. Our journey since 1788 is just a fraction of the journey that Indigenous Australians have had for 65,000 years. The fact that we share this continent with the oldest continuous culture on earth should be and is a great source of national pride. It is also a source of pride for us to the world. And on the 14 October we have an opportunity to say to the world that we’re a mature nation, that we can come to terms with the fullness and richness of our history. And on October 14 we are being asked, as Australians, to walk just a few short steps. Michael just walked from Melbourne. I walked from just across the lake. He’s walked a long way. I was asked and invited to walk a short way. That is what is going on over the next four and a half weeks. That is the opportunity that we have to walk a few short steps to recognition, to walk a few short steps to establish an advisory committee. That’s what the voice is: an advisory committee whose only power is the power of its ideas. If they’re good ideas, they’ll be accepted. If they’re not good ideas, they won’t be accepted by parliament and by government in order to get better results. If we do the same thing through the same method, in the same way, we should expect the same outcomes. We need to do better. And that’s the lesson of Michael Long’s contribution. So, I say, let us walk together in dignity and unity. Any journey is, of course, about embracing something different. If you go somewhere you haven’t been it does embrace that. But if fear stops us from ever stepping out we’ll never get anywhere. Never get anywhere. We’ll stay in the same place. Michael walked back in 2004. He got back from yet another funeral. And I’ve got to say, my friend Linda Burney, on too many occasions I say ‘how are you going?’ She’ll say, ‘I just got back from another funeral’. Something had to change. So, he set out to walk all the way from Melbourne to Parliament House in Canberra to get change on the agenda. Nearly 20 years on, Michael again has made this historic trek. He’s walked again because nearly two decades on, with the best of intentions, the gap hasn’t closed in so many areas. He knows that when governments do listen to people you’ll get better outcomes. And it is time for us to take up the opportunity. Changing a constitution is tough. It’s hard. We knew that at the beginning of this journey. It didn’t stop us from stepping out. And not for a day, not for a day have I regretted that decision. And not a single Indigenous leader who I’ve met has asked for anything other than to keep stepping forward. Michael Long has made a lot of steps all the way from Melbourne. He is a great Australian. He’s a great Australian who cares for his people. But importantly, he’s a great Australian who cares for his country. And Australia will be a better country if we wake up on October 15 having voted Yes.

MICHAEL LONG: Firstly, thank you, Prime Minister, for having us here today and welcoming us in Canberra. Linda, thank you very much as well. I’ve written a letter on behalf of the original walkers. And Nova Peris wrote this letter to you, Prime Minister. Dear Prime Minister, back in 2004, having walked nearly 200 km’s from Melbourne to Violet Town, we sat down to write a letter to John Howard, the Prime Minister of the day. In that letter, we asked Prime Minister Howard to look at Indigenous life expectancy and employment outcomes. We asked for self determination for Indigenous people to have a say on issues that affect their lives. And later, when we finally met with him in Canberra, we asked where was the love for our people? Where was the love for our people? In the 19 years since that meeting, the gap between non-Indigenous and Indigenous Australians has not closed. In some areas, it’s widened according to our Productivity Commission latest report. That’s why we set out from Melbourne again 19 days ago. A Yes vote in the referendum on the Voice to Parliament will give Indigenous people the self determination that we asked for all those years ago. It will give this nation a new approach to closing the gap. And it will allow this nation to embrace the fullness of our history. In 1788 the lie of terra nullius said that Indigenous people did not exist and in 1901, the Constitution, this nation’s birth certificate, did not acknowledge Indigenous people as the first born of this land. They left the first born off. We’re asking this country to see and listen to Indigenous people, just as Australians we’ve met on the road have done. We have covered many kilometres these past couple of weeks, taking as our weary legs would allow. We walked into Kilmore, Shepparton, Wagga Wagga, Yass and so many other towns. We visited primary schools in Glenrowan, and I’ve never seen better behaved school kids. Hundreds of hands rose instantly at a chance to ask questions. We have 65,000 years of history and culture to share and them and with this nation. That is the promise of the Voice. The words of the Uluru Statement from the Heart: when we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds. Their culture will be a gift to their country. We found ourselves in Violet Town again, this time on a chilly Friday morning. Bacon and eggs, a sea of smiling volunteers filled our hearts with energy and hope. Under stars in Wangaratta we yarned with ultra marathon runner and Liberal MP Pat Farmer, 11,000 kilometres into his historical run for the Voice. His voice helped us to share with us. There we made a plea to King Charles for his love and support. We know that he is a humble human being, cares about issues facing Indigenous people and countries. Today we walked our final leg of our journey to Parliament House. But in a letter in 2004 we informed John Howard that he alone, as the Prime Minister, could give permission for people across the nation to embrace the culture and concerns of Indigenous Australians. The Australian people, we wrote, would follow the example of their Prime Minister. Prime Minister Albanese, one of the first acts after your election was to give Australians that permission and the opportunity via this up and coming referendum. At Garma Festival in 2022, the late Dr Yunupingu asks your commitment to the Uluru Statement from the Heart. He asked, are you serious? And in your last conversations with him, he told you you spoke truth, and even today with Djawa. We thank you for that and we implore you now to have heart. There is plenty of negativity around the referendum from Prime Minister Howard. He has asked Australians to maintain the rage against the Voice. But this is not about rage. It’s about love. It’s about listening. It’s about giving Indigenous people power over their destiny so that their culture can be a gift to this country for everyone. So, Prime Minister, as we near referendum day, we know you will continue to walk this journey with us. This is our opportunity as Australians. We must take it.

JOURNALIST: Michael, I think a lot of non-Indigenous Australians, beyond the argument and counterarguments they’ve heard in this place over the last several weeks and months, are asking what practical change this referendum will be bringing on the ground for Indigenous people. From your point of view, what’s the practical importance of this referendum being passed?

LONG: I suppose why we got behind the Voice and the Yes campaign this year, is to have a Voice and to be enshrined in the Australian’s Constitution, to have a say that issues that we face. Because too long, when you look at closing the gap, it’s gone on for too long and it has to stop. This is the moment in time which our Prime Minister has showed leadership. This is the time as a nation, we need to come together. 

JOURNALIST: Voters in Tasmania and South Australia going to be particularly key to the success of the referendum. Is there going to be extra effort to encourage those voters to vote Yes.

PRIME MINISTER: We’ll be encouraging every Australian to vote Yes right across the states, right across the territories, because this is an opportunity to be embraced. There are some who said when the Republic referendum was held last century, don’t worry we’ll wait for the next one. We’re still waiting. If this is not successful, then the idea that the Leader of the Opposition has said that he’ll hold another referendum. We actually want to stop discussing structures. This is a chance to get this done. Get this done on October 14. The advisory committee, the Voice, that both sides say would be legislated, is a matter of whether it be enshrined in the constitution or not, but the primacy of Parliament remains. It’s just an advisory committee. I think that Indigenous recognition after 122 years, that it’s time to get it done. I have said on a number of occasions, if not now, when? If not now, when? This is such a modest proposal. This is a hand outstretched, asking for the hand to be joined. That’s all it is. Who in Australia, when a hand goes out, dismisses it and doesn’t shake? That’s what we’re asking of Australians.

JOURNALIST: Support for the Voice is falling nationally in every key demographic. Are you confident that the Yes campaign has the resources to pull what many are saying has to be a miracle.

PRIME MINISTER: I’m confident that the yes campaign has the arguments and has the commitment, and that Australians, when they go into the ballot box, every Australian will have one vote. And I’m confident that Australians will take up the opportunity to vote Yes. To vote yes for recognition. To vote Yes for walking together on the journey of reconciliation.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just talking about that handout, that offer. You’ve talked about the importance of unity and dignity on this walk. Michael Long’s talked about love and about listening as well. Do the comments from Marcia Langton risk undermining that message? That as many as 20 per cent of hard no voters are racist or spewing racism, that Peter Dutton, David Littleproud are appealing to racist bases? Is that undermining the message that’s being offered?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, I called, as has the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, for everyone in the debate to be respectful. That’s the way that we’re conducting ourselves. Some of the misinformation out there is extraordinary, talks about every Australian would have to pay a new tax. The sort of argument that are being put are reprehensible. But I call upon everyone to be respectful in this debate.

JOURNALIST: Why aren’t people resonating with the Voice proposal? What do you put the slide in support down to?

PRIME MINISTER: Referendums are hard to win. But people will focus on what the question is. And the question is very clear before the Australian people. There’s a whole lot of debate about other things, including the last question. It’s not about any individual on either the Yes campaign or the No campaign for that matter. It’s about a simple proposition that people are being asked to vote Yes for. The recognition bit, in recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as Australia’s first peoples. Then, there shall be a body. It may give advice on matters affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and then the primacy of the Parliament. The Parliament shall establish the composition, functions, procedures of the Voice. That’s what they’re being asked for. That’s what Australians need to focus on and decide for themselves whether they’re going to vote Yes to that or vote No. I sincerely hope that Australians vote Yes.

JOURNALIST: There’s been a lot of misinformation, like you say, but the No campaign’s text messages and other forms of getting out to members of the public are cutting through. There’s anecdotal evidence of that, particularly in regional parts of Queensland. Has the Yes campaign left it too late to do similar?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I would hope that similar doesn’t happen. I don’t want the Yes campaign to be contacting people with a script that says don’t identify who you are and don’t talk about facts, talk about the misinformation. That very explicitly is the instructions that we have seen. I don’t want an equality here. I want the Yes campaign to be positive. The Yes campaign is about embracing a message of reconciliation and unity and, yes, love. Fear is a powerful emotion. Fear is a powerful emotion, but it’s not one that advances a country. What advances a country is bringing people together and a positive message. And I want a positive message to be out there. So I’m not interested in equal misinformation. I’m interested in facts. I’m interested in people. And the media have a role in this as well, in how the reporting of this occurs, of what the question is. I’d encourage newspapers out there, here’s an idea, put on the front page what the question is before people that they’re being asked to do, because it’s a simple proposition. It’s not about a range of things that are being asked in the Parliament. It’s not about a range of the misinformation which is there. It’s about a very clear proposition.

JOURNALIST: What has to go right over the next couple of weeks. What do you have to do over the next few weeks? And I guess are you disappointed that the AFL and NRL might not be doing some sort of dedicated special push for the Voice through the final series?

PRIME MINISTER: No. The AFL and the NRL are both supporting the Yes campaign. We’ve got an AFL legend next to me. We’ve we’ve got JT and a bunch of others, including some who proudly wear the cardinal and myrtle, out there. For Ryles’s benefit, we had Timana Tahu run with Pat Farmer, a great Newcastle legend. Greg Inglis rang me the other day, GI, one of the most skilful footballers in any code. He would have been a legend in AFL as well.

LONG: Greg would have been alright at Essendon for them.

PRIME MINISTER: He would have looked good in the black and red. GI rang me to say, not just him, all of his friends, his family, they’re engaged. And we’ll see that over coming weeks, just as we’re seeing the business community that understand what this means for Australia’s standing in the world. I had a question in Parliament yesterday or the day before about a company or whether that was cause of some engagement over the Yes campaign. Name me the company that’s supporting the No campaign. I haven’t seen one. Name me the Sporting Code. Not basketball. Not netball. Not Rugby Australia tennis, cricket. With the Rugby World Cup, I think their statement they put out was fantastic, it spoke about the need for union. It was quite clever pun by them. There’s a reason why people who actually have a look at this over a period of time, have meetings of their boards, NGOs are doing the same, church and faith groups – I’ve spoken to a couple of faith groups this week – why people who sit down and think about it and discuss it come out with a positive response of supporting Yes.

JOURNALIST: You’ve said to us today that you’ve basically spent a lifetime trying to be seen. And you’re standing before us in the people’s house, and you’ve got an opportunity to talk to Australians. As a leader in your community, can you share with Australians how you will feel in the event that Australians vote No?

LONG: Well, looking at it optimistically, and I’ve seen along the walk the support through the bigger towns and smaller towns. And it’s been overwhelming support. We’re not a perfect country, but we’ve been really focused on 14 October. And I think it’s time now, as a nation, to have those respectful conversations and to move forward. Because we’re better than that. And I hope our nation still cares. It still cares, from the bottom of our hearts, not just to think with their minds, but the heart. We need to move on as a nation. And this referendum, it’s so important that we move together as a nation.

View Original | Disclaimer

Have Your Say

We acknowledge and pay our respects to the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia

Disclaimer | Contact Us | AusPol Forum
All rights are owned by their respective owners
Terms & Conditions of Use