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Television Interview - Flashpoint WA

Radio interview – 2GB Breakfast with Ben Fordham

BEN FORDHAM, HOST: He’s been around the world representing Australia and obviously criss-crossing the country, busy being Prime Minister. But I’m very happy to say that he’s in the 2GB studios with us this morning. And he’s feeling a little bit nervous, Anthony Albanese, because right after this interview, he’s taking part in the Prime Minister’s Spelling Bee. And he tells me last year that he was beaten by a 12-year-old. Prime Minister, good morning to you.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Good morning. No, that was a private conversation, Ben.

FORDHAM: Weren’t you on camera when you were flogged by a 12-year-old last year?

PRIME MINISTER: I was, mate. And I’m looking forward to seeing the youngsters at Marrickville public school.

FORDHAM: Okay, now the Commonwealth Games. Were you shocked yesterday, when the Victorian Premier backflipped on the commitment to host the 2026 Comm Games?

PRIME MINISTER: I was. We did get a very short heads up that the announcement was coming. But obviously, it’s not something that we were anticipating given that it’s been in in the wind for for some time.

FORDHAM: Is it regretful?

PRIME MINISTER: I think the regret is for the athletes who will be hurt by this, the idea of competing at your own games is always a positive thing. I attended the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games just a few years ago. And I attended Melbourne many years ago now. And, of course, the Sydney Olympics was where this great city really shone. So I think everyone’s looking forward to the Brisbane Olympics will be a very big deal.

FORDHAM: Are they still going ahead?

PRIME MINISTER: They certainly are. And the planning is well underway there. I’ve met with Premier Palaszczuk many times. So it’s a great global event.

FORDHAM: This drama in Victoria, does that put consultants back in the spotlight? Because they were telling Victoria this would cost 2.6 billion? Daniel Andrew says in the end, when they did the real costs, it was 6 or 7 billion. And we have a real issue at the moment, don’t we? We found out this week that in the past decade, Australian government, state and federal have given $10 billion to the big four accounting firms you want to do something about that?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, we are doing something about it, Ben, because we can’t have a situation whereby we essentially contract out government advice. And I’ve noticed in the time in which I was a Minister and returning to government, there’s been a real decline in the capacity of the public service. I had dinner on Monday night at the Lodge, with the secretaries of every department. They are all conscious about it. I think the Robodebt scandal highlights some issues with politics, but also there are some issues with public servants there. But we need to be able to have a capacity to ask the public service for advice and to get it direct from the public service. There has been a culture developed where any question gets referred off to one of these consultants and we need to do better.

FORDHAM: And these guys make billions of dollars from taxpayers.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, one of the things I’ve noticed, Ben. I’ll tell you what a real scandal is: people who were public servants 15 years ago, and no criticism of the individuals, but they get rissoled out of the public service. They then are essentially then still giving advice to the government earning twice as much and getting fees to consultancies on top of that. Now public service is an honourable profession. We need to honour it. We need to enrich it and we need to make sure that government can get the right advice.

FORDHAM: Let’s talk about money. The cost of living is killing people at the moment, we all know this. I got a note this week from Tony he needs an MRI scan but can’t afford to pay 300 bucks. His rent has gone up 43 per cent. He stopped using the gas stove in the oven to save money on power bills. He says he only uses the microwave because it’s cheaper. I got a note on the same day from Katie who has to pay out of pocket for her four-month-old to be vaccinated and she says she’s waiting for her doctor to get back from holidays because she can’t find another doctor in her area, Newcastle, that bulk bills. She reckons her gas prices are up 60 per cent. People can’t afford housing, power bills, medical appointments. You’d have to call this a crisis.

PRIME MINISTER: Ben, people are doing it tough out there. And that’s why we have plans, including on power prices. We worked with the Perrottet Government here as part of the $3 billion energy price relief plan that’s been put in place and is flowing through. We have got cheaper child care. On health care and access to a doctor, we tripled the bulk billing incentive in our Budget, which will give access to 11 million Australians for bulk billing. We’re opening urgent care clinics, 58 of them between now and the end of the year, right around Australia, so people can get access to a doctor rather than be queuing at emergency departments. We have fee-free TAFE to give people the skills they need for free. And that’s made an enormous difference, 480,000 places. We acknowledge that people are doing it tough.

FORDHAM: Is it a crisis?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, certainly if you’re an individual such as the ones you have spoken about, it absolutely is a crisis for them. Some others are doing well.

FORDHAM: You’ve got people in your electorate, at Enmore Park, just a few K’s from your old join in Marrickville, living in tents, sleeping in sleeping bags. They’ve got portable barbecues and some are sleeping in their cars with their cats and dogs. And I know that times have always been tough for different people in different situations. But you’re seeing more of these tent cities popping up around the place. And yes, we’ve got some things in the pipeline, you’ve run through them all. It’s really tough for people at moment. And I’ve got to say, and we’re about to talk about the Voice in a moment, whenever you talk about the Voice, I’ve got this instant kind of text line here and it can be pretty harsh, I’ve got to say, for me or for anyone else I’m talking about because it’s instant feedback. Everyone says straightaway, stop talking about the Voice, as important as Indigenous recognition is, we need to do something about this now.

PRIME MINISTER: My government, Ben, is absolutely focused on cost of living as our first priority. That is what we discuss. We have a Cabinet meeting every week. We have ERC meetings. On housing, we put in an additional $2 billion for social housing. We announced no strings attached to the states and territories, other than that it be new additional housing being built. We’ve got to a $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund stuck in the Senate with the Greens political party and the Coalition and One Nation all opposing it. Why would you be opposing a bill which will create more housing supply? We had in the budget, as well, an incentive for the private sector to build to rent. The Property Council say that will result in 150 to 250,000 additional dwellings being built. We’ve got community housing, I was out at Jordan Springs just north of Penrith on Friday, straight after I came back from the NATO Summit, out there opening a new community housing build. Now the company that is involved there are not for profit. So they’ve got 3000 ready to go, ready to start building if the Senate will just get out of the way and pass our bill.

FORDHAM: Okay, power prices, we know that the transition to net zero is monumental. Can you level with me – and I don’t want to spend too much time on this because we’ve got other things to get to – but hand on heart, do you really believe that between now and 2030 we can build 22,000 solar panels a day, 40 new wind turbines a month and 10,000 kilometres of transmission lines? Really?

PRIME MINISTER: I think what we can do, Ben, is get to 43 per cent by 2030. I think one of the things that happens with renewables is technology is getting better and better. And we just have to transition. I was in Muswellbrook yesterday. That of course, is a city that has benefited greatly from coal mining and will continue to do so. But at the innovation centre that was there that I opened, the Donald Horne building, what I saw was extraordinary. The capacity that that city will have to grow into the future. It’s been seized by the mayor and the local members, the local federal Labor member, the local state National Party member, looking at the opportunities which are there.

FORDHAM: Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is with us live in the studio. Let’s talk about opinion polls. The polls indicate that you have a serious problem with your plan to create an Indigenous Voice. Let’s compare the Yes vote from the start of the year to now: Newspoll in February 56 per cent, now 41 per cent; Resolve in January 60 per cent, support now 49 per cent; Essential in February 65 per cent, now 47 per cent. Support is falling off the cliff.

PRIME MINISTER: People will focus when the actual vote is going to be held. People are quite rightly focused on other issues as well.

FORDHAM: You know about trends though PM. You follow trends. It’s trending down every single time they ask the question.

PRIME MINISTER: It is true that that’s the case. But there has been a debate between politicians in Canberra with some focus as well from the media on things that this isn’t about. There is now an opportunity. You have the Yes and the No case is published for the first time just yesterday. There’ll be a focus on what this is about. I think that if people actually read the question that’s being asked, and then they read both the Yes and the No case, I’m very confident that people will come to a view that if not now, when? And that this is about just three simple things: recognition, but importantly, it’s about getting better outcomes by listening to Indigenous Australians about matters that affect them.

FORDHAM: Okay, you understand the importance of winning, whether it’s in politics or whether it’s your South Sydney Rabbitohs. And you’ve got the chance to win on two fronts on this issue because you can split up these two questions: one being constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians, the other being the Voice. You can get Australia to vote on recognition and you’ll romp it in. And you can legislate the Voice and you can get the body that you want. It is a win-win. But if you continue on this current path, and you keep the two tied together, you may end up with a lose-lose. And the risks of that for Indigenous Australians and recognition in the Constitution, why be so stubborn to keep the two of them together, when you could be pragmatic and say, ‘You know what, I can get a win-win here. I can get the voice through legislation. I can get recognition through the referendum.’

PRIME MINISTER: Ben, I’m a pragmatic guy. But one of the things that has occurred here is that Indigenous Australians themselves – this hasn’t come from politicians, it hasn’t come from Canberra – Indigenous Australians had a constitutional convention back in 2017.

FORDHAM: We know the history.

PRIME MINISTER: And they said they don’t just want recognition, the symbolism of recognition, they want something that will make a practical difference to their lives.

FORDHAM: You can provide the Voice. You can legislate the Voice well. And you’re worried that someone else will change it later on. But that’s the way democracy works, that if people vote someone else in and if that politician says ‘the Voice hasn’t worked, I’m gonna get rid of it,’ that’s the power of democracy and people having their say. As opposed to you saying ‘I’m going to risk it all. I’m going to risk this important Indigenous recognition in the Constitution, because I want the Voice the way others want it or the way you want it.’

PRIME MINISTER: No, the difference here, Ben, is that this isn’t about me. This is about Indigenous Australians and their request that they have made. Bear in mind that this went through the Senate without any amendment, not one Senator, nor one House of Representatives Member suggested or moved an amendment, which are entitled to do which are entitled to do.

FORDHAM: It’s now coming to the Australian people, PM.

PRIME MINISTER: That’s exactly right. And the Parliament has determined already what they want. And the sad thing is that even before that parliamentary process began, before the committee had met, Peter Dutton said No after the Aston byelection, and the National Party didn’t even wait for any question to be asked later said no from the beginning.

FORDHAM: Let’s try and learn a little bit more now. Because there are people sitting on the fence. What policy levers will the Voice give to Aboriginal people that they don’t have now?

PRIME MINISTER: What they’ll give is the opportunity to put forward the views that they have of how you close the gap. We’re currently reaching four out of the 19 targets on health, education, housing, life expectancy, infant mortality, all of those issues. If we do things the same way we should expect the same outcome.

FORDHAM: Does your government consult Indigenous Australians now on the issues that impact them?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, of course, governments consult people. But this is an elected body that will be able to make representations to the government. This is a structural reform, to do things in a different way. So that it may make representations as the wording says, on matters that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

FORDHAM: You’re already listening to Indigenous people. You’ve already consulted with Indigenous people and Indigenous groups. You’ve got the National Indigenous Australians Agency and their role, by definition is to provide advice to the Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER: That’s the department. Let’s be clear. Ben, I’ve heard you talk about that before.

FORDHAM: They’ve got a job.

PRIME MINISTER: That’s just the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

FORDHAM: So they’re just the Department, they don’t matter? You were just talking ten minutes ago about the importance of public servants.

PRIME MINISTER: And they do play an important role.

FORDHAM: And they consult with Indigenous people?

PRIME MINISTER: They play an important role in service delivery.

FORDHAM: Let me ask you this. You’re wanting to formalise who should be listened to. And members of the Voice will have exclusive access to government and decision makers. Isn’t there a risk that by doing that, that others will be excluded? That there’ll be other members of the Indigenous community – and I’ve heard this directly from one who says, ‘Well you know what will happen? When we have an idea, if we’re not on the Voice will be told, not by you but by others on the Voice to say, Well, no, hang on a moment, if you want to put an idea forward you’ve got to get on the Voice?’

PRIME MINISTER: That’s no right, Ben. I’ll give you the tip, people who ring in to your program, or people who write to me, people have multiple opportunities to make representations to government. This is about doing things better for Indigenous Australians. This isn’t an idea that came from me, that came from the Labor Party, that came from politicians. This came from Indigenous Australians themselves. And indeed, a bunch of conservative lawyers, including Julian Leeser, who was appointed by Peter Dutton as the Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs and the Shadow Attorney General. Now, I thought that was a bit of a sign that the Liberal Party under Peter Dutton was taking this seriously, and that there was a prospect of bipartisan support.

FORDHAM: Lets use the next ten minutes for you to sell the idea to those people who are sitting on the fence and also to answer some of the criticisms out there and some of the concerns. Aren’t you putting one group of Australians above all others? Because we know what you’re trying to do here, Prime Minister. You’re trying to lift up a section of Australia that has suffered extreme disadvantage. But in trying to help you are creating an exclusive group, and the Voice will have influenced not afforded to other sections of society, including Indigenous Australians who aren’t on the Voice. Isn’t that stepping away from the idea that we are all equal?

PRIME MINISTER: You know what, Ben, you’ve got my phone number and you contact me about issues. People in the business community contact me about issues. Yesterday, I met with some senior people in the National Rugby League about issues. I meet with people all the time about issues. Talking about Indigenous Australians, having special rights ignores the fact that this is the most disadvantaged group in Australia.

FORDHAM: I’m not ignoring that.

PRIME MINISTER: There’s an eight-year life expectancy gap. There is a greater chance of an Indigenous young male going to jail than to go to university.

FORDHAM: On that life gap. Let’s say the Voice gets up. What will you say if the Voice says we want Aboriginal people to be able to access the pension at a younger age?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, governments will make decisions based upon representation.

FORDHAM: I know it’s been knocked back in a court case recently. But that seems practical to me, right? If you don’t have the same life expectancy, you’re less likely to reach pension age. What if the Voice says, after dealing with health and education and the justice system, what if 12 months down the track the Voice says we want to change the date of Australia Day? What do you say as Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: What we say is that we have no plans to change Australia Day.

FORDHAM: You’ll say no?

PRIME MINISTER: We say we have no plans, absolutely.

FORDHAM: You’ll say to the Voice: no?

PRIME MINISTER: Of course we will if we don’t agree with them. Of course we will, as is made very clear by the wording that’s put forward is the parliament remains supreme.

FORDHAM: Sure, I know that. I know. Because obviously they’re going to give you advice. And you’re asking people to vote Yes. But then when the Voice asks for something, a lot of the time, I’m guessing, you’re going to say no.

PRIME MINISTER: One of the principles put forward, and the Yes pamphlet makes it very clear, the Voice will not have the right of veto.

FORDHAM: I understand.

PRIME MINISTER: Government decision stays the same.

FORDHAM: Of course.

PRIME MINISTER: You say you understand, Ben, but not all of the listeners – if people listen to some of the debate that has gone on over the last few months – they don’t know that. They don’t know that. They think that this is about creating special rights above everyone else. Now, our system of government will not change. There won’t be someone sitting in the Cabinet Room. There won’t be someone who’s not elected sitting in the Parliament. And that’s why I say this is a modest request. This is just an opportunity to listen. Now the concern that Indigenous Australians have is about practical outcomes, of health and education and housing and incarceration rates. We need to do better.

FORDHAM: Can I just ask you, I know you’ve said you have great respect for some of the architects of the Voice. I wonder if you agree with them on some of the following points. Professor Megan Davis says: “The Indigenous Voice to Parliament will be able to speak to the Cabinet, to Ministers, to public servants and the Reserve Bank.” Yes or No: will the Voice be able to speak directly to the RBA?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I can’t talk directly to the RBA Board and I am the Prime Minister.



FORDHAM: I’ve got a few more I have to get through.

PRIME MINISTER: Can I make this point – because I know where you are reading from. You’re reading from the No pamphlet.

FORDHAM: No I’m not. Excuse me, Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER: Well that quote is in the No pamphlet.

FORDHAM: Excuse me.


FORDHAM: I am not reading from the No pamphlet. I’m reading from my own questions that I have written.

PRIME MINISTER: That’s fine. That quote is in the No pamphlet.

FORDHAM: So that I don’t misquote people like Megan Davis or Thomas Mayo. Thomas Mayo says: “The Voice will help to tear down institutions, pressure governments to pay the rent, pay reparations and compensation and punish politicians who failed to deliver.” So I’m keen to know: what does pay the rent mean?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I disagree with that.

FORDHAM: Are there going to be reparations?

PRIME MINISTER: No, Ben. I’ll make this point –

FORDHAM: Wouldn’t it stand to reason –


FORDHAM: No, I’m on a flow here.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, when you’re finished.

FORDHAM: You’ve just accused me of reading from a pamphlet.

PRIME MINISTER: No I didn’t. I said those quotes are from the No pamphlet, which they are.

FORDHAM: I’ll listen back. Let me just focus on the important thing. Surely as part of the Uluru Statement – we have a Voice, we have treaty, we have truth-telling – as part of a treaty, won’t there be compensation? If there is, I mean, that’s not totally unexpected.

PRIME MINISTER: This isn’t about a treaty, Ben.

FORDHAM: But there are three parts of the Uluru Statement.

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, and this is not about a treaty.

FORDHAM: But as part of treaty, which will be a following step –

PRIME MINISTER: This is not about a treaty.

FORDHAM: Do you forsee that compensation would be proposed?

PRIME MINISTER: This is not about a treaty. This isn’t about that. Ben, what we need to do – this is the issue here. We have had a debate about things that aren’t happening rather than about things that are.

FORDHAM: But people want to know: will compensation be paid?

PRIME MINISTER: No, Ben. I can’t say it any clearer. Compensation has nothing to do with what people will vote on in the last quarter of this year.

FORDHAM: I’m talking about after that.

PRIME MINISTER: Well they’re not voting on any of that.

FORDHAM: There are three stages. So after we go through the Voice, is it natural to assume that as part of a treaty –

PRIME MINISTER: No it is not natural –

FORDHAM: So is Thomas Mayo wrong?

PRIME MINISTER: – to go through all the hypotheticals. I’m talking about what is on the agenda this year, Ben.

FORDHAM: The guy who wrote the book about the Voice, Thomas Mayo, says –

PRIME MINISTER: What ‘the book’?

FORDHAM: Well, ‘the’ book?

PRIME MINISTER: There’s one book, is there?

FORDHAM: Well, I’m sure there are other books.

PRIME MINISTER: There are lots of books and lots of individuals. Can I make this point, Ben. Can I make a point, please, which is this: if people look at the Yes pamphlet that is out there on the website and the No pamphlet, the thing that struck me is that they Yes pamphlet is positive. It doesn’t misquote anyone. It doesn’t attempt to verbal anyone such as Greg Craven was with the no pamphlet. It quotes people like Jonathan Thurston, like Eddie Betts, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Aunty Pat Anderson, about the positive reason why people should vote Yes. The No pamphlet quotes Thomas Mayo, quotes Megan Davis – the quote that you read as a part of their pamphlet which is what I was saying. It quotes a range of people and target them as if their names on the ballot paper, as if what they say will be determined by the referendum vote. It won’t. It won’t, Ben.

FORDHAM: I suppose it is natural, Prime Minister, it’s natural for people and people like me in the media to say, ‘okay, these are some of the Voice architects, so naturally when they speak, we’re going to listen.’ And what I was quoting from Megan Davis, for example, that was something I think that was published in the Australian some months ago. And we’ve spoken about it many times.

PRIME MINISTER: Lots of people will say things.

FORDHAM: But whether the No pamphlet reproduced it or not, well, that’s up to them. Teela Reid says abolish Australia Day, trying to limit the scope of what people can advocate to change is just stupid. We need to get back to the radical roots of the Communist Party.

PRIME MINISTER: Some people don’t support Australia Day.

FORDHAM: This does concern some people.

PRIME MINISTER: You’re putting two and two and making that into 73.

FORDHAM: I’ve said to you, on Australia Day, that my views have evolved on Australia Day over the years, and I’ve worked out the changing the date of Australia Day means more to my Indigenous mates than it does to me. So I’ve said – and I said this in the lead up to Australia Day this year – that if the date changes, that I won’t lose any sleep over it. So I don’t know.

PRIME MINISTER: But that’s your view, and you’re entitled to it, Ben.

FORDHAM: But when the Voice comes along and says we want to do it?

PRIME MINISTER: And you are entitled to your view.

FORDHAM: And there is an argument that – well, have you been listening to Indigenous Australians and White Australians? Every January 26 becomes this annual argument of people fighting over the date. I mean, if we’re all being asked to vote Yes. And then they say ‘can we change the date’ and you say no, some people will be wondering: what is the point?

PRIME MINISTER: But Ben, what you’re doing –

FORDHAM: I’m not reading from the No pamphlet, we’ve established that.

PRIME MINISTER: No I didn’t say you were, Ben. I said that the quotes that you used are from the No pamphlet. That’s just a fact. That’s just a fact. And what the No campaign have done is to take a whole lot of individuals and say, ‘therefore, that’s their view, that that will happen, that’s what the referendum is about.’ And that’s what is disingenuous. Because I could quote – have a look at my Twitter feed, have a look at any of my social media and you will see comments that are reprehensible about Indigenous Australians. Some horrible comments occur all of the time. And Indigenous Australians have to put up with a whole lot of that. They have to just cop it. I don’t say that that is the No campaign, that is what everyone who supports the No campaign believes. I don’t see that as relevant. What I want Australians to focus on is what this referendum is about, which is a simple proposition of firstly, giving respect by recognising Indigenous Australians in our Constitution. You say everyone supports that. Well no one’s done it. The previous government were there for ten years. John Howard talked about it in the last century. No one has done it. We’re giving people the opportunity to vote Yes. And to vote Yes in a form that Indigenous Australians have asked for. One that doesn’t have a right of veto. One that won’t be a funding body. One that won’t just run programs. But one that will just be able to say, ‘this is our view’. And then governments can say yes or no, but they’ve got no right of veto.

FORDHAM: You keep on saying on the approach you’ve adopted – and by the way, it’s 8:30, we’ve just gone past the 8:30 news. My apologies to the newsroom. We’ll just have five more minutes with the PM and then he’s got to get off to the PM Spelling Bee. You keep on saying that this is what they’ve asked for. But in the next breath, we know that when the Voice asks for something that you don’t like, you’re going to say no anyway. So why not lead at a time like this and don’t risk the very important recognition in the Constitution for Indigenous Australians by getting it tied up with the Voice. When you have a look at those numbers, it’s falling through the floor. So why not use your power as Prime Minister, I won the election, legislate the Voice, and let us vote on recognition. And Australia will overwhelmingly say yes, any day of the week.

PRIME MINISTER: Will they, Ben?


PRIME MINISTER: The former government had the opportunity –

FORDHAM: Talk about now. Yes they will. I would bet my house on it. Australians will say yes to recognition.

PRIME MINISTER: I’ll tell you what Australians will have the opportunity for –

FORDHAM: Are you doubting that?

PRIME MINISTER: That is what Australians will have the opportunity to do between October and December.

FORDHAM: But if they don’t like the Voice, and if they vote against the Voice –

PRIME MINISTER: Ben, you have a responsibility as well, can I say this, to talk about what the Voice is about. Not to talk about what Thomas Mayo, what someone else or some other individual says.

FORDHAM: I have Dean Parkin on this studio, sitting in your chair regularly who runs the Yes campaign.

PRIME MINISTER: Good, he’s a good fellow.

FORDHAM: He’s a great bloke. And not only do I have him in the studio, talking to him on air, I also talked to him off air as well.


FORDHAM: And I’ve said to him, I’ve expressed my frustration to him off air. I’ve expressed my frustration to you off air. Because I am worried about what’s going to happen.

PRIME MINISTER: And Ben, people need to not raise red herrings. You know full well that when, if this is successful and there’s a Voice, you know it won’t have a right of veto.

FORDHAM: I understand that. I’m worried about it failing PM.

PRIME MINISTER: Well get on board, Ben.

FORDHAM: Guess what –

PRIME MINISTER: Guess what you’re in a position to make a difference, to help it succeed. As other people in the media. By talking about what it’s about, not by raising things that are not going to be relevant, what Thomas Mayo or any individual thinks.

FORDHAM: I’ve got a duty to listen to Jacinta Price just as much as I have a duty to Anthony Albanese.

PRIME MINISTER: Sure, I agree. And I’ve got no problem with that at all.

FORDHAM: And all I’d say to you is your mildly popular Voice is going to bring down the overwhelmingly popular and long overdue recognition for Indigenous Australians in the Constitution. Don’t risk it, PM. Don’t risk it.

PRIME MINISTER: Ben, I’m not risking it. What I’m doing is supporting supporting it. Supporting recognition, supporting recognition in a way that will make a practical difference. We need better outcomes. We can’t just be doing things the same way and expect different results. That’s a definition of being dumb, if we just keep doing things the same way. We need to do things better. We need to listen to Indigenous Australians about matters that affect them. We’re having a crack here, Ben. Now the suggestion that you’ve made up, I had seven meetings with Peter Dutton. One of the things that Peter Dutton said to me was ‘would you consider putting it off?’ And I had people like Tom Calma sitting in the other room, the Senior Australian of the Year, Aunty Pat Anderson, Marcia Langton, Pat Dodson. These people have have spent their whole lives trying to make a difference. Noel Pearson. And what they’re all saying to me, there isn’t one person who’s saying ‘No, we shouldn’t do this’. They’re saying this is an opportunity for Australia to make this great country just that little bit greater.

FORDHAM: And I’m not suggesting you don’t go ahead with it, either. I’m just suggesting that there’s a safer way of achieving both of the things you want to achieve.

PRIME MINISTER: But the Parliament has determined that, Ben.

FORDHAM: Have you got a spelling bee that you’re supposed to be at pretty soon?

PRIME MINISTER: Marrickville Public School will be waiting in anticipation.

FORDHAM: Can we try and have a few more of these chats between now and October? Because I hope you understand I’m genuine in my concern and interest in this space. And I’m worried about it. And I’m worried looking at those numbers that this, this thing’s going to fail. And anyway, I think I’ve expressed myself, you have as well. Can we, can we chat again soon?

PRIME MINISTER: You have, we can chat again. But I just say to you, and I say to your listeners importantly: read the question which you are going to be asked about. It isn’t about anything else. It’s not about treaty. It’s not about compensation. It’s simply about listening in order to get better outcomes. I’m going to Marrickville Public School now. That was a school, a few years ago, that really, really struggled. It had 30-something students in school. There was talk of closure. You know what happened? They got some principals who went out there and have, over a period of time – same with the high school there that’s now full – they asked the local community. They involved the parents. They listened to what the community wanted. That’s how you get better outcomes. By listening. That’s what the referendum is about. That’s what the Voice is about. And respect.

FORDHAM: I’ll give you an easy one to finish on as you prepare for the spelling bee. How do you spell Yes?


FORDHAM: We appreciate your time.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much Ben.

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