Radio interview – 2SM Breakfast with Richard King
RICHARD KING, HOST: Good morning, Prime Minister.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, I look forward to being in Muswellbrook this morning.
KING: And look, I’ve had a little look at this, the meat. Can you explain a little bit about what it is you’ll be launching in Muswellbrook today please, Prime Minister?
PRIME MINISTER: The Hunter Innovation Precinct is a partnership between the council and the University of Newcastle. It’s about establishing a whole tertiary education research project there in the Muswellbrook CBD, but it’s also a part of what we’re doing to develop the Muswellbrook Town Centre project. Now the Federal Government’s committed $10.5 million dollars to that, and as part of that area this morning I’ll be opening the Donald Horne Building, paying tribute to one of Australia’s greatest authors. Someone who wrote about the lucky country and someone who will be recognised this morning. But what we’re trying to do there is quite exciting in the area. The facility there is purpose built, it will house the STEM Innovation Lab and the Melt, it’s called the Melt, which is about advanced manufacturing centre. That’s about employing a dedicated STEM teacher to deliver the services there, so focusing on areas like robotics, aeronautics, design and coding, that will be part of Australia’s future and it’s great that the Hunter is once again at the centre of driving innovation and our economy.
KING: Here, Here. God’s own country here in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley. The Australian Electoral Commission will be publishing the case for both the Yes and No campaign for the Voice to Parliament, it will be up on the website a little bit later today. Both sides outlining their case as the debate certainly ramping up. Shadow. Indigenous Affairs Minister Jacinta Price had this to say yesterday.
JACINTA NAMPIJINPA PRICE: Labor’s Voice to Parliament, it’s risky, it’s unknown, it seeks to enshrine division within our constitution, and the best thing we can do is say No.
KING: Obviously, you want us to vote Yes. Would you like to just briefly answer what Jacinta Price had to say there, Prime Minister?
PRIME MINISTER: Jacinta knows full well that this is something that hasn’t come from a political party, it’s come from Indigenous Australians themselves who met at Uluru at their Constitutional Convention in 2017. And voting Yes is about recognition, it’s about listening, but it’s also about using that listening to achieve better results. We have major gaps in life expectancy, in education, health, housing outcomes. If we want to do something better, we need to listen and that is what The Voice is about. And it’s about recognising Indigenous Australians in our constitution, it’s as simple as that.
KING: Well, it might be simple, but it’s not going that way at the moment. The latest Newspoll shows support for The Voice is dropping off. You say you remain confident the Yes vote will prevail. However, you have admitted you may need to put forward a stronger case. What will a stronger case look and sound like, Prime Minister?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, the case will be what we’ve put forward in the documentation that people can read for themselves. We need to continue to press, the truth is that it’s far easier for a negative No campaign to just be out there, even the term that Jacinta just used there, ‘Labor’s Voice to Parliament’, she knows full well that that’s not the case. Julian Leeser, who she replaced as the shadow Indigenous Affairs Minister was one of the people who was involved in this as far back as 2012. This should be a bipartisan issue. I think it’s unfortunate that that’s not the case, but we’ll continue to put the case for unity, for hope, and making a positive difference.
KING: A number of emailers this morning have named Marcia Langton and Thomas Mayo as being people who said things in the recent past that frightens them. And certainly Thomas Mayo, you talk about the negativity, but it’s surely very easy to paint certain proponents of the Voice campaign, like Thomas Mayo, in a negative light. And people have highlighted his MUA Union background, things he’s said, and he’s portrayed as a bit of a Communist sympathiser. He does seem to have disappeared from the front line of the Yes campaign. Was that a deliberate move?
PRIME MINISTER: Look, it is outrageous that there is personal attacks taking place on individual Aboriginal Australians. This isn’t about any individual being on a ballot paper, this is about recognising Indigenous Australians in our constitution, about listening to them and therefore getting better results. And it shows the lack of a real argument against this basic constitutional change the fact that people are targeting individuals. I think that really is unfortunate, but it exposes, I think, the lack of substance in the No campaign.
KING: Well, or does it highlight the fact that because it’s a vague concept at this stage, and people keep saying we want more detail, and I have spoken to you about this in the past. I mean it is basically, the Voice a concept, and then if it gets up then the Parliament will decide what it is.
PRIME MINISTER: That’s not right. The government has, and from time to time, a whole range of advisory groups. It’s simply an advisory group, and it will be elected by Indigenous people themselves. It’s not binding on the Parliament, it has no right of veto, but it’s about listening, and we’ll get better outcomes when you listen to people. If a local school principal there wants to get better outcomes at the school, you know what they’ll do? They’ll talk to parents, they’ll talk to students themselves, they’ll talk to people in the local community about what they want out of the school, and then the principal will make the decision. And the best schools are those that are engaged with their school community. You get better outcomes when you listen to people, when you engage, and that’s what this is about. If we think that everything’s okay and it’s still okay to just go along with an eight year life expectancy gap, that it’s okay that a young Indigenous male has more chance of going to jail than to university, then we can keep doing things the same way, but if we listen we will get better outcomes. All the nonsense, all the nonsense about, ‘we need every detail’ – this is like anything else. When we go to an election or people put forward propositions in the constitution in the past, you don’t have anything other than the principle outlined in the constitutional change. The fact that the Parliament will remain primary to legislate I think, undermines those people who say that this is a massive change, it’ll change the way our whole system of government operates – it won’t. Everything will be still accountable to Parliament, and that is as it should be.
KING: Have you settled on a specific date yet for the referendum?
PRIME MINISTER: No, we haven’t, but we’ve said it will be between October and December this year. It requires 33 days’ notice of the vote to be held, and that will happen. Proper notice will be given, and it’ll be just like a normal election, we will go along and vote on the day or vote in pre-poll or cast their vote in a post for Yes or No.
KING: And like an election, it’ll be compulsory and people will be fined if they don’t vote?
PRIME MINISTER: It’s just a normal electoral process like any other Australian vote.
KING: A lot of people have said cost of living is, and certainly Peter Dutton prior to the Fadden by-election on Saturday, said it’s all about cost of living. I get continually emails, calls, people saying, ‘what’s the government doing about cost of living?’. Can we expect any more cost of living relief measures from your government, Prime Minister?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’ll look at every measure possible, and that is our concentration each and every day. We had cheaper childcare begin this month, we have our Energy Price Relief Plan begin this month – $3 billion of support. We’re still rolling out fee free TAFE which is making an enormous difference. We have Medicare urgent care clinics rolling out and we’ve tripled the Medicare bulk billing incentive as well so that people can get access to a doctor, and we’re halving the costs of many medicines by allowing for 60 day rather than 30 day scripts. So, we’re looking at what measures we can take to provide cost of living relief without putting pressure on inflation.
KING: Terrific to have major sporting events in our country, the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which of course kicks off, Australia will be taking on Ireland on Thursday night. Have you got your tickets for a few of the Women’s World Cup games, Prime Minister?
PRIME MINISTER: I certainly will be going along and cheering for the Matildas on Thursday night. They will be flying the flag for Australia and I’m sure that the whole nation will be behind them. They’re a terrific team, well led by Sam Kerr. She had the honour of being the flagbearer at the King’s Coronation earlier this year, and she’s a great young Australian. They’re a great team and I wish them every success in the World Cup, which is actually the third largest sporting event held in the world, only beaten by the Men’s Football World Cup and the Olympic Games.
KING: Yes, it’s a big one. Go the Matildas. Your beloved South Sydney Rabbitohs haven’t been travelling that well lately. You had the by last weekend, I think you had a couple of defeats before that. Sitting 8th on the NRL at a blockbuster coming up on Friday night, you’re playing the Broncos and obviously hoping for a big win for the Rabbitohs, Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER: We certainly are, but we struggle because we made such a contribution to the Blues, it’s pretty hard. I was worried I was going to get a call by Blake Solly to strap on some boots, we were struggling to build a team, unfortunately, with so many of our regulars out playing for NSW. But they’ll all be back this Friday night and hopefully we get a win against the Broncos.
KING: Well, good luck. Look, we heard from Chris Bannerman, who’s the general manager of Cronulla Junior Rugby League. They’ve instituted this if you swear at a match official, you’re immediately going to be sent off, whether it be a linesman or a referee. Would you like to see that introduced into the NRL, if you swear at a match official that’s it, you’re off?
PRIME MINISTER: It’s a pretty sensible thing to encourage respect, and it’s important that our rugby league professionals are role models for our young kids playing footy. I was always certainly taught when I played, you never question a referee, let alone swear at them.
KING: What happens in the House of Reps if you swear, Prime Minister?
PRIME MINISTER: I’m sure the speaker would give you your marching orders if that occurred.
KING: Red card.
PRIME MINISTER: Anyone who did that towards the Speaker would be in serious trouble, and that’s as it should be.
KING: Appreciate your time this morning, and once again enjoy your time in our beautiful Hunter Valley today, Prime Minister. Much appreciated.
PRIME MINISTER: I’m very much looking forward to being there once again. I was in Newcastle just a couple of weeks ago of course, and also at Singleton during that visit. It’s always good to be there.
KING: Enjoy your day and thanks again for your time, Prime Minister.