Radio interview – 4RO Breakfast with Aaron Stevens
AARON STEVENS, HOST: 4RO, hello.
PRIME MINISTER, ANTHONY ALBANESE: Hey, Aaron.
STEVENS: Yes. Anthony Albanese, Prime Minister of Australia. Thank you, hello.
PRIME MINISTER: How are you? I’ve been trying to get onto you.
STEVENS: Couldn’t you get through?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, it was just ringing out.
STEVENS: Isn’t that bizarre. We have some problems with our phone sometimes, Prime Minister. Maybe there’s something we could run by you, maybe get fixed.
PRIME MINISTER: Indeed, absolutely.
STEVENS: Thank you for your time this morning, really appreciate it. A couple of things that we wanted to cover in the next ten minutes or so. Obviously, the big talking point in Australia right now is the Voice. If current polling is anything to go by, it is headed for defeat. Are you concerned that this is actually a setback, could be a setback, for reconciliation?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, certainly Indigenous Australians have had setbacks before, of course. But what this is is an opportunity to move the country forward, not just for the benefit of Aboriginal Australians, but for the benefit, I think, of all Australians. This is a very gracious request. It is a very clear and simple proposition just to have recognition in our nation’s Constitution of the first peoples of Australia. And secondly, to be able to listen to Aboriginal people through an advisory body that would not have a right of veto, that would just have the power of its ideas in order to get better results. Because if we do the same thing, we should expect the same outcomes. And unfortunately, the Closing the Gap targets, only four are being met. We know that there are big gaps in life expectancy, infant mortality, other health outcomes, housing outcomes, educational attainment, justice issues, and this is an opportunity for Australia to vote Yes, and they will have that opportunity in the last quarter of this year.
STEVENS: We’ve had the Yes advocates presenting their case in Rocky, I had the chance to talk to them on air, people had the chance to go along to the Rockhampton Leagues Club and hear them state their case. I still don’t know whether it cleared up exactly what the Voice is or what it will achieve.
PRIME MINISTER: Well its very clear, it’s just an advisory body, made up of Indigenous Australians.
STEVENS: We have advisory bodies already don’t we, Prime Minister?
PRIME MINISTER: We did not have a nationally elected body, and that is a form of constitutional recognition that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have asked for. So, this would be a body that is elected, that’s accountable, that’s representative, that’s able to put forward its ideas for advancing Indigenous people so that we get that closing of the gap. And what we know is that when we have listened to Aboriginal people about matters that affect them, then you do get better outcomes. You look at areas like Bourke in regional New South Wales that has a justice reinvestment program – that has turned people around, has made a major difference. You look at the education system that’s been implemented at Arnhem Land that I spoke to people about firsthand, just on the weekend at the Garma Festival. There what you have is better educational attainment, children staying at school, going to school, getting qualifications, getting that opportunity in life. If you look at Community Health programs that are engaged with Aboriginal people that give that say, then you do get better outcomes. And it’s just common sense. If you think about your own experience in life, everything from running a radio station. If the people who own the station speak to the people who run the station, work at it, are engaged with it, then they’ll get better outcomes. And if from a distance, in this case from Canberra, decisions are made on behalf of people, even with the best intentions across the political spectrum, have not achieved the results that we would all like to see.
STEVENS: When will we get to see the exact words that are proposed for the Constitution?
PRIME MINISTER: They are there. They’ve been out now for a long period of time. They were adopted by the House of Representatives and the Senate in June. They are available on the AEC website, people can look at AEC.gov.au and you see both the Yes and the No arguments put there, clearly for people to read, and to make up their own mind. When people look at the words that are there, they’re so clear. The first part just has that recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as Australia’s first peoples, and then it says ‘There shall be a Voice’, is clause one. Clause two says ‘The Voice shall or may advise on matters affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’. And the third is important because that maintains the primacy of the Parliament, it says the Parliament shall determine the structure composition and functions of the Voice. Making sure that there’s nothing to fear here, but everything to gain.
STEVENS: Okay, I want to get some of the things, questions that have been raised. Prime Minister, we’ve got an aged care home in Mount Morgan in a small community that is closing down because of the issues with staff and meeting new guidelines. What would you say to that community?
PRIME MINISTER: What I’d say is that we put in place very sensible reforms. This decision is a business decision of Carinity Cottages there at Mount Morgan, nothing else than that. We don’t apologise for being ambitious about aged care and saying that Australia’s older citizens who’ve made such a contribution to this country deserve the care that was outlined as necessary in the Aged Care Royal Commission. Now we’ve created very sensible exemptions from the requirement for homes to have nurses 24/7 in areas who require longer to deal with the standard. Now, Carinity Summit Cottages were eligible to apply for this exemption, they decided not to.
STEVENS: Okay, so what about some of the other small communities that may face other things? I mean, obviously, there’s staff shortages in in a whole lot of areas across smaller communities. And obviously, aged care setups are going to, sort of, suffer that as well.
PRIME MINISTER: We need to deal with skills shortages across the board, but particularly in aged care, and that that’s precisely what we’re doing. We’re doing that by having the 465,000 fee-free TAFE places that we’ve put in place. The 20,000 additional university places in areas of skill shortage, like nursing. And most importantly, as well, in order to retain workers in the sector, because what was happening was it wasn’t just a problem that there weren’t enough workers in the sector because people weren’t coming in, people were leaving the sector. And that’s why the 15 per cent pay increase that we put in place for aged care workers from July 1, something the Opposition never did and never supported, at a cost, it must be said, of substantial, in excess of $10 billion as well, was an important thing to retain staff there. We want to work with aged care providers, and we’re doing so across the country to make sure that older Australians get the care that they need, and that we improve the quality of the care that is offered.
STEVENS: Question from Michael. Youth crime, Prime Minister, he said he realises it’s a state issue but it is becoming a nationwide epidemic, people are scared in their own homes. Is it something that the Federal Government’s looking at addressing?
PRIME MINISTER: Of course, these justice issues are different from place to place, but around the country, of course, it’s something that is of concern and I understand that is the case. I understand also that states are dealing with it, they’re dealing with it in different ways. One of the things that the Commonwealth can do is to provide young people with opportunity, and that’s why those fee-free TAFE places are so important. That’s why the work that we’re doing with states and territories at the moment, negotiating our new educational agreements across the board is important as well. And that’s something that the Commonwealth can do, is to work with states and territories to provide young people with that opportunity.
STEVENS: Couple more questions that I want to get to, obviously we’re getting close to 7:30 and you do have to go. But international organisations are developing four large-scale renewable energy projects, just 30 kilometres west of Rockhampton that will see destruction of remnant vegetation and wildlife habitat. Does your Government support environmental damage in order to meet your 82 per cent renewable energy targets by 2030? From Lauren.
PRIME MINISTER: Well, all projects, of course have to go through environmental assessments, and we need to make sure that those assessments look after the interests of the natural environment. We do need to lift up the amount of the energy supply and one of the ways that is happening is through renewables, because renewables are the cheapest form of new energy, but it’s got to be done, of course, in a sustainable way.
STEVENS: Henry said has anything been done to increase fuel storage?
PRIME MINISTER: We are certainly working at that. I think it is absurd that our fuel storage is over near the Gulf of Mexico, a long, long way away from Australia. And we need a comprehensive plan on this. We need to plan for Australian shipping as well, so that we can move things around our coast in a secure way. One of the lessons of the pandemic is that Australia has to be more resilient, has to be more self-reliant. Because global supply chains can be cut, there can be issues raised as they were during that, and the global economy is still suffering from the aftermath of that, including here in Australia – that has been one of the factors that is added to inflation. So certainly, increased self-reliance when it comes to fuel supply is absolutely something that the Australian Government is pursuing, along with as part of our overall plan to make more things here in Australia, to have a future made in Australia and to be more self-reliant.
STEVENS: Lastly, Prime Minister, Rockhampton is being included this year in a national program, the Bush Summit. Can you tell us about the Summit and what you’re expecting from Rockhampton?
PRIME MINISTER: The Bush Summit is a fantastic idea that began in 2019. I’ve been to every one of them up to now, the first one was held in Dubbo. On Friday, I’ll be going to Tamworth and participating in the Bush Summit there. I’m not sure when the Rocky Bush Summit is being held, but they’re being held around the country, some on Friday, sponsored by News Limited. It is a good idea to engage with what are the challenges have been faced by people and communities in the bush, but also, of course, what are the opportunities? We’re actually seeing population increase in the bush as people recognise with urban congestion, and all the what can often be difficult circumstances of living in in crowded capital cities, people are attracted towards wonderful communities like Rockhampton and Central Queensland. And that’s happening right around the board, as well as we need to make sure that jobs are created in regional Australia. That in part is what the future made in Australia is about, using cheaper energy to drive jobs in advanced manufacturing and diversification in our regional cities. But also dealing with other issues such as service provision, infrastructure is one of the reasons why the Rockhampton Ring Road is a priority for my Government, for example.
STEVENS: I really appreciate your time this morning. I’m sorry about what happened with the phones.
PRIME MINISTER: Not a problem, Aaron.
STEVENS: Maybe next time we can sort that out and get you on for a bit longer.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, have a great day.