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Television Interview - Flashpoint WA

Radio interview – ABC Queensland North Drive

Annie Gaffney, Host: Prime Minister Good afternoon. Great to have you with us.

Anthony Albanese, Prime Minister: Good afternoon. It’s a beautiful day here in Mount Isa.

Gaffney: Now I’m sure you’re going to be soaking up all there is to offer at the rodeo today. Kennedy MP Bob Katter has invited you along. Mr. Albanese, does that mean you’ve had to find a bigger hat than his?

Prime Minister: Nobody can find a bigger hat than Bob’s. You’ve got to compete at your level. So I do have a hat, but it’s nowhere near as big as Bob’s. But we had a terrific afternoon. When I arrived from Tamworth, we walked down the main street and had a chat with a range of local small business operators. And then we went to the ‘Buff Club’ – I think it’s called basically short for Buffalo. And there we presented a number of awards to local people who have made a contribution. There was an extraordinary fellow who at the age of 92 is still competing and in the rodeo. We had the local Catholic priest. We had Mr. Brophy, of course who has run the Brophy Fighting Tents all around Queensland in particular, but other parts of Australia as well for a long period of time. I met him for the first time at the Birdsville Races, some real characters. But it was a great event this afternoon. But then the main event, of course, is the opening of the rodeo tonight.

Gaffney: So are you in Mount Isa purely for the rodeo? Or is there something else in the planner? What are you going to get up?

Prime Minister: I’m looking at other things as well. Tomorrow, I’m going to the zinc mine. One of the things about the North West is that the minerals that will be of increasing value as we move forward with the shift in energy: vanadium, zinc, copper, all in abundance here. So this is a community and city that has a very bright future indeed, as does the entire region. We’ll be talking with people there as well. And it will be a good opportunity to mix with people informally. Tonight I’m meeting some of the very young participants in the rodeo who will be here. And then the official opening as well with the Premier of Queensland is going to be here as well Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Gaffney: Fantastic. Now I believe that Mr. Katter was going to try and have a chat to you while you’re in town about the water that would be needed for four vanadium mines along the Flinders River. Has he brought that up with you yet?

Prime Minister: He certainly is never shy about coming forward with an ask. But that’s as it should be. We have had a chat about that. I met another fellow who has invented a new form of drilling, who’s really excited about it, someone who’s worked in the mines, used that experience to work with engineers on a new product that will substantially increase productivity. And he’s looking at going into production over the next 12 months, so it was an opportunity to catch up with him as well. It’s been a busy time, I began the day in Canberra, headed to Tamworth for the Bush Summit. And now in Mount Isa, so two states and a territory in one day. It’s a reminder of what a big country it is.

Gaffney: And what a big job you’ve got. Prime Minister, you’ve just announced $38 million for long term trials of drought resistant farming practices today. What’s that going to mean here in Queensland?

Prime Minister: What that means is looking at best practice. One of the things we need to do is that we know that our climate is changing and increasingly we will see extreme weather events. Tragically in just the time I’ve been Labor Leader we’ve had a drought, we’ve had bushfires, we’ve had floods, in some cases in the same regions. So we do need to become more resilient. And what this is about is funding of $38 million for projects that show best practice. And if that works, of course, then what you can do is spread that best practice and make sure that it’s replicated. That’s the task here that we need to undertake. We know that the climate is an issue and farmers are very conscious of that as well.

Gaffney: Now to other matters, there is a lot of concern surrounding the gill net ban in North Queensland, particularly from fishermen and one Townsville seafood shop owners said only yesterday he won’t be able to supply up to 12 species of fish. What do you say to those in that industry who believe this decision will decimate them?

Prime Minister: Well, this, of course, has been phased in over a considerable period of time. It’s due to commence next decade, not this decade. It is a recommendation of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority, about sustainability and making sure that the reef is protected. I’m a big supporter of fishing. I know commercial fishing plays an important role. But recreational fishing in this part of the world is really important as well. Some years ago on a visit to the Kennedy electorate, I went fishing very early in the morning with the Local Mayor out from Karumba on a dinghy at 4:30 in the morning, it was a terrific way to begin the day. So I know how important that is. But over 60,000 jobs depend upon the Great Barrier Reef, so we just need to make sure that we get it right. I’m sure that we need to talk with the industry about how we can have a win-win here. But when you have that advice and the recommendation and determination that this is having an impact on the reef, then I think there is a need to take that into account.

Gaffney: On the Voice Prime Minister, if we’re to be guided by the polls, the support for the Yes vote is slipping across Australia. And we’ve heard you’re off to the White House in late October for a special dinner at the request of President Joe Biden. There’s a lot of talk around today that October 14 could be the day that the referendum of the Voice will be held, can you confirm that date at all for us?

Prime Minister: No I can’t. We’ll make an announcement at an appropriate time and with plenty of notice, that we’re required to do. But I set out a timetable at this time last year, a year ago. And we’re fulfilled that timetable. We said that we would have a process of consultation and then introduce legislation in March of this year. And we’d have a committee process of the Parliament to consider recommendations and then get a final determination in June. All of that has happened. People know the question now that will be asked, and people know that this is simply about recognising First Nations people in our Constitution. And secondly, in the form that they’ve asked for listening to them with an advisory group that will have the power of its ideas in order to get better results. Because if we keep doing things the same way, then nothing will change. We should expect the same results. And we do need to do better.

Gaffney: First Nations people comprise roughly one fifth of Mount Isa’s population. Are you going to get a chance while you’re in town to sit down with some of the local Indigenous leaders to talk about the Voice and how they’re feeling about it?

Prime Minister: I did talk with some people at the club who were there. And I talked with them. They were very supportive, the Indigenous people who I spoke to this afternoon.

Gaffney: We know there is a lot of confusion and misinformation out there right now as well about the Voice. Do we need to reflect on our education curriculum and bring back civics lessons in that sense?

Prime Minister: Well, what we know is that a lot of people weren’t conscious of the Constitution. Not many people carry the Constitution around in their pocket. It’s a very small document. It’s a small document that outlines just the principles of government. So it says, for example, Australia will have a defence force. But it doesn’t say that we will have an Air Force because Air Force didn’t exist in 1901, when the Constitution was written. That’s why this is a simple proposition of recognising First Nations people and then sending that there shall be a Voice to Parliament that may advise on matters affecting Indigenous Australians, but it’s up to the Parliament to set the procedures and composition and functions of the Voice. And that’s an important principle. There is a conscious decision by the No campaign to talk about things that have nothing to do with what is in the referendum. There’s been a quite absurd campaign suggesting a long time after 2017 when the Uluru Statement from the Heart was formed under the former government, that somehow there’s secret documents and a lot of nonsense around. People should have a look at what the question is, have a look at the Yes and No cases that have been put forward there on the Australian Electoral Commission website. It will go out to every Australian. But this is really a clear and simple proposition. And if we don’t recognise Indigenous Australians in our Constitution this year, when will we? We are the only former colony in the world that has not recognised first peoples. New Zealand did it two centuries ago. Canada did it last century. All of the Scandinavian countries have done it. Countries around the Caribbean, all of the former colonies have, whether they be the British or the Portuguese or the Spanish have all recognised it. And this is unfinished business. And just as the Apology to Stolen Generations was an uplifting moment for the nation, this can be an uplifting moment for the nation as well.

Gaffney: Anthony Albanese, there’s a lot of concern over warm temperatures this winter. What specifically makes us more prepared ahead of this upcoming bushfire season compared to the Black Summer events?

Prime Minister: Well, one is the consciousness that has been greatly raised by those tragic events of the Black Summer. I went to Ulladulla in regional New South Wales just a few weeks ago and did an event with the local Landcare group, that was a community that had been devastated by this fire. There was the loss of life in southeast New South Wales, and met with households there who have rebuilt. They have rebuilt in a more resilient fashion, bearing in mind what those tragic events were. And in order to raise awareness of those issues. In addition to that, of course, we have a large air tanker available to assist, to supplement state government actions that might be needed. We have our Emergency Management Ministers nationally, will be having a meeting convened by Murray Watt, the Federal Minister, in the next two weeks to talk about preparedness, to talk about what we need to do. We are very conscious very early on about the conditions which are there. We have had a hotter than usual winter period. I spend most of my time in Canberra, and even Canberra has been much warmer than usual. And July, it would appear, has been the hottest month globally on record since records began. We know that climate change is real. That’s one of the reasons why my government is absolutely determined to act. But that, of course, is a long term issue. We need also to make sure that we adapt. We have funding available that we’re putting in, not just for drought resilience, but we have a $200 million fund every year looking at areas like raising levees and taking action in terms of infrastructure to assist that’s available and we’re making sure that those dollars are spent and spent wisely.

Gaffney: And finally Prime Minister, a question from my teenage son who believes he speaks for the students of Australia on this one. Would you definitely commit to giving Australians a public holiday if the Matilda’s win the World Cup?

Prime Minister: Well, I certainly hope they win. Public holidays are determined by state and territory governments. I’ve got a National Cabinet meeting next Wednesday. Now if the Matilda’s get through and win in Brisbane on Saturday afternoon, well I’m sure the whole of Australia will be stopped between five o’clock and seven o’clock on Saturday to cheer them on. Then they go into a semi-final on Wednesday, which happens to be the day of the semi-final. So certainly, I’ll be raising with all the Premiers and Chief Ministers, seeking their views on the potential to have a day off. I think that this has been an extraordinary achievement. This World Cup has inspired future generations of young girls and boys in particular, which, of course, is good news, because when children and young people play sport, it’s good for their health, but it’s also good for their mental health and their growth as into young adults because they learn how to win, they learn how to lose, they learn how to cooperate in a team environment. And those lessons and those social skills that they learn are so important.

Gaffney: Anthony Albanese, thanks for giving us so much of your time this afternoon. I really appreciate it. Have a great time at the Mount Isa rodeo, and thanks for being our guest here on ABC Radio Queensland.

Prime Minister: Thank you so much. I’m very much looking forward to it. I attend a number of events but I can’t think of something that could be more fun than a rodeo here in Mount Isa to celebrate the 100 years.

Gaffney: And hanging out with Bob Katter, come on.

Prime Minister: Yeah. What could go wrong there.

Gaffney: Have a great night. Thanks, Prime Minister.

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