Television interview – Weekend Sunrise
MATT DORAN, HOST: Well back here, and it’s been an intense return to Parliament this week as the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader traded barbs over the Voice to Parliament. Anthony Albanese is in the Northern Territory attending the Garma Festival this weekend with the Yes campaign being a key focus.
MONIQUE WRIGHT, HOST: The Prime Minister invited Peter Dutton to attend the festival, which he declined. He’s criticised the Government for not providing more details on the Voice and treaty. Joining us now from Arnhem Land is the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese. Great to see you, Prime Minister. Thank you for being with us. Looks glorious where you are.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Good to be with you. It is beautiful but I won’t be going for a swim.
WRIGHT: Fair enough, I think that’s wise. We know the Voice is an issue that is very dear to you. But there remains so much confusion about exactly the Voice is. How much responsibility do you take for that confusion and what is your plan to fix it?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, the No campaign is all about sowing confusion. That is their strategy. But this is a very simple proposition. It is to recognise Indigenous Australians in our Constitution through a Voice. By listening to Indigenous Australians, we will get better results. That is what it’s about, that is what Australians will vote for or against in the last quarter of this year. And Australians do need to focus on exactly what the question is, we will be advancing that, because we know we can’t continue to just do more of the same because we will get the same outcomes, an eight year life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, a young Indigenous woman more likely to have difficulties in childbirth than a non-Indigenous woman, a young Indigenous male more likely to go to jail than to go to university. But here at Garma you see the success that happens with communities like the community of Gulkula where you have listened to Indigenous Australians, where we see educational opportunities, we see Indigenous rangers, we see employment progress, we see better health outcomes as a result of listening to Indigenous Australians.
WRIGHT: What sort of power would that advisory board have? This is what I think people don’t understand.
PRIME MINISTER: It’s an advisory body. It’s not more complex than that. It’s able to give advice. The words that are there in the constitutional change make it clear the primacy of the Parliament remains. So, it’s not a funding body, it’s not a body which is able to have veto over any legislation. It’s simply able to give advice. And then it will be up to government, Parliament, to listen to that advice. But what we know is it will get better outcomes, we will get better results. And we know that through experience. Because with the best of intentions, people have done things for Indigenous Australians with the best of intentions for 122 years. But it hasn’t worked. Those gaps are still there. In the target, only four out of 19 Closing the Gap targets are being met. We need to do better. We know that through programs like Indigenous rangers, justice reinvestment programs, when we listen to Indigenous Australians, we get better outcomes when they have that engagement about matters that affect them. And that is all that the Voice is. A very simple proposition. And that is why even the No campaign say they support Indigenous recognition in the Constitution. Well, that is agreed. But the form of recognition that is being asked for is this Voice being able to listen to Indigenous Australians. And the No campaign say they will legislate it. Well, if it’s a bad idea, why are they legislating? The only difference here is that under the proposal asked for, requested so graciously by First Nations people, they are asking that it be enshrined in the Constitution so that you have intergenerational issues which have to be dealt with. It can’t be abolished through just a stroke of a pen.
DORAN: Prime Minister, if every Prime Minister is afforded a certain amount of political capital, I guess it’s fair to say you are expending a great deal on this issue. It is really clear that this is important to you, this is vital to you. Some are saying you’re even staking your political career on it. Is that a fair assessment?
PRIME MINISTER: No, it’s not about me. It’s about Indigenous Australians. When you look at the figures which are there, I believe that I have a responsibility, and all Australians, I’m giving them an opportunity. I know that Australians are generous people. When they look at those figures of the gap that is there in life expectancy, in infant mortality, in health outcomes, in incarceration rates, in housing and health and education, I know that Australians want to do something about that. What I’m giving them through the referendum is the opportunity to vote Yes to make a difference. And we know that more of the same will result in the same outcomes. The Productivity Commission said that just this fortnight, in a report handed down. They said we’ve got to try a better way. And a better way is by listening to people. If you’re going to do something that’s going to have an impact on your neighbours, guess what? You will knock on their door and you will ask them, ‘What do you think about this?’ You will listen to what their views are. That is how good communities function. That is how our nation can function. So much better. This is an incredible opportunity to deal with the challenges that are there in Indigenous communities, but also to the benefit of all of us, by lifting the benefit the nation up, by seizing the opportunity which is there.
WRIGHT: Let’s talk about perception for a minute, because as important as it is, and even Peter Dutton has said everyone wants to see better outcomes for our First Nations people. But it’s not the issue at the forefront of most Australians mind. And that is the cost of living crisis, where they are going to live and how they are going to feed their kids. There is a perception there, right or wrong, that you are focused too much on the Voice and you are not dealing with the issues that are really affecting the majority of Australians, how do you change that perception?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, it was Peter Dutton that was asking all the questions about things that have nothing to do with the referendum, to do with Indigenous affairs this week in Parliament, he chose to do that. What my Government has been doing is focusing on cost of living. From July 1, cheaper child care, the fee-free TAFE we have rolled out for 180,000 Australians and 300,000 to come, the Energy Price Relief plan, $3 billion assisting households around the country, the tripling of the bulk billing incentive for Medicare, the opening of Medicare Urgent Care Clinics, all of these measures have been aimed at taking pressure off inflation, whilst also providing cost of living relief. And what we’ve seen in the last fortnight, of course, and from the Reserve Bank, is an indication that inflation is moderating, it is heading in the right direction and that is having a positive impact. My Government has seen the creation of almost half a million jobs since we came to office, 497,000 jobs, more than any government in Australia’s history. We are putting those measures in place whilst also, of course, dealing with the long-term issues. How do we have new industries? That’s why we have the National Reconstruction Fund looking at what Australia’s future is, where will employment opportunities be? How do we train and skill of Australians for those jobs? That is what we are focused on every day as my first priority. But you can walk and chew gum at the same time. And that’s why Australians will be given the opportunity to vote in the last quarter of this year. They will have the opportunity to go into a polling booth and right Yes, or if they choose to do so, to write No, and vote in a referendum. Because this has waited some 122 years. Do you know we are the only former colony in the world that has not recognised the First Peoples in our nation’s founding document? Canada did it last century. New Zealand did it two centuries ago in the 19th century. Countries have done it. Australia is unique. And this is an opportunity to do something positive for all of us by enabling us to be able to walk forward together.
DORAN: PM, Just before we let you go, what are you most looking forward to at the Garma Festival this weekend?
PRIME MINISTER: I think one of the things I get enormous pleasure from is watching the young kids from the communities around here, like Gulkula, where we are here on this beautiful coastline, kicking a footy around with kids from Sydney, from Marrickville, or from Melbourne, or Dubbo, or Perth, or Adelaide, wherever they are from, seeing the way that kids just have that natural affinity with each other. They don’t see colour in difference. They just see difference. And AFL, I’ve got to say, is the sport of choice very much around here. And watching kids just enjoy each other’s company is an absolute delight.
WRIGHT: Thank you very much for being with us this morning. Set to be a big weekend. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, thank you.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much. Have a great weekend, everyone.