Doorstop Interview – Queanbeyan – Thursday 23 March 2023






SUBJECTS: NSW Election; Early Childhood Education; Voice to Parliament Referendum; Anti-trans Protest.

STEVE WHAN, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR MONARO: Hello, my name’s Steve Whan. I’m the Labor candidate for Monaro in the New South Wales election on Saturday, and I’m absolutely delighted to be able to welcome the Prime Minister here to Queanbeyan this morning, with our absolutely fabulous Federal Member, Kristy McBain, and Minister Jason Clare. It is a pleasure for me as a state candidate to be welcoming our federal colleagues here to Queanbeyan because one of the things that the people in this region have said to me so clearly is that they want to see a state government and state member who works with the other levels of government, who cooperates with the other levels of government to deliver for our community. And that’s really important, particularly in Queanbeyan, where we have the cross-border relationship into the ACT and where we want to address together some of the issues around health and education and the services that our people are telling me that they want to see in South-East New South Wales. It’s a great day for our region to have this amazing endorsement by having our Federal colleagues here with us. And I hope that on Saturday, or after Saturday, that I have the opportunity to continue to work with terrific Federal Members like Kristy McBain who’s done such a great job for our region. So welcome, Prime Minister, and thank you for coming.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, Steve. I’ve known Steve Whan for decades now. He was a very good Minister previously, and it says a lot about the Minnns Labor Government that I hope is formed after Saturday, that they’re attracting good people, experienced people, to come back to be part of the team to govern New South Wales in a positive way for the future. At the same time as Dominic Perrottet, who’s also a good person like Chris Minns, two good people running against each other, but one of them has people with experience fleeing their team. Good people are all retiring and we don’t know who the Health Minister will be, who the Education Minister will be, who the Transport Minister will be after Saturday if the Perrottet Government is re-elected for a fourth term. The truth is that governments reach the end of their time and the New South Wales Liberal and National Government is showing all the signs that they are too busy fighting each other to fight for the people of New South Wales. So I strongly endorse Steve Whan as the candidate for Monaro. He’s someone who’s totally committed to this local community. The community knows Steve Whan, they know his achievements in health, in local service delivery and local roads. They know that in Steve Whan they’ll have someone who will fight for this local community. I want to thank KU here in Queanbeyan for having us in their early learning centre today. They are a great organisation, my own son went to KU at Erskinville in his younger years. And he did that because we as parents, myself and Carmel, wanted to make sure that Nathan learnt the skills, the social skills, and the learning that comes from centres just like this. Child care isn’t some welfare issue. Child care is something that’s about assisting young people to grow and be the best that they can. We know that in the first five years, over 90 per cent of brain development occurs. And we know also that this is economic reform. It’s about improving women’s workforce participation. It’s about productivity as well in the workplace. It’s about the retirement incomes of women. This is an important economic reform. And in one hundred days from today, cheaper child care begins. It’s the first commitment that I made in that era when Opposition Leaders actually had policies and made announcements in Budget Replies. This was the first announcement that I made in my first Budget Reply and the most significant on-budget commitment that we made during the three years of Opposition. We put it in our first Budget because we regard this as such an important economic reform. There is a debate about productivity in this country, that is what this is about. And I do want to once again, thank the young ones, Elise and others who’ve welcomed us here and who’ve done drawing for us and to thank and once again praise the educators who are here. They do a fantastic job making sure that the adults of tomorrow are the best that they can be, and they show a great deal of care and compassion as well to the young people who are in their care.

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Thanks Boss, and Christine, and the whole team at KU, thanks so much for letting us share this morning with you. Thank you, Christine, for everything you’ve done for early education and care over decades and it’s a privilege to be able to see you again today and to hang out with Elise and Alex. You saw the little children, the little legends that we spent this morning with. It reminds us that what we do is so important. That the changes that we make in Parliament House have an impact on children’s life from the very beginning and can have an impact throughout their life. The first five years of a child’s life are everything. Everything that they see, everything that they eat, every friend they meet, every book they read, every rabbit they draw, can affect the person that they become. KU is one of those organisations that makes that happen. But we all know how expensive early education and care is. And in one hundred days’ time, cheaper child care will become a reality for more than a million Australian families. Today, there’s new information out that shows that the cost of childcare went up by 49 per cent over the last decade under the former government. That’s why this is important. If you’re a family on a combined income of 120 grand and you’ve got one child in care for three days a week, this will cut your costs by $1,700 a year. That’s real money and it will make a real difference for lots of families around the country. That’s why, as the Prime Minister said, this was the first commitment that you made as Opposition Leader in a Budget Reply speech. It’s why we campaigned for this right across the country over the last few years. It’s why we passed legislation to make it happen last year. And I’m so proud that we are now on the cusp of making this happen, only one hundred days away from this becoming a reality for more than a million Australian families. It’s good for families, it’s good for children, and it’s good for our economy.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, to the referendum, what was the outcome of your meeting with the Working Group last night? And can you tell us if there any changes to the proposed wording or the question that you proposed at Garma?

PRIME MINISTER: You’ll have to be patient for a short period of time. I’ll be holding a press conference later today, I can confirm that. And there I will be providing further information on that. But can I say this about the Referendum Working Group and the work that they’ve done. It’s incredibly constructive, and I give such praise to the leaders of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have done the work in a way that is so patient. This is a very modest request. It’s a modest request to be recognised in our Constitution. After 122 years, it is indeed time to recognise the history of this great country that we share with the oldest continuous culture on earth. We should recognise that as a source of pride, that our history didn’t begin in 1788. This is a modest request for recognition and about consultation on matters that affect Indigenous Australians.

JOURNALIST: Are you encouraged at all that the Liberals’ support of the Machinery Bill last night might translate to support for the referendum? And if so, do you think they should declare a position sooner rather than later now that that hurdle is cleared?

PRIME MINISTER: That’s up to them what they do. I’ll say this, this should be above party politics. I can’t conceive of why a political party would seek to bind its members to a position of opposition to a referendum. I respect the fact there are different views on this issue. There are different views on any issue before the Australian people. But this is about our nation. This should not be a partisan issue. I have sought common interest as much as possible. From time to time people have said, ‘Oh, you’re flexible on issues like the publication of the cases.’ Yes I am. I’ve said the whole way along from the Garma speech, I want this to happen. If this doesn’t happen now, when will it occur? When will it happen? To me, that’s why it’s important to get it done. I’m very pleased that the Greens political party have decided to support the Yes case. I’m pleased that so many independents have said that they’ll support the Yes case. I’m pleased that in civil society, I’ve got faith groups, I’ll have a major event with the Islamic community on the fifth of April. I’ve spoken with leaders of Christian faiths, of Hindu, people of different faiths are all coming together to support this. Sporting organisations are supporting the Yes case. The business community is almost universally supporting the Yes case, certainly all the peak organisations, the Business Council of Australia, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Australian Industry Group, the Minerals Council of Australia are all supporting the Yes case. The ACTU and the union movement are supporting the Yes case. I would urge the Coalition to support the Yes case because this is about who we are as a nation and whether we have the confidence to recognise not just our full history, but the opportunity that’s there in walking forward together.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, earlier this week you told your caucus members that the Government needed to work to prevent scare campaigns around the Voice. What kinds of scare campaigns are you concerned about? And how will you combat them?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, some of the arguments that have been put out that are just false about the Voice. That somehow this changes the primacy of our Parliament, it does not. It is a very modest request by Indigenous Australians just to be treated with respect. And we know that the gap that is there on education, on housing, on health, on incarceration rates, is significant between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. And what we know is that when there is consultation and work done with Indigenous people, rather than for or to Indigenous people, you get better outcomes, you get better outcomes. And that is what this is about. This isn’t just about symbolism. It’s about getting better outcomes. It’s about turning around that gap, which all Australians should be concerned about, which all governments have not done as well as they should have. That’s the truth. That’s the truth. All governments. We need to do better. And the starting point is consultation and respect, and making sure that when an issue is going to affect First Nations, people are actually asking for their views.

JOURNALIST: On another matter, will Federal Labor intervene over WA Parliamentarian Ben Dawkins, who claims the 42 domestic violence-related charges against him are trivial and a stitch up?

PRIME MINISTER: Sorry, that’s the first I’ve heard of that. I’ve never heard of him, and I don’t know of what you say. I’m happy to receive information.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, can you indicate how different the wording of the referendum might be to what you indicated?

PRIME MINISTER: I’ve just said to be patient. I have proper processes. I think people are aware there’s a Cabinet meeting this morning.

JOURNALIST: Just on the Voice again, one of the main things that seems to have come out from the No campaign is they use at the moment is an accusation that the Voice membership of it will be elite and represent only a certain section of the Indigenous community. What assurances can you offer to Australians that isn’t going to be the case? Will they get a greater understanding of how that group is going to be formed before the referendum?

PRIME MINISTER: People will see further information before the referendum. But the fact is that many of the people involved in the No campaign have just said no as their position, full stop, exclamation mark, regardless of any detail, regardless of any structure, regardless of any issues going forward. And that should be obvious to everyone. How is it that the National Party last year said No before any of the detail, or the question, or the final constitutional wording was even released? People will draw their own conclusions there. People are entitled to that view. But the fact that some of the individuals are taking the position that they are should be of no surprise.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on a different matter, there’ll be an anti-trans rally out the front of Parliament House today. Do you have any concerns about that event and the person involved? And if I could ask, what would be your message to transgender Australians who have been upset and concerned by the events of the last week?

PRIME MINISTER: I just think that people should be respected for who they are. And it costs nothing for an individual to respect someone who is different from them, be it a different gender, a different race. Australia is a diverse place and we should look for ways of coming together, not dividing Australia. That’s the attitude that I take. I think that’s the attitude, overwhelmingly, that Australians take as well. Thanks very much.