Television Interview with Natalie Barr – Sunrise – Friday 24 March 2023

FRIDAY, 24 MARCH 2023 

SUBJECTS: Parliament House protest, Voice to Parliament

NATALIE BARR: Well, Senator Lidia Thorpe claimed she was pulverised by police as she was tackled and thrown to the ground outside Parliament House. She was trying to gatecrash an anti-transgender rally led by a British activist but was quickly taken down by authorities.

The Senator then crawled away and stormed off. Let’s bring in Education Minister Jason Clare and Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley. Good morning to you both.


SUSSAN LEY: Morning.

BARR: Jason, were police too heavy-handed with the Senator?

CLARE: I’m not going to bag the cops. The cops do a great job. They’ve got a very, very tough job. I know that as a former Minister for Justice. What the police were trying to do yesterday was keep two different protest groups apart, trying to stop conflict between two groups that were opposed to each other. There’s an investigation that the AFP are now doing and that’s appropriate.

BARR: Yeah, without bagging the cops, which, of course, no one wants to do. They do an amazing job and they’re up against it. Sussan, the Attorney-General says it was, quote, “concerning” and has asked for an investigation. So, there’s something to it, is there, Sussan?

LEY: And we’ll see how that investigation plays out, Nat. But look, it seems as if we’ve seen so many angry, violent protests lately, and here in Parliament House, Jason and I have seen many people come together on the forecourt to talk about the things that they’re passionate about. But when you get the violence, when you get that edge, it doesn’t help the cause. And I agree with Jason, the police, think of them. They’re going into another weekend; they’re keeping us safe. And this anger and this violence does nothing to advance, as I said, the passion of the cause, of whoever is standing and wishing in a very peaceful, respectful way, as it should be, to have their say in this country.

BARR: Yeah, exactly. Peacefully. Moving on, the Prime Minister has revealed the final wording of the Voice referendum. Australians will be asked if they approve of altering the constitution to recognise the first peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Sussan, you have got the wording now, is this enough for your party to back The Voice?

LEY: Nat, it was an incredibly emotional day and there were people who stood with the Prime Minister who have made, I know, an amazing contribution to Indigenous welfare and more positive outcomes in this country. We are still asking for more detail, and I think Australians might be a little confused. The Prime Minister said this would be a modest change, but then later he said it would change the country. So, we’ll keep asking for that detail and asking questions on behalf of all Australians, but we’ll do it in a respectful way because it is an incredibly important issue. And as I say, you don’t get a blank check to change the constitution. We have to do this well and we have to do this thoroughly.

BARR: Yeah. Jason it was an emotional day, wasn’t it? You can tell this means a lot to a lot of people. But with the questions that will obviously follow, I think the first one is, if there’s a yes, then this will go into the Constitution, the Voice may make representations to Parliament and the executive government. Does that mean that before you buy the subs, for instance, you have to talk to the people who are in the Voice? Does that mean before you raise the family payment, you have to talk to the people who are in the Voice? Is that the type of thing that is going to go forward?

CLARE: It’s about two things, Nat. It’s about recognising the fact that Indigenous people were here in Australia before Captain Cook arrived, and it’s about saying that on all things that affect Indigenous people, that they should have a say and that we should consult them.

At the moment, Indigenous people die long before other Australians do. They’re more likely to go to jail than university, and this is a chance to change that. If you think that we should recognise First Australians in our founding document, and if you think that Indigenous Australians should have a say in the things that affect them, then I’d hope Australians vote yes.

I know it’s going to be hard to get there – changing the Constitution is like climbing the political Mount Everest, and I know that Sussan and her team aren’t there yet. But this really, really is a chance to bring the country together, black and white, Labor and Liberal. I do hope that one day, as we get close to this referendum, Sussan and I will be here together on the program both championing the cause, encouraging all Australians to vote yes.

BARR: Yeah, well, we’ve got a few months, haven’t we, to listen and learn what it’s all about. We thank you both this morning. We’ll see you next week.

CLARE: Thank you.

LEY: Thank you.