Television Interview with Natalie Barr – Sunrise – Friday 7 April 2023


SUBJECTS: Voice to Parliament

NATALIE BARR: Former Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt has sensationally quit the Liberal Party, saying he no longer believes in what his party has become. It comes after the Liberals’ decision to oppose the Government’s model for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. Peter Dutton had concerns that it would fundamentally change our system of government.

Let’s bring in Education Minister, Jason Clare, and Deputy Opposition Leader, Sussan Ley. Good morning to both of you. Sussan, let’s start with you. Ken Wyatt’s quit the party. Current MP, Bridget Archer, said she’s considered it. Mainland Australia has elected Labor state and also federal governments. Why are people turning away from the Libs?

SUSSAN LEY: People are asking questions, Nat, and that’s perfectly reasonable, and it’s okay as families gather around the table this Easter to ask those questions. Now, Ken is a great friend, a former colleague. You won’t hear me say a bad word about him. It’s sad that he’s come to this decision, but I respect the decision that every Australian will come to as they look into the referendum details. And we are simply asking questions.

It’s not good enough for the Prime Minister to issue demands that people follow his lead without actually answering the questions on the detail. And remember that we are absolutely in favour of constitutional recognition of our first Australians and the local and regional Voice, which we started in the previous government and that I’ve seen work really well in rural and regional Australia, western New South Wales, where I live.

BARR: Really? Because one of the Kimberley’s most senior elders is saying that we’ve had the local and regional system for ten years, mostly under the Coalition government. The system is broken. The Voice would link locals and regionals with Canberra. So this is what we need.

LEY: Well, that’s not clear from what the Prime Minister has proposed, Nat, and this is the problem. It’s very top-down and I want to see something that solves the problems in Balranald and Wentworth and Mungo and Broken Hill.

BARR: Well, this is the Kimberley, so that sounds about as local and regional as you get.

LEY: Yeah, I’m using my local example, but of course, I equally respect the Kimberley that actually solved on location there. We have to get the voices of local people heard to solve their individual problems and it does have to link very strongly to policies that actually make a difference in the lives of Indigenous Australians. And those are the serious questions that we’re asking. So we do need a respectful debate and turned a bit nasty in the last couple of days. I don’t like that. You’re not a bad person for thinking that you might vote “no”. You’re simply someone who’s taking this very seriously because it’s a change to our Constitution. So let’s keep the debate respectful and informed by facts.

BARR: Yeah, exactly. And Jason, do we need more facts? That seems to be the theme here. People are asking a lot of questions. Is your government putting out enough answers on the Voice?

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: I think we are. We put out a lot of information when we introduced the legislation last week and you saw Australia come together there when we introduced that legislation. I think there’s a lot of support for this as well. It’s just really disappointing that the Liberal Party have decided to walk away from this.

The Liberal Party has lost a good man in Ken Wyatt. I’m proud, like Sussan, to call him a friend. There are still good and brave people in the Liberal Party, like Bridget Archer. But the sad fact is the Liberal Party under Peter Dutton now looks more like Pauline Hanson than Robert Menzies. I do think that they may have reached a different conclusion if Josh Frydenberg was still there. We’ll never know. But the bottom line here is that it’s not the Liberal Party that will get to decide this. It’s the Australian people.

BARR: How worried are you, Jason? Has this torpedoed the Voice?

CLARE: I don’t think it’s done that. It’s made it more difficult. It’s made it harder. But the Australian people are bigger and better than this mean and negative Liberal Party. And I have faith that they will meet this moment later this year.

BARR: Okay, we thank you very much. Have a great Easter, and we’ll see you next week. Both of you.

CLARE: Happy Easter.

LEY: Happy Easter.