Television Interview with Natalie Barr – Sunrise – Friday 15 September 2023


SUBJECTS: Voice Referendum

NATALIE BARR, HOST: Well, in just over four weeks the nation will head to the polls to decide if we need a Voice to Parliament. However, Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians, Jacinta Price, believes the Voice is not needed because we already have a world‑class democratic structure. The prominent No campaigner also says no harm has come to First Australians from British colonisation.


SPEAKER: Do you believe the history of colonisation continues to have an impact on some Indigenous Australians?

JACINTA PRICE: Ah, no. I’ll be honest with you, no. I don’t think so. A positive impact, absolutely. I mean now we’ve got running water, we’ve got readily available food. I mean everything that my grandfather had when he was growing up, ’cause he first saw white fellas in his early adolescence, we now have. If we keep telling Aboriginal people that they are victims, we are effectively removing their agency and then giving them giving them the expectation that someone else is responsible for their lives.

[End of Excerpt]

BARR: Joining me now is the Education Minister, Jason Clare, and Deputy Opposition Leader, Sussan Ley. Good morning to both of you.

Jacinta Price says we don’t need a Voice to Parliament, we have a world‑class democratic structure, we have Indigenous MPs, and effectively they are Indigenous voices in our Parliament. What do you say to that?

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Nat, I get that Jacinta doesn’t think this is a good idea. There are other Liberal MPs like Bridget Archer who do think that this is a good idea, and there are a lot of Liberal and National MPs who say they don’t support it, but privately I know that in four weeks’ time, they’ll vote yes at the ballot box. I say that not to out them on national TV, but talking to Liberal voters and National voters who are watching right now, to say that this is not a Labor idea, it’s not a Liberal idea, this is the idea of Indigenous Australians.

In four weeks’ time we get a chance to do what we should have done 122 years ago, and that is recognise Indigenous people in our first document, in the Constitution. We can do that in four weeks.

BARR: Sussan, Parliament has now risen, obviously it won’t return until after the referendum. Now the debate goes really into the community. Do you think that’s a good thing, because it’s got pretty heated amongst the politicians in Canberra?

SUSSAN LEY: It did get heated, Nat, and I was so disappointed this week, because we saw the Prime Minister and his Minister For Indigenous Australians once again fail to give the detail that people will be asking about over the next four weeks.

In fact, Marcia Langton, a co‑architect of the Voice, part of the Referendum Working Group has called 22 per cent of Australians “deeply racist.” And I know when I go into my communities, indeed wherever I go, that is so, so not the case. And unfortunately, neither the Prime Minister nor his ministers stepped back from those comments, and I think they really needed to have removed Marcia Langton from that group in the interests of us coming together.

But that’s why this Voice is so divisive, led by a Prime Minister who’s rushed the timeline, insisted that everyone has to vote yes, surrounded by people who he’s backing in that say that Australians are racist, and at the heart of the arguments for no is racism and stupidity, and that’s why we got so angry this week.

But I absolutely know that when we go into our communities we will find Australians desperate for the detail, and I want to know, Jason, if you think that 22 per cent of Australians are deeply racist.

CLARE: No, of course I don’t. I don’t at all. Australians are good, honest and fair people. In our heart of hearts, it’s what makes us Australians. We believe in a fair go. I think it’s a fair thing that we recognise in the Constitution that there were people here before Captain Cook arrived, that they’ve been here for 60,000 years. We get a chance to do that in four weeks.

And Aussies are also practical people, Sussan. We know there are a lot of Indigenous people that are doing it tough. We want our taxpayers’ dollars used better to make sure that we can close that gap and setting up an advisory committee to do that is a good thing. You know the Liberal Party think that we should recognise Indigenous people in the Constitution, and we should have a Voice. The big debate here is whether you put it into law or you put it in the Constitution. We can do both, and we can do it in four weeks’ time.

BARR: Jason, the Prime Minister didn’t walk back those comments, didn’t speak up against Marcia Langton’s comments, did he?

CLARE: He was asked a question by Sussan in the Parliament. You see Anthony’s response there. He says he respects Australians, that Australians are good, honest people. We’re not racist people. And we’ll get a chance to do something really good in four weeks’ time that’s going to make sure that we use taxpayers’ money better to close the gap.

If you’re an Indigenous Australian today you’re more likely to die at childbirth, you’re more likely to die younger than the rest of us, you’re more likely to suffer a chronic illness, you’re less likely to finish school, you’re more likely, if you’re an Indigenous bloke, to go to jail than uni. And by listening we can make better decisions and get better results, and that’s what this is all about.

BARR: Sussan, he’s right; those figures are appalling.

LEY: Of course they are, of course they are. And what we need to be doing is acting at the grassroots level in the way that we perhaps haven’t been doing, but that we know we can do, not sit a group of elites at the top of the national level of government. This is the Prime Minister’s divisive voice.

Now, Jason describes it as recognition in the Constitution. By the way, we agree with that. He describes it as an advisory panel, as if there’s really nothing to see here. But when we listen to the members who designed this voice, like Marcia Langton, like Thomas Mayo, who actually said the yes case should force its way on to building sites, and you know, and generate sort of fear and loathing, I mean this is what this Prime Minister is not stepping back from, and you know, it’s talking out of both sides of your mouth, I’m afraid.

CLARE: The pollies have been talking about this for decades, Nat, and we’ve failed. The bottom line is pollies have failed, we’ve got to do something different.

BARR: We do need to do something. We’ll have more on this obviously in the next few weeks. Thank you very much.