Doorstop Interview – Brisbane – Thursday 31 August 2023

E&OE

Subjects: Constitutional recognition through a Voice, 14th October referendum date, why Queenslanders will vote ‘Yes’, improving the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

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MURRAY WATT: Well, good morning everyone and thank you very much for coming along to our beautiful end of winter Brisbane day. And can I begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land that we’re gathering on here today on the banks of the Brisbane River and pay my respects to their Elders past and present. Well today is day two in the official campaign for the referendum that Australia will have a chance to vote on, on October 14.

Some of you may have been here yesterday when we had the official kickoff in Brisbane and we had a huge crowd here yesterday. Lots of energy demonstrating their support for the referendum. And it’s fantastic that now we’ve got another group of people together, including some big names from our local First Nations community from the sporting community, more widely of course, it’s terrific to have my colleagues Linda Burney and Jason Clare here today as well. I’m speaking to you today as a Queenslander. And what we’ve seen over the last 24 hours is a real outpouring of support for this referendum from Queenslanders. Now I know there’s a lot being said about how Queensland is going to vote in this campaign. But if there’s one thing I know about Queenslanders, it’s that we like an underdog. We see that in the State of Origin when we take on the Blues, like Jason and Linda saying they’re gonna win it, we always come back when people write us off. And I think you’re gonna see a bit of that Queensland underdog spirit at play when we get to that referendum on October 14th as well. And the reason for that is the Queenslanders understand possibly better than most in the country, we are so fortunate here in Queensland to be the home of two distinct Indigenous cultures, our Aboriginal people and our Torres Strait Islanders.

That is something that all Queenslanders celebrate, and we’ll have the chance to celebrate that in a real moment of national unity on October the 14th. When we’ll have the chance to vote yes, to vote yes for recognition, to vote yes for listening to people and voting yes to deliver better results for our First Nations people. It’s my great honor now to introduce one of Queensland’s absolutely legendary Indigenous leaders Aunty Jackie Huggins, someone I’ve known for a very long time, somebody who’s been fighting for these causes for a long time.

JACKIE HUGGINS: Good morning everybody and we are at the crossroads. We are at the crossroads of determining a better future for all of us, particularly for our First Nations people who have existed here for over 65,000 years. This is a referendum on what people think of us.

This is a referendum that will determine future outcomes whereby we have a seat at the advisory committee and a seat to government and to parliament. Because right now, nothing has ever worked for us. We need our people to explore and to put forward our policies and programs and ideas and solutions. Because as we know, the best solutions come from our people and those at the community level. So this is a time where we invite everyone, all Australians to come with us on this journey.

This six week journey of being able to get a successful Yes in the referendum. An outcome that will forever change all our lives. And this about our future generations to and those generations being able to support and to live with this. We do not want to leave this to our children or our grandchildren to have the kinds of struggles that we had before. Because it has been very hard, weary and tiresome. But yet we are resilient. We will never give up the fight for Justice, the struggle for our people and the bringing us together for reconciliation in our country.

So this is a great time, a great day today and as a Queenslander I was here the 1967 referendum which my dear mother fought in an organisation called OPAL, the One People of Australia League, that was chaired by the late and the great Senator Neville Bonner. That had over 90% success rate. We want to see that happen. We want to see that absolute support be given to our people and I know as Queenslanders, we can do that because we have seen the injustice of the poor outcomes that have been inflicted upon our people. We all want to change that everyone I talk to. The flight attendants on the plane yesterday, they all said to me, we want to change this and we need to change this as soon as possible, because we can’t go on like this. The time has come people whereby we state our mark, we draw a line in the sand and we’re able to look one another in the eye as neighbors and to go forward together. Because then it will be a great and truly wonderful time for future generations. So like my mother before me I carry that legacy and for all of us who will vote yes in the referendum, we will all carry that legacy for our people, not only for our people but for all Australians. Thank you very much.

LINDA BURNEY: Good morning everyone. I’m so excited. I’m excited for the next six weeks. And I am absolutely excited to be here on the banks of the Brisbane River in Queensland this morning with this amazing group of people who are volunteering for the ‘Yes’ vote for Queensland, including Reconciliation Queensland. I am particularly excited to be here with my parliamentary colleagues both Murray Watt and Jason Clare. There are three nights of the year that we do not agree with Queensland and unfortunately we’ve seen Queensland triumph on most of those nights. However, I have enormous faith in this state. This state is going to be loud and clear about decency, about justice, and about doing the right thing. I have got no doubt about that. The next six weeks is about us getting out, making sure that people understand as Aunty Jackie has said, the significance of this referendum and not only what it will mean to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, what it will mean to this country. Of course Queensland has a huge number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We’ll be getting around Queensland over the next six weeks and I know just like State of Origin, that Queensland will come back in the last quarter.

NATHAN APPO: Thank you. First of all, I’d like to acknowledge Traditional Owners of the land that we gather on today and pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging and also acknowledge our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders here today. I’m Nathan Appo a proud Mamu man from Innisfail far North Queensland with proud links to Goreng Goreng and Bundjalung country and I was very lucky to be in Adelaide yesterday for the announcement of the Prime Minister, and we’re on the road now the 14th of October is just around the corner and we’ve got a big job ahead of us.

Yesterday was a really powerful, exciting moment but also very sad to think about a great work our people have done in the past, and they’re not here to celebrate this achievement that we’re trying to achieve and change history. We think about Neville Bonner, we think about Uncle Charlie Perkins, and a mentor of mine Robbie Williams as well, who all would have loved to have been here and also fought for us to be here in this position right now. I’m lucky enough to be here with Reconciliation Queensland. We’ve got some amazing board members Aunty Denise Proud, Aunty Jackie Huggins who have been fighting the fight for us for many years. And as young people it’s our job now to take on this fight, door knock, have conversations and do the right thing. This invitation from the Uluru Statement from the Heart was created by our people for our people. It wasn’t from the politicians. I love Aunty Linda, we’ve got 11 politicians in government but we know how you know the state of politics is, they’re governed by their party, by their constituents. But also, they can be gone at any time. A voice to parliament will be there forever. A voice will give recommendations and advice to the government for our people. So constitutional recognition through a Voice to Parliament is so important for our people. Something we’ve never had before and something we need. Living here in Brisbane, we have, in southeast Queensland we have people who are dying from chronic diseases, who are homeless.

By 2030, we are going to have the largest Indigenous population in Australia right here in Brisbane. And with the Olympics coming up, we will make sure our people our First Nations people are a part of Australia’s birth certificate and this is Australia’s opportunity to do that. We’re at a crunch time where our young people are calling on our young people to support this and jump on, because we know that Aboriginal people are only 3% of the population we can’t win this alone. We need Australia (INAUDIBLE) and this will unite our people, unite Australians together. I’m very excited to be here and be a part of the Referendum Engagement Committee that I’ve been part of for over a year now, representing my community, my people, Reconciliation Queensland and we know we are six weeks out, we’ve got a big job ahead of us and I’m calling on all Australians to support us in this referendum. There’s going be a lot of noise off from the No campaign, a lot of misinformation. But we’re not going to dive into the negativity. You’re got to remember that on the 14th of October, it’s going to be you and your conscience. Do our people deserve a Voice to parliament? Do we deserve to be a part of Australia’s birth certificate? I don’t want to wake up on the 15th of October thinking what could of?

This is our opportunity to walk together, it’s a beautiful invitation from the Uluru Dialogue, Statement from the Heart if you do want to read it it’s not 26 pages long it’s one page. Have a read of it. This is your opportunity and your responsibility to educate yourself and hopefully make the right decision for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Thank you

TALIQUA CLANCY: I’m going to keep this short and sweet. The reason why I’m here supporting the Voice is because it’s the right thing to do. It’s time that our First Nations people are recognised in the Constitution

JASON CLARE: That’s what this is all about. It’s about the next generation. Aussies believe in fairness. We argue about it in the pub watching the footy. We argue about it in Parliament. It’s in the title of our national anthem. It’s the reason we’re the best country in the world. We believe in fairness. And I think most Australians would agree that it’s a fair enough thing that we recognise Indigenous Australians in the Constitution. After all, it’s just the fact that long before Captain Cook ever got here Indigenous Australians were here for more than 60,000 years, and it’s about time that our first Australians were recognised in our first document. Aussies are also practical people. We know that a lot of Indigenous Australians are doing it tough and we want to make sure that our taxpayers money is invested in the sort of things that work in health and education in jobs and housing. And we know that it’s not working at the moment. That’s just a fact.

The gap that exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians proves that. Now here’s the good news – the Voice is not the idea of Canberra politicians, it’s the idea of Indigenous Australians from right across the country. And the idea is pretty simple an advisory committee to encourage all of us to listen and we know in our own lives, not just in Parliament, but in the conversations that we have with our family and friends if you listen, you tend to make better decisions and that leads to better results and a better use of our money.

And that’s what the Voice is all about. Over the next few weeks, you’re going to hear some pretty weird and wacky things most of which is designed to scare you into voting ‘No’. And when you hear those things just remember this. Remember back in the 90s with Mabo and native title, we were told we were going to lose our backyard. That wasn’t true. And then when Kevin Rudd gave the Apology to the Stolen Generations we were told that was going to cost $10 billion and that wasn’t true either. And now we’re hearing the same old things again. And that’s not true either. If Australia votes ‘Yes’ on the 14th of October the world won’t end and the economy won’t stop but we will help to Advance Australia fair. We will help to give real meaning to our national anthem, to build a better country and a fairer country and that’s why I encourage all Australians to vote yes on the 14th of October.

JOURNALIST:  Queensland is said to be a very difficult state for the ‘Yes’ vote. Why are you so confident that, we will actually vote ‘Yes’?

MURRAY WATT: I guess it falls to the Queenslander to answer that question. Well as I say, I mean, I’ve already talked about that underdog spirit that Queenslanders have. We like having our backs up against the corner and fighting back and as Linda says usually coming back in the last quarter. But also I’m very optimistic about the vote here in Queensland because we are fair people. We are fair people here in Queensland who support a fair go and that’s what this is about. Queenslander have got a track record in often being first when it comes to social reform, despite the reputation we might have in other parts of the country and I think it’s important that we get as many yes votes as possible in Queensland, because of course the other part of the picture here is making sure that we have a majority national vote across the country. Of course, it’s our aim to get a majority vote here in Queensland, but even if we were to fall short, we want to make a big contribution to that national majority overall. And I’m confident that we can do that. Because I think the other thing about this is that even on the day one of this campaign, you saw the real difference between the two campaigns. You had a really positive, forward looking happy group of people supporting ‘Yes’, talking about national unity and bringing the country together. And in the ‘No’ camp you had a bunch of angry looking people who only wanted to talk about division. I reckon Queenslanders are about unity and about bringing people together, not about division, and that’s why I’m really very hopeful about the result. Here in Queensland.

JOURNALIST: So are there plans to have a lot of government politicians come to Queensland to try and shore up that vote in the next six weeks?

MURRAY WATT: I’m sure that there will be many of my parliamentary colleagues who travel to Queensland to support this campaign. But as Nathan said this isn’t just about politicians, this is an idea that actually came from over 250 First Nations leaders who gathered together at Uluru and said that this was the best way forward, to bring the country together and to get better results for their people. So I think it’s fabulous that today, we’re joined not just by politicians, but by community leaders, sporting leaders, First Nations leaders. A little bit later on Linda and Jason and I are traveling down the M1 to join up with the Gold Coast Suns who are backing this in, so one of the great footy teams in Queensland, so this is going to be a lot more than politicians it’s going to be about everyone in our community coming together.

JOURNALIST: There’s been a lot of misinformation leading up to this campaign. What plans do you have to blunt that?

LINDA BURNEY: The ‘Yes’ campaign, we’re going to be positive, we’re going to be honest, and we’re going to make sure the message that we are taking forward gets out to people. It’s not complex. It’s very straightforward. It’s about recognition, it’s about better practical outcomes for Aboriginal people and it’s about listening. That is what it is simply about. All of the other issues that are being introduced, are just there to confuse, to divide people. We are about unity and we are about keeping things positive and we are about embracing as many Australians as possible.

JOURNALIST: You were saying before, when you were talking to some of the people here that you’ll be coming to Cairns in two weeks time – what’s your plans in the next six weeks regarding traveling to push the yes vote.

LINDA BURNEY: All I can say is that there are many of us that will be traveling extensively, including to other parts of Queensland. But as Murray has said, as Aunty Jackie has said, as Nathan has said, and others, Jason, this is about the people of this country, it is not about politicians. It is about people out there finding out about what this referendum is about, informing themselves and making decisions in the ballot box, which is about them and their conscience. It’s not about what I do, it’s not about what Murray does or Jason does. It’s about the people of this country and what the people do.

JOURNALIST: There was some data yesterday showing that the support for the ‘Yes’ vote has been declining. I guess leading up, in the last few months, leading up to the announcement of the day, are you confident that in the next six weeks that you can shore up that vote so it gets over the line?

LINDA BURNEY: The next six weeks are about campaigning and having as many conversations as possible, at work, on the streets, in meetings, in town halls, in family homes. Those conversations are crucially important and when people come to understand that this will improve the life outcomes of First Nations people, which no matter where you come from or who you are, you would agree that they are unsatisfactory in this country.  And people realise it is about making a practical difference.

JOURNALIST: Nathan was talking about door knocking and doing everything possible to get this vote up. How proud are you of the people who have been involved in the yes campaign?

LINDA BURNEY: In Australia now and we are six weeks out, there are over 30,000 volunteers registered to knock on doors to make phone calls, to hand out railway stations and it’s remarkable. 30,000 people have volunteered and we’re not talking about people that would normally volunteer in a political campaign. We’re talking about people from all walks of life who have said we need to see this change. We want to grow this country up, and we want to be part of it. And I can’t tell you how thankful we are, how much we appreciate it and how exciting it is to know that that volunteer base is growing by about 2000 a week.