RN Breakfast with Fran Kelly

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Tuesday, 27th April 2021

RN Breakfast with Fran Kelly

Discussing a referendum on Indigenous Voice to Parliament and more.

SUBJECTS: Referendum on Indigenous Voice to Parliament; The Apology to the Stolen Generations; COVID situation in India; returning flights from India; Commonwealth having responsibility for quarantine; Scott Morrison’s speech and religion.
 
FRAN KELLY, HOST: The Federal Opposition has stepped up its push for a referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, warning the nation will “stand diminished until enshrined in the Constitution”. Labor Leader Anthony Albanese has travelled to Central Australia ahead of the fourth anniversary next month of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which called for the advisory body and the new commission to oversee truth-telling and ultimately, a treaty with Australia's First Nations people. Anthony Albanese says reconciliation will never be achieved while one side has no voice. He joins us from Uluru this morning. Anthony Albanese, welcome to Breakfast.
 
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning, Fran.
 
KELLY: Labor wants to amend the Constitution, I think I'm right in saying this, to enshrine a Voice to the Parliament. Why do you think it's so important for a body like this to be protected, written into the Constitution?
 
ALBANESE: When you look at the Uluru Statement from the Heart, it is an elegant and a generous statement. It is First Nations people reaching out to us, to the whole country, saying that they want reconciliation, to join them on the journey. And what a Voice to Parliament, enshrined in the Constitution, will do is nothing less than ensure that First Nations people are consulted. They don't get determination, it's not a third chamber, but they’re consulted on matters that affect them. That's just good manners. And it's a matter of respect. And until we recognise the fact that our history didn't begin with the arrival of the First Fleet, that it goes back 65,000 years, and that should be a source of incredible pride, that we have the oldest continuous civilisation on the planet right here in our midst. We should value that, it should be acknowledged in our national document, our Constitution. And we should enshrine a voice so that First Nations people can have that certainty going forward. And then of course, we should move to truth-telling, to a Makarrata Commission, and move to treaty.
 
KELLY: Referendums in this country are very hard to win. You already mentioned there the notion of, you know, a voice being seen as a third chamber. You say it's not that. But just the notion of that caused, you know, ructions early on. The Government has looked at an alternative process, it's looked at planning to legislate a voice to government, once a co-design process, that's the process that engages Indigenous Australians, is finished. A legislated voice could then be a stepping stone towards one that's enshrined in the Constitution. Is that two-step process a less risky idea?
 
ALBANESE: Well, it's not what First Nations people have asked for, Fran. And it's not a greedy request to say that we want to be consulted on matters that affect us, just as Australians, after 67 years, recognise that Indigenous people existed, and gave them rights through Constitutional referendum that received 90 per cent of support of the Australian public. I'm very confident that, with the support of the major parties, a voice, and this process, the response to the Uluru Statement From the Heart, would receive overwhelming support of Australians.
 
KELLY: I think what you say is true. Most people don't really, we don't know much about the idea yet, really. The powers of it, for instance. You said it wouldn’t have veto powers. But would you envisage, and maybe we don't even know this yet, that a voice would be advising the Parliament across the board or only specifically when it comes to drafting laws on race or Native Title or racial discrimination?
 
ALBANESE: Well, on matters that directly affect First Nations people, that's what the request is.
 
KELLY: Well, that’s everything, really isn’t it?
 
ALBANESE: Well, matters which specifically impact. But we do need to, as well as having reforms like we had with the Apology to the Stolen Generations, we do need to have Closing the Gap strategies, to deal with education, to deal with health, to deal with incarceration rates. All of those measures need to be dealt with. But Fran, I heard the arguments before Kevin Rudd's apology, that somehow this was going to be a divisive issue. And guess what? Australians came together on that day in my lifetime like never before. It was my most proud moment in the Parliament. And those people who didn't support that day, people like Peter Dutton who walked out, have said they regret that. I think that it seemed to be a very positive move and this will be exactly the same.
 
KELLY: So what would you be promising if Labor won the election? How soon would you pledge a referendum?
 
ALBANESE: To work with First Nations people and to work with the other side of politics as well, across the Parliament, to bring it forward in the next term.
 
KELLY: Okay. Just moving on to other matters now. The National Security Committee of Cabinet meets today to discuss the situation, the dire situation, in India. A decision will be made this week on flights from India, 30 per cent have already been cancelled. What do you think? Should they be cancelled altogether while this virus is rampaging in India?
 
ALBANESE: I'll make two comments, Fran. The first is that the situation in India is desperate. They are our good friends. We should be assisting in whatever way we can. So that's the first comment. Because a breakout of this virus in one part of the world is a breakout everywhere. It does have an impact. Secondly, with regard to people coming from India, we need to get quarantine right, Fran. This just reinforces our commitment, and our view, which we've said for some time, that the Commonwealth need to get quarantine right. They haven't got it right now. We know that the issue of housing people in CBD hotels doesn't make sense compared with making sure that appropriate facilities are put in place, such as that which was recommended to the Government by Jane Halton.
 
KELLY: Okay, so Labor's position is, you know, dedicated quarantine facilities with open air. But when you say hotel quarantine doesn't make sense, the Defence Minister, Peter Dutton, said on the weekend it is fit for purpose, citing the numbers, and if you look at the numbers, 140,000 people have gone through that system since October. There's just been a handful of COVID breakouts across the country, a tiny percentage. I mean, there are shortcomings, there are problems, but by and large it's worked, hasn’t it?
 
ALBANESE: Well they haven't got things right such as ventilation, which was recommended by Jane Halton that there be a national response to these issues. That's just a fact. And tell that, Fran, to the people who got locked down in Perth and the Peel region over the previous three days.
 
KELLY: Okay, so what would you do though? Peter Dutton has ruled out defence bases, he says they're not appropriate. Where would Labor have them be built? Keeping in mind they need to be near some kind of hospital care, or access to medical care, and airports?
 
ALBANESE: Peter Dutton had a knee jerk reaction on the weekend, an immature response to the Premier of WA who has kept Western Australians safe, and he's been prepared to attack any Labor government, be it Mark McGowan’s or Annastacia Palaszczuk’s, who have kept their respective populations safe. What we need is a national response. Quarantine is a Commonwealth responsibility. The idea, for example, that state governments are in charge of getting people back home is quite frankly absurd given that the Commonwealth controls immigration, customs and should control quarantine.
 
KELLY: Okay, so what should they do?
 
ALBANESE: They responded far too late to expand Howard Springs. That offer was on the table here in the Territory in the middle of last year. There needs to be other appropriate facilities that have been suggested including by Jane Halton and the premiers. They need to examine seriously the offers that are there to have appropriate facilities in places like Avalon or Toowoomba. There are these suggestions which are practical on the table, the Government continues to resist because their priority is not accepting political responsibility when breakouts occur.
 
KELLY: Anthony Albanese, can I ask you about the Prime Minister's faith? Because it's again a matter of public discourse. A video is out there, it's emerged, of his address to the Australian Christian Churches National Conference recently where he spoke of how he is doing God's work and how he sometimes uses the evangelical practice of laying on of hands while embracing people who have suffered trauma or natural disaster. Now, religion is a private matter. We're a secular nation. The Prime Minister is giving speeches about his religion and his practice. Are you comfortable with that?
 
ALBANESE: I think you've given my answer in some of your question. For me, faith is a personal matter. I respect people's own spiritual beliefs. But it's also important that we have a separation here of church and state.
 
KELLY: And do we have that? I mean, the Prime Minister says he doesn't consider The Bible to be a “policy handbook”. But he also spoke in this speech, or in recent times, of how his pastor told him to use what God has put in your hands, do what God has put in your heart. I mean, I'm not suggesting that speech had any policy content at all. But does it mean the Prime Minister needs to be more open and transparent about how evangelical Christianity influences his politics? Or is it private?
 
ALBANESE: Well, I have no intention of making comments on the Prime Minister's faith. That is a matter for him. I think that the separation of church and state are important. I think that the idea that God is on any politician’s side is no more respectful than the idea that when someone's sporting team wins it's because of divine intervention. I think that, for me, that isn't appropriate. But I'm not going to comment, and have no intention of commenting, on Scott Morrison's personal faith.
 
KELLY: Anthony Albanese, thank you very much for joining us.
 
ALBANESE: Thanks very much.
 
ENDS

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Electorate Office

334a Marrickville Road
MARRICKVILLE NSW 2204

Phone: (02) 9564 3588
Fax: (02) 9564 1734
Email: A.Albanese.MP@aph.gov.au

Parliament House Office

PO Box 6022
CANBERRA ACT 2600

Phone: (02) 6277 4022
Fax: (02) 6277 8562

Phone: (02) 9564 3588
Fax: (02) 9564 1734
Email: A.Albanese.MP@aph.gov.au

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