SUBJECT/S: Constitutional recognition; press freedom
ED HUSIC, MEMBER FOR CHIFLEY: Hi everyone, I’m Ed Husic, the Federal Member for Chifley, the electorate that you’re in and here today at the NAIDOC celebrations that are held by the Baabayn Aboriginal Corporation and also Holy Family here at Emerton. An important day for us, because it’s a chance to celebrate one of the great Aboriginal communities in this country, made up of the Darug and other First Nation’s people who have made this area home and we are very grateful for their custodianship. And I’m particularly proud that Anthony Albanese’s first visit to our area is on this day in NAIDOC week itself and I just wanted to welcome Anthony and thank him for making it here for this special day
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks very much Ed. And thanks particularly to all those associated with this celebration of NAIDOC week here today, particularly the Baabayn Association who do such fantastic work in the community over issues such as ice, over issues relating to employment, over issues relating to families, and provide that assistance – an organisation that was started by five elders here in Western Sydney and continues to do a tremendous job. It’s been a great honour for me, as Labor Leader, to be able to speak here today as well.
Yesterday Minister Wyatt gave an important speech at the National Press Club. We are all diminished whilst we don’t recognise First Nations people in our Constitution. It is also the case that we need a Voice to Parliament. That’s not about a third chamber; it’s just about providing respect. This is a concept that was first raised by William Cooper, a Yorta Yorta man, 85 years ago. William Cooper, a trade unionist and Aboriginal activist, speaking about the need for Indigenous Australians to have a Voice to the Parliament.
And that’s what the Uluru Statement is about. It’s about respect. It’s about consultation. And I truly hope that we can advance this agenda as a nation over the next couple of years, because we need to actually get some outcomes on these issues, as well as, of course, closing the gap.
This week is a week to focus on the fact that the gap on health, educational outcomes, is still far too great between First Nations people and non-indigenous Australians. The gap with regard to incarceration is far too great as well. We need to provide opportunity, and one of the reasons for this celebration is to recognise that Indigenous culture is so important, and that all of the rest of us are enriched by the fact that we live in a nation with the oldest continuous culture on our planet.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: How realistic do you think the prospect of a successful referendum to recognise Indigenous Australians is in the next three years, say?
ALBANESE: I think it’s absolutely realistic and doable. Australians are generous people. This is about the fair go. It’s about recognising the fact that our Constitution has something very important missing and that is its heart and soul. The fact is, the history in this nation goes back at least 65,000 years. To not acknowledge that in the nation’s document leaves us all diminished as a nation. And I’m confident that, with bipartisan support, we could get agreement for constitutional change, just as we did, of course, get that important change happen way back in 1967.
JOURNALIST: What form do you think that an Indigenous Voice to Parliament should take? It’s obviously been one of the sticking points for some people.
ALBANESE: Well, what it isn’t is a third chamber. What’s important, I think, is that politicians listen to First Nations people themselves. And what I’ll be doing as Labor Leader is listening to First Nations people around the country, here in Western Sydney, but also, of course, in our Caucus and in our Parliament. And that’s why I think Linda Burney and Minister Wyatt have an important role to play in leadership along with, of course, Senator Pat Dodson and Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, Jacqui Lambie and others in the Parliament have a role to play in trying to forge a consensus so that it can be advanced. Because this is an important agenda for every Australian, but particularly significant, of course, to First Nations people.
JOURNALIST: So you don’t have a particular model in mind yet, about how it might work?
ALBANESE: What I want to do is listen rather than talk. And I think we should be listening to First Nations people about the model. Linda Burney has responsibility as the Shadow Minister, but working closely, of course, with Pat Dodson, as the Father of Reconciliation, will have an important role to play as well.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it will be difficult to enshrine the Voice into Parliament in the Constitution? Will that be the sort of sticking point, the hard bit to get done?
ALBANESE: Well, look, I’m hopeful and optimistic of getting an outcome and what we want is an outcome. It is now more than a decade since we had the apology. That is my finest memory of my time in Parliament. And guess what? Once it happened, the nation was united around it and moved forward. That was controversial. It took the election of a Labor Government to make that change. I hope that this change happens during this Parliament and I have offered to work constructively with Prime Minister Morrison. That’s the commitment from Labor to make sure that we get an outcome, not just any outcome, an outcome that has the support of Indigenous Australians.
JOURNALIST: There have been a fair few internal divisions within the Coalition over that issue in particular. What do you make of those internal divisions?
ALBANESE: Well, look, there were some members who walked out of the Apology in 2008, when the Parliament came together, under the Rudd Labor Government, with the support, it must be said, to his great credit of Brendan Nelson as the Liberal leader. Those people who walked out by and large have expressed their regret at doing that. I think anyone who doesn’t support constitutional recognition will regret it later in years, because once it happens, it will strengthen our nation, it will unite our nation and we’ll be all the better for it.
JOURNALIST: The Managing Director of the ABC has written to the Home Affairs Minister asking him for any police action against the ABC reporters Dan Oakes and Sam Clarke to be dropped. Is that a call that you’d support?
ALBANESE: Well, that’s a common sense outcome. These are journalists who were doing their job and the fact is the idea that they were under investigation was an idea that was dismissed by the Government just weeks ago. The fact is that you can’t go over the other side of the world to have your Foreign Minister talk about freedom of the press when incidents such as this are happening at home. The Government needs to get on top of this and the Government needs to ensure that there is, indeed, press freedom in this country because that’s an essential component of our democracy.
JOURNALIST: Is Marise Payne being a hypocrite by being at that event overseas?
ALBANESE: Well, I do find it quite extraordinary that a Government that’s presided over these attacks on press freedom has a Foreign Minister overseas speaking at conferences about press freedom. I think that Australia would have more credibility if we get our act together right here, right now.
JOURNALIST: And also just lastly, at that same event Amal Clooney, the human rights lawyer, has said that Australia is setting a bad example over press freedom with the situation that’s been unfolding. Do you agree that Australia is setting a bad example for other countries on press freedom?
ALBANESE: Well, certainly it’s the case that the raids on the ABC and on Annika Smethurst, I think, received considerable negative publicity internationally. This was a global story, a major police raid on the national broadcaster over issues which, quite frankly, have been aired publicly some time ago. The delay until after the election was over still hasn’t been properly explained in my view. We need to take press freedom seriously and we need to act to make whatever changes are necessary to ensure that people have confidence that our media can play the role in a democracy that they’re meant to do. Thank you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.