Subjects: Australia votes ‘no’ to the Prime Minister’s divisive Voice, Treaty, Truth proposal; the Prime Minister’s lack of leadership.
I’m really pleased to have been here this morning at the the Mental Health Foundation of Australia. The work that they’re doing in multicultural communities, it’s quite remarkable. Obviously, there’s a huge demand and an increasing demand on their services, but to be able to provide some of that information, some of those interventions for people where English is not their first language, is really important. So it was good to be there and share the stage with Minister Emma McBride – this is one of the issues where there’s very significant bipartisan support and we want that to continue.
Well obviously over the weekend the country’s spoken in an overwhelming fashion. There’s no sense pretending that this was a 51-49 result – even in a state like South Australia, Victoria, right across the country really – it’s been a resounding voice from the Australian public – not to reject Indigenous Australians – quite the opposite. People want to support, in a practical way, those living in regional and remote areas, but people have roundly rejected the proposition of the Voice.
The Prime Minister embarked on a divisive path, he spent $400 million of taxpayers money. He was warned not to go down this path of division and he bears the responsibility for where our country is today.
There’s a lot of healing to take place and all of us can be a part of that, but we shouldn’t forget the fact that the Prime Minister deliberately kept the detail from Australians – which as we see from Greg Craven and others who have commented – that is a very significant contributor to the outcome where the Prime Minister dragged the vote down from 65 per cent, down closer to below 40 per cent. That is quite a remarkable, almost unprecedented failure in campaigning in an election in our country’s history.
I think that’s why there’s a lot of angst within the Labor Party at the moment about why the Prime Minister just doesn’t get across the detail. When he does make a decision, it’s the wrong decision, and we know of course that millions of Australians at the moment are hurting because the Prime Minister has been completely obsessed with the Voice over the course of the last 16 or 17 months.
I’m happy to take any questions.
Mr Dutton, you’ve talked a lot about division, but how are you going to work with the Government to improve reconciliation with Indigenous people?
Well, we’ve tried to do that during the course of the year. I mean, you’ve been to Question Time where time after time after time, we’ve asked the Government for the detail; a complete and utter blanket refusal. They weren’t just questions for us, they were asked on behalf of millions of Australians who wanted the detail. It just wasn’t forthcoming and the Prime Minister can explain why that is.
We said that the question put to the Australian people should have been on recognition and drop the Voice because people supported recognition, but not the Voice. The Prime Minister didn’t do that.
He’s taken our country down a divisive path and he has very significant questions to answer and we’re setting up a process with Jacinta and with Kerrynne, as I announced on Saturday night, and that’s an important process for us because we’ve got to stop the rorts and rip offs, we’ve got to make sure that people are getting the money in the communities who are most in need and that’s really what we’re concentrating on.
Will you still hold a second Referendum if you’re elected?
Look, all of our policy, obviously as I said on Saturday night, is going to be reviewed in the process that Kerrynne and Jacinta will lead now. I think that’s important, but I think it’s clear that the Australian public is probably over the Referendum process for some time.
You say we need to stop the rorts and the Coalition’s called for an audit of the billions of dollars spent trying to close the gap. Will you take some accountability for the failed programs your former Coalition Government implemented during its almost decade?
Look, I can respect people who have voted ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I’ve been very clear about that right through the course of the campaign. There is fault here on every side. Everybody can take responsibility, but over decades, governments of both persuasions have spent record amounts of money each year.
When you get into a community like Alice Springs – I don’t know when the last time was that you were in Alice Springs – but let me tell you, there are not billions of dollars being spent on people in town camps or who are living in drains at the moment. So there’s something going wrong between where the cheque is written in Canberra and where the cents start to drip out in Alice Springs.
Now, if you tell me that there’s ‘nothing wrong’, there’s ‘nothing to see here’, the Prime Minister says he doesn’t believe in a Royal Commission, doesn’t believe in an audit, then you know, we’ll continue to repeat the same mistakes of the past. If people are willing to grow up and listen and act and show leadership instead of weakness – which is where the Prime Minister’s been – we can start to make some change.
So, if the Prime Minister stands up, instead of being dictated to by activists and people who are out of touch in corporate boards around the country, and start listening and acting, then we can make a change; but if you pretend that sexual assaults on children is not a reality, if you pretend that domestic violence is not taking place, if you pretend that the billions of dollars are being spent adequately, then I promise you, you’ll condemn yourself to the same mistakes of the last decades. I don’t intend to do that.
I want to see practical outcomes for Indigenous Australians, and it requires strong leadership, and so far the Prime Minister hasn’t shown that leadership. If he does, we will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him to get better outcomes in Indigenous communities.
Mr Dutton, do you think this result gets you any closer to actually winning the next election?
I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in what is best for our country.
What is best for our country is that the Voice didn’t get up, because it would have changed our country for the worse. My responsibility is to stand up and speak on behalf of millions of Australians. I’ve done that, and my position to vote ‘no’ is in accord with 60 per cent of the population.
Now, if you want to say that those people are out of touch, then I just don’t believe it because the Australian public has a very strong desire to help Indigenous people. But these apologists for the bad practices that are taking place, these people who want to live in the past and not look to the future to provide support and hope for those young kids, don’t have any place in this debate.
So let’s be very clear about it; we want to make sure that we can help Indigenous Australians, but the Prime Minister just cannot get across the detail, can’t provide the leadership, and that’s why he’s put our country in a position of division now, and that is something he needs to answer for.
Thank you very much.