Subjects: Labor’s sweetheart airline deal that will keep airfare prices higher; Recognition of Indigenous Australians in the Constitution; the Prime Minister’s divisive Voice, Treaty, Truth proposal; Liberal Party.
Joining me though, is the Opposition Leader, Peter Dutton.
Peter Dutton, thank you so much for your time.
Why do you think the Government banned those extra flights from Qatar?
Well, we’re trying to get to the bottom of that right now, Andrew. There’s obviously a very close relationship between Mr Joyce and Mr Albanese. Catherine King in Question Time today had a vivid recollection of speaking to parties in relation to her decision to ban Qatar, but she wasn’t sure, she couldn’t recall, whether she’d spoken to Mr Joyce or not. So, I think as each day goes by, it gives rise to more questions about what has happened here and whether due process has been followed.
But what do you think they’re trying to cover up here? I mean, simple answers would solve all this and make it all go away. What is the issue here for them?
Well, I think they’re conscious of the relationship. I think the Prime Minister has been happy to walk the red carpet with Alan Joyce at every top-end-of-town event over the course of the last couple of years, but now, given the circumstances around Mr Joyce, it seems that they want to walk away from the relationship.
Obviously, there’s a very close relationship in relation to the campaign on the Voice. The Prime Minister no doubt has encouraged Mr Joyce very carefully in the months leading up to the announcement around the Referendum, for Qantas to be actively involved. They are. There’s that aspect as well, which, you know, I think it’s right to ask questions about the nature of that relationship.
So, I just think if the Prime Minister was upfront and honest, he could clear up these matters, but he had to come back into the Parliament yesterday to clarify that he’d misled the Parliament and that he had to add additional information because what he said in Question Time was just blatantly wrong.
It’s like a scene from Utopia, I’ve got to say.
To the Voice: you’ve said that if the Voice is defeated at the Referendum in October, that you – if you become Prime Minister – are going to hold a second Referendum to change the Constitution, to say Aborigines were here first, but there won’t be a Voice in that particular amendment. But why would you put the country through all that again, particularly when Marcia Langton today was suggesting that Aboriginal activists are going to campaign against your plan?
Here she is:
If the polls are right and the Voice isn’t successful, would you be interested in working with a future Coalition Government on a Referendum for constitutional recognition, as Peter Dutton has promised?
Not in the least. It is not what we asked for. So, on those grounds, no, I’m not interested, and I know that over 80 per cent of Indigenous Australians would not be interested, and we would communicate that very clearly to the Australian people should he ever be elected.
I mean, Marcia Langton’s contempt for the Liberals came through. So much for her being a healer, but I guess millions of Australians would now be begging you, Peter Dutton: ‘please don’t do this’. Just can’t you wait at least for, I don’t know, ten years or five years before putting us through a second Referendum on race?
Well Andrew, I mean, just to be clear here, what I said on the weekend, my first preference is that this Referendum doesn’t go ahead at all because it’s clear the Prime Minister is dividing the country – one in three Labor voters now aren’t voting for the Voice.
My sense of having spoken to many Australians and listened to the legal experts, and we’ve considered what the Government’s proposing. But first, I think most Australians want to see a better outcome for Indigenous Australians – particularly in places like Alice Springs, and want to see kids go to school, want to see crime rates reduced, want to see job outcomes, people work, not be on welfare, etc.
Secondly, I do think there’s overwhelming support for constitutional recognition. It’s been the policy of the Liberal Party back to John Howard’s days and under each of my predecessors. It’s a policy that we took to the last election as well. So, in that sense, there’s nothing remarkable in what I said on the weekend, but I certainly believe – and the polls reflect this at the moment – that the Australian public does not want the Prime Minister’s Voice proposal, because they don’t want it in the Constitution, there are various other reasons that you’ve spoken about and many people of have detailed on your programme.
So, my argument to the Prime Minister is: how do you knowingly go to a Referendum on the 14th of October with a question around the Voice that you know will divide the nation? I mean, how as the leader of our country, can you in good conscience go ahead with this proposal…
Oh no, I’m totally with you there. No I’m totally with you there.
…knowing it’s a disaster, right? So
But Peter Dutton, I’m sure…
Sorry Andrew, I’ll just finish on this quick point. I mean, my preference is that it doesn’t go ahead, given that it’s going to divide the country. Second, if he still wants to go ahead on October 14, change the question, just to constitutional recognition.
Now, in terms of Marcia Langton and her views, she’s one individual. She’s an activist and a very strong supporter of the Labor Party, I accept that. And that’s her right. She’s going to vote ‘yes’, she’s advocating it, she likes the power of the Voice. That’s all an issue for her, but there are many other Australians of Indigenous background, non-Indigenous background, who think that – as we do as a Party – that constitutional recognition is the right thing to do. The practical things that you could do for communities involve money being spent on the ground, not in bureaucracy. Stop the ATSIC-type behaviour that we would see in a Voice, but I’m not proposing to go to a second Referendum with a Voice or any such proposal. I think the Prime Minister’s splitting the country in two and I think it’s a shameful act, to be honest.
Yeah. It’s left us more divided than united, I’ll tell you that much…
…but I have to say, I bet you in the next six months, you kept asking people, ‘do you want me to go with a second Referendum just on recognition in the first three years of a Liberal government?’, I bet you most people say ‘no, save the money or spend it on Aboriginal people. Don’t put us through this again’. That is my view, I bet you. Let’s see what you what the feedback is.
Peter Dutton, you’ve come from so far behind. You know, a year ago the Liberals were 12, 10 points behind Labor in the polls – that has almost halved. Albanese’s massive approval ratings, now they’re net negative. The Voice back then, supported by two thirds of voters, now opposed in polls. You must have thought at times last year that you were going nowhere but down. What was the lowest moment before things started looking bright again?
Andrew, look to be honest, when we lost in 2007, that was a really low moment for me and we obviously stayed in Opposition until 2013. We had Brendan Nelson, then went to Malcolm Turnbull, and Tony Abbott, and Turnbull, etc. You know, they were pretty tumultuous times and I never wanted to live through that again. So, when I came into the leadership, I was determined to make sure that we could unite the Party, that we could bring people together, but I think I was also better prepared having gone through it in ’07, for the experience, the debilitating experience of Opposition.
I’d been negotiating the AUKUS deal with the US and the UK, doing the Defence portfolio, Home Affairs before that, and everything stops suddenly on the Saturday night when you lose the election. So, it is a jolt, but it just makes me more determined to make sure that we’re successful at the next election.
I believe the Australian public want a leader who has consistency and strength of character, can make the tough decisions for our country’s best interests. Maybe they thought at one point that’s what the Prime Minister promised, but clearly now is not delivering. I just think a consistency and decency in what you believe, and it may not always be popular, but I think if you stick to the facts and you stick to what you believe in, what you’re willing to fight for, that people will believe in you and follow you.
This is a marathon that we’re in at the moment, obviously. There’s a long way to go until the next election. I believe absolutely that we can win it, and that will be because we stand up for what we believe in as Liberals. I think we’d lost a little bit of that in recent history, and if we do that, we can bring people with us. I think people are starting to believe again, and that’s the approach that I’ve taken.
Look, that last bit is exactly, I think, hitting the button. I think a lot of people think the Liberals – and not just federally – had lost the courage to fight for their beliefs, were going along with the cultural flow. Yeah, it took a little time, but I think what you’re demonstrating is if you do argue for a position, hey, you might actually win and get some respect, and let’s see – I think you’re right, the next election is now up in the air. Peter Dutton, thank you so much indeed for your time. Really appreciate it.
My pleasure. Thanks, Andrew. Thank you.