Subjects: The Prime Minister’s divisive Voice, Treaty, Truth proposal; the barbaric attacks on Israel and the ramifications around Australia.
Back to today’s top story now, where Australia will decide on the Voice to Parliament.
Here to discuss is Opposition Leader Peter Dutton. Good morning to you Opposition Leader. Thanks so much for being with us.
The Yes camp has spent months accusing you of spreading fear and division. That allegation has also been levelled at you by one of your own, former Liberal Ken Wyatt, who called you positively ‘Trumpian’. How do you respond to that? Are you offended?
Monique, I just think you need to have a look at the facts. There are now four, maybe five out of 10 Labor voters who are voting ‘no’. I don’t think they’ve been too influenced by what the Liberal Party’s had to say.
I’ve always said we should conduct this campaign and the discussion in a respectful way. I can respect the fact that people are voting ‘yes’ or ‘no’, I’ve advocated ‘no’ because I just don’t think we’ve got the detail, and if you don’t understand it, don’t vote for it. It’s a very significant change that’s proposed to our Constitution, and if I thought it was going to provide the practical outcomes in Indigenous communities, then it would be a different story.
But I just think it’s going to be another layer of bureaucracy. It’s not designed until after the Voice vote takes place today, so it’s a six month design process that starts next Monday –which is just crazy. We should have had the design undertaken so that Australians could see what it was that was being proposed and could ask questions, but the Prime Minister’s just refused to answer any reasonable questions.
Just on your slogan there that you just mentioned, Mr Dutton, you talked about ‘if you don’t understand it, vote ‘no”. There’s been a pushback from the other side saying that that’s not what we want Australia to be, we want people to actually do some reading and learn and to understand.
Well, at the first poll, which obviously the government relied a lot on – and you know there were a number of polls at the time that showed about 65 per cent of Australians instinctively supported the Voice – but as time has gone on, the detail hasn’t been provided, people haven’t been convinced of the model, and so now the numbers – I don’t know, 45, 35 per cent depending on where you are in the country – so it’s fallen dramatically and it’s fallen because people have asked for the detail, they have asked reasonable questions.
I wrote to the Prime Minister in January of this year with 15 reasonable questions, he’s never replied to that letter. He’s never answered the queries that millions of Australians have, and that’s why I think whilst instinctively you want to help Indigenous Australians, you want to make sure that if you’re going to put a new chapter in the Constitution that is permanent, that lasts there for ever, no law that the Parliament can pass can outmanoeuvre the words in the Constitution, you can’t change the Constitution by an Act of Parliament, and that’s why it’s incredibly important to get it right.
It’s also why I think we’ve been a stable democracy and a stable society, the best country in the world since the founding document was created at the time of Federation. Our nation’s rulebook, the Constitution, doesn’t change lightly. There have been 44 questions put to the Australian people and only eight of those have been successful. So, people are hesitant to change the rule book because they know that it’s really the underpinning of the great country that we are.
Mr Dutton if this fails, what does Australia look like moving forward? Where to?
Well look, I think unfortunately the Prime Minister has divided the country with this process. He was told all year not to go down this path. If he was going to have a Referendum, do it on recognition because 70, 80, 90 per cent of Australians would support recognition being enshrined in the Constitution, but he didn’t do that, and because the Voice is in there, people now it seems, in record numbers are going to vote against it – as I say, including half of the Labor voters – that’s quite remarkable.
So, we’ve got to make sure that we do everything we can to heal our country, to bring people back together. There are a lot of families who are hurting at the moment who can’t afford to pay their grocery bills, their insurance premiums have gone up, they know that when they go to the supermarket, they’re getting less for every hundred dollars that they spend. It’s tough and the government has to start concentrating on those cost of living pressures because the Prime Minister’s been completely obsessed with the Voice over the last 16, 17 months.
But we also need to make sure that we can do practical things in Indigenous communities, particularly in the Northern Territory, where it’s most acute in regional and remote areas.
Alright. Mr Dutton, turning to other issues now, and the world is anxiously watching the Gaza crisis unfold. We’ve seen pro-Palestine protests pop up across the country with scenes in Sydney causing global outrage. Do you believe that enough is being done here at home to ensure that tensions are being managed?
Well, I hope that we never see a repeat of what we saw at the Opera House the other night. Premier Minns, to his credit, has apologised that the rally shouldn’t have taken place. I think the Prime Minister should have reached out to those leaders that he met with to discuss the Voice, to really put pressure on them and to plead with them not to hold those rallies. I just don’t think our country should be projected in that light.
On Wednesday night I was in Dover Heights in Sydney – there were 10,000 people – predominantly from the Jewish community, but other supporters, and they were there in a show of peace and solidarity.
But the Hamas terrorist attacks that we’ve seen: the beheading of babies, the blowing up of Israelis in their homes, people that were driven from a music concert – you’ve been speaking to young people this morning, people of that age who were just attending a music concert driven out into the desert and slaughtered.
I mean, chants at the Sydney Opera House of ‘gas the Jews’ – that has no place in our country. We’re a wonderful country, we’ve got people from all over the world here, which makes us the incredible society that we are, and we should not abandon that. We should never, ever give it up, and we should stand in solidarity with the Jewish community in what is a very, very difficult time.
Is there a place in this country Mr Dutton for peaceful pro-Palestinian rallies?
Of course there’s a place for a peaceful protest, but what we’re dealing with at the moment is the Hamas attacks. Hamas is equivalent to ISIL. We know what ISIL does to women: the rape, the torture, the subjugation. That is the reality of their existence. They are an evil organisation. The time now is to condemn those attacks, not to see an Imam or somebody else in the community standing up saying that they were celebrating that loss of life, that act of terrorism.
The protests at the moment should be against Hamas and the work that they’re doing. That doesn’t say that you’re anti-Muslim or that you’re anti-Palestinian. Not at all. We treat everybody equally and don’t tolerate discrimination against anyone in our country. But what we’ve seen now is akin to what we saw in 9/11, what we’ve seen in Paris and elsewhere, where people have been targeted.
A lot of Australians are on edge at the moment of Jewish faith because it’s not anything they’ve done, it’s just because of who they are and because of their ancestry and because of their religious beliefs. You’ve got young Jewish kids being told not to wear their school uniforms in public, which is just an abomination in our society.
So if there are protests at the moment, they should be centred around providing support and reaching out to those people who are really feeling it. Psychologically that’s a massive impact – negative impact on them.
Yes, alright. Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, we really appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.
Thanks Monique. Thank you.