Subjects: The barbaric attacks on Israel; repatriation flights out of Israel; the Prime Minister’s divisive Voice, Treaty, Truth proposal; Labor’s cost of living crisis.
Let’s go live to the Opposition Leader Peter Dutton now. Peter, good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning. So we’ll start with Israel and the repercussions here. ASIO has intervened overnight, warning of potential for opportunistic violence in Australia. Now, the terror threat has not been raised, but it’s on alert. So, you know all about this, when ASIO dives in, how serious is it?
It’s certainly very serious Pete, and the scenes that we saw that have been beamed around the world of people protesting at Sydney Opera House in a pro-Hamas gathering, people saying that they celebrated the death, the slaughter of young people – 260 young people driven into the desert and machine gunned to death – people, as Tony Blinken said, have been burnt in their cars, babies decapitated, soldiers decapitated; for people to be celebrating that is quite disturbing, and would that inspire others to take actions, physical harm actions? Potentially – and that’s what no doubt ASIO, and the AFP and the state police forces are working on at the moment. But it’s particularly disturbing, it’s grotesque that somebody would support those acts of a terrorist organisation – a listed terrorist organisation in our country and many other parts of the world – and I think the authorities are right to be concerned about that.
Mike Burgess also is calling on all parties to refrain from stoking division. Now, claims have been made by some of your political opponents, as you just heard from Trudy there, that you are inflaming community tensions when it comes to the language that you’ve used here. Do you accept any of that?
Not at all. I’ve spoken to Mike Burgess privately yesterday. He told me the statement was going out and that the threat level wasn’t going to be increased and explained why that was the case, and expressed his concerns about the situation of the protesters, etc.. otherwise. I’m sure if Mr Burgess had a message to deliver to me, he’d delivered privately.
I mean you can run with, you know, the chatter, the background that the Prime Minister’s Office is doing at the moment, or you can draw the logical conclusion is that Mr Burgess was talking about people who are suggesting that ‘Jews should be gassed’ or ‘F Israel’ or ‘F the Jews’ – that I suspect is the language that he’s talking about.
Look, part of the problem that we’ve got in our country is just the weakness of the Prime Minister’s approach to this. I mean people in Jewish communities around the country are scared at the moment, and they’re scared because they’re being targeted not because of something they’ve done, or haven’t done, but simply because of their beliefs – the fact that they’re Jewish. I just find that an abomination.
When I said that people who were shouting, ‘Jews should be gassed’, if they’re on a visa, they should have their visa cancelled – there’s nothing controversial in that statement – and I would be quite bewildered and amazed if the Prime Minister wasn’t of the same view.
But this Prime Minister is not across the detail. When he makes decisions, they’re either too late or the wrong decision. We’ve seen it in relation to the Voice and many other issues at the moment, and I think the Prime Minister’s judgement on this, as many in the Jewish community have pointed out, has been flat footed right from the start. His response was inadequate, and particularly when you compare him to somebody like President Biden or other world leaders. I think the government’s response, initially, to this dreadful circumstance, to this act as barbaric terrorism, was woefully inadequate.
Just on these repatriation flights that are going to begin tomorrow, Israeli time, Peter. There are those – I just spoke to someone who is trying to get on board a flight, but they don’t have details on it, they can’t get any information on it – no doubt due to the security environment in Israel at the moment. I mean is that part and parcel of how things work? I mean is that good enough or is that just how things work?
Well Pete, I presume the government’s going to provide some more detail – they’ve been talking about this for a couple of days – so I hope the Prime Minister can release the detail this morning because families will be anxious, particularly if they’ve got children or grandchildren who are keen to get out and back to Australia. But we’re talking about Australian citizens and when you look at the response that Scott Morrison had when he was Prime Minister to evacuate people over the course of COVID, where they couldn’t get commercial flights, DFAT did their work, there was advice available and people were repatriated quickly.
We support the government in any efforts they’re making to bring those Australians home, but it does need to be done in a timely way. People need to be informed of all the information, the hotline from DFAT needs to be widely publicised and the information available freely to loved ones back here who are really, understandably, anxious about people being stranded at the moment.
Okay, just finally here; it’s the final day of campaigning for the Voice today, Pete. I mean people’s focus has well and truly been on Israel this week. But regardless, 24 hours to go before most Australians hit the polls tomorrow. Give us an idea of where your head’s out this morning with how you think your campaign’s gone.
Well Pete, we’ve conducted the campaign in a respectful way. I asked the Prime Minister 15 questions in January of this year – still no response to that letter. There are millions of Australians who will be voting against it, will be voting ‘no’ tomorrow, including four or five out of 10 Labor voters because they just don’t have the detail and they don’t trust the Prime Minister to be across the detail. The detail has been deliberately withheld and how can you vote for something that’s not properly explained? The design of the Voice starts on Monday. Why didn’t it start six months ago so that people can be properly informed?
I think it’s without precedent we haven’t had a constitutional convention. In the end, this thing is permanent, it’s divisive, and it hasn’t been properly explained to Australians and it’s not going to provide the practical outcomes that we want to see for all Indigenous Australians.
Just finally, the leading Yes campaigner, Noel Pearson – some of these comments have been picked up in the AFR this morning: he feels that, yes, he’s headed for defeat, but he says Australia is, quote: “a hard country now” and nothing seems to persuade white Australians that the Constitution does not “entirely belong to them”. What do you make of comments like that?
Well, I just reject it and I think a lot of those comments along the way, the comments of Ray Martin and other people who’ve talked about people being hard-hearted or racist. As I say, you’re talking about now four or five out of 10 Labor voters who are voting ‘no’. So I think it’s counter-productive, and I think to be honest, they’ve driven people to a decision to vote ‘no’ based on that sort of lecturing and hectoring and the pious announcements and words of some of the elites in this country. It doesn’t wash and it doesn’t persuade people.
Australians had their hearts won at the start when the announcement was made that there was going to be something to help Indigenous Australians. Sixty five per cent of people supported that. Now, the Prime Minister has turned that into something like 35 or 45 per cent – we’ll wait to see what happens on the weekend – but it’s obvious that millions of Australians haven’t been convinced by the words of Noel Pearson or others. The Prime Minister, Linda Burney and others have failed to carry people’s minds. They’ve won the hearts, they’ve lost the minds because they’ve kept the detail from Australians who are curious. They want to know how it can help. But the way in which these broad words would be interpreted by the High Court make it a very dangerous proposition. You’re talking about insertion of a new chapter into the Constitution, which gives it equivalence with the High Court. It would be a very, very significant change. The most significant proposed since our nation’s rulebook was designed at the time of Federation and that’s why the government finds itself in the position it is now.
Families are struggling to pay their power bills with the policies of this government, and there’s a lot of pressure on families and small businesses right around the country. I think the Prime Minister’s got to get back to those priorities. He’s been obsessed with the Voice for the last 16 or 17 months, and I think he’s lost the faith of a lot of Australians.
Okay. Peter Dutton, the Opposition Leader. Appreciate your time as always. Thank you so much for joining us.