Subjects: AEC referendum ballot requirements; the Prime Minister’s divisive Voice, Treaty, Truth proposal; nuclear power; Labor’s energy policy shambles; the Prime Minister’s broken promise on a $275 cut to your power bills; the Government’s failures on cost of living.
Well, we played you a little earlier – and you’ve heard it a number of times on this network this morning – what has been said by the AEC Commissioner, Tom Rogers with Tom Connell on Sky News last night:
Are you accepting anything inside the box? A tick? A cross? A ‘Yes’? A number ‘1’? How broad will you, sort of, allow this, given the intention of people is going to be pretty clear, you would think?
Tom, it’s a great question, and just for people listening, please, make sure you write on that box, ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in English. Now, there are some savings provisions, but I need to be very clear with people: when we look at that, it is likely that a tick will be accepted as a formal vote of ‘yes’, but a cross will not be accepted as a formal vote.
Well, I’m stumped, and the answer I got from the media and digital engagement person this morning makes me even more confused: ‘The AEC does not have any discretion to simply ignore savings provisions. There are longstanding, legislative requirements. The AEC has accepted legal advice regarding the application of savings provisions to ticks and crosses since 1988 remains the same. This is not new. The issue with a cross is that on many forms people in Australia use in daily life and in some other languages, it represents a checkmark indicating ‘yes’. It therefore leaves it open to interpretation or challenge by a scrutineer. A tick would also be open to interpretation and may not count depending on just how clear the mark is on the ballot paper. The same issues exist for the letter ‘y’ or ‘n’. If the handwriting makes it unclear, it could risk an informal vote. This is why the Commissioner, and the AEC are very clear – and with regular communication – that people need to write the full word ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in English’.
Well, if in fact, there’s some confusion because – you wouldn’t believe it, I filled in a form yesterday, a form about naming a racehorse, and it said use a tick or a cross. Here’s another thing; on my the old-fashioned golf scorecard – some people used to put a little circle, other people put a little cross or a little tick. I mean, it just depends on how you feel at the time.
So, if they’re to say to me that, ‘oh look a tick means ‘yes’ all the time and a cross can mean anything’. I mean, I’ve never heard so much bullshit in all my life. Pardon the expression. That’s just what it is. It’s balderdash – to use a less coarse expression. But to simply say, I know there are savings provisions, but simply tell me if you don’t write ‘yes’ or ‘no’, you’re informal – bugger the saving provisions.
The Federal Opposition Leader is Peter Dutton. You’ve obviously heard all about this, this morning, have you?
Good morning, Ray.
Yes, I have. I’m going to write to the AEC Commissioner today with Michaelia Cash, our Shadow Attorney-General, because I think it’s completely outrageous to be honest. I mean, if a tick counts for ‘yes’, then a cross should count for ‘no’ – it’s as clear as that. Otherwise, it gives a very, very strong advantage to the ‘yes’ case.
Look, I just think Australians want a fair vote, they want to be informed, they want to have the detail before them. But the Prime Minister right from the start has, I think, tried to rig this thing in not providing the detail, just getting it through on the vibe, the tax deductibility status was only available for the ‘yes’ case and they weren’t going to give tax deductibility status for those people that wanted to make a donation to the ‘no’ case. We pushed hard and eventually got them to change their position, but at every turn, it just seems to me that they’re taking the opportunity to skew this in favour of the ‘yes’ vote when Australians just want a fair election, not a dodgy one.
If legislation is required to clarify this, then we’ve got plenty of time. Parliament’s back the week after next and we would support a sensible bill to clarify it, that the Prime Minister can draft up, but Ray, you can’t have a situation where they’re trying to provide favour to one side in a democratic election.
Well, the other thing is about these saving provisions, after being at pains to point out, ‘look, the only thing we want is ‘yes’ or ‘no”, but then all of a sudden, ‘look, if someone puts ‘Y’ or ‘N’, if the handwriting makes it clear, well, they’d be voting ‘yes’ or ‘no”. I mean, it’s either Arthur or Martha, it can’t be both – although in the modern world it possibly could be – but I mean, the simple fact of the matter is that it’s either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. End of section. Thank you, linesman. Thank you, ball boys. If you don’t worry about the tick or the cross, well then you don’t have the debate; it’s just ‘yes’ or ‘no’, anything other than ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is informal. Surely that’s an acceptable way to deal with the matter? Not the higgledy-piggledy thing we got from the Commissioner last night with Tom Connell.
Well, I agree with that. I just think it just stinks to be honest. I think the AEC Commissioner here really needs to step up and exert his independence and give a sensible interpretation – one that doesn’t favour the ‘yes’ case or the ‘no’ case. I respect that people will vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in this and that’s their entitlement. But I don’t think we should have a process that’s rigged and that’s what the Prime Minister’s tried to orchestrate from day one.
Yeah, look, I don’t know if you heard this one, but my colleague Luke Grant had an extended interview with an ANU Professor Ramesh Thakur, and he’s a former Deputy Secretary of the United Nations. He made some very, very interesting points. It was such a good interview, I replayed parts of it on my programme earlier this week. But I just want you to understand, and my listeners to understand, that he’s talking about no matter what happens here, what happens in relation to the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote; there’ll be no winners. Have a listen:
Firstly, most of the debate is as if Australian society was still essentially bicultural and biracial, when the reality is it’s multicultural, multiracial, and we haven’t heard that much from the immigrant community.
Let’s remember the Australians of Asian ancestry make up – according to the last census –17.4 per cent of the Australian population compared to 3.2 per cent who are Indigenous Australians. So that’s one comment.
The second one is the unfortunate result – and it’s becoming clear already – is that on the day after the Referendum, between one third to one half of Australians are going to have their hearts broken and will have formed the belief that the majority side is racist. That’s regardless of what the outcome is. So, most of the people who support the ‘yes’ side believe this will entrenched racial equality in the Constitution and be an atonement for past sins. Most of the people who oppose it, do so, not because they’re racist, but because they are opposed to entrenching inequality of citizenship in the Constitution.
So whichever side loses will feel the other side has been racist, and that is an unfortunate position. It is the opposite of the claim that this is the path to national unification and reconciliation – and that, I think, is a very unfortunate outcome that we are headed to. You’re right, on polls so far, that the ‘no’ case is firming and firming quite significantly. We’ll see how it goes from this point on, but that’s been the trend line for the past few months.
I thought a very interesting observation by the Professor in relation to ‘there’ll be no winners out of this’, and that’s how I feel as well: there’ll be no winners – ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – just no winners.
Well, I think his comments there are indisputable, Ray. I think he’s just speaking common sense. The only thing that I’d add to that is that if you end up with a ‘yes’ vote, we then move into a process of the Treaty – which the Prime Minister sometimes acknowledges that there will be a Treaty and then other times says he doesn’t know what people are talking about. But there is a Treaty when he says that he’ll commit to the Uluru Statement in full. Bear this in mind, the Treaty process is estimated to last – and negotiations around the Treaty – for between 20 and 30 years. Just contemplate that. So, it’ll be billions of dollars, the country will be divided over that period of time because the lawyers will win and they’ll be extending it and it’s inconceivable that this debate can go on tearing the country apart over that period of time.
It’s clear to a lot of people that Anthony Albanese wants his Redfern-Keating moment or his Apology-Rudd moment, wants to be one of the great champions of Labor movement. But his responsibility, first and foremost, is to our national interest, and dividing the country right down the middle – as the Professor rightly points out – in either scenario, is not a sign of leadership from the PM.
He has the ability and still the time to turn this into a unifying moment, which would be a question modified and put in the way that Australians, I think, would support to recognise Indigenous people in the Constitution. If you do that, that brings the country together and the Voice has been poorly sold, it’s poorly understood, it’s divisive, it’s permanent and it changes the way our system of government operates permanently.
So, a lot of Australians are understandably really scratching their heads, but the PM is going headstrong into this, knowing that if it fails, in his words; ‘it sets back reconciliation’ and it divides the country. I just don’t understand how in good conscience the Prime Minister of the country could knowingly and wantingly split his country down the middle, instead of bringing people together.
I got an email this morning that – I’m glad I got today because I’d share it with you – and it comes from a very distinguished Indigenous leader and he’s from Hervey Bay. He’s a retired Queensland Government senior public servant, a Regional Director of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships – 38 years and all three tiers of government in Queensland, the Northern Territory, WA, predominantly in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs.
You’ve alluded to a number of things, Ray. We have in every state and territory existing an Indigenous Agency. Most government departments have Indigenous units; education, health, police, employment training agencies to name a few. All these Indigenous agencies have a policy unit. Under the Native Title Act where the High Court of Australia has deemed that the native title claim exists, we have established a body called the Prescribed Body Corporate – PBC, usually elders or selected members of landholders who are elected to represent the traditional landowners in negotiation with the Government and corporate sector over rights, jobs, royalties that may be afforded to that particular native title group.
You have spoken about the various Indigenous organisations; the Coalition of Peak, the NIAA, and you talk about the budget for the NIAA being around the $4 billion mark. I’ve heard the Voice Referendum will cost about $360 to $500 million. That’s not the end of the voting. Indigenous people will then have to vote to elect the 26 voice representatives – I think that’s the number that they write – then the 26 representatives will require resources to help develop terms of reference; lawyers for the Voice, the government lawyers consulting with many Indigenous community groups, traditional landowners, PBCs across Australia.
If it is 26 voice reps to Government Australia, hundreds of Indigenous communities, regional towns and cities will require staff, officers and lots of resources. Who will the Voice meet with? The PM? Cabinet? COAG? Just the Minister for Indigenous Affairs? Heads of departments? Lots of details yet to be known. Then many reports undertaken; Royal Commission on Deaths in Custody, WA Gordon Report into Child Abuse, Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage –yielding nothing. Anyway Ray, my thoughts – I’ll be voting no because as a learned professor on your show said, ‘the Referendum will divide this wonderful country’. It’s all about the ego of the Prime Minister and Minister for Indigenous Affairs.
Now, this comes from someone with 38 years as a senior Aboriginal public servant, now retired, and it just makes so much common sense from this listener in Hervey Bay – and I’ve checked his credentials, he’s exactly who he says he is. For all those layers that we currently have, he makes the point. He makes the point: nothing has been yielded, nothing’s been achieved, and that’s what many Indigenous people tell me that contact me via this programme.
Well, again, I think they’re very wise words, Ray, and I think people should heed them. Just consider here, if you wind the clock back a few months, the Prime Minister knew that the words proposed were too broad. He went with the Attorney-General in to meet the Referendum Working Group. They told the Referendum Working Group that the words were too broad, that they’d be interpreted by the High Court. The Referendum Working Group showed them the door. The Prime Minister at that stage didn’t say, ‘well, hang on, I’m running the show and I’m worried that the broad words give rise to all sorts of unintended consequences, it doesn’t limit the Voice just to Indigenous affairs, it doesn’t limit it in any way – as your listeners just pointed out in that email – and we’re going to limit the words and make them tighter so that it won’t be open to so much legal challenge’. He didn’t do that. He just continued on with the broader form of words, which have to be interpreted by the High Court to say, if you’re inserting a new chapter into the Constitution – essentially giving level pegging with the High Court – if the Voice provides advice, then you will have to have a very good reason as to why you’re rejecting that advice. The High Court won’t say, ‘oh, well, you just set the Voice up so that it could give, you know, general advice on different matters as it saw fit, but just ignore it. It won’t count for anything’. That’s not how the courts will interpret it.
As, you know, the person with great experience, as you just read, he’s dead right. The Voice will have to have policy experts across taxation, across education, across health, across defence, because the Voice will have to be properly informed about the judgement that they’re making and the advice that they provide.
It’ll grind things to a halt, in terms of all of the interaction with Cabinet. The Cabinet process will mean that in the documents that the Cabinet Ministers are considering on a particular issue, there will have to be an annex to the document that talks about the Voice’s opinion, that will have to be contemplated, part of the discussion before the Government arrives at a decision. Now, the Prime Minister denies all of that, but I just don’t think he’s being truthful, and that will be the reality of the Voice if it’s passed.
We move on to coal-fired power stations. All of a sudden, the Andrews Government in Victoria says, ‘whoops, we can’t close that one down because we don’t have enough power’. We’ve got Indigenous groups off the south coast of Victoria telling – you know how you gave that name to Andrew Leigh; ‘the weird cat’.
Yes. Well, I call Chris Bowen ‘Casanova’, as you probably know, because everything he absolutely touches, he absolutely ***** and always has. So, he’s now saying ‘no, nuclear is way too expensive, we’ve got to go down the renewable path’. Today the news came through ‘Eraring set to close in 2025’. Chris Minns – a Labor Premier in the state of New South Wales, along with, of course the Loy Yang plant for AGL in Victoria – they’re extending the life because we don’t have the renewables.
Does Casanova Bowen live in the real world or he’s still under a cabbage leaf like my mother told me I came from originally? Where is he?
Ray, look, the trouble is, I mean, it is funny on the one hand, but unbelievably serious on the other, because the Government here – look, honestly – I think we’re on a path to ruin in terms of energy policy in this country, and Chris Bowen is at the centre of that. The Prime Minister promised people would have a reduction in their electricity prices of $275 a year. It’s going up by $500 a year, but it’s only just started. If you think your electricity bill is high under Labor now, wait for another two, three, five years, because what they’re proposing with the renewables-only policy is that 28,000 kilometres of new poles and wires will go through prime farming land, through national parks to try and distribute that energy, that power from the solar panels and the wind turbines into the system.
The beauty of a small modular reactor is that when the coal-fired power station comes to an end of life, you can put the small modular reactors in, you use the existing distribution network – so the existing poles and wires – so you haven’t got that $100 billion worth of expense which people are going to pay for through their bills under Chris Bowen’s plan, and there’s a big chance now, as people are pointing out, that the lights go out at some point, which is why Chris Minns has made the decision he has, because if that plant closes, the lights will go out, there will be a disruption. The power will go off to the local IGA and the butcher shop, and cold rooms won’t work, the rest of it. It’s madness.
Why won’t the Prime Minister have the conversation about nuclear – which 50 other countries are? It’s zero emissions, it’s cheaper electricity than what the Government’s providing at the moment. He won’t have the discussion, because as we saw in Brisbane last week, you know, the old sort of dinosaurs from the Labor Party won’t look at the new age, zero emissions, small modular reactors. They’re just dead against it because they’re old hippies from a long time ago that don’t like AUKUS, don’t like the submarines.
It’s just absurd, and it really hurts me that people at the moment just are struggling to pay their power bills. The Prime Minister’s obsessed 24/7 with the Voice. All of the economic decisions they’ve made so far, frankly, are destroying our nation’s economy. Japan, Korea now see sovereign risk in investing in Australia. I mean, this is all in 15 months. So, I really think that we have to have a serious conversation about the way that we deliver the cheapest power, get our emissions down and have reliability in the system. But we’ve got this surreal debate, the Prime Minister says, ‘oh wind and solar is free’. Well, if it’s free, why do your power bills continue to go up each quarter?
Just one final thing, that I can’t believe it, Chris Bowen again, and he made this statement last week and I seized upon it, and then there hasn’t been a line written about tariffs on steel and cement.
Now, I’d imagine we get most of our steel and cement from China where they have all these growing number of coal fired power stations fuelled by our coal, and then they buy things off us, we buy things off them, and he spoke about a tariff on steel and cement from all nations, but mostly one of our largest trading partners, China. And I’m thinking they work their backsides off to get, you know, the tariff off wine and all these other things. So, he throws down the gauntlet to China and says, ‘no we’re going to put a tariff on your steel and cement to make it more viable for Australian companies to compete with you’. Does he think there’ll be no reaction from China if he were to do that? Not that I think he’ll do it. But even talking about it?
Well, of course there would be reaction, but I mean why does it need to be done in the first place? Because you’re making it uneconomical for things to be manufactured or built in our country. The cement industry is on the verge of closing in our country because they’re a high emissions industry, and as we’ve discussed before, what happens? I mean, do we pretend that we don’t need cement in our country anymore? What will happen is the powder will be made in Malaysia, for example, it’ll be put onto a ship, it’ll be shipped back here, you’ll end up paying more for cement when you go and build a house or an apartment block, and all in the name of what? I mean, what do we achieve by closing that industry down? We lose Australian jobs, we lose the economic multiplier benefit out of having that industry here in Australia, and that seems to be the price that you pay for Chris Bowen worshipping in this church. I mean, it’s taken on a religious-type zealotry that the Prime Minister practices and Chris Bowen practices, but the trouble is that it’s Australians who are paying the price for it and there’s just no ceiling on it.
There’s no prospect of a $275 reduction in your power bill. It’s only heading one way. They’re talking about over a trillion dollars cost over the course of the next few decades in Australia because of this renewable-only policy. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got 50, 60, 80 per cent renewable, if you want power for 100 per cent of the time, you’ve got the fixed cost of having to firm it up, which is why they’re extending coal now.
I think very clearly, they should be looking at the newest technology, small modular reactors. You can get your emissions down legitimately, you can reduce electricity prices and you can have reliability in the system, and why the PM is ideologically opposed to that and why he’s sacrificing our national interest is something that beggars belief.
We’ll talk next Thursday. Thanks for your time.
Thanks, Ray. See you mate.