Subjects: Indigenous Voice to Parliament; the Prime Minister’s 2GB interview shocker; the Queensland government’s maternity crisis; youth crime.
Every Thursday we speak to the Opposition Leader Peter Dutton. This week he’s in South Australia. Mr Dutton, good morning to you.
Good morning, Ray.
Now, we have to start where I guess we finished yesterday on the programme, and that’s with the train wreck interview conducted by my colleague Ben Fordham on 2GB Breakfast in Sydney with the Prime Minister. Now, I’ve said this morning that prior to the election, Mr Albanese was not big on detail, including the cash rate and many other things. It appears that not much has changed since his elevation to Prime Minister because he’s not big on detail on the Voice, either.
Well, he’s certainly not, and I just think a lot of Australians, I think millions of Australians, frankly, Ray, at the moment are really shaking their head, asking what on earth is the Prime Minister doing? He’s now saying that the Voice is not his idea and it seems that he is trying to distance himself from it.
His office, as you will have seen, has changed the transcript where they’re now saying that he said something that he didn’t say or that he misrepresented the position – I don’t quite understand and I hope he can come out and clarify it today. But I think Australians deserve the information from our Prime Minister and he was looking tricky before yesterday and with a doctored transcript now he looks even more tricky. So, I think when these questions about your integrity and your character start to open up then it’s incumbent upon the Prime Minister to respond as to what has happened here.
This is a situation that he’s losing control of and remember they sent Linda Burney out to try and provide some context. Mark Dreyfus was then sent out to clean up after Linda Burney, but he ended up reading just tweets from Linda Burney on the 730 Report, and then Anthony Albanese came out to clean up after Mark Dreyfus. So, I’m not sure who’s left now to clean up the mess that Anthony Albanese’s created.
The matter to which you refer about the omitted word, and I need your help on this one. Now, the official transcript in the interview conducted by Ben Fordham on 2GB – Ben said, ‘so you got legal advice from the Solicitor General?’ The answer from the Prime Minister that went to air was an emphatic ‘no.’ ‘No. We’ve got advice from a range of High Court judges, former High Court judges that are on the record, such as Justice French and others.’ That was in reference to Ian Callinan being on the other side of the fence. When the official transcript was published and Ben Fordham informed his staff that it’s incorrect, the ‘no’ was missing in relation to the question about the Solicitor-General.
And that’s a very important point because constitutional lawyers are saying that it’s something the Solicitor-General should be looking at in regards to the Constitution. Now, because you’ve been in Parliament, because you’ve been in government – these transcripts that are put out, how does it work? Do you have control as a senior minister on these transcripts or is it something done by the back office or by your media advisors? How does it work?
Well Ray, generally it’s done, obviously, in your media office, and I think in the modern age, there is technology, voice transcribing etc., the voice recognition that they use, that software. But it’s then proofread by somebody in the media team. You know, to be fair to the Prime Minister, he hasn’t got time to be going through reading transcripts. So, I mean, something’s happened here. Somebody has either shown some initiative, some bad initiative in the Prime Minister’s office, or he has instructed them to amend the transcript so that he can sort of whitewash history. Or he misspoke yesterday or misled, either way, as I say, there’s an integrity question here.
You know, we know the PM has got a bit of a glass jaw, but if he’s made a mistake, frankly, he should have picked the phone up to Ben Fordham or to your programme this morning and said, ‘look, it’s just been brought to my attention. It’s a stuff up, it shouldn’t have happened. I’ve counselled the person that did it. I wasn’t aware of it.’ Or, if he’s now saying that there was legal advice but he forgot about the legal advice or thought it not convenient to mention it yesterday, then again, he should throw his hands up and say ‘I made a mistake’.
But I don’t know what game he’s playing at the moment but I think we’re seeing a different side to the Prime Minister – probably a side that Tanya Plibersek and Bill Shorten and others have seen over many years.
Now in relation to his lack of knowledge. You see, I’m just conflicted here because in the interview he kept referring to this report that was initiated by your government and published, I think from July 2021 – the Langton-Calma report. He kept referring to it as if it’s the blueprint for the Voice, because when Ben would ask him a question, you know, do they get paid? How do they work? How many people? He said, ‘well, it’s all there for all to see’ in the Langton-Calma report, but then has said since and during the interview that this won’t necessarily be the blueprint. So, what’s the point of reading it, as I’ve done over the past couple of days? For the benefit of people who missed yesterday, it’s made up of 24 members, two members from each state and territory as well as Torres Strait Islands. There will also be a third member for remote representation for New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland, WA, South Australia, and one member for mainland Torres Strait Islander people.
The point being made this morning by Andrew Bolt that there’d be a far greater overrepresentation in terms of Aboriginal population for the ACT than say the Northern Territory or even New South Wales or even Queensland. Gender balance would be structurally guaranteed and then it goes on to talk about the role they’ll have in advising the government of the day.
Having said all that, by the time we got to the end of the interview it was apparent that – I think, maybe I’ve misread it – if it’s ‘no’ to the referendum, he will then legislate anyway, his own form of whatever it is, whether it’s a convoluted form of this Langton-Calma report or something else. He’ll go through the Lower House because he can’t get beaten there and with help of the Greens he will carry it through the Senate and we will have a Voice whether we like it or not.
Well, that’s exactly right. This is where, if you listen to the Prime Minister, you’d believe that the report, as you say, is sort of the Bible, and refer to the report and that will give you the detail. Linda Burney and Mark Dreyfus make this point as well, repeatedly. It’s not a report that they’ve adopted. If they’re saying that that’s the model that will be implemented if you vote for ‘yes’ in the referendum – well, just say that and adopt it. But it has not been adopted and the other reality is, Ray, it’s a 272 page report from memory. There are options within the report. So, it doesn’t definitively say “this is how it should operate.” It gives the government of the day options to consider. So which option is the Prime Minister talking about? So, he’s being very tricky when he makes reference to this report. You know, if you’re asking for the detail, well, you know, ‘how stupid are you, you haven’t read the 272 pages.’ That’s what he’s saying to Australians. But, as it turns out, he hasn’t adopted that as the model that he would implement.
The second thing that he’s very tricky on is he says there’s two questions. One is this is about recognition of Indigenous Australians in our Constitution – our birth certificate as he refers to it. Then he says there’s a second question about whether you want to adopt a Voice as a way of hearing from Indigenous people into Parliament. The fact is that there are not two questions. Many Australians from John Howard – in terms of my predecessors – from John Howard right through to my position, we support constitutional recognition. That’s fine, and many Australians do. But there are a lot of Australians who don’t support the Voice. So, when he says that there are two questions, there aren’t. He’s trying to conflate the two issues so that you feel pressured into voting for the Voice because you want constitutional recognition – very tricky in that regard.
The third part where I think, you know, it’s really deceptive, you want to say tricky, but it’s deceptive where he says, ‘well, this won’t be legally challenged in the High Court.’ Well, Justice Callinan and others who are distinguished in their legal careers, served on the High Court, point out, quite rightly, that the High Court makes their own decisions. They don’t listen to the Prime Minister or the Opposition Leader of the day, they apply the law. If they believe that the wording put forward by the Prime Minister, adopted at a referendum allows scope for the Voice to stray into areas like defence, like foreign affairs, like border protection, like where money is spent in the economy, or in the budget, then that will be thrust upon the Parliament and the Parliament can’t legislate to overturn a decision of the High Court in its interpretation of the Constitution. The Constitution rides above the Parliament and I just think people need to take a step back and I think the Prime Minister really needs to reconsider his position. He can legislate the Voice now, demonstrate how it works, and then allow people to contemplate whether it’s a good thing or not.
Just in relation to the general view of the Voice and I’ve made the point since I returned from leave – will it in any way stop the abuse of children in remote Indigenous communities? Will it stop the physical violence, the impact on women in Indigenous communities, rural and remote Indigenous communities? This morning there’s been an interview again conducted by Ben Fordham with Matt Paterson, who is the Mayor of Alice Springs. Now, for the benefit of people that may have missed it in other states and territories and yourself:
We’re seeing levels of crime through the roof here. We’ve seen a 13 year old shut down, effectively shut down a supermarket or a shopping centre because they’re wielding a machete. The senseless vandalism that we are going through every single day is just unbelievable and I really appreciate that it’s getting out in national media because we need help and we can’t continue to live like this. People are scared to go to sleep because they’re waking up with intruders in their house every other day. So, it needs to change and it’s a pretty scary world that we’re living in here at the moment.
Peter Dutton, the Mayor and others in Alice Springs are saying they want the troops in. They want the National Guard – or their equivalent of the National Guard in the US – they want them called in. I mean, and we’re worried about this? We’re preoccupying ourselves with the Voice, when in fact, you know, a city like Alice Springs is being held to ransom.
Well Ray, as the Mayor pointed out this morning, the Prime Minister hasn’t been up to Alice Springs and I think that is a real shame because in terms of indigenous disadvantage and the problems within communities, it doesn’t get any more acute than what you’re seeing in Alice Springs at the moment. I mean, we spoke about this on your programme, I was up there a couple of months ago, we called for a royal commission. I wrote to the Prime Minister saying that – and I met with some whistleblowers up there, some social workers etc., these people are broken because they’re worried about the perception of another stolen generation of taking kids out of communities or out of households where they’re being sexually abused and so they put the kids back into those households, which is completely unacceptable. It’s not part of an Indigenous culture to sexually assault a child and that’s exactly what the women and elders on the streets of Alice Springs who I spoke to, Indigenous women were telling me. If the Prime Minister’s not listening to their voice, then, I mean, what is the actual Voice about? Is it some sort of vanity project or he sees political advantage in it in trying to wedge the Coalition?
The Prime Minister’s first priority now is to act in relation to Alice Springs. There are some reports of communities where sexually transmitted diseases amongst children is at 100 per cent and it’s a national disgrace, and yes, the Prime Minister should be sending in more resources. I met with him and told him very clearly that we would support whatever action he took, whatever expense was required to put extra police in to restore law and order, to bring additional resources into DOCS and others to normalise that society. Kids aren’t going to school up there because they’re too scared to go home of a nighttime, so they’re out committing crimes of a nighttime, sleeping during the day – they’re not going to school. Now, if the Prime Minister can’t step up and deal with that issue then what value is there in a Voice of 24 people that he won’t even listen to?
There’s plenty of other things to get through, we’re going to run out of time. But domestically – and I know you’re in South Australia – but you’ve heard about Yvette D’ath and Gladstone. I’ve said the Peter principle is in play here, when you get eventually promoted beyond your station in life. She can’t handle the job, even the inept Steven Miles has had to intervene as Acting Premier in relation to what’s happening there with obstetricians and she misquoted figures yesterday that were published today in the Courier Mail saying, ‘oh, you only need obstetricians in 5 to 10 per cent of cases’, when in fact it’s closer to 35 to 45 per cent of cases when babies are being born.
Well Ray, I mean, you can’t expect her to have every detail and statistic at her fingertips, but if you’ve been living and breathing this issue for the last couple of years – it’s one of the most critical issues and failures within Queensland Health – you should be across every detail of it, because you’re having discussions and meetings every day, you’re giving directions, you’re resolving the issue and she’s refusing to hear from the doctors. Frankly, I’d take the word of the doctors and the obstetricians over the words of the Queensland Labor Health Minister.
The problem is, as is at the Federal level, where they’re starting now to ramp up the bureaucracy in Canberra, to please the unions, they put more and more and more people into the public service but in positions that aren’t frontline. So, they’re not nurses and doctors, they’re administrators and they’re bureaucrats who are bogging the process down and making it harder for doctors and nurses to see people because they’re spending their whole bloody time doing paperwork. It drives me crazy and you’re seeing these situations of people in regional areas who should have an expectation – they pay taxes like the rest of us in the city – they have an expectation that they will be given basic health services, and particularly in terms of maternity services – it is unacceptable. Anastasia Palaszczuk, the first act which comes back from holidays should be to sack this minister, to put somebody in who is competent. They’ll say, ‘oh, we don’t get enough money from the Commonwealth.’ They get more and more money year on year from the Commonwealth under Liberal and Labor governments, but they spend the money not on frontline services, not on the maternity services in regional areas, but in capital cities for bureaucrats so unions stay happy. As I say, you’re seeing the Albanese government starting to do exactly that in Canberra as well.
Okay, just one final thing. During the break, we’ve got a young woman in Queensland murdered in her own home, Emma Lovell. I gripped the steering wheel on the Gold Coast when I turned on the news and heard Annastacia Palaszczuk saying, ‘we’re going to get tough on youth crime.’ She’s been there since 2015, I’ve been broadcasting all that time on 4BC and other Queensland stations. I’ve been bleating on, asking, pleading for the Queensland government to do something about youth crime and now we’ve got a woman murdered and people are in court. They’ll never be named because they’re under the age of 18. Murdered in her own home and we’ve got the Premier saying, ‘oh, we’re going to get tough now.’ When was the time to get tough? Certainly well before Emma Lovell lost her life.
Well Ray, I mean, the greatest tragedy about this loss is that it was entirely predictable. I mean, look at, you know, the high-profile cases of home invasions in Queensland and in other places around the country, but most acutely in Queensland recently. If people are going into homes to steal keys to take a car and they’re taking those keys from a bedside table and they’ve got a knife on them and it’s entirely predictable that somebody will fight back and there will be a scuffle or a stabbing, deliberately or not, without commenting on the case before the court at the moment.
But, the Premier again, you know, I don’t understand. I just think there’s a complete lack of common sense here. They’ve appointed people to the judiciary who were former civil libertarians, who don’t believe in putting people away. And, you know, with your own kids and grandkids, if kids don’t have guardrails, they don’t have rules, and they know that there are no consequences for bad action, they’ll continue to do it.
I think you’ve got to have a law in place which isn’t talking about an increase in the maximum penalties, as she pointed out and that was her response – ‘we will increase the maximum penalty.’ Nobody ever gets the maximum penalty. You’ve got to have a minimum penalty or three strikes and you’re in, or something serious that says to these kids: there’s a consequence for what you’re doing.
This is the situation in Alice Springs as well, and that’s why I believe there will be a community response, vigilante action, because people are so frustrated with having their homes and their businesses repeatedly broken in to. There are elderly women in Alice Springs at the moment who won’t go to the shops by themselves during the day, and we’ve watched it unfold in Townsville, where robberies of cars and break-ins of homes was commonplace and it’s now spread down to Brisbane as well and the Premier needs to act instead of pretending that she’s got a solution – actually put something in place that’s going to work. The police behind the scenes will be telling her exactly the same thing, but of course she’s not listening to them.
We’ll talk next Thursday. Thanks as always for your time.
Thanks, Ray. Take care mate.