Subjects: Australia votes ‘no’ to the Prime Minister’s divisive Voice, Treaty, Truth proposal.
Well everyone, thank you very much for being here. Australians have voted in our 45th Referendum and it’s clear obviously that the Referendum has not been successful and I think that’s good for our country.
I want to say a very special thank you tonight to Jacinta, to Warren Mundine, to Kerrynne Liddle. No one is owed more gratitude than each of these individuals. They’ve led the ‘no’ case and they’ve suffered through deeply personal and offensive attacks for it.
I want to say thank you very much to David Littleproud and to all of my Coalition colleagues.
The No campaign was led by Fair Australia’s Matt Sheean and Steve Doyle and our volunteers, and I want to thank them sincerely.
Tonight, while the majority of Australians will be pleased with the outcome, there of course will be Australians who will be disappointed as well.
But what matters tomorrow is that this result doesn’t divide us as a people. What matters is that we all accept the result in this great spirit of our democracy.
All of us know people who voted ‘yes’ and people who voted ‘no’, but to those of you who voted ‘yes’, let me say these few words: as the Leader of the Coalition who has supported the No campaign, while I disagree with your position, I respect your decision to have voted ‘yes’.
At all times in this debate, I have levelled my criticism at what I consider to have been a bad idea – to divide Australians based on their heritage, or the time at which they came to our country.
The Coalition, like all Australians, wants to see Indigenous disadvantage addressed – we just disagreed on the Voice being the solution. While ‘yes’ and ‘no’ voters may hold differences of opinion, these opinions of difference do not diminish our love for our country or our regard for each other.
This is the Referendum that Australia did not need to have.
The proposal, and the process, should have been designed to unite Australians, not divide us, and what we have seen tonight is Australians, literally in their millions, reject the Prime Minister’s divisive Referendum.
The Prime Minister clearly was not across the detail and he refused to explain or answer reasonable questions from Australians.
I wrote to the Prime Minister in January of this year asking 15 basic questions – still no answers.
So people from all sides of this debate, are rightly and understandably disappointed with the Prime Minister. He’s held the pen of this divisive chapter in our nation’s history and if he has any strength in his leadership he must take responsibility for it.
I also want to speak tonight specifically to Indigenous Australians: like all Australians, some of you will have voted ‘yes’ and some of you will have voted ‘no’. Those of you who voted ‘yes’ will be hurting.
To Indigenous Australians contending with difficulty and disadvantage, I will do my utmost to lead with courage and do what is right to implement the practical solutions required to improve outcomes and close the gap.
So tonight, I again commit the Coalition to implementing a Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse in Indigenous communities and an audit into spending on Indigenous programs so that we can get the money where its needed – to those families in regional and remote areas.
As the Leader of the Opposition, I believe that we need to come together to tackle challenges, to help families struggling with the cost of living – that needs to be the Prime Minister’s priority now.
We need to give young Australians hope that they can buy their own home. We need to fix the mess of the energy policy so that we can deliver electricity that’s affordable and reliable as well as clean. We need to support not oppose out small businesses and boosting our national security to prepare Australia for a very uncertain world.
Importantly, we must also redouble our efforts to improve outcomes for Indigenous Australians in those disadvantaged communities and to close the gap. That includes an urgent need to boost law and order, to increase school attendance and employment at many remote communities; and that means listening less to activists and more to people in those communities and those who champion them – including Senators Kerrynne Liddle and Jacinta Nampijinpa Price – they’re amazing Australians.
For the past year the Prime Minister and the Government’s been consumed by this Referendum and they focused on the wrong priorities.
Now, as I say, we do need to turn the page, to unite, and to address the many challenges facing our country.
I want to thank all Australians who have participated in this debate. We are the greatest country in the world. We need to continue to make sure that that’s the case. To never have complacency, and to always stand up for our values and what we believe in and show the strength of character and leadership to deal with those threats that our country faces now and into the future.
I’ll ask Jacinta to say a few words and then we’re very happy to take questions.
JACINTA NAMPIJINPA PRICE:
Thank you Peter.
Firstly, I want to thank the Australian people for believing in our nation, in our great nation, in the goodwill of this country, in understanding that the vast majority of Australians want what’s best for each and every one of us, including our most marginalised Indigenous Australians.
The Australian people have voted overwhelmingly say ‘no’ to this Referendum. They’ve said ‘no’ to division within our Constitution along the lines of race. They’ve said ‘no’ to the gaslighting, to the bullying, to the manipulation. They’ve said ‘no’ to grievance and the push from activists to suggest that we are a racist country, when we are absolutely not a racist country.
We are one of the, if not the greatest nation on the face of the earth and it’s time for Australians to believe that once again. To be proud to call ourselves Australian, because until we can be proud, we can’t form a position where we can be strong to tackle our tough issues within our country.
I am grateful for my family’s support throughout this campaign: my wonderful husband, Colin Lillie, our sons, my parents, they taught me to stand up for those who are disenfranchised, those who are voiceless – to be a warrior for them.
I want to thank the Fair Australia Campaign, Matthew Sheean, Steven Doyle.
I want to thank my wonderful colleagues in the Coalition, the leadership of Peter Dutton and David Littleproud, the Nationals, for coming out and drawing a line in the sand and saying ‘no’ to this proposal very early in the piece so that Australians could understand that it was okay; it was okay to recognise that this was a bad proposal. A proposal that the Prime Minister failed to provide detail on – when we kept asking questions, we weren’t receiving any answers whatsoever.
We could not be shown with any clarity, or it could not be demonstrated, how this proposal was supposed to support our most marginalised Indigenous Australians. Those who belong to some of my close family members.
For me, my family experienced three funerals yesterday. For me, my family are still sitting in communities where largely they have been exploited for the purpose of somebody else’s agenda.
This Referendum has yet been another one of those agendas where it was suggested that 80 per cent of Indigenous Australians supported this proposal when we knew that was not the case. When I knew, having spoken to people throughout the Northern Territory, to Indigenous people from the Northern Territory and right across the country, particularly in my role as the Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians, that a vast group of Indigenous Australians did not support this proposal.
It has been a shame that throughout the campaign that we have been accused of misleading this country, through disinformation and misinformation, when it was a campaign of no information whatsoever; and that we called out where the Australian people were being misled. Whether it was the claim that 80 per cent of Indigenous Australians supposedly supported this – when we know that they didn’t – when it was the claim that this was just a simple advisory body, when the words, ‘advice’, ‘advise’ or ‘advisory’ didn’t even appear in the question, nor the proposed chapter.
The Australian people were misled and the Australian people saw this for themselves and that is why the Australian people decided to vote ‘no’ to this proposal.
I look forward to the future. I realise that much work has to be done for us to be brought together as a country because it has been such a challenging and heart wrenching time for many Australians.
For those of you that voted ‘yes’, please know that we as a Coalition have always got the best interests of all Australians at heart. We want to make sure that we are fighting for a better future for all Australians, but going forward we need to prioritise where our most marginalised are.
As I’ve always said, the gap doesn’t exist between Indigenous Australia and non-Indigenous Australia, it exists between our most marginalised that we know whose first language isn’t English, who live in remote communities and the rest of Australia, including the middle-class Aboriginal Australia that are doing really well for themselves, for ourselves.
We need to focus our efforts to where our marginalised exist and we need to listen to their voices and as Peter said, no longer listen to the voices of the activists of those pushing ideology onto us.
The Australian people have said ‘no’ to this.
The Australian people want practical outcomes, a unified country where we can move forward together.
Once again, I want to thank the Australian people for delivering this result. We hear you loud and clear.
Well said, Jacinta. I’m very happy to take questions.
Opposition Leader, the Referendum is now clearly defeated. What is the first thing you are going to do tomorrow for Indigenous Australians?
Well, I think the most important thing we can do is continue the work of Jacinta Price and Kerrynne Liddle. They will lead a process on behalf of the Coalition to look at our policies that we’ll take to the next election. I can announce that tonight. As I said, we called last year for a Royal Commission into child sexual abuse within Indigenous communities and the Government should take up that offer immediately. There’s bipartisan support in relation to that very important issue – the sanctity of those children, their childhood – and making sure that we support them and reduced violence and domestic violence in those Indigenous communities is absolutely central to our plan.
The work that Jacinta and Kerrynne will be doing will concentrate very much on calling out where the money is not being spent appropriately, where it’s being diverted, and making sure that the money that taxpayers work hard for and give to the Government, that that money can be spent appropriately and prioritised in those communities where the practical need is most. For families, for education, for health – that’s what Australians have voted for today. They haven’t rejected Indigenous Australians. They’ve rejected the Voice and the Government’s proposal, which deliberately wasn’t explained to them. But they haven’t rejected Indigenous Australians and we are all dedicated to making sure that we can do everything possible to improve their lives.
Why do you think the No Campaign was so successful?
I think there are a number of reasons. Clearly, Australians were always going to reject a proposition which divided us into different categories.
One of the great attributes of the Australian public is that we all see ourselves as equal and it doesn’t matter if you came here six months ago, as Jacinta and I have repeated as we’ve gone around the country, or 60 years ago, or 65,000 years of ancestry in this country. We’re all equal. We’re all equal Australians.
I think the Australian public rejected the Prime Minister’s proposition to divide us on the basis of ancestry or race, and that’s a great thing for our country. We shouldn’t shy away from that. Our nation’s rule book is incredibly important. It underpins the success of our country and Australians have stood up today to defend that, to defend our history and to make sure that our future is certain.
Jacinta and the work that she’s done, Warren, Kerrynne, and others – they’ve been key advocates in much of that messaging. But I think Australians have risen up tonight. They’ve stared down division, they’ve rejected a proposition that wasn’t properly explained to them, and I think Australians should be very proud of that outcome.
Senator Price, a generation of Indigenous leaders like Noel Pearson and Marcia Langton have campaigned for the last 15 or 16 months – indeed, in some cases, for decades – for a Voice to Parliament. They’ve been roundly defeated tonight. They’ve also been, at times, during this campaign personally critical of you. Is it time for that older generation of Indigenous leaders to leave the stage and has the torch passed onto you tonight?
JACINTA NAMPIJINPA PRICE:
I think it’s time for a new era in Indigenous policy, in the Indigenous narrative. We have to step away from grievance. Attempting to bring about change through grievance has evidently got us nowhere. It’s time to accept that we are all part of the fabric of this nation, that Indigenous Australians are also Australian citizens; that Indigenous children, their human rights should be upheld just as any other kids. We should not be lowering standards. We should not maintain the racism of low expectations in this country.
Certainly, for those that have been there for decades, I think it is time to recognise that if we haven’t been able to bring about the outcomes that you have seemingly worked for, then, obviously, it has not worked. It is time for a change. It is time to apply more accountability to those who are responsible for the lives of our most marginalised.
Certainly, myself, and my colleague, Kerrynne Liddle, are absolutely up for that work going forward. No more, again, can we continue to listen to academics and activists from the inner cities who think that they know better for Indigenous Australians, particularly in remote communities.
Mr Dutton, the Prime Minister spoke of the role of the media, the role of the No campaign. But, of course, it was he who decided the timing, he who decided not to change the language, he who decided that once it wasn’t bipartisan, that it was to continue. What is the lesson the Prime Minister has to learn, not just about the result, but the way that this all played out?
Well, Paul, I think there’s a real arrogance in the way in which the Prime Minister’s approached his discussion with the Australian people. Even tonight in his speech, you can hear the words almost of contempt for the Australian people dripping from what he’s saying. That doesn’t have any place. About 65 or 70 per cent of Australians, depending on where you are in the country, have expressed a very strong rejection of the Prime Minister’s proposal.
The Prime Minister was warned over the course of the last 16 or 17 months not to proceed with this divisive referendum and he owes the Australian public an apology for that. There are many indicators along the way that should have been red flags for the Prime Minister to say that he was taking the country to a point of division. I just don’t think strong leaders do that. I mean, clearly he wants to please everybody. He’s not across the detail, which is why it couldn’t be explained to the Australian people.
Australians aren’t stupid. They’re not going to vote for something where the detail is kept deliberately from them. The design of the Voice wasn’t scheduled to start until Monday – in a couple of days’ time if there was a ‘yes’ tonight. I mean, that’s unbelievable. There was no constitutional convention and the design wasn’t taking place until after people had voted. I think on that basis, the Prime Minister really needs to listen to the Australian public instead of just words of arrogance again. He needs to listen to the very clear message that he’s been sent tonight by millions of Australians instead of telling them that they got it wrong. I just don’t think that’s what the leader of our country should be saying.
Mr Dutton you’ve called for an audit of the spending on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs, and Mr Mundine also called for a comprehensive audit when he gave his interview earlier today. You were part of a government that was in power for almost ten years, up until recently. Why don’t you know where that money was spent? Why do you need to ask where that money was spent, as your Government was spending it?
Well, firstly, Australians work hard for their money and at the moment Australians are really doing it tough because they’re paying more for their electricity, they’re paying more for their gas, they’re paying more for their mortgage, they’re paying more for their petrol. Australians are really struggling, not just families but small businesses. So, they expect their hard-earned tax dollars to be spent appropriately.
I think it’s entirely reasonable to say to the Prime Minister, ‘is the money being spent appropriately?’. And where it is, and where we’re confident that a program is working really well, we should scale it up. Jacinta’s got an excellent idea in relation to putting accommodation into some of the schools in the Northern Territory so the kids can get a good night’s sleep, so that they can be fed, so they can be housed safely. They’re the sort of practical things that the government should be embracing now, but they haven’t.
So, I think it’s entirely reasonable to ask the Government to make sure that money is being spent appropriately and that the huge amount of money that goes into the funnel at the top in Canberra, that becomes a trickle, now, into Indigenous communities, is looked at. I don’t think that’s unreasonable and I think there’s a fair message in people’s vote today that they want the Government to be able to do that.