Sunrise interview with Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek

04 September 2023

SUBJECTS: Voice to Parliament Referendum.

NATALIE BARR: The Opposition Leader has vowed to hold a second referendum on indigenous recognition in the constitution if next month's Voice to Parliament poll fails. Peter Dutton has revealed that if he becomes Prime Minister, the Coalition would get the country to vote on recognising indigenous Australians but without The Voice part. Support for the Yes vote continues to slide with less than six weeks to go before we head to the polls. Let's bring in Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek and Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce. Good morning both of you.


BARNABY JOYCE:  Good morning, Nat.




BARR: Do you support this pledge by Peter Dutton for a voiceless referendum?


JOYCE:  Well, what we had at the start, we've always supported recognition of indigenous Australians, Aboriginal Australians, and this referendum is two parts. It's recognition of Indigenous Australians, which I personally think would sail through. And then this other thing stapled to it, The Voice, which we haven't seen the legislation, it's a racial based clause where certain people get access to it of certain DNA and certain skin colours and others don't.  Stephen Gageler, they've appointed Stephen Gageler and Professor Greg Craven comes out the other day and said “lucky they've supported Stephen Gageler because now you won't get rogue interpretations of The Voice”. Which means of course if they hadn't appointed Stephen Gageler they would have. You know, that's so confusing, The Voice.


BARR: So Barnaby if you guys supported this for years and years, you had years and years so why didn't you try and push it through?


JOYCE:  Well that's a question I suppose you'd take back to Malcolm Turnbull and other people. I wasn't the Prime Minister of Australia, and a lot of people are very happy about that.


BARR: You were kind of senior though for a while.


JOYCE:  I am, and of course as I’ve said my position remains the same. It went through cabinet. We support recognition of indigenous Australians, always have. It's The Voice. It's The Voice. No one understands it.


BARR: Right. Okay, so Tanya, you've now got this situation where Labor's primary vote is down today. Anthony Albanese's performance satisfaction is down and support for The Voice is down. This Voiceless referendum, is that something that could be the answer here?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, Nat, it's really strange, isn't it, Peter Dutton now says he supports a referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the constitution. He said a few weeks ago that he would legislate a voice. So he supports a referendum, and he supports a voice. Why wouldn't he just get on board?


We've now got a proposal right now before the Australian people. It's come from years of consultation. Barnaby's right, this actually started under John Howard. It's what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have said that they want; recognition in the constitution and a voice that would give advice to the Parliament so that we make better decisions, so that we spend money more wisely.


I mean I've seen it, like I say, in my own area in Redfern. When we had a youth crime problem, the way we solved it was Aboriginal elders working with local police coming up with solutions that suited our local community. That's what we want to see right across an Australia. A Committee that would give advice to the Parliament.


And Peter Dutton now supports both. He supports a referendum ‑‑


JOYCE:  Hang on.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: ‑‑ for recognition and he supports a voice. I don't know what the hold up is.


JOYCE:  Hang on, you mean you fixed that problem in Redfern without The Voice? You mean you actually managed to fix those problems without The Voice and if the if The Voice is such a grand elixir ‑‑


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: And I'd like to see that sort of great stuff right across Australia.


JOYCE:  ‑‑ if it's such a grand elixir and if you've got all these solutions why are you waiting? Hook in now. Hook in now and fix all these problems. If you're so confident about The Voice, give us a legislation because you know full well that's going to be voted on by the Labor Party and the Greens.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Barnaby, the constitution ‑‑


JOYCE:  The Labor Party and the Greens.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Barnaby, you know what it's like. The constitution says we will have a Defence Force.  It doesn't say, "And it'll have this many submarines and it will have an Air Force".


JOYCE:  You know full well that you've said ‑ you've said you're going to bring forward ‑‑


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: The constitution says we will have a Defence Force.


JOYCE:  You said you were going to bring forward the legislation. Why are you being sneaky? Why don't you at least table it now? Unless you've got no idea whatsoever, which will be in a ‑ and I doubt that very much.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: This is just a typical scare campaign.


JOYCE:  It's not a scare campaign.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: It's the same scare campaign ‑‑


BARR: Tanya ‑‑


JOYCE:  Put the scare campaign out by tabling the ‑‑


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: It is a scare campaign.


BARR: Tanya, can I just ask you ‑‑


JOYCE:  Just table it.


BARR: ‑‑ if this fails, because we've got six weeks of this, so if this fails and at this point if it was held today it looks like it would, would you support what the Coalition is proposing, a voiceless referendum where you at least put the Indigenous, First Nations Australians people into the constitution? Would you support that?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well we're not contemplating losing. We're going to be out every day of the next six weeks talking to people about why it's important to have constitutional recognition and why it's important to have a Committee that would give advice to the Parliament. I say again ‑‑


JOYCE:  It's not advice.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: ‑‑ if Peter Dutton supports both constitutional recognition and he supports a voice, he says he's going to legislate a voice, why wouldn't he do that together now? Why wouldn't he at least let Liberals have their own say.


BARR: Barnaby, is it worth ‑‑


JOYCE:  Can I just say, Nat, can I just say one thing ‑‑


BARR: ‑‑ spending another ‑ Barnaby, this is $450 million we are spending on this.


JOYCE:  Yeah.


BARR: So you're saying that if it fails and you get into government you're going to spend another 450, that's nearly a billion dollars. You think that's a good use of money?


JOYCE:  Well the first thing is, Nat, advice is not in the question anywhere. The word that's in there in the description is representations. If I'm going to the High Court, I don't want legal advice, I want legal representation because we know where this is going to end up, in the High Court. What's the point, we've always said we support Indigenous recognition, Aboriginal recognition and we're not going to change that because they've botched this with The Voice, it's a mess and try and understand it. That's basically what we've got. And no matter ‑ you could give them six years; they won't be able to explain this to anybody.


BARR: Right, okay. Okay, well, we've heard from both sides today. We thank you for your time and we've got many weeks of trying to explain it to people and everyone will get their side to explain.