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Transcript of radio interview: CAAMA Network: 25 October 2015: 30th anniversary of Uluru handover to Indigenous Australians; development of Indigenous communities; Constitutional Recognition

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SUBJECT/S: 30th anniversary of Uluru handover to Indigenous Australians; Development of Indigenous communities; Constitutional Recognition

JOURNALIST: And it's a big good afternoon to you here from Uluru live from the Caama Network around the country. Nice to have you here, been a really exciting afternoon too of celebrations for the 30 year handback. We're at Uluru - a big good afternoon to Mutitjulu, Uluru and all those around the country and overseas taking this live feed from this sacred sight. We're very honoured to have with you on the Caama Network the Honourable Bill Shorten, Leader of the Opposition. A big thank you and welcome to the Caama Network.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It's a pleasure to be on, it's great.

JOURNALIST: It's nice to have you with us on Caama and nice to have you here for this great celebration too in this sacred site. You mentioned in your speech to all those present how sacred this site was, and it is a huge site and sometimes [the] significance of sites like theirs aren’t acknowledged enough.

SHORTEN: Well I mean it’s a - the rock, it is on 10 million postcards, it’s a very famous scene. But when you scratch a little deeper you understand it's more than just a picture. It's more than just a postcard. It's more than somewhere you fly over or you visit. It is sacred. I said in my speech that for many nations this site is sacred, as the Vatican or Mecca might be to people of those faiths. It is fundamental to identity and belief.

JOURNALIST: This place - we heard Nigel Scullion talk about Mutitjulu and how the rock hasn't changed and Mutitjulu definitely hasn't changed. Aboriginal infrastructure planning and engagement has been sometimes, a little bit short comings from the Government of engagement.

SHORTEN: Well Labor will announce policies, we're consulting pretty vigorously. I'm very fortunate to have Warren Snowdon and Nova Peris and other people contributing to our policies. Shayne Neumann is our spokesperson on matters to do with the development of Indigenous policies. So we're working on policies. I made it very clear that I think that the 30 year anniversary is a sign that some things have changed and others haven't. It was right that the recognition occurred. But now it is time match where we have been with what we do in the future, and that should include closing the gap in the health care, in education, in employment, in justice, making sure that we decrease the incarceration rates. It's wrong that an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander man who is 18 is more likely go to jail in Australia than go to university. So you're right, things haven't kept up in some ways.

JOURNALIST: You mentioned as well about the Constitution earlier on which is a very powerful, a very powerful comment that you made. What would you do if you're in the top seat?

SHORTEN: Well I would work out what the question is that can get the referendum up, and when I say work out the question - we’ve got to remove the race powers, there's no case [inaudible], it's outmoded. We need to have more than symbolic change - we just don't need to write poetry into our Constitution. Changing the Constitution is really hard. Unless both major political parties support it, it doesn’t succeed. So I need to make sure I've got the other political party of the day on board. The challenge for the Liberals is that there are some Liberals who support meaningful Constitution recognition. There's others who are very conservative, they don't see the case, they think somehow it's giving Aboriginals a leg up. We all know that's ridiculous but that’s, you know, there will be the fear and the negativity from the extreme right in Australian politics. So, I'd work out what the question is. I'd fundamentally consult with Aboriginal Australia and Torres Strait Islanders. That means not just talking to the usual leaders, but going deeper into communities. There's a new generation of leaders emerging. There's not one size fits all when you consult with Indigenous Australia, and I've been learning that in the last two years. So consult, empower, trying build a consensus between the two major political parties. I think it can be done though. I think that I can work with Malcolm Turnbull to help lead, but it's got to be leadership which is what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people actually want.

JOURNALIST: Did you find it a quick learning curve for you too, and did it really amaze you at how much disadvantage Aboriginal people were in this country?

SHORTEN: Absolutely, and of course it's not just not just in remote communities, it can be in our cities as well. But there has been dispossession, you’ve got to admit what has gone wrong in this country before you can do what's right. Now Redfern was an uplifting moment, the Apology was an uplifting moment. The constitutional recognition can be that uplifting moment. I think that a lot of Australians don't know what goes on, to be honest. I don't think they have a clue about the poverty, the unfairness, the discrimination. So I think there is a challenge to empower more Indigenous leadership in Australian politics, to encourage more Aboriginal and

Torres Strait Islander people to get involved in politics. I think there is an opportunity to appeal to the better angles of the Australian people. See when Australians go overseas they're very proud of the fact that we share a continent with people that have got a continuous connection with their land for 40,000 years plus. I'm proud of that. Australians will go overseas and boast about that. So there's that good will there, there's that respect, all we have to do though is turn it into concrete action. Now, you talk about infrastructure and funding and poor leadership development. We need to make sure that our schools which educate young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people receive the extra funding, to make sure that those kids can complete their schooling. I think there is a big piece of work to be done in the education of young Aboriginal women. Making sure they get the best schooling experience possible. But fortunately there is a lot of good news out there too, it's not all bad news and I think we better also do that, talk about the good news as well.

JOURNALIST: Quite often we see government and events roll out Aboriginal people to do dance and song and didg, you know they're like tokenistic, as you see with Kiwi's and the Haka and things like that. I mean sometimes that's very sad when there isn't a full commitment to help out with all the other underlying matters. What I'd like to ask you is that, is this just rhetoric from you or do you really care?

SHORTEN: I believe in empowering people. I believe that Australians are fundamentally equal. And when I say that I don’t mean that we’re all good in the same sense- of course we’re not - but I think there is something good in every human being. Every human being has a soul, or a spirit or a wish which is deserving of an equal value. And that’s why we’ve got to get the schools funding right, we’ve got to make sure that we’ve got the primary and preventative health care. If we call it as it is, and say that people in minority groups are victims of discrimination in this country - conscious or unconscious - then we can put in place changes which show how much we value our heritage, and that’s why the constitutional recognition is so powerful. I believe individuals can change politics, I believe that if we focus on what really matters to people - getting the jobs, getting the education, getting the health care. And I don’t believe, you know, in trickledown economics, where you sort of look after the very top people in society, that their success carries the rest of us on their coat-tails. I think that if you make sure that everyone gets an equal go on the basics, then people will pursue their own interests.

JOURNALIST: The NBN was you know, put out there to help and get rid of all these blackspots and so forth and allow communication in remote areas, and yet we find now it is getting watered down more and more, and places like here - where is that NBN that was going to be the [inaudible]?

SHORTEN: Well Labor got attacked by Malcolm Turnbull when we were in government as being too ambitious - we wanted to bring the NBN to too many people. But it turns out that since Malcolm Turnbull was Communications Minister we’ve doubled the cost of the NBN and its slower. We shouldn’t have to [inaudible] high expectations. So I think that the Government has disappointed people about the NBN. The digital age means that people can live in remote parts of our continent, in regional Australia, and still participate. And that’s actually good for the whole nation.

So I think the Governments track record, the Liberal Governments track record over the last couple of years has been disappointing. For 21st Century technology, they’re buying enough copper now - which is very much a 20th Century technology - to run between Sydney and Alice Springs. They’ve got to get with the 21st Century and Reg Ansett - he was the founder of Ansett airlines, he was there in the 1960’s, when he purchased Boeing 727 jets, the big jets, they were very modern at the time - he said this is the best technology in the world, therefore it’s only just good enough for Australia. These days I guess the Liberals would say he was out of line too.

JOURNALIST: You mentioned earlier on that it’s also about celebrations here too you know, and around the country, you know with opportunities and pathways for traineeships and things like that. With your own party, I mean that’s been a very strong thing in the past, yet it’s, you know, it’s still not quite reaching the ones that we’re looking out here at Uluru, having more and more of these opportunities. The locals are saying the situation is changed slightly, and Intervention is in the Northern Territory, with you know, that really is focused on Aboriginal people and no other. What would you say about, you know, policies like the Intervention? It works a little bit, but is it enough?

SHORTEN: I know it has caused a lot of disagreement, there were very strong supporters of it and those who saw it as dreadful. I believe that the more you can do to empower communities to control their own future, the better you get. You can’t - you need leadership, and that’s at the top, but the way you make real change in the communities is when communities are empowered to make decisions about their own economic futures. There’s no question that. I don’t think anyone’s quite got right yet how to provide the best sort of training, but we’ve got to provide a lot more small business opportunities, I think, in communities. But I’m not an expert. I’ve got people in the party, and I’ve got plenty of people who advise me, I’m more interested in what you have to say to me about the answers to these questions, than me coming on your show for the first time and saying ‘I know’, because I don’t. My challenge as a leader is not to know the answer to every question, it’s to know where to find the best answer to every question, and do it in such a way that people feel like they’re getting their voices heard in the process of making decisions.

JOURNALIST: I’ve got the Leader of the Opposition here, the Honourable Bill Shorten, it was lovely to have you on the Caama network and at a great event like that, and thank you for making the effort to come here to. It’s noticed by all, and much appreciated.

SHORTEN: What happened here thirty years ago was history. To celebrate that, also to learn the lessons of that, and to move on - it is a privilege to be here. I’m very lucky to have the job I’ve got, but to come here, to talk to people, just to listen, grassroots, not to sort of be seated in the VIP row, just mix in with people and listen. I’m a man from the people, and I’m interested in what people think. This isn’t just part of history, it’s part of the future. I will remember this visit for the rest of my life.

JOURNALIST: Bill Shorten thank you for coming on Caama and being part of the Caama network. And just before you leave us, Caama is celebrating 35 years!

SHORTEN: 35 years!

JOURNALSIT: Would you like wish us - all out there, all the mob around, and all the other media, the Indigenous media, a very happy birthday?

SHORTEN: I do. I just want to say to the Caama network, as a first time caller, happy birthday - 35 years going strong. And I’ve got the message - if I win the next election we will make sure that we get more resources to Caama and to Indigenous media, because that’s how you make community stronger.

JOURNALIST: Thank you very much.