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Transcript of interview with James Valentine: ABC Radio Sydney: 29 September 2023: NRL Premiership Ring; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament Referendum; NRL Grand Final

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SUBJECTS: NRL Premiership Ring; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to

Parliament Referendum; NRL Grand Final.

JAMES VALENTINE, HOST: Prime Minister, good morning.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, James. Good to be with you.

VALENTINE: I didn't know you had such an affinity for jewellery design.

PRIME MINISTER: I don't, but when I received the request from the NRL I was very

happy to participate, I've got to say. It was a great honour. It was very quick, and, of

course, Sam the jeweller was very helpful, let me say this, in providing some guidance. It's

a pretty simple task, really. The Premiership rings have the NRL symbol on them and then

it's just a matter of what you put around them and the shape. But I think we came up with a

pretty good design and they look fantastic. Using the golden wattle of Australia to have

yellow diamonds around the ring.

VALENTINE: We'll get your predictions as to who you think is going to be wearing that on

Sunday in a moment or two. Prime Minister, it's two weeks before the referendum on the

Voice. You've been saying all along, perhaps this is when people will really focus, this is

when people will start to start to decide. What are you going to do, it's perhaps largely

down to what we might call soft Nos and undecided. If you want a Yes on October the

14th, what's going to happen in the next fortnight?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, conversations need to happen, one on one. People will focus on

what the actual question is. And the question before the Australian people is very clear. It

does just two things, it recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as

Australia's first peoples in our Constitution. Something that should have happened back in

1901, really just recognition of a historical fact. And secondly, it says the form of

recognition is through a non-binding advisory committee. Which is what the Voice is. Just a

body to be able to give advice. It's not binding to Parliament and to government on matters

that affect Indigenous people. Why would you want to do that? Because you get better

results when you consult people about matters that affect them. Now that is what is before

the Australian people. The fear campaign, of course, fear campaigns can be powerful, but

you never change a country for the better through fear. You change it through hope and

optimism and compassion and justice. This is what this referendum is about and we'll be

out there campaigning. Last night in Marrickville at the Factory Theatre, we had the Inner

West Yes campaign launch with the great Ray Martin. It was great to be interviewed on

stage, myself and Rachel Perkins, by Ray Martin, who gave a very powerful speech as

well. So, it's through activities like that, talking with people in the suburbs, in the regional

towns, in remote communities who are voting as we're speaking, and it is having those

conversations that will make a difference.

VALENTINE: Now, I invited people who are undecided to put the point that's a sticking

point to me this morning and to you on the text service. So, here's one. ‘There's been

Aboriginal advisory committees to federal governments for the last 50 years. Has anyone

ever analysed why these committees did not work before we create another?’ Asks Alan.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, of course, there have been four different bodies that have been,

for example, ATSIC. One of the issues there, I think, was that it was a funding body. So,

that experience has been worked through. So, this is a body that won't provide funds, that

won't run programs, that will just give advice to the government. And that experience of

past bodies and issues that have arisen has been factored in by Indigenous Australians

when they've made this request.

VALENTINE: So, I suppose this is another criticism that comes forward of the proposal as

it is, that it's sort of both it's everything and nothing. It will fix everything, but it doesn't really

have much power. Both arguments seem to be being put at once.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we know that when you consult Indigenous people, you get

better outcomes. You see that with Justice Reinvestment in Burke. You see that with

community health programs, with the Indigenous Rangers, Programs that have been so

successful right around Australia. We saw it more recently with COVID. You will recall,

James, the potential for quite catastrophic outcomes when COVID hit Aboriginal

communities when decisions were being made in Canberra or in the capital cities of

Sydney and other states. What happened when people went to Indigenous communities,

spoke with them, gave them some empowerment over the way that vaccines were rolled

out and the health outcomes and what needed to happen. That's when it turned around. So

we know, common sense tells you, this is a bit like, someone said to me last night, this is

just like the P&C at the local school. It gives advice, it doesn't run the school, it doesn't run

the Education Department. But if schools listen to the advice of the people who are directly

affected, teachers and parents and students themselves, then you get better outcomes.

VALENTINE: But that's where, I wonder, this keeps people in an undecided camp where,

well, if it's just like the P&C, then it doesn't really have any power. So, what's it going to

do? How does that address the grinding poverty of remote communities?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it has the power of its ideas. The power of its ideas to put forward

the views of Indigenous Australians in remote communities, in regional towns, in our

capital cities and urban communities. That is something that is powerful and it is something

that can make a difference, because we know from experience, you look at the programs

that have involved Indigenous people have been far more successful than those that

haven't. And the other thing it will do, James, is give responsibility. With involvement and

engagement and agency comes responsibility, so that it's not a matter of, ‘Oh, well, some

bureaucrat in Canberra has made a decision’. If people have been able to participate and

put forward their views, you'll get greater responsibility.

VALENTINE: You’re hearing from the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese. It's coming up to

six minutes to seven. We're talking, taking your questions, particularly undecided issues.

What's the thing that's a sticking point for you on the coming referendum on October the

14th on a Voice to Parliament? Here's another one, Prime Minister, ‘I'm undecided on the

phrase ‘and Executive Government’ in the referendum question. I don't trust the

government of the day to represent the Voice through the political elite of the day’.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the Parliament will remain prime. That is one of the beauties of

this proposal. So that the elected government, people who are elected in the normal way,

will make decisions and that is what is appropriate going forward. So, I think that that is

one of the powerful things about this, is that it is very important that Parliament remain its

primacy and Parliament will, of course, be able to adjust legislation, that won't change at

all. So, there's nothing to fear here from this proposal. But when you give people agency

and you give them the responsibility also, you will get better outcomes, you'll get better

efficiency. That's why conservatives like Chris Kenny are arguing, this is a very fiscally

responsible policy as well, because it's not like there hasn't been a lack of will or a lack of

money contributed to Indigenous communities, but we're not closing the gap. Now, a No

vote is a vote for what we have now. We're in No now, we need to do better. And if you do

the same thing in the same way, you should expect the same outcomes.

VALENTINE: Hearing from the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, you're saying it's a

conversation. Have a chat with Louise, Louise from Hawks Nest. She's joined us this

morning. Morning, Louise.

LOUISE, LISTENER: Oh, good morning, James.

VALENTINE: What do you want? Say hello to the Prime Minister and then put your point.

LOUISE: Could you please explain how a Yes vote will actually benefit First Nations

people living in very remote areas where I've seen unbelievable, gut wrenching poverty? I

mean, it's shameful. And how is it actually going to help them?

VALENTINE: Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: You're quite right. The conditions in health and education and housing

are ones that are unacceptable in 2023. And that's why these remote communities, the

Central Land Council, the Northern Land Council, they are all supporting, all supporting a

Yes vote. Every single land council in the Northern Territory, for example, is out there

campaigning for a Yes vote. And one of the reasons why they are is because they know

firsthand that when communities have involved in community health, for example, on Cape

York or the school programs in Northeast Arnhem Land, what we've seen from experience

is that when you have that Indigenous involvement and engagement, more kids are going

to school, they're learning as well, in a culturally appropriate way. So, for example, learning

in First Nations language as well as in English, and you're getting much better outcomes.

So, for example, the Yolngu people in Northeast Arnhem Land are a great example of

community through the leadership of Yunupingu, a great leader, and others have really

been very successful because they have had that empowerment. And what they're saying

is that the Uluru Statement, to quote Yunupingu, will light a fire that will spread throughout

the land.

VALENTINE: Louise, that work for you?

LOUISE: Yes, I guess so. Yeah. It's a very difficult topic, actually.

VALENTINE: Why do you find it difficult? What do you mean?

LOUISE: Well, I mean, I haven't listened to the fear campaigns, but I've heard other people

talking about them and of course, they're complete nonsense. I think it's difficult because

First Nations people are so divided. You've got the ones living right in Central Australia and

in very remote areas, and then you've got people who live in the cities who, of course,

have more of a say.

VALENTINE: And so you're hearing two different views and it's hard to pick between.

Louise, we've got to wrap it up, but thank you so much for calling in and joining us. Prime

Minister. Grand final Sunday, you'll be there. Who do you expect to be wearing your

beautifully designed Premiership ring?

PRIME MINISTER: I think Penrith are entitled to be favourites, given their big game

experience, but the Broncos can get there. They're an exciting team. Reece Walsh at the

back is quite electric. And my old friend Adam Reynolds steering the Broncos around will, I

think, have a cracker of a game. He's a big game player and he'll be up for it as well, so I

just hope it's a close game

VALENTINE: Yeah, exactly. We've got two potentially really great grand finals on the

weekend. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, thanks so much for coming on.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, James.


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