Transcript: Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians Julian Lesser on Sky with Paul Murray

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14 August 2022: Julian Leeser on Sky News with Paul Murray discussing the Voice.


Paul Murray: Thank you very much for watching, Julian Leeser is an excellent local MP. Of course, representing the good people of Berowra in the Federal Parliament, now is up in the Shadow Ministry as well as the Shadow Indigenous Affairs Minister and he’s in the man cave right now. Nice to see you.

Julian Leeser: Great to see you, Paul.

Paul Murray: Lovely to see you. So obviously, the debate is all well known about what’s on the table when it comes to the Voice. Before we get to anything else. How are you coming at this? So yeh, what is your personal position at this?

Julian Leeser: Well, the Coalition’s position has been that we’ve got an open mind, but that we’re waiting for the detail, and we’ll scrutinise the detail as it comes through, as Labor presents us whatever package that they’re going to put forward. But they haven’t come forward with the detail. There’s a lot of questions that they need to answer. Having an open mind is not a blank cheque. It means we are going to look at this thoroughly. The issue of constitutional recognition has been on the table a long time. In fact, it was originally our project. John Howard put it on the table in 1999 and it’s been our policy to have constitutional recognition when there’s consensus on the question, when it’s got the best chance of success, ever since that time.

In relation to the Voice bodies in the last Parliament, Ken Wyatt set up a process of co-design that included people like Chris Kenny and Jeff Kennett on it – hardly the ‘woke warriors’ – to look at what a Voice body would look like at the local, regional, and national level. And then we committed money to roll out the Voice at a local and regional level in the last election.

Paul Murray: Because a lot of people watching right now and a big part of me is quite, understandably, sympathetic to what Jacinta Price is saying about: hey there is a real life situation in places like Tennant Creek and a bunch of people talking about it in Canberra doesn’t do anything.

Julian Leeser: Well, that’s right.

Paul Murray: And I know that your focus is about closing the gap.

Julian Leeser: That’s right.

Paul Murray: So how do we do both of those things? Is it either/or? About practical versus simple?

Julian Leeser: Well, it really depends on what the Government brings forward. But long before I was a parliamentarian, I was a supporter of this on a personal level. And that’s because for decades we’ve been making policy about Indigenous people and Australia is a great country to live in. We succeed in every level, but we’ve got this big gap between Indigenous people and the rest of the country, and we just failed to close that gap. And that’s not because we haven’t spent lots of money, it’s not because there’s not goodwill, but there’s structurally something wrong about the way we make policy. And it’s because we’re not talking to the people on the ground who are affected by the policy.

Julian Leeser: And that’s the thing that needs to change. What worries me about what Albo is doing in relation to this, is that they seem to be rushing this, they seem to be making it up as they go along, that they are not providing people with details, not answering the reasonable questions of Jacinta and people on this network or asking reasonable questions about these issues. And there’s no process for people to actually have their input into these things. This is too important of an issue for it to turn into another Labor policy failure, like a pink batts or a school halls or an NBN.

Paul Murray: Good point.

Julian Leeser: They need to slow this down and get the process and the detail right.

Paul Murray: Because first polls that we’ve seen and I’m sure there’ll be a different version in Newspoll, will bump around a bit: 65% support, 35% no, is the current number of the essential poll. But only 34% of people know what any of this is and 65% don’t know anything about the detail. So, it seems that the political calculation of the Prime Minister is keep it as vague and vibey as possible, for as long as possible, to keep the support up. But if you’re changing the Constitution, it’s not about the vibe, it’s about the words, it’s about the powers, it’s about the limits.

Julian Leeser: Exactly. And I’m for an informed citizenry. We’ve all got to go, this is not like a bill that passes the House of Representatives and the Senate, we’ve all got to go one Saturday and vote at a referendum on this issue. And if people don’t understand what they’re voting for, you can’t expect them to support it. So, we need to be able to answer, the Government needs to be able to answer, people’s reasonable questions about, you know, who’s going to be on this body? How will they be chosen? What sort of functions will they have? How will they address some of the key questions that Jacinta and others are asking about life on the ground in communities? Whether that’s issues around education or domestic and family violence, whether it’s issues around employment. And again, how will it make a difference in any of these areas?

Paul Murray: And again, is it a situation where it’s 100 people and everyone has a say? Are there certain people that have responsibilities? Because if that’s the case, then it starts to look like a parliament and they are going out of their way to say it’s not a parliament, but obviously you don’t want just 100 people doing interviews on Radio National. You want 100 people that are reporting back and also going back down to the normal level. I think it’s obviously an important conversation. It’s one that I hope is a conversation. And it’s not just a pointing exercise of sort of, you know, you are pure, or you are not, which is not cool.

Julian Leeser: Absolutely.

Paul Murray: And that’s why you’re always welcome to have a chat. Thank you. Really appreciate it.

Julian Leeser: Thanks Paul.

Paul Murray: Good on you, mate.

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