Interview: Nadia Mitsopoulos | ABC


NADIA MITSOPOULOS: Good morning, Andrew, and thank you for your time.

ANDREW HASTIE: Great to be with you Nadia and to talk to ABC Perth.

NADIA MITSOPOULOS. Andrew, do you accept what Professor Langton is saying that some arguments raised by the No campaign do get to base racism and sheer stupidity?

ANDREW HASTIE: No, I reject that. I think what she said yesterday--well, what's reported - the recording that you played--I think it's insulting. I think it's condescending and I think it's rude and it should be retracted. You've got to remember that Professor Langton was appointed by the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, a government appointee, to be on the Referendum Working Group. So, she's at the very heart of the Yes campaign. And what she said yesterday is effectively if you are compelled to vote No, because of the No case, or the No arguments, then it's based racism or stupidity that is driving your vote. Now I'm out there -

NADIA MITSOPOULOS: - She said some of the arguments raised by the No campaign. She's not calling voters stupid. She wasn't calling campaigners stupid. She was saying some of the arguments raised.

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, I can tell you, Nadia, I've been door knocking and letterboxing all through the Peel Region from Byford down to Madora Bay and Dawesville and I can tell you, there's a lot of people who are going to vote No. And they're quite convinced of the arguments that are put - number one, that it's divisive, number two, that it's legally risky, number three, that there's no details, number four, that it's permanent. I think it's hard to read it any other way. She said the word racism and she said the word stupidity and I think they're very hard to walk back. What we'd like to see is the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, and the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Linda Burney, condemn those remarks because it's unacceptable. This referendum has been so poorly done by the Prime Minister. At every turn, he's made a mockery of the process. There was no constitutional convention, which is the standard practice before a referendum, there was no attempt to reach out across the aisle and settle on a constitutional amendment that would have given Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people recognition in our Constitution. Instead, it's been wedge politics, it's been division and I think the Prime Minister has led us to this point now where people on the No side of being branded racists or stupid if they decide to vote No.

NADIA MITSOPOULOS: Federal Liberal Member for Canning Andrew Hastie is my guest this morning at six minutes to nine. Professor Langton in an interview that you were listening to in Melbourne says she was responding to a claim being made by someone at that forum, who said a Yes vote will give Aboriginal people compensation, which we know is nonsense. Does that constitute sheer stupidity? Again, she's using these as some of the arguments that have been raised. I mean, do you have concern about some of those arguments that I'm sure you would also agree are probably not true?

ANDREW HASTIE: Look, the bottom line is she has depth charged the Yes campaign with her incendiary remarks yesterday which I said were insulting, rude and condescending -

NADIA MITSOPOULOS: - But what about the claim being made to her?

ANDREW HASTIE: This is the problem with the Voice - there is no details. And I've got to say WA Labor effectively ran a scare campaign for the No side with the Aboriginal Cultural and Heritage Laws, which, in fact, were just an attack on property rights -

NADIA MITSOPOULOS: - That's got nothing to do with this. These are two separate issues.

ANDREW HASTIE: They are separate issues, but they're related in the sense that they're preferencing the rights of one group of people, based on ancestry and race, over the rest of Australians. And that's fundamentally the question before people, it's a yes or no question - do you think that there should be a constitutional amendment to basically give one group of people, based on ancestry, more rights than the rest of Australia? That's fundamentally the question.

NADIA MITSOPOULOS: Is it more rights or is it recognition and the ability for them to have a say in issues that affect them?

ANDREW HASTIE: No, this is redistribution of power. This is a whole new chapter into the Constitution that sits adjacent to the High Court, that sits adjacent to the Parliament and sits adjacent to the executive. Absolutely, there is an implied right to be consulted and an implied right to be heard and I think that will completely change our system of government. That's why I'm out there advocating No because we've come this far, we've had a system of government, whilst imperfect, that has stood the test of time - two World Wars, a pandemic, it's 122 years old - this is the most fundamental change that's been proposed since Federation and I think it will divide us as a people.

NADIA MITSOPOULOS: How does the Voice take power? Can you explain that?

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, because it will be inserted into the Constitution, and it will have the right to make representations to government which implies that the government will have to consult it before making decisions. and -

NADIA MITSOPOULOS: - It doesn't have to. The Prime Minister said it doesn't have to.

ANDREW HASTIE: He can't make that judgment. It will be decided by the High Court. So, we can see a lot of litigation come as a consequence of the of the Voice if it gets up. I just think it's a bad idea, it's divisive and now we're having people called racist or stupid if they disagree with it.

NADIA MITSOPOULOS: Again, to clarify, she was making it very clear that she was talking about some of the arguments she wasn't calling voters racist or stupid. I just want to bring something else to your attention, Andrew Hastie, we read in The Age today that volunteers in the No camp are being instructed to use fear and doubt, rather than facts, to trump arguments used by the Yes camp. Are you comfortable with that kind of a tactic?

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, I haven't seen the documents. I've heard the report, but I haven't seen the documents. So again, I'd like to see what is being reported for myself. I always go by primary evidence, and something -

NADIA MITSOPOULOS: - But if something like that was happening, would you feel comfortable with that? But don't you think the No argument is also using emotion and fear to push -

ANDREW HASTIE: Hold on a sec. I think that's the Yes framing the No campaign as all doom and fear. We're about unity, we want to keep this country together, we want to move forward together as one people. And, guess what? When you make an argument, you use persuasion, and the Yes side is using emotional blackmail to get people to vote Yes by saying it's the right thing to do. We ask the question: why? They can't articulate it and then if you put forward some of the No arguments, you're likely to get called a racist or stupid. But that's the art of debate. It's not just facts: you want to move people's hearts as well and we want to explain to people that this is incredibly divisive. Anthony Albanese's Voice is divisive. It will divide us as a people going forward and if we want to survive the next 100 years as a democracy, I think it's so important that we uphold the principle of equality before the law. And what this Voice does is it tramples all over that principle—which is the basis of a coherent society where everyone has a fair go.

NADIA MITSOPOULOS: I'll leave it there. Appreciate your time.

ANDREW HASTIE: Thanks, Nadia.