Transcript: ABC Perth Drive



Topics: The Voice, AUKUS, cost of living


JO TRILLING: It is time for the week in review and on today's panel, Dr. Anne Aly, the Labor Member for Cowan and Andrew Hastie, the Liberal Member for Canning. Good afternoon to you both.

ANNE ALY: Afternoon, Jo.

ANDREW HASTIE: Good afternoon, Jo, Anne. Good to be with you both.

JO TRILLING: Now the wording for the Voice referendum question has been finalised and despite speculation about potential concessions and compromises, the body will be able to consult both the Parliament and executive government. Yesterday a very emotional Prime Minister flanked with the Referendum Working Group. Andrew, can I start with you, I'm interested to know will you be backing the Voice?

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, first of all, I must say that the Coalition believes that we must have reconciliation with our indigenous brothers and sisters here. We also want Australia to be unified and not divided and we want real practical solutions that make a difference on the ground in remote and regional in indigenous communities. So that's our starting point. The question for us is, does the Voice achieve these things? That question is outstanding and it's on the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to make the case. We do have a list of questions that haven't been answered and before the Australian people go to the polls on this question that the Labor government is putting to them, we want those answers because when you change the rulebook for the nation, it's so important that everyone is fully informed of both the yes and the no case. And so we will be asking questions and we'll come to a party position in due course.

JO TRILLING: Andrew, the Prime Minister sort of really gave way to frustration about the way Opposition Leader, Peter Dutton, has responded. He said, "I sat down with him yesterday, I sat down with him before we did the press conference." It's the seventh time he has met with Peter Dutton, Peter Dutton has met with the Referendum Working Group twice and at those meetings, you know, questions have been raised, and there have been opportunities to raise them. What do you say to that?

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, Peter Dutton has written to the Prime Minister with 15 questions, he hasn't had a reply to that letter yet and we're also calling on the government to release the Solicitor General's advice which was tended to the Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, because both those individuals had questions about the impact of the Voice in relationship to executive government. So, they're the sorts of details that we want. I think if you want to change the Constitution, as a Prime Minister, you have to be consultative. And I've got to say, Jo, the Machinery of Referendum Bill, we had to fight to get a Yes/No pamphlet for the Australian people that's always been sent out to every household across the country, we had to fight for that. The Yes and No official case, the government did not allow that, and they did not fund a Yes and No case through the Bill. So, we were right to ask these questions because the Prime Minister has to make the case and he's got to do it fairly and I don't think he's done that along the way.

JO TRILLING: Well, they have come to the party with that No pamphlet, and I think a big argument around that was how we source information in today's day and age, in a digital day and age, and perhaps that there were other ways to get that message out. But Anne, I'll go to you now. Peter Dutton has said the Solicitor-General disagreed with the wording that the government has put out and his calling for his advice to be released. Does the advice of the Solicitor-General support the ultimate wording of the amendment?

ANNE ALY: Well, I just want to make this point very clearly, Jo, the point about detail and about questions is becoming quite tedious and, quite frankly, quite disingenuous from the Liberal Party and from Peter Dutton. There has been ample opportunity for the Liberal Party to have their say and to raise issues and to make suggestions about the legislation that will be put to the Parliament. Julian Leeser, who is the Shadow Minister has been involved with the wording of this for an entire decade. He was one of the first people who were involved in the process a decade ago. So, there's been ample opportunity for the Liberals and Peter Dutton, and indeed even for Andrew, to have their say on this. The wording is very, very simple. The wording is simply a proposal to alter the Constitution to recognise the first peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve of this proposed alteration? Yes or no. All of the other -the Constitution of the Voice, what they can do, the advice, all of this has to be decided by the Parliament and that includes Andrew Hastie, that includes Peter Dutton, anyone in Parliament once the Voice is established. So, I think that these are all [inaudible] in all honesty and with respect, I think that these are attempts to kick the can down the line so that the Liberal Party doesn't have to state their position. I think the Australian people deserve to know what the position of the Liberal Party is, yes or no.

JO TRILLING: Anne, there have been, you know, many advisory groups over decades. What makes the Voice different?

ANNE ALY: If anyone has ever had the opportunity to listen to Thomas Mayor on this, I had the opportunity to hear him talk about this the other night and I was just blown away because he gives a very concise and detailed history of the decades of work that has culminated in this point that we have now before us, this historical moment we have now before us in Australia. There have been umpteen reports, there have been umpteen conferences, there have been umpteen people brought together as we said, summits, and every single one of them has called for the same thing - for recognition and a Voice. It is time to do this. It's been too long that this has been something that has been requested by our First Nations people. And where we have had bodies, as Marcia Langton said, where we have had bodies, they have simply been not listened to but they have been effective in making that practical change that Andrew talks about in having a practical impact on the ground that we all want to see. But they haven't been listened to because it hasn't been legislated because it hasn't been in the Constitution and that's what we're seeking to do with the Voice is to ensure that future governments coming in cannot dismantle this mechanism for ensuring that the voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people gets listened to and heard in our Parliament in our policy making and in our law making.

JO TRILLING: I had Thomas Mayor on the program yesterday and he's amazing.

ANNE ALY: Isn't he just a beautiful person?

JO TRILLING: Andrew, I'm curious to know what people in your electorate are telling you about this. There has been misunderstanding and some confusion but now that we have the actual wording do you think that people have got a clearer sense of how they will vote in the referendum?

ANDREW HASTIE: I've got to say, Jo, it's been very quiet up until the last few days. People have barely registered that there is a push by the government for a Voice because they've been worried about cost of living issues. That's what's front and centre for a lot of people. And I've got to say that most of the feedback I've had is negative so far over the last 24 hours or so, people are concerned about how this Voice will impact the functioning of the executive government. And when you've got people like Greg Craven, a constitutional lawyer who is actually involved with the inception of the Voice - so he's always been a long term proponent of the Voice - coming out and basically saying this is a massive overreach and it will have complications for the for the way we govern this country and the way our democracy works, well, you've got to listen, and people are concerned. And so again, I just say, Jo, the onus is on Anthony Albanese to explain how this works and why it won't complicate government.


ANNE ALY: Like, Andrew, I've not had a lot of feedback on this, but I must say it's very generational as well. I did attend a day at the University of Western Australia and for young people, it was just a no brainer. They were like 'yeah, of course we supportive a Voice.' So, I think there is some work to be done but I think we need to look at the demographics of who supports it and who doesn't. And I do think that the younger generation, and there are a lot of people who come up to me and say, 'yeah, absolutely. I support the Voice. So my experience has been a little different to Andrew’s, but I have observed a generational difference there.

JO TRILLING: It is 10 to five on ABC Radio Perth. Dr. Anne Aly, Labor Member for Cowan, Minister for Youth and Early Childhood Education, and Andrew Hastie, the Liberal Member for Canning, Shadow Minister for Defence are my guests. Let's move on to another topic, maybe also contentious that has been doing the rounds, this AUKUS deal. Andrew, you've been asking the government to reveal how it will pay for these submarines. What are your concerns there?

ANDREW HASTIE: Yeah, Jo. First of all, I want to say we support this wholeheartedly from a bipartisan perspective. So there is no daylight between Labor and the Coalition on whether or not we need nuclear submarines as part of our Defence Force design and structure going forward. So it's a very good decision that's been landed by the Prime Minister. But we do have concerns about transparency around spending, because as I made clear in the Parliament this week, we want to have financial continuity over the next 30 years. Governments will change and we want to make sure that this nation building project survives changes in the Parliament and in governments. And it's really clear therefore, that they are transparent with how much this will cost, where the costs will spike, where they will trough so that we can make preparations and explain to the Australian people how we're going to pay for it and what we can expect their contribution to be, and that's really important because we can't we cannot allow this to fail.

JO TRILLING: Andrew, you were an SAS assault swimmer, know from your experience, what do you make of the Virginia class submarines? Are they a better vessel?

ANDREW HASTIE: Absolutely, a much better vessel. I was an assault swimmer t the SASR and that meant that I actually conducted multi-swimmer release from a Collins class submarine out off the shelf of WA. And I've got to say, it's a very risky undertaking. What we get with the Virginia class submarines is a nine-man lockout compartment, which is much safer, and the submarine can release Special Operations troops for an insertion and get them back in without actually surfacing every time you do it - with the Collins class, you've got to surface. So yes, this is a significant investment in capability from strike, obviously, it'll be able to fire vertically launched missiles, but also with more sensitive operations involving our troops.

JO TRILLING: Now, Labor backbencher, Josh Wilson. was the first to break the Labor ranks. The Fremantle MP used a speech in the Parliament saying it might undermine Australia's commitment to Nuclear Non-Proliferation.


Now Anne, in Caucus on Tuesday, I understand a number of other MPs raised questions also about funding the deal, is there much division?

ANNE ALY: Look, it made a great headline didn't it because it rhymes, Caucus and AUKUS. But look, yeah, every Labor member is committed to the AUKUS deal. As Andrew has said, it is a very important deal and it is very important that we do get these excellent submarines. Andrew knows all about submarines and he articulated that very well in his answer, He knows much more than I do about submarines but I did spend three days on a Collins class and I'll tell you, if I had my life as a do over I'd consider becoming a submariner.

JO TRILLING: Really? I went on one out at Garden Island and I couldn't. I mean, it's fascinating, it's incredibly interesting, but I was looking at the beds and how they have to squeeze in and being down there. I don't know, I think I'm too claustrophobic for it.

ANNE ALY: I thought what a wonderful career choice for somebody as a submariner. Unfortunately, I'm too old now, I'm probably too stuck in my ways. But it certainly if I had my life as a do over. If I could just answer the question about the cost because it is a significant cost, it's one of the biggest Defence spending costs that we've seen. But we have clearly articulated what the cost is, we've clearly said that the cost is $368 billion, that's over the entire life of it. But over the forward estimates, it's $9 billion and we've clearly said that that's already offset, and we'll see that in the Budget in May when that comes up. But we've also said that this represents, over the life of this whole project, it represents about 0.15 per cent of GDP averaged out over the life of the program. And we've committed to lifting Defence spending to over two per cent of GDP per year. So, I think that we have been very clear and very transparent with the Australian people about the costs over the forwards, this $9 billion over the forwards for capability, and then over the longer term out to 2055 as well. I think the question really is if you look at the 10 years, $58 million from taxpayers $24 billion coming from money allocated to now, you know, the cancelled French class, but where's that remaining $34 billion coming from? We'll work through that, but the important thing is that over the board, that 9 billion has been offset. That $9 billion will build capability and let's not forget that the jobs that will come out of this, the manufacturing capabilities that will come out of this, and the contribution to the economy that will come out of this significant investment that Australia is making.


ANDREW HASTIE: Well, look, we're going to hold them to account. We are the opposition and we do support this wholeheartedly, but we do want to make sure that we make it bulletproof going forward and that means greater transparency with the costs. And by doing so, we build that trust and social licence with the Australian people who will be asked to invest over the next 30 years in this capability. But I will say this, Jo, very quickly. I'm really excited for WA, I mean, really excited. The amount of investment that's coming to the South Metro area, in and around Rockingham and the Peel Region, is just incredible - $8 to $9 billion worth. Lots of jobs for young Australians, whether it's as submariners, or in industry, or indeed, through the supply chains that are going to support these submarines. Very, very exciting and it's going to start here in Perth first. We are the first cab off the rank in this nation building project.

JO TRILLING: Andrew, I have to tell you, I've had a number of texts come through on 0437 922 720 - "I live in Andrew Hastie's electorate and it has not been quiet in my circles. It has been overwhelmingly in support, including my 13-year-old who had to do an assignment, who says of course, we need a Voice - thank goodness." And Susie says "Kaya Jo, I'm in Hastie's electorate. I am a Yes to the Voice voter. I am sick of scaremongering on this issue and want everyone to be truthful about what the voice means."

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, great. I'm grateful that they're making their voice known through your program, but you asked me about what I've heard, and I can only go by the emails and the phone calls and the conversations that my team and I have and again, it's cost of living that's on front and centre of people's minds. So, there you go.

JO TRILLING: Just on cost of living, what are people telling you? You both have got electorates in areas where there's going to be huge pressure on mortgages.

ANDREW HASTIE: People are struggling. The cost of groceries is going up, their power bills are going up. You know, the Prime Minister said multiple times that he'd take $275 off people's power bills, that hasn't happened. But the main issue, I've got to say, is the McGowan government's handling of the health system. I can't begin to tell you how many stories I've got of people who have been ramped for hours, who've waited in ED at Peel Health Campus, who have just had to leave in a taxi untreated. The staff at the hospital are superb, but there are structural issues that the McGowan government is failing to fix and that's the number one issue for me - health.

JO TRILLING: Anne, what are your constituents telling you?

ANNE ALY: My constituents in part of my electorate have been dealing with the cost of living pressures for much longer than the 10 months that we've been in government and for much longer than the 10 months that the Liberals have been in Opposition, Jo. But look, we understand that there are rising costs of living and that higher interest rates are hitting Australians hard. We understand that inflation is the defining issue of the economy for 2023. It's not an issue of our own creation, but it's an issue that the Albanese Government is taking seriously. And looking at how we provide responsible cost of living benefit relief, how we repair the supply chains, which the Reserve Bank Governor has said is the biggest contributor to inflation and cost of living, and for showing spending restraint in the Budget as well. So we're doing a number of things, but in full recognition of how hard this is hitting everyday Australians, we've lowered the cost of medications, in 99 days there'll be cheaper fees, early childhood education and care. We've got Fee-Free TAFE and in fact, I've just gotten off a plane from Melbourne where I went and met some young people at Swinburne TAFE who were saving thousands of dollars by accessing the Fee-Free TAFE courses -

JO TRILLING: - Anne, I'm going to have to interrupt you there, we're going to hit the news. Thank you both so much for joining me.

ANDREW HASTIE: Thanks, Jo. Thanks, Anne.

ANNE ALY: Thanks Jo, Thanks, Andrew.