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Radio interview – MMM Hobart Woody and Tubes

The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP


Subjects: The Voice to Parliament; National Anti-Corruption Commission

ANDY 'TUBES' TAYLOR, HOST: Later this year Australians will have their say in a referendum about whether to change the Constitution to establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament to recognise the First Peoples of Australia. To talk through that referendum, what the Constitution means and a few other things, we have the Attorney-General in the studio, Mark Dreyfus. Good morning, Mark.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL MARK DREYFUS: Thanks very much for having me Tubes. Hello Woody.

ESTHER 'WOODY' NICOLS, HOST: And this is your first pitstop. I know you're going around the state Launceston and then ...

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Up to Burnie and Devonport tomorrow.

TAYLOR:  So what is the purpose of your visit Mark?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: It's to talk to people about the Voice. To do what I do everywhere in Australia, to visit Community Legal Centres, talk to people in my portfolio areas. So I always do that everywhere, but this visit, I'm really talking about the Voice as much as possible.

TAYLOR:  I was just wondering, for those out there that don't understand, what is the exact purpose of the Attorney-General? What is your key role?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I'm the law minister, or the justice minister. I've got responsibility for the courts. I've got responsibilities for criminal justice. I'm the minister for the Australian Federal Police. I've got a long list of things but all around law and justice.

NICOLS: So we have to have a vote because we're looking at changing the Constitution. That's my understanding. That's why we all have to vote because you do that with anything you want to change in the Constitution right?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: The Constitution says how you change it and it's a hard process because it's got to pass through both Houses of Parliament with an absolute majority, and then it's got to go to a vote of the people.

NICOLS: So are you able to simplify it for me? What exactly the Voice is, what are we voting for?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We're voting to put 92 words in the Constitution. A new Section, it's going to go at the end. It will be Section 129. And what it's going to do is provide a Voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People to speak to the Parliament and speak to the executive government about matters that affect them.

NICOLS: So now across our state we love everyone's perspective - and you can give us yours Tassie on 0488 881 073 - but across the state, there seems to be a lot of division, including from the community that the referendum wishes to represent. What do you make of that?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Oh, I don't think we look for unanimity ever in Australia. We're a democracy, we have discussions, we debate things. And overwhelmingly, though, across Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People support this idea of the Voice. It's been a long time coming. We had the Uluru Statement From The Heart in 2017, which was Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People saying, this is the way we want to be recognised in the Constitution with this Voice. I'd ask all of your listeners to go and have a read of the Uluru Statement. It's pretty short but it's a very powerful statement. And Anthony Albanese, he said in the first moment on election night, that we were committed to doing what's asked for in the Uluru Statement From The Heart. And the first thing there is a Voice in the Constitution.

TAYLOR: Why is it so important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People to have a Voice in Parliament?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: It's important to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. It's important to all of us. It's about recognition and it's about listening. Recognition of the 60,000 years of culture and occupation of this country by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and listening, because we know that when we listen to people about whom we're making laws and policies, we get better outcomes.

TAYLOR: How will a Yes vote affect everyday Tasmanians?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: A Yes vote will affect everyday Tasmanians by them knowing that we have done something practical for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People because we've given them a way - and it's going to be there in the Constitution, always - we've given them a way to speak out to the Parliament, to executive government, about the laws and policies that affect them and we know that we'll get better outcomes. That's something that should matter to everyday Australians, to everyday Tasmanians.

TAYLOR: What do you say to people, though, that are saying that this will divide our country, like the Opposition Leader, Peter Dutton?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, I think that, sadly, you know, Peter Dutton is being divisive when he says that. This is a unifying moment. This is something that we can all come together on and we'd all hoped to see from the Liberal Party, from Mr Dutton joining up accepting this generous invitation from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People to put a Voice in the Constitution. Sadly, he's decided to be divisive about it. But I am very confident that Australians are going to reject that, they're going to see it for what it is, a simple addition to our Constitution. That's going to be a unifying moment.

TAYLOR: I've always said that as a Tasmanian I'm incredibly proud of my history in this place. And I think that our greatest opportunity as a nation is to embrace 60,000 years of culture and history and I think this, personally for me, and I've read a fair bit about it, Mark, this is a major opportunity that may not come around again. To embrace 60,000 years of culture in this land, in this country and I am encouraging people to vote Yes, and that's my personal view. But I'm also encouraging people to go to to learn and read about the specifics of what's happening here. Mark, to move on, we had Anthony Albanese on the show speaking about the National Anti-Corruption Commission. This is what he had to say:

PRIME MINISTER: I think people do want to clean up politics and to do that you need to restore confidence in the system. And that's why we'll establish a National-Anti Corruption Commission and I will introduce legislation this year if we're elected.

TAYLOR: So why is the National Anti-Corruption Commission so important?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: It's great to hear the Prime Minister speaking there before the election. And it's good to think that on the first of July, just last Saturday, the National Anti-Corruption Commission opened its doors for business, which is a pretty mighty achievement really, to set up a medium-sized Commonwealth agency from scratch. We did just what the Prime Minister said in that little grab there. We bought legislation to the Parliament last year and it's been set up. What it's going to do is, I think, clean up government in Australia. It's going to provide an opportunity for anyone that's concerned about corruption anywhere in the national government to refer something to the National Anti-Corruption Commission and it can decide, because it's independent, to have a look at it.

NICOLS:   We appreciate your time.

TAYLOR: Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, it's always great to have our national politicians in the studio. We appreciate your time. Thanks so much for joining us.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Great to be here.