Radio interview - 6PR Mornings

03 Apr 2023
Prime Minister
Perth derby; Aston by-election; Voice to Parliament referendum; Reserve Bank review; Cost of living pressures; Russian invasion of Ukraine; Woodside; Relationship with China; Brisbane Olympics

SIMON BEAUMONT, HOST: Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, good morning.

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

BEAUMONT: Thanks for coming into the studio today.

PRIME MINISTER: Always better in the studio.

BEAUMONT: It certainly is. You've been in here many times. The game yesterday, the football, did you enjoy it? What was your heart and your head saying yesterday?

PRIME MINISTER: It was a great game. Well, I was hoping for a one point game. I didn't have a team, my team's Hawthorn, they're doing it tough but they had a win on Saturday against North. And Clarko, there would have been a bit of rivalry in there given the change of coach. But it was a top game and what a great stadium. I went to the women's derby here last year or the year before, between West Coast and Freo, and that was great. But yesterday, of course, a packed stadium, passionate fans, I got to meet some of the little kids doing Auskick at half-time. Went out there with Nat Fyfe and the AFL leadership, Gil and co, and the Premier Mark McGowan. So it's just a great afternoon.

BEAUMONT: They make some noise, Fremantle people, don't they?

PRIME MINISTER: They do, they sure do. I love their passion, and it's always a good thing a local derby. What it does though, even though there's rivalry, it really brings the city together. And same as the Adelaide derbies, the Sydney one doesn't quite have as much oomph in it at the moment, between GWS and the Swans, but here in in Perth, which is such an AFL town, of course everyone is very passionate.

BEAUMONT: Speaking of rivalries, cast your mind back to Saturday. You have a win in Aston, in a by-election, Mary Doyle gets up, and another red seat in Victoria and in Melbourne. You now have red premiers, Labor premiers in every state of Australia. We have a Federal Labor Government as well. Much commentary is talking about branding, reputation, campaigning style, and the policies of the Labor Party. But can I ask you this, in your heart of hearts, is it good for democracy to have Australia completely Labor apart from Tassie?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it's good to have governments that are getting things done. And the Australian people in our democracy get to have a say. And on Saturday, they gave a vote of confidence in my government, the people of Aston, and in Mary Doyle who is a suburban mum. She grew up in public housing, she's raised kids on her own, not just her own kids, but has someone who she looks after as well, her niece, and she's gone through cancer, she's a cancer survivor. This is someone who people wanted to represent them and she'll be a fantastic local representative.

BEAUMONT: But is it good for democracy? So asking that in a slightly different way, when every government, state and federal apart from Tassie is Labor? Does that mean we just have to trust you guys?

PRIME MINISTER: What it means is that it is Labor that are very clear about what we stand for. We stand for improving people's lives. We want to work with business and unions, we want to work with the community, we want to take Australia forward. I think on Saturday, people had a look at the Opposition, and they're saying no to everything. I mean just in the last month or so with legislation, they've said no to manufacturing jobs in the outer suburbs and in our regions by saying no to the National Reconstruction Fund. They said no to the Safeguard Mechanism on climate change that we have a clear mandate for. They’re saying no to increased investment in social and affordable housing. They've become the observers rather than the participants of federal politics, and people rejected that negativity, people have got conflict fatigue. They want people to work together. Mark McGowan received a ringing endorsement here in the last WA state election, I believe in part because he'd been positive. He’d taken the action that was necessary to protect West Australians. And the Opposition here had just been so negative. Peter Dutton is doing the same thing, and on Saturday the voters of Aston cast their judgment on that.

BEAUMONT: I want to just press slightly on that matter of trust and trust in your government and in you, Albo. You were visibly emotional when you started talking about the Voice recently. Clearly that's, you're asking us in many ways to, at this stage, to buy the sizzle, not necessarily the sausage, when it comes to the Voice. You're asking us to trust you because you're personally invested in it. Do you think the broader electorate at referendum time will buy that? ‘Albo says this is good, we should go with it, trust Albo on the Voice’?

PRIME MINISTER: I think people will have a look at the words that they're voting on, and what they're voting on is two things, and two things only. Constitutional recognition, should we recognise that there were people here, we share this continent with the oldest continuous culture on earth. We didn't begin with a colony in Sydney in 1788. We had at least 60,000 years of continuous culture and history, we should be proud of that, it should be recognised in our Constitution.

BEAUMONT: Why does it make you emotional, this initiative?

PRIME MINISTER: Because if you look at the most disadvantaged people in Australia, then you go straight to looking at some of the Indigenous communities. And for 122 years, we've made decisions in Canberra, or in state capitals for, with the best of intentions quite often across the board, with the best of intentions for Indigenous Australians. But we have a 10 year gap in life expectancy. Indigenous Australians are the most incarcerated in the world, per capita. We have gaps in education and housing and health, in infant mortality, we need to do something better. And consulting people, which is what it's about, won't be a right of veto. Consulting people, asking them what their view is on matters that affect them is what the Voice is about, essentially giving them a voice. And we know that when Aboriginal Australians are consulted on issues like justice reinvestment, on the Indigenous Rangers program, on community health, they're the programs that have the best outcomes. When we have people imposing things, then you don't get as good an outcome. And this is a historic moment. We have spoken about constitutional recognition. John Howard went to the 2007 election talking about constitutional recognition. The Uluru Statement was in 2017, we've waited a long time. And one of the things that I say is, ‘if not now, when?’ And I am cognisant of the implications if this isn't successful. I think it will be bad for Indigenous Australians, they will be hurt by that. I think we will not have the opportunity to embrace and unify the nation. I think it will be a unifying moment if Australians vote yes, and I really hope that that occurs.

BEAUMONT: I’ve done some stats, Prime Minister, and I hope this is right. 44 referenda in history, federal referenda in history, only eight have got up.

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, it's tough.

BEAUMONT: History is tough on a Yes vote, isn't it?

PRIME MINISTER: It certainly is. And you've got to get a majority in a majority of states. So it is a very high hurdle and that’s as it should be. But people should, there'll be a whole lot of distractions raised, but it is really a simple proposition. It doesn't have a right of veto, it is simply that Indigenous Australians should be consulted on matters that affect them. And there's important words in there to deal with legal issues, like it says, “may make representations,” they don't have to. And it makes it clear that the Parliament remains primacy. So I think it comes down to, this referendum won't make a direct difference to most of your listeners’ lives. But it just might make a positive difference to Indigenous Australians who've been so disadvantaged. And when the world looks at Australia as well, it will reinforce the fact that we are a fair-minded country. And that's what this is about as well. Just being fair.

BEAUMONT: One of the issues you're, two main issues, I think at the moment that your government is grappling with federally is the amount of housing stock we have in Australia. And there's a report around today that there might be a shortfall over the next few years, of labour and materials. The other one is cost of living. And we could be looking at another interest rate rise. I know your Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, is sitting on a review into the performance of the Reserve Bank at the moment. Is Philip Lowe doing a good job, his contract’s up later this year, is he doing a good job?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we have confidence in the Governor of the Reserve Bank, as both sides of politics have. The Reserve Bank is independent of government. And that's an important part of our architecture, the way that Australia is run. There's bipartisan support for that. The Reserve Bank will meet tomorrow and will make a decision about interest rates.

BEAUMONT: What are you hoping for?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, they'll make their decisions independently. But certainly last week, the figures show with a slight drop in inflation, it was at the bottom end of market expectations that the prediction that was there, that inflation would peak in December of last year, appears to be correct at this point in time. So I'm sure that they will bear that in mind, but they make their decision independently. I'm very aware that people are doing it tough. One of the reasons why we brought down such a responsible Budget in last October, where we returned 99 per cent of the revenue gains to the Budget, was to take that pressure off inflation. And so we're conscious of that. That's why we’ve brought in cheaper medicines, came in from January 1, cheaper child care starts on July 1. There's 18,000 people here in WA benefiting right now from fee-free TAFE. So we looked at measures to take pressure off living standards, the cost of living, without putting pressure on inflation has been our economic focus, and it will be in the Budget we bring down in May as well.

BEAUMONT: Prime Minister it wasn't an April Fool's joke, as it turned out. By dint of rotation, Russia are now heading up the United Nations Security Council. How do you feel about that? I would imagine the Ukrainian leader is less than impressed?

PRIME MINISTER: Russia have shown contempt for the international rule of law. And so that is a very unfortunate circumstance. It is just a rotation, but Russia, if they have any respect for the rule of law, for the rights of nation states to exist within their borders, if they have any respect for national sovereignty, they should stop the illegal war and immoral war against the people of Ukraine right now.

BEAUMONT: Coming back closer to home. Woodside have been attracting negative publicity here in Western Australia, it’s interesting that the Woodside Energy logo is still on the Dockers jumper. But there are corners of our community who are unhappy with Woodside and their, I suppose their alleged environmental record in the north-west of WA. Would you work for Woodside, or would you be happy for one of your members of your family to work for Woodside?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I'm happy with my current job, I must say. So I'm not looking for a part-time job on top of that, because there's only so many hours in a day. Look, Woodside employ Australians. They employ Australians, they contribute to our economy and every single person that they employ, that's a good thing.

BEAUMONT: The Queensland and the Victorian premiers have or are announcing that they're going to China, visit China as state leaders. Mr McGowan's going as well. Are you happy for premiers to visit China to shore up trade agreements and relationships with China?

PRIME MINISTER: Absolutely I am, because it's about jobs, and it's about them looking after their state. WA is a great export state. And the number one destination for the exports from WA is China. So it's a good thing that Mark McGowan is engaged with our major trading partner. And I want to see co-operation with China wherever we can. We will stand up on issues where we must, where we do have differences, but we’ll engage in our national interest. And it's a good thing, I think it's a good thing that I met President Xi at the G20 Meeting last year. And it's a good thing that just last week, my Assistant Trade Minister, Senator Tim Ayres met with his counterpart. And I look forward to my Trade Minister Don Farrell visiting China in coming weeks.

BEAUMONT: Any plans for Anthony Albanese to go to China?

PRIME MINISTER: No plans at this point in time. I've said that if I was invited, I would go. I think that dialogue is always a good thing. It's always good to talk and engage. That doesn't mean that we don't have differences, we're a great democracy. China is not a democracy. And with that comes differences in the way that we're structured. But as our major trading partner, a lot of Australian jobs and economic activity is connected with China as well as our other major trading partners.

BEAUMONT: Would you be happy for China to partner up or sponsor with the Brisbane Olympics?

PRIME MINISTER: Oh look, we'll be running the Olympics, the Australian Government together with the Queensland Government. We're not looking for any other governments.

BEAUMONT: But if they stuck their hand up and said here’s some?

PRIME MINISTER: Well we’re not looking for any other governments to be to be engaged. We hope that every country participates in the Olympics, of course, including China, we think that's a good thing. The Olympics will be fantastic for Brisbane and for Queensland. There will be a whole lot of activities as well in in the regions in Queensland. And that's important. It's a great regional state, just like WA, I took the entire Cabinet to Port Hedland a short time ago. It was a terrific visit. I visited Kalgoorlie, I visited Albany. On future visits this year, I'll be visiting other regions as well.

BEAUMONT: All right, Prime Minister, thanks for talking to the 6PR listeners this morning here on the morning program. We really appreciate it. When will we know a referendum date for the Voice?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the legislation hasn't been passed yet. So what we've done is, we've introduced the legislation, there'll be a committee which will examine it, people are entitled to put forward submissions to that committee that was established last Thursday. That will report in the Budget sessions. We'll have the debate in Parliament, hopefully pass the legislation in June, and then we'll be able to establish a date, but it'll be sometime between October and December of this year.

BEAUMONT: All right. PM, thanks for coming in. Thanks for talking to the 6PR listeners.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, Simon.