Interview with Sarah Abo, Today Show

Release details

Release type

Related ministers and contacts

The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

Media contact

02 6277 7800

Release content

23 June 2023

SARAH ABO, HOST: Well the Federal Government has had some wins and some losses in Canberra this week. They scored a win when Finance Minister Katy Gallagher narrowly escaped a censure motion over what she knew about the Brittany Higgins allegations. But Labor also suffered a major loss, their social housing bill remaining dead in the water, for now. And on top of that the back and forth over the Voice continues to escalate as the proposal passes a major milestone in the Senate. Let's bring in Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles in Geelong now and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton in Brisbane, thank you both for your time. Richard I want to come to you first, questions are being raised over whether the Voice will have the future to decide Australia Day. Will it?

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Australia Day is not going to change, and this Government's made it really clear. But the kind if line of questioning we heard from the Opposition over the last couple of weeks, which goes to Australia Day and a range of other issues, is really an attempt to be spreading fear, and be quite political about an issue which should be above politics. Ultimately, this is about recognising our First Nations people in the Constitution and doing that in a practical way through the establishment of a Voice, so that we don't do business as usual and we actually take steps to close the gap. And the gap that we've got between First Nations Australians and the rest of the country in terms of life expectancy, health, education, incarceration, I mean that just offends the Australian ethos of the fair go. And we need to change that. That's all the Voice is going to be focused on – issues which particularly affect Indigenous Australians. Now that's been very clear, the Opposition know that, but what we are seeing is really a political line of attack here, which is not seizing the greater moment for the country.

ABO: I mean Peter, you would agree all of those things do need to be addressed – need to be changed. You're calling for the whole referendum to be called off. Do you think that's a sensible move?

PETER DUTTON, OPPOSITION LEADER: Sarah, I just think every Australian wants to see a better outcome for those kids in Alice Springs or Katherine or Tennant Creek. The gap is most acute particularly in remote Indigenous communities. We want to do everything we can to narrow that gap, but the Prime Minister's taken a decision to put a question to the Australian people, and I think millions of Australians have got reasonable questions that the Government refuse to answer about how the Voice would operate. There are legal experts who look at the words the Government is proposing, and their advice is it would give the Voice the ability to have a say to executive government, and it would change the system of government in our country. And whether that would produce practical outcomes for the people that we want to help most is certainly in question. There's a bipartisan position in relation to constitutional recognition, and what we said yesterday is if it's certain that the Voice is going to fail, or if it just gets to 51-49 in favour, it basically splits the country in half. The unifying moment for the country instead of the division the Prime Minister is propagating is to come together to support constitutional recognition. I think we would have 80 or 90 per cent support for that, and that would be a more sensible question to put in October. But if the Prime Minister continues because he thinks he’s got a political advantage out of all of this, then I think that sets back reconciliation, and of course nobody wants that, everyone wants a better outcome. The Voice that they’re proposing, a new chapter in the Constitution, is the biggest change proposed to the Constitution in 120 years and they won't give you the detail.

ABO: Alright well the PM has come out firing, calling you unworthy of becoming Prime Minister on this issue. It certainly is divisive but we do have to vote towards the end of the year so let’s see that outcome then.

Now Richard, the Opposition unsuccessfully tried to censure Katy Gallagher, you are still confident in her position, though?

MARLES: Completely. I mean Katy Gallagher is one of the most ethical and honest people I know. She is a person of enormous integrity. And it is really my honour to serve with her. She's made her position really clear, and again, I feel very uncomfortable with the way in which the Opposition have gone about this issue. Brittany Higgins made an allegation of a sexual crime against her. Now, there's a process by which that's all investigated. But given how underreported sexual crimes are in this country, one thing that should be clear is that people who make those allegations are supported. And when you look at the way in which this whole issue has unfolded and the way in which the Opposition have gone about that, I feel very unsettled by how this has played out in the public eye. Katy Gallagher has behaved completely impeccably in all that she's done and she's made her position absolutely clear.

ABO: I guess it seems unclear to the Opposition, though, Richard that's for sure. Peter will you leave this issue alone now or bring it back after winter?

DUTTON: Sarah, honestly Richard is gilding the lily there. It's a ridiculous suggestion that he makes. This has nothing to do with Brittany Higgins, it's all to do with Katy Gallagher misleading the Senate. Every senior journalist in the Gallery has written that Katy Gallagher has misled the Senate and she should apologise. That's what it's about. It's about her behaviour, her activity. It's nothing to do with sexual assaults or reporting of sexual services, of course we want to provide support to victims and complainants of sexual assault. I think Richard demeans the whole issue here. Katy Gallagher was caught on camera fibbing and misleading the Senate. It's black and white. It's been reported by the journalists, it's indisputable. They have just dug in because they have the numbers in the Senate. That doesn't make it right.

ABO: Look it has become a bit ugly –

MARLES: Well we don't have the numbers in the Senate – can I just say we don't have the numbers in the Senate, and the idea this has nothing to do with Brittany Higgins completely beggars believe.

ABO: Alright guys we did hope to end on a positive note by talking about the Midwinter Ball and how it’s so lovely to see it so collegial and everyone looking so glamorous and beautiful before you have your break, but we have run out of time. Enjoy your two weeks and we’ll catch up again soon. Thanks guys.


Other related releases