Sky News, AM Agenda with Laura Jayes

03 August 2023


Laura Jayes: Well, amid the debate about the Voice, it's become a little cloudy because there is now talk about steps towards a treaty. It is claimed that there's a recent draft of Labor's national platform that talks about this. Strengthened wording of Labor's national platform draft, which will be taken to the party's conference later this month.

Joining me live now is the Assistant Trade Minister Tim Ayres. Tim Ayres, first of all, let's clarify exactly what is going to be taken to the national platform and by whom.

Tim Ayres, Assistant Trade Minister and Assistant Manufacturing Minister: You know what matters here. It's what the conference adopts. It's extraordinary the amount of interest in drafts being circulated of policy propositions that will be debated at the National Conference. I mean, it'll be a scoop tomorrow that three paragraphs have been reordered on page 37. I mean, honestly, it's pretty – I understand there are people who spend their whole lives in libraries reading obscure texts, sort of passing sentences, engaged in the sort of semiotics of what these things mean, but honestly –

Laura Jayes: But what it does demonstrate –

Tim Ayres: The Prime Minister has been pretty clear –

Laura Jayes: Sure, but what it does demonstrate –

Tim Ayres: This is just part of the effort.

Laura Jayes: Okay, sure. But there's elements within the Labor Party that want to see a treaty happen sooner rather than later, and they'll be pushing that at National Conference. Is that a fair assessment?

Tim Ayres: I don't know. We'll see how the National Conference goes. This is just this sort of weird obscurantism focused on all of this stuff, when what is it really about? It's trying to create an apprehension in people's minds that there's a set of risks that just don't exist to demonise a set of propositions.

Now, there's a debate that will go on in the community in the lead-up to the Voice referendum. The Voice referendum is a very straightforward proposition. It'll be assessed by voters on its merits. There are people on the conservative side of politics who are for the Voice proposition. There are people on the conservative side of politics who are against it. You know, that's the way a constitutional referendum works.

Laura Jayes: Sure.

Tim Ayres: It's a proposition that I believe will properly acknowledge 65, 000 years of Indigenous history in Australia and will provide a constitutionally guaranteed Voice to Parliament. And there's constraints about the role of the Voice and how it approaches the Parliament and the Executive. These are very straightforward propositions. But this I mean, honestly, the effort to go up into sort of what some branch of the Labor Party has said, or what some person has said ten years ago or six months ago, or what policy drafts there are that are going to be debated by delegates at the conference, I mean, honestly.

Laura Jayes: But what you're saying to me today, and I don't wish to verbal you, so I'll put it in question form, is that – are you saying that, essentially, talk of a treaty and a treaty is actually damaging the case for yes?

Tim Ayres: No, not at all. I mean, all these issues have got to be - will be fleshed out. But the focus has got to be on what the actual proposition is, not some sort of forecasting. You know, this is –

Laura Jayes: Yeah, sure. But people are thinking a couple of steps ahead, Tim Ayres. People are thinking a couple of steps ahead, and they're entitled to do that.

Tim Ayres: Yeah, sure.

Laura Jayes: So, again, does a Voice and a vote for Yes lead to treaty, or does it actually mean that a treaty might be then some way off?

Tim Ayres: Well, we should think a few steps ahead, and we should think about the difference that a Voice to Parliament will make in terms of real outcomes. The discussion about truth telling, about treaty, about the whole range of issues that the Uluru Statement canvases, these are not new questions. There are parliaments in Australia at state level that are engaged in these processes and have been engaged at local level, in agreement making all around Australia for decades. This is not a new set of propositions. And you would expect a Voice to Parliament will deal with issues that matter for the health and welfare and economic and social advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people right across our country. And that's a good thing.

The argument shouldn't be to try and create some fear about an idea and then say to people, “you shouldn't talk about it.” The Voice to Parliament will strengthen our democracy and assist people to engage in all these debates. But particularly, as Linda Burney has said, she's made it very clear what she expects the Voice to Parliament to come forward to the executive -

Laura Jayes: Well, there's some criticism there, is she speaking clearly enough?

Tim Ayres: About the issues that go to education – sorry -

Laura Jayes: Is she answering these questions clearly enough?

Tim Ayres: Linda Burney has been such a strong and effective advocate on these issues for so long. The first First Nations MP in the NSW Parliament, the first First Nations woman MP in the Federal Parliament, a Minister she has been speaking clearly with great moral authority and experience on these questions for decades. There will be, in the coming weeks and months, as we approach this referendum, there will be an opportunity for Australians to hear very clearly what the arguments are. And I think they'll look through the scare campaigns and the way that the No campaign has been constructing its arguments to what is the heart of the matter.

Laura Jayes: Okay.

Tim Ayres: And the heart of the matter is that after a long period of consultation and discussion and argument and agreement, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at Uluru came forward with a very simple constitutional proposition that they know will make a difference for their communities, and, you know, we should adopt it. Australians should read the Uluru Statement, it's a pretty powerful document itself and should listen to the arguments.

Laura Jayes: All right, we've got months of that ahead, certainly from both sides.

Tim Ayres: We have.

Laura Jayes: Tim Ayres, thanks so much.

Assistant Minister: Thanks, Laura.