Press conference, Brisbane
Today, we begin the march towards history. Today, we begin a story that has been long in the making – a story about a united Australia – one that recognises its true history, that recognises the first peoples of this country in its founding document, the Constitution. It does that in a way that, of course, acknowledges the value of all of that, and the unique cultural identity of our country, who we are as Australians. That's what today begins for us. And I want to acknowledge all of those people who have been on this long journey. It has been decades in the making, there have been hundreds and thousands of people who have worked hard to get us to this point, who've come together, shared ideas, had the arguments, had the discussions, found a way through, and then presented to Australia this very, very modest offer about how we might look into the future.
The rest of the world will be watching us in the next six weeks of how we as Australians will interact with each other, how we will tackle this part of the journey of who we are. And the rest of the world, I feel, will see us for the true Australians that we are – Australians that recognise every part of our history, recognise the first Australians, the new Australians, and of course the Australians that are yet to come. That's what this profound day and what this referendum will do for all of us. I am voting yes. I'm voting 'yes' for recognition, I'm voting 'yes' for better results, I'm voting 'yes' for listening – that's what it's all about, it's as simple as that and I know that my fellow Queenslanders and Australians will see that for what it is as well, and we'll see the true gift that it will be giving to all of us into the future.
So I want to thank everybody that's turned up today here in Brisbane, in Meanjin, everybody that's turning out right across Queensland, people who are turning up right across Australia today to get ready for this referendum, for this journey to history. This is our time – all Australians – it's our time as Aboriginal people, as Torres Strait Islander people. It's our time as Queenslanders, and it's our time as Australians. And on those few words, I'll pass now to my incredible colleagues at the federal level who are absolutely driving this, helping all Australians to reach the massive potential that this referendum presents to us. So I'll hand over to Senator Murray Watt. Thank you.
Well, thanks very much, Leeanne. It's a real honour to join you along with my colleague, Jim Chalmers, and Steve Mam, the Campaign Director for the 'Yes' campaign here in Queensland, in a really iconic Queensland spot to officially launch the Queensland campaign for the Voice Referendum now that we know the date is October the 14th. Leeanne is not only a great friend of mine and all Queenslanders, but is a proud Quandamooka woman, and we're really proud to stand with you today and many of your people as we take that next journey towards reconciliation in our country.
Now, this referendum I think is particularly significant for Queensland because we are so fortunate here in Queensland to have two of the oldest civilisations, continuing civilisations in the world, being our Aboriginal people and our Torres Strait Islanders and that is something that should be and is a real source of pride for so many Queenslanders. And with this referendum, we get to recognise those oldest living civilisations in the world in our nation's birth certificate, our Constitution. And I feel very positive about the energy and the optimism of Queenslanders and their attitude towards voting 'yes' in this referendum, because we know in our bones the incredible contribution that our indigenous cultures continue to play in Queensland, literally from the very most northern point in Saibai, nearly in Papua New Guinea, all the way down to the southern and western borders. So this is a very special moment for Queensland and I feel very optimistic about how we can go, especially with the kind of crowd that we've got standing behind us today.
Now, a lot has been said about what this referendum is about and what it's not about. It's actually really just about three very simple things – recognition, listening, and better results. It's about recognising our first peoples in our nation's Constitution. It's about listening to them, so that we can get better results from the government work, the government funding, the government programs that go in to helping our Indigenous people achieve their just desserts. We know that better decisions are made when governments listen to the people they affect – and that's what the Voice is about. It's none of this nonsense you hear about parking tickets, or park benches, or all sorts of other scare campaigns. It's about listening to people to deliver better results, and something that I think will make all Queenslanders and all Australians that much prouder. I'll hand over to Jim Chalmers now, because I know that he's someone who really backs this in hard too.
Thanks very much Murray and Leeanne. I acknowledge the traditional owners as well and I shout out Uncle Bob who's joined us here today – put your hands together [clapping].
This is a really important day in the trajectory of our country and the 14th of October is a really important opportunity for our people. This is a generational opportunity but it's a really simple proposition. This is about constitutional recognition, it's about listening and it's about getting better outcomes. If we want better outcomes, we need to listen better and we need to do things differently – and that's what the Voice is all about. I say to every Queenslander and every Australian who has not yet made up their mind – this is your chance to get around a big opportunity, to recognise and to listen, and to get better outcomes for the first of us. This is one of those opportunities that only comes around once in a lifetime and we cannot miss this opportunity. This is a window which has opened and it will close again. This is our big chance to do something that we can be really proud of as Queenslanders and as Australians as well.
Murray talked a moment ago about what this referendum is not about, and one of the things that people will try and put around is they'll try and say that somehow this is a contest between our pragmatism and our principle but voting 'yes' on the 14th of October is about pragmatism and principle at the same time. This great state, the greatest state in the Commonwealth is known for its pragmatism but also for its principle, and this is our opportunity to do the right thing. We can be pragmatic about better outcomes, and we can show and put on display our principles which is doing the right thing by recognising the First Nations people of this country in the Constitution of this country as well.
People will say that we are incapable of doing more than one thing at once but we can focus on the pressures that people are under, we can invest in the future of our country at the same time as we can get this done. I share Murray's enthusiasm and optimism and Leeanne's and Stephen's as well and I'm so pleased to see so many people join us here, not just in great numbers but with such great enthusiasm. We've got an opportunity now to do something really remarkable. We don't believe in this generational buck pass that says that we should leave this to our kids or to their kids. Let's get this done. Now in order to get it done, we need to make sure that the campaign is absolutely brilliant. And we're going to hand over now to Stephen Mam who's the director of the campaign here in Queensland to say a few words. I think we're all happy to take your questions after that.
Thank you. This is a momentous occasion. The 14th of October is the date to vote 'yes', and we have over 3000 volunteers in Queensland mobilising and out on the streets right across Queensland. All we ask is that the community come out and speak to us. This is a positive campaign that everyone wants to be a part of and it's a campaign that will drive the outcomes that First Nations communities are asking for. Thank you.
We see the support here today but the polling shows that the no vote is actually dominating Queensland at the moment. It's a tough task ahead.
Yeah, but this campaign is just getting started – look at this enthusiasm. I tell you what, if I had this level of support behind every political campaign I've run, I'd be pretty happy, pretty optimistic. But seriously, the starter's gun has now been fired today so that is really focusing people's minds and it's focusing the energies of those 3000 volunteers that Steve just talked to you about so I feel very optimistic about the result here in Queensland. And of course, we want to get every single possible vote that we can as well for the overall national vote because that matters as well as the number of states, so I think that the people behind me and all of us ourselves are going to be out there wearing out a lot of shoe leather over the next few weeks to get this done.
Can we speak to Stephen? You mentioned 3000 volunteers, I guess Queensland, the polls show we are lagging behind on the yes vote. What's the challenge for you? What's the challenge for the yes campaign here in Queensland?
The challenge here is to mobilise all our volunteers. There is so much broad support for this campaign, from urban cities, to regional and remote communities, from the religious multi-faith groups to migrant communities, the campaign is tremendous and we really just need to engage with the community, ask the community that if they're willing to find out more that they come out and talk to us and we'll be out in the streets door knocking and handing out fliers and we're really excited to get this going.
[INAUDIBLE] particular areas that you will be sort of focusing on? Or electorates like that, that you're sort of particularly focused on at the moment?
So we've got a great drive of volunteers around Brisbane and the inner city areas as well as Cairns and Townsville and our volunteers have been working tirelessly for the last four months getting organised and you're really going to see us coming out now to the 14th of October.
To the Treasurer – you've mentioned before I guess about the fact that it will be an uphill battle in Queensland. Are you feeling any more confident now? What are we looking at for the next few weeks?
I think we all recognise that this is a big challenge and we're up for the challenge. We've said for some time that we know that we have to do the work to convince people to change the constitution and even though this is a very simple proposition – constitutional recognition, listening and getting better outcomes – we know that there are a lot of people who haven't made up their mind yet, that's true in Queensland and it's true right around Australia. Sometimes really important things are difficult but I think what you can see here and what you can see with our level of commitment from the Prime Minister all the way down is that we are up for this challenge. It will be hard but I'm confident that we can get it done together.
A lot of voters are saying that they feel like both cases aren't really presenting enough information for them to make an informed vote. Will the government be giving any more clarity around the ‘yes’ vote?
Well, we've been providing a lot of clarity throughout but now that the formal part of the campaign has begun, obviously there's an opportunity for us over the course of the next six weeks or so to provide all of the information that people need to make the right decision. This is a generational opportunity and a lot of people will be weighing up the yes case and the no case over the course of the next six weeks as we expect them to and we have a more compelling case. The ‘no’ case will be dominated by misinformation and scare campaigns, whereas the ‘yes’ campaign is an optimistic and positive campaign – it's about the opportunity, it's about the generous offer that First Nations people have made to all of us here in Australia to recognise in the constitution, to listen better and to get better outcomes.
Queensland is such a decentralised state, do we run the risk of people in the furthest reaches of Queensland perhaps not being engaged until the very last minute?
I think the question of engagement is a challenge in all parts of Australia and we recognise that Queensland when it comes to its decentralisation is a bit different to the other states and so the onus is on all of us really to make sure that our optimistic and positive message about recognition and listening and getting better outcomes reaches all corners of the state in the same way that we need it to reach all corners of the country.
Your colleagues are in South Australia today and there's much anticipation of [INAUDIBLE]. Is Queensland ground zero?
We'll campaign in every state and territory in the Commonwealth. We've got to win a majority of states and a majority of the vote and that means we will give our absolute best in every part of Australia including in Queensland. One of the reasons we are so heartened by the enthusiasm you see on display here is because I think too often Queenslanders are written off, too often Queenslanders are underestimated and this is our opportunity to show that we are prepared to work around the clock to get the right outcome here for First Nations people but also for the country more broadly to get the better outcomes that we seek.
Generally, what's being done to ensure that non-English speaking communities still have the right information before they cast their vote?
This is obviously a very important responsibility that we have to reach people in communities and in languages to help people make an informed choice and we take that responsibility very seriously. A big part of our campaign is reaching multicultural communities because for all of those Australians who may have language difficulties or other challenges, we want to make sure that they are armed up with the information that they need as well, so a big part of our effort is making sure that nobody is excluded from this opportunity, that we provide the information into communities in the most accessible way possible and that's what we intend to do.
Why do you think it [inflation] is cooling faster than expected?
Inflation in our economy is moderating in welcome ways but we know that Australians are still under pressure. We are making substantial progress in this fight against inflation but a lot of Australians are still under the pump. We really welcome the further moderation in inflation that we've seen in the data today, we'd like it to moderate even quicker but we are making very welcome progress in this fight against inflation.
The cost-of-living pressures that people are under are the primary pressures that people are feeling and the government's highest priority is rolling out these billions of dollars to take some of the edge off these cost-of-living pressures without adding to inflation.
One of the most important conclusions from the new data that you saw today is that even though electricity prices are rising, they are rising much more slowly than they would be were it not for our energy price relief plan. The Liberals and Nationals need to explain today why they voted for higher prices when it comes to electricity. The numbers today have shown in black and white what would have happened if Angus Taylor and the Liberals and Nationals had their way and we didn’t provide this energy price relief. The difference between energy prices rising at six per cent in the month just gone versus 19 per cent which is what would have happened without our energy policy that the Liberals and Nationals voted against – I think that's a really stunning conclusion from today's numbers.
Next week is Phil Lowe's last meeting. Do you think he'll go out on a high with a third straight pause?
Just like with all of the other meetings that Phil Lowe presided over, I'm not going to predict or pre-empt the decisions that the independent Reserve Bank takes around the Reserve Bank board table. I think it's been clear for some time that our economy is slowing as a consequence of these rate rises plus international uncertainty, including in China and elsewhere. The Reserve Bank will weigh up all of those considerations, they'll come to a decision independently, I won't pre-empt or second guess that. My job is to do what I can to take some of the edge off these cost-of-living pressures without adding to inflation. Today's data shows that we are making progress and our economic plan is working but there's more to do because Australians are still under pressure.
The former ACCC boss Allan Fels says denying Qatar extra routes is a bad move, bad for competition and only protects Qantas. What's the government's position?
Well, we've made it clear that governments from time to time of both political persuasions take these kinds of decisions and they take them in the national interest. One of the things that has been missed I think in the commentary in recent days is that there is extra capacity being added to the international market. We've seen airlines being granted additional opportunities and additional capacity. Transport ministers of both political persuasions take these decisions from time to time, they take them in the national interest and that's what's happened here.