Television Interview – Sky News Newsday 30 January

Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister

TOM CONNELL, HOST: We have had a summer dominated by debate over the Indigenous Voice to Parliament and a soft launch today for the No Campaign. So where are we at in terms of what the two major parties are going to do on this? Joining me for their first panel of 2023, Assistant Minister to the PM, Patrick Gorman, former Liberal MP Jason Falinski. Gentlemen, thanks both for your time and welcome back for 2023. Jason, we love that you’re unbound by a Liberal Party sort of doctrine, not that you ever really were. What’s your view on this? The call from Peter Dutton, more detail, but sort of seemingly softening us up for maybe saying no on The Voice. Where do you sit on how the Liberal Party’s handle this or your views on it?

JASON FALINSKI, FORMER LIBERAL MP: Look, my views are complex, along the lines of I think that, first of all, what we should have probably aimed for was a treaty with Indigenous Australians. Because the project of reconciliation starts with an understanding that our original stain is the fact that we took land from those people who are already here and we’ve never fully recognised or compensated them for that. The Voice was an idea about giving people a say in how legislation and policy is developed that affects them. But I think most Australians are aware that already happens. The importance of it therefore needs to be explained and people need to understand that constitutional change is hard. Refusing to provide detail or information around what that looks like is going to create a lot of problems. And I think the attitude of some of the crossbench around this, Tom, honestly, I think is only driving the no vote up and creating a lot of resentment amongst people who just want to understand the proposal better.

CONNELL: Interesting on that push for a treaty, I mean, I guess it could be part of the reason against that has been how expensive it might be. But just on a detail aspect, the constitutional changes is simply saying you have to have a voice. The details of it would be up to any given Parliament on the day. So do you have some sympathy for the view that you can release all these details and say, here’s how many people will be honoured, here’s how they’ll be elected and a future parliament or even this parliament may negotiate and that the detail will be different and then people will say, hey, I didn’t vote for that detail. So isn’t that an inherent problem with asking for all the detail that the referendum question wouldn’t actually address?

FALINSKI: Look, I’m totally aware of that argument and I think it’s facetious because by putting it in the Constitution, what you are doing is handing power to the High Court. And what we’ve seen over the last few decades is that it is not beyond this High Court to make decisions that a lot of people query at and wonder where they came up with that idea. Including the fact that they found an inherent right into the Constitution of a third type of citizenship for Indigenous Australians, regardless of whether a tribe has adopted them or not. In the Love decision. And Parliaments need to understand and fix this. I think to your point though, Tom, that’s why the approach of the previous government was possibly a better one from my point of view, in the sense that it allowed an experimentation of this. Problems could be worked out, people could get comfortable with the idea, questions could be answered and people could see it in operation.

CONNELL: As in legislative, and then have the referendum later on down the track. It’s interesting, Pat Gorman, to bring you on this, because the PM, in fact himself was pointed to the Calma-Langton report without saying what parts of it he’d actually adopt. So if he’s pointing to a detailed report, doesn’t he need to say which details he’s going to adopt and which ones he won’t?

PATRICK GORMAN, ASSISTANT MINISTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER: Well, what we’ve already said is there is significant detail out there. The Prime Minister has put out about six months ago, he put out the words of what that possible constitutional amendment could be that’s been on the table open for every member of Parliament and member of the Australian public to see. We do point to the Calma Langton report. It’s a good report. And on that I congratulate Tom Calma on being named as Senior Australian of the Year for 2023. Wonderful appointment. Recognising his lifetime of work on these big questions about the future of our country.

CONNELL: You’re saying he used the report, it’s a good one, but we don’t know which parts that you’ll adopt. If you’re going to cite the report, wouldn’t you then say, here are the bits we’ll adopt?

GORMAN: And what we have also echoed the call is that call from former Minister Ken Wyatt. You talk, Jason just mentioned about the work that was being done under the former coalition government, this is a continuum of work that started with the Uluru Statement in 2017. Successive governments have worked upon it. We have embraced that statement in full, that is, to adopt constitutional enshrinement of a Voice. But I just echo the words that Ken Wyatt said, which was, look at pages 16 to 19 of that report. That gives you the picture of what a Voice would do, how it could be structured, and what it would add to our national political debate.

CONNELL: So we read them and that’s exactly how it will be used. I mean, why not then release the dot points of what you’re going to do, show people how you’ll use it?

GORMAN: What we’re going to have this year, Tom, is a conversation amongst the Australian people about changing our constitution. And when we change our Constitution, we’re talking about the principle. And the principle we are putting forward to the Australian people is should we acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in our founding document, the Constitution? And should they be given a voice through that document to advocate and talk about the policy matters that affect them? They’re the two principles and for the Constitutional nerds out there who want to know, what does this look like in action? I think it’s worth noting that in Australia, the people were much smarter and much older than us, when they wrote that Constitution. They didn’t say, well, here’s the design of the Australian flag. They left that till after the Constitution was adopted. They didn’t say, well, where exactly is Canberra going to be located? They left that till after the Constitution was adopted. There’s significant detail available already. But the principle, the principle that we are trying to implement has been on the table since 2017. There have been conversations across this country and as I said, the Constitutional amendment, a proposed draft of that has been on the table for six months.

CONNELL: Yeah albeit that that’s the very simple part of it. There’s the question and what people are considering or calling for as detail around how. Anyway, we’ve got a couple more topics if we can somehow get to them. Creative Australia being launched today. An overhaul of how we do arts in this country. Jason, not to be unkind, maybe you have a bit more time to watch Netflix these days. Are you begging for more Australian content?

FALINSKI: I think Australians produce some of the best content in the world, so one query is why, if it’s not broken, it needs to be fixed? And why do I just have this sense, this very worrying sense, that once again, a Labor government is going to use taxpayers money to look after its mates in the arts, rather than actually producing and encouraging art culture in Australia? And it would have nothing to do with the fact that this policy is in the hands of Tony Burke. I just think that people will need to have a very close look at this policy and how it gets implemented and where the money is actually allocated.

CONNELL: Well, it’s interesting to note, though, and then they need a percentage of local content. Does that mean Patrick Gorman, if they don’t quite make it, they can just cut out some of the overseas titles and then there’s more percentage of Australian viewing hours to watch. Is that a loophole you can use?

GORMAN: This is an idea about the allocation of revenue from streaming services to make sure that we have Australian voices and Australian stories told on Australian screens, whether they be streamed or broadcast. But what the Minister has said, and I commend Tony Burke for his work on this, because he held consultations right across the country. He held one in my electorate in Perth at the Rosemount Hotel, which is a great Perth fringe venue for people who are looking to go and see some great Australian culture.

FALINSKI: A great cultural venue, the Opera House.

GORMAN: The Rosemount Hotel. I can only walk to one of them, Jason, but as I say he’s held consultations around the country on these questions about how do we support audiences, how do we support artists, we’ll consult on the legislation that has been flagged around making sure that streaming services do contribute more to Australian content. But that will be done over the next six months with legislation later on this year.


CONNELL: Well, if you’re going to go on that though, you don’t get to talk about Jim Chalmers. So what do you want to do?

FALINSKI: Oh that’s right. That six thousand words, all of us need to read it twice. But the fact is that streaming services in Australia …

CONNELL: You’re picking the arts?

FALINSKI: Yeah, I’m picking the arts.

GORMAN: Why don’t want to talk about Jim? It’s a great essay.

FALINSKI: We’ll come back to Jim, don’t worry.

GORMAN: It’s a great read. I read it yesterday. I encourage people to go and get a copy of The Monthly.

FALINSKI: For those of you who can’t sleep it’s wonderful like that. But on the arts, the streaming services have dedicated huge amounts of money to Australian content. In fact, there’s more money going into Australian content now than ever before that hasn’t required government policy. And that’s why I’m worried about Tony Burke deciding that he’s going to have a say in how that happens.

CONNELL: What is the problem here? What’s the percentage now?

GORMAN: I actually did an inquiry into this for the communications and the arts. I want to be honest and say, I don’t know. We did inquiry a few years ago about looking at the huge impact that COVID has had on the arts sector. And I think what we know is.

CONNELL: And you don’t have a percent for me?

GORMAN: Tom, to answer your question, there’s a question about how much revenue must be allocated. And currently there is no mandated revenue that must be mandated.

CONNELL: I know mandated.

GORMAN: It’s a revenue question as opposed to a number of hours question. Because as you note, the streaming services, it’s a never ending library of content.

CONNELL: How much do they put in now? What’s the revenue they’ve put in?

GORMAN: We’re very fortunate to live in a world where you can grab your remote and watch fantastic pieces of cultural content, be it from a strategy.

CONNELL: Patrick Gorman picked this topic and I think he’s going to do his homework. There you go.

GORMAN: Always happy for you to set homework, I read Jim Chalmers’s essay last night, I’ll go and read that report tonight.

FALINSKI: Yes, you look well rested. Tom, the problem here is that this is a policy looking for a problem. The problem in the arts at the moment is that if you go and speak to people in the arts, there aren’t enough people to do the work because there’s so much work which has been created by the streaming services putting so much money into Australian content.

CONNELL: All right, well, I’m getting a hard wrap there. My problem is we’re out of minutes, and there are never enough minutes for Jason Falinski and Patrick Gorman. Gentlemen, you speak again in a fortnight.

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