Transcript -- Interview with Patricia Karvelas on RN Breakfast

1 December 2022

Topics: The Voice Referendum



Patricia Karvelas: Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg has been a strong proponent for an Indigenous Voice. I understand he is about to be in the seat. There’s a lot of shuffling around as you know on a parliamentary sitting week. Senator, I hope you’re there. Welcome to the program.

Senator Bragg: Yeah, I can hear you.

Patricia Karvelas: Wonderful, I’m sorry about that. Senator, we just heard from Ken Wyatt saying it’s a lazy excuse saying that there’s no detail because actually there’s a report with a model, the Government said that it thinks this model is workable. Do you think that is the model that should be supported and advocated for by your side of politics?

Senator Bragg: Well I think right now the most important thing is that the Government bring together the whole game on the Voice, which would be: what are the options for the amendments to the constitution? What are the questions? But also, what is the scope of the body? And I think that could be encased in an exposure draft. And I think those are the component parts that we need to see in order for people to make a reasonable judgement.

Patricia Karvelas: You’ve long been an advocate. You’ve written a book on the liberal case for National Reconciliation. What have you made of the debate over the last few days and the decision by the Nationals?

Senator Bragg: Well this is not a judgement for politicians, this is a judgement for the Australian people. And what matters most is how people vote at the ballot box when they’re given a chance at the referendum. So I’m not so interested in what politicians have to say, I think the most important point here is that it’s the people’s vote.

Patricia Karvelas: Is it concerning that there has already been so much nasty language used?

Senator Bragg: I think that comes with the territory of politics. But certainly from my point of view, I think the Liberal Party has a strong tradition of allowing people to participate in public votes in order to express their own views, be it a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ on things like the republic in the past, and also on the same-sex marriage postal survey. So I think we can adopt a liberal approach here,whereby people can have their say in accordance with their own conscience and views.

Patricia Karvelas: So you think the Liberal Party shouldn’t have a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ position, it should be ultimately up to individuals to decide which side they’ll campaign on, or perhaps maybe they won’t at all?

Senator Bragg: Well the precedent here is quite clear. I mean there are precedents from in government in relation to the republic referendum in 1999, there is also the same-sex marriage postal survey in 2017 where there was no position, and Members and Senators were free to engage with the various campaigns, ‘yes’ and‘no’, and of course there’s also the example from the attempt to put Local Government into the Constitution where there was no attempt to try and bind the position of members. And I think that reflects that a public vote is for the public, it’s not for politicians.

Patricia Karvelas: No but what the leader says matters. Would you like to see the Liberal leader,Peter Dutton, get behind a ‘yes’ vote?

Senator Bragg: Well I think if the whole game can be brought together, and the amendment, and the question, and the wording, and the scope of the body can be presented, and it should be supported, then that’s really a matter for Peter and for others to speak to.

Patricia Karvelas: My question was would you like him to?

Senator Bragg: Well it depends what it is. I mean, even as a supporter of the Voice I am not giving a blank cheque here. We need to see the whole game come together. As Noel Pearson said last year, for the Australian people to be able to make a reasonable judgement, they need to be able to see the wording of the amendment, alongside an exposure draft bill which presents the scope of the body. Now at this stage we don’t have that. That’s why I favour a parliamentary committee to try to do some of this work to bring together the whole picture, but also to deal with some of the legal issues that have been raised. There are good people who have raised legitimate legal issues that need to be addressed, and I am concerned that this debate is getting away from us a little bit.

Patricia Karvelas: Do you think even with the Nationals advocating ‘no’ that the referendum can be successful?

Senator Bragg: Well it’s not a vote for the National Party, it’s not a vote for any political party, it’s a vote for the Australian people, so what the Nats do is up to them. But my sense is that there are a range of views inside that party that we’ve seen this week, and there will be a range of views inside every party. I mean the idea of trying to bind people to a position in a public vote, where they are to go into a private ballot box and exercise their own view I think is very strange, and that’s why I think the historical precedents here are very important to reflect upon.

Patricia Karvelas: Just finally, did you hear Ken Wyatt, and are you sympathetic with his position which is that people just need to read the detail, to all of your colleagues who keep saying ‘more detail, more detail please’?

Senator Bragg: Well the Liberal Party in government with Ken Wyatt as the minister has done a lot of heavy-lifting here by putting the meat on the bones on the Voice. The Langton-Calma Report is a very detailed Report, and it is a very important starting point. But that is not good enough. That needs to be transformed or transferred into the next step, which is to see an amendment and a Bill sitting alongside one another, so that people can make a judgement. I mean right now it’s premature to say whether you’re for it or against it. I mean you don’t even know what it is.

Patricia Karvelas: But you’re saying you want it defined, and want it defined quickly?

Senator Bragg: Well you have to. I mean, for people who want this concept to be supported,people who believe in the idea of consulting where there are special laws used,for example, want to see the detail because the detail will matter when the debate comes on and the rubber hits the road. We need to be able to answer the questions, and right now there are more questions than answers.

Patricia Karvelas: Thank you so much for joining us.

Senator Bragg: Thanks a lot.




Media contact: 

David Nouri

0401 392 624




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