SUBJECTS: Voice to Parliament, University Accord Interim Report, Regional University Hubs.
LAURA JAYES [HOST]: It's been a big weekend in Garma. We saw Indigenous leaders, the Prime Minister, fly up north to hear from Indigenous leaders themselves about where this Voice campaign is headed. Everyone who went to Garma has come home and come away from that meeting fairly optimistic about the prospects of a referendum getting up, but the polls all point in a very different direction. Joining me live now is Queensland Senator, Anthony Chisholm. Anthony, great to see you. I don't know whether you were in Garma, but it doesn't matter because we need to look at the polls, really, don't we? And for months now it's shown that your state, Queensland, is not going to vote for this thing. Why would you push ahead with it at this point?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM [ASSISTANT MINISTER]: Because it's the right thing to do and it's the right thing to achieve better outcomes for First Nations people. I've spent plenty of time in remote Indigenous communities in Queensland and across other parts of the country. And what I see every time I'm there is the desperate need for people to have a voice. They want to focus on really practical outcomes about improving their health, education and housing situation. And I am certainly confident, based on what I've seen since I've been in the Senate and then in the twelve months since I've been an Assistant Minister, that I have no doubt that The Voice will provide really practical help and hope for those in remote communities in particular. And I think that's something that the Government have been committed to. And whilst I wasn't in Garma on the weekend, I was out and about on Sunday on the northside of Brisbane, and I attended a stall, at the Pine River Show in the heart of Dickson, and we had good engagement with people who wanted to find out more. That's the type of work that we've got to be doing in Queensland if we are to be successful in a couple of months’ time.
JAYES: I just spoke to David Littleproud, and he raised a pretty reasonable point I think, he has compared The Voice to ATSIC. How would this Voice be different to what that failed body did or didn't do, more accurately?
CHISHOLM: Well, ATSIC was abolished a long time ago, Laura, and a long time before I was in Parliament. But I can talk about my experiences, so I have responsibilities in government for delivering on the Barkly Regional Deal, which was born out of traumatic circumstances in 2016, where the Federal Government at the time, combined with the Northern Territory government and the local Council, stepped in and said they were going to provide infrastructure and services across those communities. They had no consultation with First Nations communities in those places, they just went and did what they thought was best. And this often happens in issues when it comes to First Nations communities where there is a crisis, it'll get some media attention and government will sort of ride in and say, this is what we're going to do. But they don't actually talk about what will actually make a difference on the ground with these communities. So, I have no doubt that this will be successful. And if the referendum is successful, that it will have practical impacts on the ground and improve the lives of First Nations people. That's why I'm passionate about it, because I see so much of what's gone wrong in the past and think that this can actually be a better way forward. So, I liken it to if you're voting No, you're voting for the status quo. And that, for me, just isn't acceptable. And for the First Nations people I talk to, it's not acceptable for them either.
JAYES: But aren't you setting it up for failure as well when you say that as well? Because even though the most ambitious and optimistic ‘Yes’ proponents aren't saying that the Voice is going to fix things as a whole.
CHISHOLM: Well, it's going to improve things. I'm really confident of that, because for too long, governments of all persuasion have spent money when it comes to First Nations people, and they want better outcomes, but it hasn't delivered it. That's the facts. So, that's why I think we do need to find a different way. We need to find a better way. And for me, the status quo just isn't acceptable. And I think that's the argument we've got to take to the Australian people is that you're either for The Voice and practical improvements, or if, you’re ‘No’, you're for status quo and that isn't actually improving things. And that's been proven.
JAYES: Okay. You are the Assistant Education Minister. So, I want to ask you about the introduction of legislation when it comes to universities. And this is essentially the first part of the University's Accord Interim Report. What is that exactly?
CHISHOLM: Well, when Minister Clare first became Minister, he gave us one of the first speeches he gave was at the Universities Australia dinner about twelve months ago, or over twelve months ago now. And he announced the Accord process that we'd go through. And this was the Interim Report, which was released a couple of weeks ago now. And it set out and I don't know if you saw the front cover, Laura, but it was an echidna on the front cover. Minister Clare was really clear that he wanted some spiky ideas and things that would generate debate. I think that's what we got with the Interim Report, which set out some challenges for the future and really encourages people who are interested in the sector. And to be honest, that should be all Australians, because it is so important for us to debate and discuss. What it also included was some interim measures that we could implement now. Some of those require legislation, and that's what's been introduced into the House, I think it was last week, and it'll eventually make its way to my chamber. But I think in terms of the interim recommendations, the one I'm probably most excited about is the extension of the Regional University Hubs. I've spent some time visiting them and opening them over the last twelve months and they've been an outstanding success. We said we want to build more of those or support more of those and also expand it to outer suburban areas. And that is really about increasing access for people from lower socioeconomic areas or remote areas to give them the opportunity to study at a university without having to leave their community. And I'm really excited about that because I think it's going to make a real difference to many people's lives as a result.
JAYES: Anthony Chisholm, good to have you back on the show. We'll see you soon.