3AW Drive Interview with Nick McCallum

Release Date: 
6 July 2015
Transcript
E&OE

Topics: constitutional recognition E&OE…

NICK McCALLUM:
Thanks for your time.

ALAN TUDGE:
It's a pleasure Nick.

NICK McCALLUM:
So did we take steps forwards today?

ALAN TUDGE:
I think we did Nick. Today there was about 40 of the most respected indigenous leaders that got together with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, and collectively renewed their commitment to achieving constitutional change, and importantly outlined a process whereby we can engage with the broader mainstream Australia.

NICK McCALLUM:
The issue has been over the weekend, just how far will this referendum question go?

ALAN TUDGE:
I think that's right Nick. You pointed out that- at least according to polling- by and large most Australians agree with the concept of recognising aboriginal people in the constitution. But what we need to do is actually work out how we actually do that. Which clauses of the constitution change, how do you recognise people?

This is not a straightforward exercise. Many people have lots of different views. Our objective is I guess over the next six to 12 months, through some of these community forums, community conferences is to understand where the Australian people are at, and hear from them as to what they would actually accept before we proceed with a question in the referendum.

NICK McCALLUM:
Aboriginal leaders over the weekend were talking about a constitutional ban on racial discrimination for instance. They were also talking about etched into the constitution, an aboriginal advisory council. What are your thoughts on those? Do they have any chance of getting up or are they too divisive?

ALAN TUDGE:
They're some of the strongly held views by, at least some of the indigenous leaders that were there at the convention today. We weren't deciding today which things are going to be in and which models will be out. Rather today was much more about listening to what they have to say, what their aspirations are, and agreeing a process forward.

Some of those ideas I think are ambitious and we have to ensure that any idea that is put forward, has not only indigenous support, but has the overwhelming support from mainstream Australia as well.

As you know Nick it's very, very difficult to get a constitutional referendum up, and indeed only eight out of 44 referenda have ever been successful. The last one in 1977 and that was on the uncontroversial topic of retirement ages for judges. So this is a difficult task ahead of us.

NICK McCALLUM:
We do, obviously you know better than anyone we live in a very divisive world at the moment. That's part of the problem isn't it? There's a fear in the aboriginal community, and you're alluding to this, that whatever is acceptable to the Australian people will be watered down so much to the extent it really doesn't mean much.

ALAN TUDGE:
I think somewhere along the road we have to get to a middle ground, which is a meaningful proposition to aboriginal Australia- of course that's absolutely vital- but also something which all Australians can accept, desire, and indeed want, and feel as if it will be in addition to their founding document as well.

That's the task ahead of us. It's not a straightforward one, there's lots of different proposals on the table. What we'd like to do over the 12 months or so is hold a series of community conferences, so that everybody can have their chance to participate and air their views before we make any decisions about the final wording which might go to a referendum.

NICK McCALLUM:
Do you think realistically, in this political climate we're in at the moment that you can come to an agreed form of words?

ALAN TUDGE:
I think we can and there was incredible cooperation between the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader today, and that's absolutely essential. If you don't have bi-partisan support to start with Nick, you've got no chance of having a successful referendum. It is a precondition.

We've got that at least this stage. I think the challenge is going to be as I said to have something that is meaningful enough for aboriginal Australia but is also a question which the broader of all Australians can accept, adopt and want.

NICK McCALLUM:
Alan Tudge, Parliamentary Secretary to Tony Abbott, I appreciate your time, thank you very much.

ALAN TUDGE:
Thanks so much Nick.

[ENDS]