2CC DRIVE WITH LEON DELANEY
MONDAY, 16 OCTOBER 2023
SUBJECTS: Barton Highway duplication, Voice referendum, Australian Institute of Sport independent review.
LEON DELANEY (HOST): I think a lot of people are going to be dissecting the outcome from the referendum for quite some time. All of which I think is possibly a little bit futile. The real question that faces us now is what do we do next? Because the Australian people have said no to the Voice to Parliament. The real question now is, okay, we'll accept that decision. What is the correct approach now to actually address issues of disadvantage that still exist in a widespread fashion across the indigenous community? Joining me now the Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury and Assistant Minister for Employment and our local member here in Fenner, it's Dr. Andrew Leigh. Andrew, thanks very much for joining us today.
ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR CHARITIES, COMPETITION, TREASURY AND EMPLOYMENT ANDREW LEIGH:: Pleasure Leon.
DELANEY: We've got a bunch of things to talk about, but very quickly on the referendum. First, clearly not the outcome the Government was expecting, but does the Government now accept that they've botched this exercise? Because at the beginning, once the Federal election delivered new government in May of last year, we had more than 60% of Australians apparently supported the Voice. By the time we got to the polling booths on Saturday, it was the other way around. There was something you didn't do right.
LEIGH: Leon, we respect the result, we accept the decision of the Australian people and we understand that it's very tough in Australia to get up a referendum without bipartisan support. That's been the case in past referendums. It's why, of the 45 referendums that have gone up, only eight have been successful. Four out of five referendums have hit the wall and this, sadly, was one of them. John Howard was promising a referendum on constitutional recognition back in 2007. The process that led to the Uluru Statement from the Heart came out of the Abbott government. But once Peter Dutton withdrew that bipartisan support, it was always going to be very tough to get the referendum up.
DELANEY: That being the case, of course, and we all have agreed that no referendum has ever succeeded without the bipartisan support. Surely when the opposition decided to take the position that they did, first the Nationals, then the Liberals, that would have been a big flag waving in the air, telling the Government, hang on, we need to reconsider our position and come back to the discussion table and develop a model that does have bipartisan support. Surely that would have been the smart thing to do.
LEIGH: What we were doing, Leon, was taking to the Australian people the Uluru Statement from the Heart recommendation that there be a constitutionally enshrined voice to Parliament. I think it was right of the Prime Minister to listen to First Nations people coming together at that extraordinarily significant gathering in 2017. We always knew it was going to be hard. I certainly commend the 61% of Canberrans who voted yes. But without bipartisan support that made it very tough, realistically, to get the referendum over the line.
DELANEY: Okay, the real question, as I've said is, what now? We don't have a Plan B at the moment, do we? After the Australian people said no, what do we do now to address Indigenous disadvantage?
LEIGH: I don't think the Australian people said no to reconciliation. I don't think the Australian people said no to closing the gaps. One of the things we said as part of the Yes Campaign is we need to listen more to First Nations people. So, in terms of where we go next, I think listening has to be a core part of that. First Nations leaders who championed a Yes vote are spending a week of silence. After that, I think we need to listen to their extraordinarily articulate voices. There were so many that came out during the campaign, people who hadn't been heard of before, really speaking so passionately about their communities and about the need for Australia to do better and closing the gaps. So, I think the cause of reconciliation has been advanced, even though this particular proposal was lost.
DELANEY: Okay, the Albanese Government has just announced an independent review of the Australian Institute of Sport and I'm led to believe it will consider, amongst other things, the proposal from Queensland to relocate the facilities to that state ahead of the 2032 Olympic Games. Now, that's something that's already been ruled out by Kieran Perkins and certainly emphatically rejected by Andrew Barr and of course, Senator David Pocock. Why are we having this review?
LEIGH: Well, the review is looking at the future of the Australian Institute of Sport site. It's no secret to many Canberrans that it's not now what it was when it was created in 1981, set up by the Fraser Government in response to the Montreal Olympics debacle. This is a facility which is still Australia-leading. There's no other facility like it the private sector or the public sector. Around the country, it's the home to six national training centres, including gymnastics, volleyball, combat institute and basketball. It'll host almost 6000 elite athletes and coaches from over 30 sports this year. So, it plays a major role. But in the lead up to the 2032 Brisbane Olympics, it's appropriate that the Government look carefully at the Australian Institute of Sport and at sports more broadly.
DELANEY: Andrew Barr and David Pocock both insist the AIS must stay in Canberra. But obviously in that case, if it does stay in Canberra, it most desperately needs the investment necessary to bring it back up to standard once again to be a source of national pride, doesn't it?
LEIGH: It absolutely does. I certainly stand with Andrew Barr and David Pocock as does my current colleague Alicia Payne and other ACT Members. We are committed to the Australian Institute of Sport. We respect the review process that is taking place. But as a passionate Canberran, as somebody who's spent a lot of time at the AIS, whether it's in the pool or on the track, I think this is a fantastic facility and I think not only does it benefit Canberra, but it benefits the nation. What you get at the AIS is that interplay between sports. You get the cross knowledge of learning, of nutrition, of sports science, of psychology. I think about my friend Dick Telford and the work that he did there. Dick's a middle distance specialist, but he's worked with athletes across a whole range of sports and they get the expertise cross pollinating between sports. That's the genius of the AIS and I think it can thrive into the future.
DELANEY: Yeah, we certainly need that investment, though, including, of course, investment into a new national stadium, which can host not only rugby league, but rugby union and a variety of other rectangular venue sports. That's a critical component, surely.
LEIGH: I think the stadium is a different question from the Australian Institute of Sport. The future of the AIS is really about those training facilities. In some cases, they're fantastic. The AIS is going to host the Junior Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in August of next year and that pool allows them to do it. There are other parts of the AIS which are really well respected by their sports. Certainly there's need for a refresh and some of those buildings do need to be updated, but there's other buildings that were built as recently as 2012 which have a good lifespan ahead of them.
DELANEY: Okay, big milestone today announced for the Barton Highway upgrade. So, apparently at some point this month, we're going to start using the new piece of road, but then the existing piece of road will be closed down so that it can be upgraded for the future southbound traffic. So, when is that exactly happening?
LEIGH: That'll happen over the coming months. We announced today the switch over. So, obviously, when you're duplicating a road, if you're not going to close it down, what you've got to do is build a new road down the side and so that's going to be the double lane. And then switch the traffic to that and then upgrade the other side. It'll include a median strip, which makes things a lot safer and moves us towards that goal that Labor's always committed to, of full duplication of the Barton Highway from the ACT to the Hume Highway. Many Canberrans use the Barton Highway whether they’re going to Yass or to Melbourne. Many people in the region use the Barton Highway in order to commute through to Canberra. And right now it's too dangerous. People are finding that it's incredibly stressful to drive the Barton Highway. So, throughout my time in politics, I've been committed to upgrading the Barton Highway. I opened a section called the Gounyan Curves under the Gillard Government and really pleased now that the Albanese Government and Minns Governments are working together on their seven-kilometre duplication section near Wallaroo. That’s just part of the overall duplication efforts right through the Barton.
DELANEY: Indeed. Andrew, thanks very much for your time today.
LEIGH: Pleasure, Leon. Thank you.