Polliegraph with Raf Espstein, ABC Radio Melbourne
2 October 2023
RAF EPSTEIN: Jane Hume is Shadow Finance Minister, thanks for coming in.
JANE HUME: Good to be with you Raf.
RAF EPSTEIN: Just get really nice and close to that microphone for me just before I get on to I guess more partisan politics or referendum politics. That Mike Pezzullo story. I know that so there's an inquiry going on. We don't know if he's going to come back to his job. Does it surprise you in the abstract that a public servant is having lots of political conversations with people who are sort of spear carriers? You know, people who are only really interested in politics much less than policy. Does the existence of that sort of conversation, does that surprise you?
JANE HUME: It does. I mean, I've met Mike Pezzullo before obviously I've questioned him at Senate Estimates. I've never been responsible for a department that he's been involved in, but certainly the public servants that I have had dealings with have never been political in their approach to anything. So that did surprise me, yes.
RAF EPSTEIN: And is there a difference, if Mike Pezzullo had sent those texts to his golfing buddy, and said "Oh gee I'd love Dutton back in because that sends a good message to the people smugglers" is that a different, because they're allowed to have opinions right, like he's in Canberra, he is a beast of Canberra. Is the reason he's in trouble, that he's sending them to someone who is part of the political machine and is saying please send that message, is that the potential for a problem?
JANE HUME: Well, I think it's very hard to put your finger on here. But it's not just about not being political, about not being partisan, it's about a perception of not being partisan as well, that I think is fundamentally important, and I can safely say with my hand on my heart that every senior public servant that I have ever come across has held that to be very dear to them. And I've never seen anything like this before, so this is why I think it's come as a surprise to a lot of people.
RAF EPSTEIN: Can he come back to his job?
JANE HUME: That's not up to me. That's certainly up to the government of the day. He was a very good public servant. He ran his department very well. He was a very strong public servant. And I think the advice that he gave people was fearless and frank. But was it partisan, I'm not sure.
RAF EPSTEIN: Okay. Well, we'll wait to see what happens with that investigation. I will let Jane Hume's support for the cursed Saints Football Club go by the wayside. I understand their pain, many people I know, close to Saints supporters. Let's go to the biggest issue right now, which is of course the Voice referendum. The Yes case will say you relied on misinformation and that you relied on a fear campaign. Is that true?
JANE HUME: I think that's unfair. You know, just because you don't agree with somebody's opinion, doesn't mean that it's misinformation. It's a very easy word to bandy about and I think that that is profoundly unfair. So you know, the Yes campaign I know is struggling now. It's a shame that it's got to this. I think that there is no shortage of goodwill, and no shortage of good intentions and also money that has gone towards improving the outcomes for Indigenous Australians in this country. We want the right outcomes. The question is whether a Voice to Parliament that's enshrined in the Constitution is the way to get there. Now, the really sad thing about this, I think, is that recognition of Aboriginal Australians in the Constitution, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, I should say in the Constitution, was something that we all agreed on. There was bipartisan support for that.
RAF EPSTEIN: They don't want that.
JANE HUME: There was bipartisan support for that. But unfortunately, Anthony Albanese veered away from the path of bipartisanship by including an Indigenous Voice to Parliament sites enshrined in the Constitution and that was something that we couldn't support.
RAF EPSTEIN: Maybe I can wrap the misinformation and the two separate questions together because there is no doubt most Indigenous leaders, most Indigenous organisations in this country don't just want constitutional recognition. They want a body that can't be wiped out, because it is only legislated. And just on that point of most people want something isn't it true, and this goes to misinformation maybe, most indigenous leaders want this most people who have adjudicated on constitutional law or who teach constitutional law, think there is zero risk or close to zero risk with this body. So isn't it misinformation to sort of present there's all these terrible things that might happen if it's enshrined in the Constitution?
JANE HUME: Well, I don't agree with you on either of those premise. I mean, we know that, for instance, Jacinta Price and Warren Mundine, both very staunch advocates within their own communities don't agree with an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. So while you can say that many do-
RAF EPSTEIN: Most.
JANE HUME: You might even say most do. There are some that don't, and they and their voices are just as important to this debate. I think one of the things that is missed, is that it's fascinating, I think to know that we now have Indigenous Members of Parliament from right around the political spectrum and all of them have quite different opinions.
RAF EPSTEIN: That's a good thing.
JANE HUME: It's fantastic. And all of them have quite different opinions on what an Indigenous Voice to Parliament means. So that is a really interesting, a really interesting aspect. And as far as the risk goes, I think that there are some constitutional lawyers that will say that there is zero risk. There are some constitutional lawyers that say that there is significant risk. What I know-
RAF EPSTEIN: Again most don't say that, most people who teach it and adjudicate on it, would accuse you, they would accuse you of a fear campaign.
JANE HUME: Well, I don't think that is a fear campaign to say, 'why would you test something in the Constitution it is our most important foundational document? Why not build something first, and then enshrine it in the Constitution? Once you know that it works once you know what its limitations are, once you know the extent of its powers, then why not consider embedding it in the Constitution? But right now, when it's just a thought bubble, why would you do it now? You don't test things in our foundational document that has been let's face it, and it's underpinned the most successful, prosperous multicultural, peaceful, liberal democracy in the world.
RAF EPSTEIN: 1300 222 774 if you've got a question for Jane Hume. She's one of the Liberal Senators for Victoria. She's also of course, part of the Shadow Cabinet. Just on the Constitution though, Jane Hume, and you're right it's one of the reasons we've got a relatively successful society. There's heaps of stuff in the Constitution that doesn't, you know, it's completely irrelevant to our lives. New Zealand's in the Constitution. There's a commission to adjudicate disputes between the states in the Constitution. The idea that you're sort of somehow you just get one word wrong and you know, all of a sudden the whole house falls down. That is misinformation, isn't it? Because the Parliament has, one thing Australia's Constitution has been shown to be is bulletproof. The Parliament can fix that stuff. The Parliament can take any of those rough edges in.
JANE HUME: No, the Parliament can't challenge the Constitution. The only way the Constitution can be changed is through a referendum and we know how few of them have succeeded in the past. So that isn't misinformation at all. And let's face it, this is a radical change. It is an entirely new chapter. We're not changing a couple of words,
RAF EPSTEIN: Why is it radical?
JANE HUME: Because it's an entirely new chapter. We're not changing a couple of words here and there. This is something that is a very significant-
RAF EPSTEIN: It's an advisory council, it's not radical.
JANE HUME: a very significant change, but it doesn't actually say the word 'advisory council' does it?
RAF EPSTEIN: No but advice.
JANE HUME: But it doesn't say it's an advisory council, which is what you just said. In fact, it is open for interpretation. The High Court does that interpretation as it does with the rest of the Constitution. It is a risk unless we know what it is that we are building here. So why not build it first and then make a decision?
RAF EPSTEIN: I’ll get to your questions with Jane Hume on 1300 222 774 after this.
RAF EPSTEIN: We also had a chat this morning earlier this morning to Simon Holmes à Court. He said two interesting things. Remember he was kind of like the seed funder for those who won seats like Kooyong and Goldstein. Simon Holmes a court was saying A) don't really need a ban on nuclear power because there's not gonna be viable for decades. So we'll come to that in a moment. He was also saying that potentially, maybe if Peter Dutton and then No campaign wins, that makes it harder, much harder for the Liberal Party to win back the sorts of seats that the Teals won. I will come to that in a moment. Question for Jane Hume. First of all, though, from Leon in Reservoir Leon, go for it.
CALLER: So my question is, why are the majority of the no campaigners and the Liberal Party and nationals turning their back on the majority of Indigenous people who have campaigned and worked for decades to get the Advisory Council and change the Constitution?
JANE HUME: Leon, thank you for that question. And certainly the No campaign, definitely the Coalition aren't turning their back on Indigenous communities. You'll actually recall it was John Howard that originally raised the prospect of recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Constitution. He was talking about a preamble at that stage. We've been working really hard to try and get a bipartisan pathway forward. In fact, in the last parliament, when we were in government, we set up a committee that had co-chairs of Pat Dodson, and Julian Leeser. Now when you're in government, you don't need to give your opposition a co-chair, you can give them a deputy chair, but you don't need to give them a co-chair. We thought this was so important that we wanted to find a bipartisan pathway through that we set up that committee to try and work together to find a solution. Now unfortunately, the election came and Anthony Albanese chose to walk away from that bipartisanship and instead go his own route. And in a way that cut out the Coalition from the conversation to a point where the question that was put forward was simply one that we couldn't support. It actually makes me really sad, really sad that the government has essentially put its own political success ahead of the success of a referendum, because we could have made really significant strides towards reconciliation in this and instead, my fear now is that that voice will fail at the referendum in two weeks time, and that will be on the Prime Minister's head.
RAF EPSTEIN: Isn't the great irony though, that process you spoke about, this is a Coalition process. This is Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, Scott Morrison, the group of indigenous people that the Coalition consulted with for years. They want the Voice. This is an idea from the most senior Indigenous people in the country talking to you when you were in government. They want this.
JANE HUME: That's right, and I understand that they do but a change to the Constitution doesn't just affect Indigenous Australians-
RAF EPSTEIN: But that's you being political not the current government being political isn't it?
JANE HUME: The Constitution doesn't just affect Indigenous Australians. It affects all Australians, and we need to make sure that the pathway forward is something that works for all Australians to make a better country, not just the outcome that Indigenous Australians want for them. And unfortunately, the question that's been put forward is not one that we think is better for the whole country. We would have liked to have seen genuine progress made towards reconciliation. We all want better outcomes. There is no doubt about that. No one has been able to identify exactly how this Voice to Parliament, the way this question is framed will deliver those outcomes, no one-
RAF EPSTEIN: Well that's not true. The people who came up with the proposal talk about it uphill and down dale. They've written thousands of words about how they think it'll improve Indigenous outcomes.
JANE HUME: Have they really? I mean, have they been able to say how it will improve health outcomes, especially morbidity?
RAF EPSTEIN: Do you really think that people like Marcia Langton and Tom Calma, and Pat Anderson and all of these senior Indigenous leaders, do you really think they've never spelled out how the Voice will improve outcomes? They spend their lives pointing that out, don't they?
JANE HUME: It's an advisory body it's not delivery of programs, you can deliver programs without the advice-
RAF EPSTEIN: You said they haven't spelt out how it will improve people's lives. They've spent their lives spelling that out.
JANE HUME: No, nobody has been able to draw a thread between an Indigenous Voice to Parliament and those outcomes that we all want and we all want them. We all want them. But if an advisory body is the only way to get there, I find that hard to believe. An advisory board that is enshrined in the Constitution, enshrined in the Constitution and that's really the most important point, enshrined in the Constitution. We can get there without an entirely new chapter in the Constitution. We can get there without this radical change. And we can get there by starting with those regional and community voices, those regional and local voices, which are the ones that you know, that's where the problem lies. That's the Liberal position.
RAF EPSTEIN: A subset question, I guess away from the results. So let's pretend the vote never happens. But we've had this conversation. And also recognise that a lot of people, you know, especially First Nations people have felt this conversations very bruising. So that's important, it's not the only answer. Has the conversation been good for the country?
JANE HUME: I think the conversation has been bruising, you're right. And on October the 15th. We're all going to wake up feeling like there's some healing to be done. But if this has achieved anything, I think it has sharpened people's minds. It has put a laser-like focus on the plight of Indigenous Australians and particularly those gaps around things like educational outcomes, around things like health outcomes, and all governments will be held to account for delivering on closing those gaps. What I fear is that we've now wasted about nearly 18 months of this government talking about the Voice rather than fixing those outcomes.
RAF EPSTEIN: Julia's in Essendon, go for it Julia.
CALLER: Hello, question for Jane. Basically, we have a situation at the moment where the health department is created by the Constitution, but the formulation of the health department just as an example, is created by the parliament. What's the difference with placing the advisory board, sorry, the advice of the Voice in the Constitution and then legislating it in the parliament? What's the difference?
JANE HUME: So, Julia, I think the question that you're asking, sorry, and forgive me if I've misinterpreted you here, is what's the difference between legislating and putting something in the Constitution?
RAF EPSTEIN: Is that what you mean Julia?
CALLER: No, no. So what we have at the moment is the Constitution creates a number of government bodies, and then those bodies are legislated by the parliament. They're not created by the Constitution. So for example, the states control the health department's but it's the state governments that write the legislation. The same thing would happen with the Voice. The Voice would be created by the Constitution, but it would be legislated by the parliament. So what's the difference?
JANE HUME: So thank you, Julia. I think I understand where you're going with this. Surely though, it would be better if you had your way to create the legislation first, just to make sure that it works. Because legislation and regulation allows you to be far more flexible in the way you deliver a solution whether it be health, whether it be energy, whether it be education the Constitution, essentially, what it was originally there for, was to delineate responsibilities between states and the Commonwealth. Now, there's no need for a legislated Voice to Parliament to be in the Constitution. In fact, we think it would be far better if the systems that we have now, those local and regional voices were far more robust and could then feed up information to advise government as to how to deliver the best outcomes for Australians, for Indigenous Australians. It doesn't need to be in the Constitution. That is a significant and radical change.
RAF EPSTEIN: Jane Hume, I'll get to more calls and there's lots of them, but I do want to ask you an energy question. The Coalition has been talking about nuclear power, I guess the two main problems if you guys raise it now, you didn't do anything about it in government, and whenever you looked at it in government it was too expensive. So why now?
JANE HUME: It was something that we spoke about when we were in government in party room. It was something we spoke about between colleagues. It is seen as quite a significant change and we always knew that the Labor, then opposition now government was going to object to it. The reason why they won't have the debate is because they can't have it internally. We already saw that at the Labor conference-
RAF EPSTEIN: I didn't ask you about Labor though. I asked you about why you guys did nothing?
JANE HUME: But we always knew that they were going to object to it. Now, now is probably the right time for that mature. Can I get back to my question, I want to get back to- But didn't you do it when you had the votes in Parliament. Now there is time for that mature debate. We all want a clean energy future. We all want to lower emissions. There are 32 countries around the world that already have nuclear energy. There are about 50 that are looking at these new small modular nuclear reactors.
RAF EPSTEIN: Can I get back to my question, I want to get back to-
JANE HUME: Yes you can but I'm still answering your question.
RAF EPSTEIN: Well, I don't think you are. So you'll be able to continue in a moment. I want to know why you're talking about it now, when you didn't talk about it for the nine years that you had the votes in Parliament?
JANE HUME: Because the analysis is in, there is no country that has a credible path to net zero by 2050. That doesn't have nuclear energy. We know that we're on a path to new renewables, you know, thanks to Labor. They are you know, quite obsessive about the road to a renewable energy future, but unfortunately, we can already see that it's costing Australians more that it's unreliable energy, and that it's failing to do things like close down those coal fired power stations. We've seen extensions of coal fired power stations in both New South Wales and Victoria, and power prices are through the roof. We all know they're through the roof. There has got to be a better long term solution to an energy grid, to an energy mix that is going to provide affordable and reliable low emissions energy.
RAF EPSTEIN: You said there's no, the analysis is in, there's no path for 2050 without nuclear power. I quizzed you when you were in government about your own path to 2050. It said nothing about nuclear. You continually produced reports that made no mention of nuclear to get to net zero 2050.
JANE HUME: In fact, we had an energy mix that meant that technology, whatever that technology would be, would rise to the market would choose and that's how we would get to a low emissions, but affordable and reliable energy mix. You look at energy now, and let me remind you that we were talking about that in 2019, In 2023, this is a long time coming. These small modular nuclear reactors and micro modular nuclear reactors, which are the next step, are potentially a fantastic way for us to adopt an energy source that we are already rich in. We know that we're reaching uranium and potentially get to net zero in a way that keeps energy bills down.
RAF EPSTEIN: I've got a lot more questions I can ask you about nuclear but I think people on the phones would like to talk about the potential change in the Constitution. Marg you're in Rye, go for it.
CALLER: Oh, hi Raf. I'm just interested in this question about the Constitution and I'm intrigued that given Jane as well as she could- (inaudible)
RAF EPSTEIN: Marg, I'm just gonna try and keep your point sharp your phone lines, not great. Maybe just just get a short sharp question if you can. Sorry, Marg, I might get it now. You're gone. Sorry. Let's go to Mark who's in Spotswood. Go for a Mark.
CALLER: Oh, good morning. Look I'm a little confused. Right. So I thought the Voice was came straight out of the Statement from the Heart. That the Aboriginal community developed through extensive conversations with everybody in their community. So why do we keep referring to it, why do the people who want to vote No, keep referring to it as Albanese's?
RAF EPSTEIN: Albanese's Voice. Jane Hume, why?
JANE HUME: Because the idea of a Voice to Parliament came out of the Uluru Statement from the Heart you're correct in that Mark. But the question that is being put forward in the referendum was crafted by the Albanese Government. It was a decision taken by this Prime Minister to put this question to the Australian people and that's why it's referred to as his Voice. And let's be frank, if this Voice, this question goes down, if it fails, if the No vote is predominant on October the 14th, it will be because this was Anthony Albanese's decision to put this question to those people.
RAF EPSTEIN: I've saved the final and most cruel question till last Jane Hume. Do you in your heart of hearts believe that St Kilda will ever win another Premiership?
JANE HUME: That's a terrible thing to say.
RAF EPSTEIN: Serious question though. Do you retain the faith and the belief or not?
JANE HUME: You know, I can recite the 1966 grand final, the final quarter even though I wasn't alive. My father used to sing it to me almost as a lullaby in his arm.
RAF EPSTEIN: What the play by play?
JANE HUME: The play by play. So I have eternal faith in my St Kilda Football Club and I'm very pleased that they gave me such an exciting season this year. Next year will only be better. In the meantime, I happen to live with a Collingwood supporter and it is unbearable at home right now.
RAF EPSTEIN: It's a good thing. Is Collingwood your second team?
JANE HUME: Oh, they sort of have to be, don't they.