HAMISH MACDONALD: Liberal frontbencher and shadow finance minister Jane Hume joins me now. Welcome back to Breakfast and Happy New Year.
JANE HUME: Happy New Year to you too, Hamish.
HAMISH MACDONALD: Why is the Opposition pushing for more detail right now on the proposals for a voice to Parliament?
JANE HUME: Well, it's not just the detail of the question itself and what the model would look like right now. There is legislation that will change the way we conduct referenda in Australia. This is the referendum machinery provisions Bill, and that's being looked at by a committee right now because how we change our constitution is just as important as it was, really as important as it gets. And Australians really need to know how the changes that the government is putting in place the mechanics of the Constitution, why any changes to past practises are necessary.
HAMISH MACDONALD: There is some concern that some of the changes, some of the changes relate to foreign donations. I assume you would agree with that?
JANE HUME: Oh, absolutely. In fact, we very much agree that referenda should be held in a way that sort of mirrors elections as much as possible. It's been over 20 years now since we've had a referendum. So there is a reason to update that referendum machinery, but at the same time making substantial changes. Things like removing the idea of a pamphlet is a big deal.
HAMISH MACDONALD: The argument around that, though, is that those sorts of protocols relate to a time where the Internet didn't exist and now there are many ways in which you would get information to the Australian public that don't require a physical pamphlet.
JANE HUME: Yes, but making sure that information gets to the public is really important. This is the first time that there hasn't been a pamphlet provided to voters since before Phar Lap won the Melbourne Cup. There's only actually been three referenda in the past where there hasn't been a pamphlet back in 1919, 1926 and 1928. Only one of those referenda got up and that was because there was overwhelming agreement with states and Commonwealth governments. So what we want to make sure is that Australians, Australia deserve a successful referendum and as much information as possible surely should be part of that.
HAMISH MACDONALD: So what information is actually missing as far as the Opposition is concerned? Your leader has accused the Government of treating Australians like mugs for not providing enough detail. I'm just wondering what the detail is that you think is missing.
JANE HUME: Well, what I would like to see is the question answered as to why there isn't an official yes or no campaign as there has been in every other referendum and the information as to why that has been removed, but in fact would be more leader has put out a letter that he says was sent to the Prime Minister with 15 questions he thinks the government needs to answer.
HAMISH MACDONALD: I'm just wondering whether you genuinely don't know the answer to those questions, given all of the work that has been done to deal with the substance of that.
JANE HUME: Well, I think you and I are talking about two different issues here. I'm talking about the referendum mechanics and why they haven't put out, why they haven't agreed to having a yes campaign and a no campaign to make sure that there are integrity in the processes, that those donations can be tracked appropriately and to make sure that Australians feel that they are, in fact, informed. And we've heard from officials-
HAMISH MACDONALD: With respect, Senator Hume, this is not the only criticism that the Opposition is levelling at the Government around the process of the referendum and your leader has put out this letter 15 questions, he says the Government hasn't answered. And I'm just wondering if your party genuinely doesn't know the answer to the bulk of those questions.
JANE HUME: Well, we're speaking on behalf of Australians. Is it unreasonable to ask for more information before you make a very big decision? They are quite basic questions, you're right. And potentially the answers are out there. So why aren't they being answered What you've said and I heard Megan Davis speaking before and she'd obviously she's a very well respected academic, is that there's three working groups, there's communiques, there's the Langton Calma report that's over 270 pages. There's an awful lot of information out there. But answering basic questions simply hasn't been done. If you want to have that, you know, start yarn, which again, is what Ms Davis was talking about, she wants Australians to start a yarn. Well, let's start the yarn with some very basic questions and they're probably the ones that Peter Dutton asked.
HAMISH MACDONALD: But the questions that he's asking are dealt with in those documents. Have you read that Calma Langton review?
JANE HUME: I'm going to put my hand on my heart and say I haven't read the whole review. I have. I've certainly delved into the detail and I've spoken in detail with our Shadow Indigenous Affairs Minister Julian Leeser. There are a lot of people in the Liberal Party that want this to succeed.
HAMISH MACDONALD: Australians are questioning how genuine your party is about raising these questions. I mean, I went through the list last night. It took about half an hour to go through those questions put out by Peter Dutton. Compare it with the Calma Langton review. I've got to say, it was pretty easy to find those answers. Why hasn't your party done that before, making out that this information isn't available?
JANE HUME: Well, the question really is why hasn't Anthony Albanese and the Labor Party made that information freely available
HAMISH MACDONALD: And because let's face it, it's on the Internet. It took a couple of minutes to find.
JANE HUME: Well, do you think that all Australians are going to go out there and search in the same deep level of detail that you have? Hamish, it's not unreasonable to ask the Government of the day to answer some very basic questions about something that is really important constitutional change which will lock in a system. We should know what the arrangement is and by not sharing do I mean these are the questions who will be setting the referendum up to fail? We want a successful referendum. Australians deserve a successful referendum. And for that to happen, why remove those machinery provisions of a yes and no case? Why remove the pamphlet? Why not just do the homework to get the outcome you want?
HAMISH MACDONALD: Senator Hume, respectfully, if you're saying do the homework, I don't understand why you wouldn't go and read this documentation yourself so that you would be furnished with those answers.
JANE HUME: Hamish, it’s the Government’s job-
HAMISH MACDONALD: Who will be eligible? What are the prerequisites for nomination? That's all there. Will the government, how will the members be elected, chosen or appointed? How much will it cost? What are the functions in the powers? There's significant detail on the bulk of those questions, perhaps not the cost.I'm just wondering why you wouldn't do that work first before trying to create a debate which seems to presuppose that the information isn't there.
JANE HUME: Hamish, the Government's job is to make it as easy as possible for not the Opposition but for all Australians to make a decision. So why don't they do the work? Why haven't they established a yes case and a no case? Why aren't they agreeing to a pamphlet that has been a part of referenda almost since Federation? Why are they trying to avoid that level of scrutiny and circumvent it? I think Australians deserve better. They deserve a successful referendum. We want to see a successful referendum and we've been happy to work with the Government to get there.
HAMISH MACDONALD: When will the Liberal Party announce if it will take a position or allow a conscience vote?
JANE HUME: Well, that's a decision for the party and probably when more information is available.
HAMISH MACDONALD: What do you mean more information is available?
JANE HUME: Well, I think we can refer back to you know, Megan Davis said that there will be more detail when the time is right. Well, I'm not entirely sure what that right time is. Perhaps, you know, it would be better to ask the government when that information is going to come up rather than ask the opposition.
HAMISH MACDONALD: I do need to ask you about another issue this morning. You've just called for a fundraising levy on all MPs on your side of politics that would contribute to a women's network. How would that operate? How would it be different to other initiatives that are already trying to recruit women into the Liberal Party?
JANE HUME: Well, that was a recommendation of the election review that Brian Loughnane and I undertook after the 2022 election, and it was just one recommendation on how to better support groups within the Liberal Party and those that might not necessarily be voting for us now that probably align with our values but want to feel better supported by the party, a new network that is run at a federal level could provide more support to women that are, you know, have been candidates before that potential candidates that are staff that have taken office bearer positions within the party and provide them with new opportunities as well. And most importantly, sometimes these recommendations don't come with a funding mechanism. And, you know, political parties are run on the smell of an oily rag. I think that this is really important that all members of our party get behind a new opportunity to support women within our party.
HAMISH MACDONALD: And why do you think your party would be more receptive to this than a quota?
JANE HUME: Well, in fact, as I said, this is only one recommendation. We also have established 50% targets, both within our parliamentary ranks and within our new membership recruitment as well, and this would be part of that support network. It's important because we want it to be more representative of the people we seek to govern and we want to make sure that everybody feels that their voices are heard. So, that's why we've made these recommendations and it's now up to the executive to accept or reject those recommendations.
HAMISH MACDONALD: On The Voice, the Calma Langton review proposes gender representation guaranteed in the makeup of the voice to Parliament. Would you support that?
JANE HUME: Oh, well, that's terrific. I don't have a problem with that at all.
HAMISH MACDONALD: Jane Hume thank you very much.
JANE HUME: Thanks very much, Hamish.
HAMISH MACDONALD: That's the shadow finance minister, Jane Hume.