BELINDA RUSSELL: Anthony Albanese will today unveil the country's first referendum in two decades, asking Australians if they support changing the constitution to include an Indigenous voice. Joining us to discuss today's talk are Victorian Senator Jane Hume and Nova's Michelle Stephenson. Good morning to both of you ladies. Senator, first, what is the Coalition’s stance on this referendum?
JANE HUME: Well, the Coalition has always supported the principle of indigenous recognition in the Constitution. The most important thing, of course, with any referenda, is detail. We want to make sure that we understand what the question is, what the amendments are, and also what the model is that the Albanese Government is proposing. Now, of course, the Coalition will keep an open mind, but we know unless the detail is out there and well understood by the population, there is a good chance that the referendum will fail because only eight of 44 referenda in the last, however many years have actually got up, so Australians won't be taken for mugs. They want to understand the detail, which is exactly what the Coalition will do. We would love to see an indigenous recognition in the Constitution go through with bipartisan support, but we need to understand what it means.
RUSSELL: Yeah, as you said Jane, ever since 1901, Michelle, only eight out of 44 referendums have been successful. Do you support it?
MICHELLE STEPHENSON: Yeah, of course. I mean, look, we do need to have a detailed national conversation. I think these are very important conversations. I worry that these are empty platitudes on some level; we need to ensure that all the things happening are happening correctly. I worry as well that we are opening ourselves up to having very racist conversations. We need nuance in this, and we need balance. So I think while they're important, we need to ensure we are on the right track.
RUSSELL: First Nations people deserve a voice, right?
STEPHENSON: Yes. Absolutely. Of course, they deserve a voice. But I do want to make sure that we were giving them the right voice and the right opportunity.
RUSSELL: Australians will have their say, moving on, and New South Wales authorities have intercepted more than 3600 fraudulent flood applications totalling more than $38 million. Michelle, the flood grants program, is there to help people who need it. What was your reaction when you heard this?
STEPHENSON: Oh, my gosh, I mean, it's such a sad indictment on Australians that, you know, when people are at their lowest low, there are other people just taking advantage and some of the things that they were doing, like providing some fake photographs that are from overseas of floods, and then someone checked into a hotel with a room number that didn't even exist. I do think we need to support and make sure that this money is going to the right place. The fact that people are out there just taking advantage of these situations. It's just really un-Australian to me.
RUSSELL: Yeah, it's despicable. Senator. I mean, many people are doing the right thing, but could more have been done to make sure that this didn't happen?
HUME: Well, this is the frustrating thing, I think, is that these fraudulent applications are clogging up the system. But the good news is that, with the advent of digital technologies, fraudulent applications have been identified. In fact, over 95% of the fraudulent applications are being identified very quickly, and they will be addressed, and there will be consequences for those fraudulent applications. So even in this digital age, where people can use screenshots of houses overseas being flooded, or whatever it might be. They're being picked up. That's very good news, I think. That means that the money is getting out the door to people who need it when they need it the most.
RUSSELL: All right, quickly, we're running out of time because finally, chronic lateness among employees is on the rise as people struggle to break lazy habits formed during years of lockdowns. Michelle young people are the worst culprits, apparently. Are you surprised by that?
STEPHENSON: I'm not surprised by this. I mean, any opportunity to have a dig at a millennial, I'm all here for. I mean, as a journalist and someone who works in radio news, I am required to work up to the minute, and punctuality is key. I have a lot of friends who are always late. And let me tell you, it really really annoys me. I think being punctual is kind of a cornerstone, you know, it's something that we need to make sure that we are doing.
RUSSELL: How about you, Senator? Are you always on time?
HUME: Well, it's a basic courtesy, isn't it? Certainly, politicians have to be. We run by bells. The moment the bells go, we're like meerkats. We know we have to be there in four minutes. We got four minutes to get everywhere. So we're always punctual.
RUSSELL: Well, someone who's very punctual is my executive producer, who is telling me time is up. Ladies, thank you for your time this morning.