JOE HILDEBRAND: Speaking of things political obviously, Anthony Albanese is the Prime Minister of Australia because of a disastrous election result for the Coalition in May last year, and the co-author of a review into that result joins me on the line right now Senator Jane Hume, welcome to Afternoons. How are you?
JANE HUME: Very well. Thank you, Joe. And I'm having a great time listening to you in the Summer Afternoons series.
JOE HILDEBRAND: Aw bless you. You know just what to say to a guy. Before we get onto the election postmortem, I've been hoping to talk to you about this phone for days and weeks now, so thanks so much for coming on. But let's talk about the Voice because you've raised some concerns about the removal of material from Facebook and also the fact that the yes and no campaigns are not going to receive public funding. Maybe to start with, talking through your concerns about the process.
JANE HUME: Well, look, there's two issues here. Obviously, you know, Peter Dutton is asking for more questions to be answered. And look in an age of disinformation, it's really important that the government takes the lead and provides clear information to Australians around this you know. Australians want basic questions answered and some guarantees on what they can expect before they actually vote. Now, the government keeps saying that ‘oh the details in the, you know, Calma Langton Report, that's 270 pages. And not only that, but supposedly the government's actually adopted that report yet they won't say which options in that report they support, if any. So, if you want this to succeed, because we know that since Federation changing the Constitution is a hard thing to do. I cannot understand why leaving doubt on the detail is a good idea. But beyond that, there’s also the mechanics of the referendum itself. You know, making sure that it looks like an election that you have the same donation laws, the same laws about foreign interference. You know, Australians deserve a proper referendum process because it's not just this referendum. It's also ones in the future. And my concern is that Labor has set this referendum up for failure already, by removing the yes or no case. And particularly by removing the pamphlet, which has gone out in every referendum really, since 2012, even an online version of the pamphlet, which provides that official information on the referendum question. So this is, this’ll be the first time that there hasn't been a referendum pamphlet provided to voters since Phar Lap won the Melbourne Cup. That's how long we've been doing that. And while they're saying it's because times have changed and you get your information online, they're not actually providing an online or digital alternative. It's just abolished completely. I think this is a real chance that's been deliberately missed to give Australians a fair and full understanding of what it is they're voting for.
JOE HILDEBRAND: Are your concerns raised on a on a personal level your concerns raised by someone who is or could be persuaded to support the voice to Parliament, but feels like there needs to be more information before that comes forward or someone who has reservations about it and expects that the lack of detail and the lack of clarity will confirm those reservations?
JANE HUME: I think like a lot of Australians, you know, I am open minded. We want to be generous and big hearted and good spirited, good willed here. You know, the Coalition has been in favor of having constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians for a long time, now. We want to, you know, at least see the referendum mechanically successful. But, of course, again, like all Australians, you’re filled with doubt if you feel like you're being either called a bigot if you don't automatically vote ‘yes’. Or if you feel like you're not entirely sure what it is you're voting on. So it's just about explaining the details, answering some pretty basic questions, to give the referendum its best chance. And I can’t understand - it really is up to the government now to explain why not having that official yes and official no campaign is the best way to ensure the integrity of the process. Things like scrutineering at the election, who does that if there is no ‘yes’ or ‘no’ campaign. We've asked these questions of officials during committee processes and they keep saying it's a decision of government. But government and the government ministers aren't appearing in front of that committee. They're ducking their responsibilities. They're not answering those questions. So just that pamphlet alone, I think is really important. You know, the AEC sends out a pamphlet every election to households to help them with the election process. And their statistics say that around 40% of households look at that pamphlet, not knowing that how can you then abolish it from a referendum but it's so important for so many Australians?
JOE HILDEBRAND: Putting the issue of the pamphlet aside, I think you've raised some very valid points. Is it not though, reasonable enough for a government say, look, let's not put the cart before the horse. Let's just say if Australians vote for a voice to Parliament and then we can have the Parliament which will remain completely sovereign design and figure out the best framework for that voice. Is it not you know, is it not better to see if there is majority support for the Voice first, and then the parliament can put together what it would look like and of course, the Parliament would then have the sovereignty to change what it would look like as needs arise. That's a fairly reasonable proposition, isn't it?
JANE HUME: Well, you think so except if you ask 20 people what a voice to Parliament looks like. You'll probably get 20 different answers because a model hasn't been devised or even proposed at this point in time, from the party from the government that has initiated the referendum. I think that if you want a referendum to succeed, you would want to provide more information, not less information.
JOE HILDEBRAND: And again, leaving aside what that model ends up looking like, why won't the Liberal Party just say we're going to have a conscience vote on this? It is the party of the individual. It's got a history of having conscience votes on matters of, I suppose personal faith or personal belief. Surely it's a no brainer that this is one of those issues that would warrant a conscience vote?
JANE HUME: And potentially it will. But again, it's very hard to decide whether you can have a conscience vote or not, if you don't know what the question is that is being asked exactly what that question means. It can't just be a value statement. You've got to understand what the implications are. This is our national document. It's been so difficult to change in the past. Surely, if the Labor Party, the Government and genuine about things succeed, they would want to give it every best chance that they can. And that's by making sure that there is respectful debate, that there is information out there, and that Australians can have a conversation between each other about what this might mean, not for them, not just for them, but also for the nation more broadly.
JOE HILDEBRAND: I've found a few people who are supporters have the Voice at least in principle, but who feel like the lack of detail could be putting people off. I spoke to a lifelong Labor voter, for example, someone who actually first voted for the Labor Party in 1975 after the dismissal and has been voting for them ever since but says gee whiz, this voice stuff you know, if they don't get it right then could be big trouble. Is that if you have that soft pro-voice, voters might end up hedging their bets and not voting for it, if they don't, don't have the detail in front of them?
JANE HUME: Potentially that's the case you know, there are good people on both sides of this debate. And we want them to have you to be able to express their reservations and have their questions answered. The more information you withhold from people, the less likely it is that this will get up. So we would suggest that if by answering some very basic questions, you would have a much better chance of having a successful referendum the mechanics or referendum no matter what the outcome would be, that we want to see reconciliation enhanced and improved from this process not diminished and it could be damaging should it descend.
JOE HILDEBRAND: Well speaking of votes, we might get a hold on the line over the break, Jane, and we'll ask you about your thoughts on the election result of a little over six months ago because you literally wrote the book on it. So I want to pick your brains about that too. Hold on the line. We'll be back in a couple of minutes.
JOE HILDEBRAND: I’m speaking to Liberal Senator Jane Hume, who is one of the co-authors between her and former federal party Director Brian Loughnane, of the election postmortem, and we all know that, while the election wasn't necessarily a resounding win for Labor, although it’s riding very high in the water at the moment. It was a resounding defeat for the coalition and the Liberal Party in particular because of, of course, the Teal wave, not to mention various other seats. Jane, maybe in a nutshell, just speak us through what your review of the election result found because one of the findings was that the liberal brand was simply not fit for purpose. That's a pretty damning indictment, isn't it?
JANE HUME: Well, we meant it to be, you know, pretty blunt, but just before I do allow me to correct myself because one of your listeners has already got back to me and pointed out something that I said was incorrect.
JOE HILDEBRAND: Okay, gosh that was fast.
JANE HUME: I know, isn't that cool? Isn't it nice to know that they're listening? And that they have my mobile phone number? And that was that I said that they'd been a pamphlet and every referendum since 2012? Of course, I meant 1912. Thank you.
JOE HILDEBRAND: Yes sorry. I actually assumed that that was what you said, because that's right.
JANE HUME: But yes, it was a disappointing result. Obviously, there was a 5.7% swing against the Liberal, Coalition in our primary vote just from the previous election. Now, there was a point seven between swing against Labor which he also pointed out, but because of the way that preference flows and everything else, it was a significant loss. And, and in fact, the Liberal party only increased the votes in around 16 seats. And many times we didn't actually win. So we did, it was really important that we had to analyse what it was and where we went. And there were lots of reasons. And you know, not one single reason. We've been in government for nine years, so there's always that ‘it's time’ factor. There was a very successful campaign against the Prime Minister's character. There was the focus on the pandemic, and particularly all the problems that went with it, the inability to travel, national cabinet, the rise of the premiers, and the necessarily, you know, the policies that sort of naturally went against that liberal grain. There was the rise of a very new and well resourced left apparatus that was in the Teals, whose overriding objective was to remove a coalition government. There were all sorts of things going on and the combination of the means that we've lost control of the brand, we didn’t frame the election contest, Labor framed the election contest, but there were other things. There's things we can do about that, the review is there so that we can learn for elections and there are certain things that we will learn from this that we will take into the next election.
JOE HILDEBRAND: Is the problem that the rise of the Teals means that you have a sort of soft, touchy feely, affluent, small ‘l’ Liberal alternative in these leafy inner metropolitan states that you relied on not just the former majority but also for much of your fundraising. And that now I mean, I'm looking at a text message from Larry, for example, who says ‘Joe, the reason the Coalition is going bad is simple. Tell your guests to simply stop following the left.’ But of course, you will have people in the moderate wing of the party said no, the reason we lost all those seats is because we were seen as too right wing, seen as not female enough, not having enough female representation, being dinosaurs on things like climate is the problem that the Liberal party can no longer straddle its own two wings.
JANE HUME: No, I don't see that is the problem at all. And in fact, the idea of sort of nutting it down to something that's so binary, is probably a little bit too basic. We do need to understand that where our vote was soft was, for instance, with female voters in every single age group and we're weakest, we've always been weaker among young people but particularly around young women. And older women, those in the ages of 35 to 54 were actually the most likely to shift away from the Liberal Party and those Independents gave that segment permission to vote for a party other than the Coalition that wasn't Labor. So what is it that we can do to broaden our base and make our membership far more reflective of the people that we wish to represent and people who wished to govern and part of the solution there is making our membership, membership to the Liberal Party more valued too. I personally feel that as a Senator, and as a member of parliament, and a shadow minister, I am actually one of us as the custodians of the party right now. And our responsibility is to leave the party in a stronger position for future generations to make sure that the Liberal Party is viable and positive and has a positive future.
JOE HILDEBRAND: And just extremely quickly, is it the problem though that taking a hardline position against the voice or party position against the voice will actually kiss those seats goodbye in five words or less?
JANE HUME: Oh, no, that's not the case at all. I think that there’s different views out there. We want to make sure that all of those views are heard and represented as best we can, which is why it's so important to answer those questions rather than allowing misinformation to flourish.
JOE HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you very much. We are out of time, I'm sorry Jane. I could talk about it all day. But thank you so much for joining us on Afternoons. Really appreciate it.
JANE HUME: A pleasure Joe. We'll do it another time.
JOE HILDEBRAND: I look forward to that enormously back after this.