LAURA JAYES: The High Court is preparing to head down its ruling on whether the airline did illegally sack 1700 workers during the pandemic. The airline has twice lost this case in the Federal Court but has appealed to the highest court in the land. Joining me now is Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume. Jane, I'm not gonna ask you to anticipate what the High Court is going to do here, but this is just another example of the pressure Qantas is under at the moment. What do you make of revelations this morning that every single high court judge has access to the chairman's lounge?
JANE HUME: Look, I think that that's a beat up and even union officials are now saying that's not part of this High Court judges decision making. We're not going to preempt the outcome of all of this, what I will say though, is that Qantas is clearly under pressure and began when Alan Joyce appeared in front of my Cost of Living Committee, only a couple of weeks ago where we uncovered the Qatar decision that was made by the Government that would decrease competition and keep high airfare prices higher for longer. That was also compounded by the fact that Qantas had made refunding their flight credits so difficult. That decision has now been overturned. Thank goodness for that. But the pain seems to be continuing on for Qantas because then we found out that the ACCC were going to be investigating Qantas, for essentially selling flights that they had already cancelled. It was the equivalent of a fee for no service that we saw during the Hayne Royal Commission. So Qantas is seriously under pressure. They do seem to have put their profits before their customers and now they're paying the price.
LAURA JAYES: Yep and if this doesn't go the way of Qantas, this judgment today, there'll be even more financial pain. Is that the moment this starts to affect shareholders? We haven't yet heard from Vanessa Hudson. She's the new CEO. Alan Joyce is kind of old news at this point. We've just had a pre-recorded message from her. Should we be hearing from her publicly given the public nature of Qantas?
JANE HUME: Well, certainly Vanessa Hudson is trying to draw a line in the sand and move on from some of the damage that's been done to Qantas' reputation, just in the last few months alone. She's been the Chief Financial Officer of Qantas throughout that period of time. Of course, Qantas has been very successful for shareholders, but at what cost? Certainly from a Government perspective, our concern is really about the decisions that the Government has been making in conjunction with Qantas that are costing Australians more, particularly around the issue of the Qatar airlines decision ,denying Qatar those additional routes, which would have increased competition, which we know brings down prices, and of course, airlines air prices affect all Australian, not just once going on holidays, but ones that are returning to see you know, family weddings or funerals, people doing business, people that are transporting goods and services. We heard about, you know, frozen meat goods going into Qatar. These are all decisions that are affecting the cost of living here in Australia right now that are being made by this Government. So they're saying one thing, they're doing the exact opposite.
LAURA JAYES: We've heard from Marcia Langton this morning and she has essentially said that she's not racist. She doesn't believe that the majority of Australians are racist, but she does believe that No campaigners are using racist tactics. What do you say to that?
JANE HUME: I think much of Marcia Langton’s comments should be condemned by the Prime Minister. They were very divisive and an insult I think, to the millions of Australians, millions of Australians that are simply asking for more information.
LAURA JAYES: She was talking about the tactics from the No campaign.
JANE HUME: Quite frankly, I think that there's been poor behavior here from one of the advocates of the yes campaign and the fact that she's asked for the video of her saying these comments to be withdrawn, that it’s been taken off the internet. Doesn't that speak volumes? Surely, if that is not watching it, then the Prime Minister can come out and say those comments are wrong, those comments are divisive. I think she owes an apology to the millions of Australians who are simply asking questions about what it is that they're expected to vote for, in one month's time, because it's still no clearer. Marcia Langton was the author of the Calma-Langton report, which proposed a model that has not been adopted.
LAURA JAYES: Sure, but what she's asking for is a post to be removed that suggests that she called voters who were intending to vote no racist, and that's just not right. Is it?
JANE HUME: Why would you remove a video if your quote can’t then be put into context. I think that there is cause for calm here. There is nothing wrong with asking questions. There is nothing wrong with voting no, with having doubts about what is the most radical constitutional change in our history and if you can't understand it, if it's not being explained to you, well, then how can you vote yes?
LAURA JAYES: I have to say, I have to bring this up, because I feel like what you're trying to do is conflate what she said and let's just concentrate on what she's actually said. Do you accept that she wasn't calling No voters racist?
JANE HUME: Well, to tell you the truth, I don't understand what it is that she's saying that that doesn't imply that.
LAURA JAYES: Well she has said that some of the No campaign has employed racist tactics. I think there's a pretty big distinction there.
JANE HUME: I've been walking alongside Jacinta Price throughout this. She is a colleague of mine and she's not employing racist language or racist tactics.
LAURA JAYES: She wasn't directing at Jacinta Price, she didn't name anyone.
JANE HUME: Well you just said she was directing it at the No campaign. I think that is a disgraceful slur on a lot of people that are asking genuine questions, that have serious doubts that Marcia Langton, as a leading proponent of Yes has not been able to explain. if you can't explain it, you can’t change it and it risks what we have. Why is that not unreasonable? I think it's reasonable to be able to say I'm voting no for very good reasons. That's not racist.
LAURA JAYES: But she wasn't saying that, that’s my point.
JANE HUME: But the division is unnecessary. This has been caused from day one, and Anthony Albanese began this. Let's not forget, he was the one that called Julian Leeser a coward. He said that he should have courage to vote with his convictions and it was Julian Leeser, a Coalition member who said that the Prime Minister should build bridges and not throw stones in this debate and now we have more stones being thrown. That is a terrible shame. That's a choice of the Government. They have chosen to put up this divisive question that has meant that Australians are now pitted against each other taking sides. It didn't need to go this way. It was a deliberate choice by the Government.
LAURA JAYES: What the No camp is suggesting as an alternative is not exactly unifying is it?
JANE HUME: What the No camp is suggesting as an alternative is status quo, because there isn't any, because the question that is being put before can’t be explained.
LAURA JAYES: But you're suggesting your alternative is to change nothing. That's the status quo.
JANE HUME: No, Laura, we are suggesting that the alternative is to not change the constitution in the way that has been proposed because there is only one proposal before us. It can't be explained. It can't be changed and it risks what we have and it's okay to say I don't understand this, so I'm not going to vote for it. That doesn't make you racist.
LAURA JAYES: It's not really okay to get to the 14th of October and say, I don't understand it. Don't you accept that there's a lot of information out there. I mean the details to be decided by Parliament, that’s up to you.
JANE HUME: There's still no model. It's the most radical change of the Constitution since the Constitution was founded in 1901. It is the most radical change and it's not unreasonable to ask more questions, to want to understand what the implications might be. That's not unreasonable. There are millions of Australians saying they're saying that and if Marcia Langton wants to imply that they're racist, I think it's unreasonable.
LAURA JAYES: I don't, I don't think she did imply that they were racist, though, for not having the information. She's talking about the tactics.
JANE HUME: These are the tactics that the yes campaign are employing Laura, don't you feel that that is unnecessarily aggressive, that it's disparaging, that it's a slur and people that simply have questions that haven't been answered. They haven't been answered by the Government, despite numerous opportunities to do so. They haven't been answered by a Government that has had so many opportunities to walk the path of bipartisanship on this issue, and have chosen not to do so at every step of the way. I think that it's fair, and it's reasonable for people to ask the questions of how will this work? How will it affect me? And if it doesn't work, how can I change it? The only way you can do it is to go back to another referendum. It's too complicated. This was a mistake from day one and it's a mistake that has been a path chosen by Anthony Albanese on the 15th of October, after this referendum is over, and I do think it will fail. There's going to be a lot of healing for this country to do. We will be bruised because of the unnecessarily divisive nature of this debate and the comments by Marcia Langton are just one example of that.
LAURA JAYES: Okay, one final question here. Sorry, I've interrupted you a bit in this interview. I hate doing that. But one final question I want to talk about, you know how important unity is in this idea of a second referendum. Not even Jacinta Price wants a second referendum. So how are you offering a unifying position, an alternative?
JANE HUME: Well, it's been our position for more than a decade now, nearly two decades that we want to see constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians. That should be no surprise. We want to find a pathway forward and we were moving towards that.
LAURA JAYES: But Jacinta Price doesn’t agree with it and she's your spokesperson.
JANE HUME: We were moving towards that in the last Government. You know, we set up a committee with Julian Leeser as the chair and Pat Dodson as the co-chair to try and find that pathway through that was abandoned by this Government. They decided to go their own way and not bring the Coalition with them and decided to not bring half of Australia with them.
LAURA JAYES: So you're gonna ignore Jacinta Price?
JANE HUME: So now I think that if you actually separated those two issues, constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians and a Voice to Parliament, constitutional recognition would win no problems, no problems. The question is how best to do that and that's what we're working towards. That will be what we continue to work towards.
LAURA JAYES: Jane Hume, we’re out of time. As always, appreciate your time.