NATALIE BARR: There is growing anger this morning with Federal politicians to receive a healthy payrise from this Friday. Members of Parliament and other public office holders will receive a boost of four percent, the biggest increase in a decade. The rise means the Prime Minister will get a rise of 22 and a half thousand dollars a year, while backbenchers will pocket an extra 8 thousand dollars a year. For more let’s bring in Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil and Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume. Morning to you both. Clare, we know politicians don’t decide how much they’re paid, an independent tribunal does. How can you justify this though, when people are looking at their power bills, going to the grocery store and saying, we are struggling?
CLARE O’NEIL: Yeah, absolutely Nat, totally understand. I think it’s important for your viewers to understand that we don’t set our own pay, it’s done completely independently of us as MPs. There is a decision that’s published, I read about this in the newspaper this morning as probably many of your viewers did, there is a decision that's published online and I’d really encourage people to look at it and understand why the independent body has made the decision that they have made. I can just tell you absolutely honestly, if you take one thing away from our Government, I think every Australian can agree, It’s that our focus is actually on lifting the wages of the people that we represent in Parliament and that’s why you’ve seen since we’ve been in Government, a big increase to the minimum wage, we’ve supported a 15% increase for aged care workers. We are very focussed on getting wages moving across the country and you are starting to see some impacts of that. So, I get the interest and the focus on this issue, but I have to say, my focus when I come to work every day is my constituents, what they get paid and how I can make sure that it’s as much as possible.
NATALIE BARR: Jane, It’s just not great timing is it, anyone putting up their hand to give it back?
JANE HUME: Well, we know that because of the cost of living crisis, a pay rise for pollies, which is never popular, even when everyone’s feeling flush, bites even harder. Clare’s right, the remuneration tribunal sets not just our pay, but the pay of the senior public service, pay of judges, it’s not something that’s in our control. That said, even for Australia’s favorite politicians, Clare and I, I think this would annoy people when they see what the amount is, but it is what it is, I'm afraid.
NATALIE BARR: Finally the Prime Minister will today unveil the date of the Voice to Parliament referendum, which many people are tipping will take place on October the 14th. It doesn't clash with any footy finals at that time. It comes as a new poll shows the yes vote in South Australia is leading the No campaign 52 to 48. However, in bad news for the yes camp, Tasmania has now joined Queensland and WA with the majority of residents to vote against the referendum. Clare, about they’re saying I think 30% of the country is still undecided. Are you confident you can get them on the Yes campaign?
CLARE O’NEIL: Look, we're in a democracy and people are going to make up their own mind, but we're getting into what is always my favourite part of the campaign, when Australian citizens are really starting to focus on this important question that they're going to get to decide. My vote is worth the same as yours and the same as every other viewer who's watching today. This referendum is about two really simple things: recognising First Nations people in our Constitution and consultation, asking First Nations people what to do about issues that affect them. Two really simple things from which I will lose nothing, but First Nations people have everything to gain, and I think this is a really important, possibly unifying moment for our country and I'm really excited about the weeks ahead where we get to have that conversation with our constituents.
NATALIE BARR: Yes, it's a six week campaign and hopefully we'll hear a lot more about what it's actually about. I think a lot of people really don't understand it. Jane, why do you think Tassie is now leaning towards voting no?
JANE HUME: Well, I'm not sure about Tassie, but I've been travelling right around the country and there does seem to be still a lot of questions that haven't been answered. I think like a lot of Australians, you know, my heart was in this. We want to see recognition of Aboriginal Australians in the constitution. Unfortunately that's been linked to a voice to Parliament which no one seems to be able to explain. This is the most radical change to our Constitution in our history. If you can't explain to me how it's going to work, if I can't change it once it's done and it risks what we have, how can you vote yes. This is a bad law.
NATALIE BARR: Clare, is Jane right? Because as much as some people want to recognise Indigenous Australians in the Constitution, you can't deny that a lot of people just don't get this. A lot of people are saying, well, hang on, how many people is it going to involve? How is it going to be voted, all the details and will it create another layer of bureaucracy? Will it slow down our Government, all that stuff. Do you reckon you can explain that in six weeks?
CLARE O’NEIL: Yeah, So absolutely Nat and what I would just say to Australians is a couple of really important things. Firstly, this has come from First Nations people. This is not politicians who have dreamed this up. First Nations people were asked, what do you want to do about these enduring national problems which every Australian I know passionately cares about. Why is there a nine year life expectancy gap between First Nations and non-first nations Australians? Why is an Indigenous mum three times more likely to die in childbirth? These are terrible gaps in the standard of living between First Nations Australians and others and we have tried everything else. I mean, we've spent money on this problem. We've created, you know, people within the Government to try to deal with it. It's not working and First Nations people have said, we want a voice to Parliament and that is the pathway towards us fixing these issues. Now we're being asked about a constitutional change. Now, you don't add in detailed layers of complexity into the Constitution. That's not what the document is for. It gives the Parliament the power to create a voice to Parliament, and that's what's being asked. But I just say to Australians, you're about to get a booklet in the mail which explains clearly the arguments for the Yes case and clearly the arguments for the No. The one thing I would say to Australians is be informed. There's a lot of misinformation on social media. Go to areas where you know you're going to get good quality information and we are really excited to have this conversation with you about what can be a unifying moment for our country as we have this referendum debate over the coming weeks.
NATALIE BARR: Yeah, Jane, you know, you guys had 11 years and you're saying this isn't the right path. Have you got a better idea rather than just saying this isn't the right one, have you got a better plan to get our Indigenous Australians out of poverty and out of crime?
JANE HUME: Well, actually, we were working towards a consensus position on constitutional change in the last Parliament. Unfortunately, when Anthony Albanese was elected he turned this into a political issue.
NATLAIE BARR: Well you had 11 years, it was a while.
JANE HUME: This divisive referendum question. He's put this ahead of what we could have done with recognition of Aboriginal Australians in the Constitution and we could have walked that path of reconciliation together. Unfortunately, he's chosen to go a political route. We cannot support this bad law because it makes radical changes to a Constitution which doesn't just belong to Aboriginal Australians, it belongs to all Australians and all Australians need to vote on it.
NATALIE BARR: Okay, we do and we also need to understand and we will be learning more in the next six weeks, very important conversation. We'll be having more of them. Thank you. See you next week.