Shadow Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews – Transcript – ABC Afternoon Briefing 11 April 2023
Subjects: the Voice
GREG JENNETT: Shadow Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews is already busy defining what she will or won’t be doing. We spoke to her from the Gold Coast. Karen Andrews, welcome back to Afternoon Briefing. The frontbench resignation of Julian Leeser has obviously been made with conviction and principle in mind, was his position on a constitutionally enshrined voice, as he outlined it today, completely in line with everything he had said in other gatherings that you attended. Therefore, no real surprise?
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, I think that you need to put some perspective around what Julian Leeser has announced today, which is his resignation from the front bench, and that is that Julian has had years of working on this particular issue. He had some very strong views on it. So I’m sorry that he has taken the decision to resign from our front bench, but I understand the position that he felt he needed to continue to prosecute.
GREG JENNETT: He seems to believe that reservations that he holds, that is, the wording that the Albanese government’s proposal might be improved by the committee process underway in the parliament. Do you share that belief?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, I think it’s potentially a very outside chance, and the reason I say that is because the Prime Minister has been very focused on pushing back on any legitimate questions that have been asked of him. And he has not been prepared to be open, honest, and transparent like he had promised that he was going to be just prior to his election, and then shortly after. Now, there have been some very legitimate questions that have been asked, and I’m well and truly on the record as saying that if the Prime Minister was so convinced that this was the right thing to do, then he would be actively out there not only answering the questions, but prosecuting the case. But what we’ve seen is a lot of negativity from the Prime Minister. Now, will anything come out of the committee process? I guess we’ll all need to wait and see, but at this stage I’m very clear and the position of the opposition is very, very clear that we do not support the wording that is proposed by Mr. Albanese.
GREG JENNETT: Okay so unless that’s changed, just take us through what that form of words means to you. You’ll be opposed because you’re in the shadow cabinet, but what will you be doing to express that opposition? How will you be campaigning?
KAREN ANDREWS: So the position that I have taken is that I’m absolutely in lockstep with the position that has been put by the opposition, that we don’t support the words that are proposed to change the Constitution by Mr. Albanese. So there is no way I can, or I would, on a personal level, support that wording. Now, I’m unlikely to go out with the words ‘no’ emblazoned on a shirt to be advocating in that way. But what I will be advocating for is that there is some neutral factual information available to all of our communities that outlined the pros and the cons of what is being proposed. And I will encourage-
GREG JENNETT: -But that’s already assured isn’t it, Karen Andrews? By virtue of what is the Referendum Machinery Bill, it’s now the Law of the land. It does enshrine the no pamphlet and the yes pamphlet with public funding, so that’s already in the bag isn’t it?
KAREN ANDREWS: -Well the wording has not –
GREG JENNETT: –Why does it leave you a little reserved about how you will conduct yourself in the campaign?
KAREN ANDREWS: We are yet to see what the final wording in the brochure is going to be. And you are right. There has been agreement that it will be neutral wording. So I will be advocating to make sure that the wording is neutral, but beyond that, I will also be speaking to my community as well, making sure that they have access to the information they need to make a decision. But I will also be taking the opportunity to point out to them the concerns that I have with the wording, which goes to a range of issues that Peter Dutton has very clearly enunciated. But it goes to issues that I firmly and very strongly believe that there is only one form of citizenship here in Australia. That there needs to be a quality of citizenship here. But also, if there’s going to be words about representation going into the Constitution, if there’s going to be words about what that voice will actually be able to do, that needs to be very clearly defined. But fundamentally, I don’t believe any such wording should be going into the Constitution. It creates too many uncertainties, and quite frankly, it’s just going to allow opportunities for many people to take action in the high court.
GREG JENNETT: Yeah your reservations, or concerns more than reservations, about that wording is clear. You’re repeating that here but curious why all Liberals will be voting for the constitutional amendment Bill on the floor of Parliament. If you’re objecting to the words, why are you supporting?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, the view was taken that what we needed to do was ensure at this point that all Australians have the opportunity to give their own view, their own decision, and to vote yes or no accordingly. For them to be able to do that then the legislation that’s currently before the House of Representatives needs to be passed. Now, there are conflicting views on that, and there will always be some people who say we should vote no because we are fundamentally opposed to it. We will consider whether or not there will be some people who will vote no for a range of reasons. But the view that was taken by the party room and supported by pretty much everyone who was there is that we should vote yes so that this referendum went to the people and they could decide.
GREG JENNETT: Okay so that latitude for people to potentially vote on the floor of the Parliament to the Alterations Bill, is that for frontbenchers or backbenchers?
KAREN ANDREWS: There hasn’t been a definite decision on that, so we will actually go through the process of looking at whether or not that is actually a necessary thing to do, so that we could participate fully in the process from here on, but it would be something that we needed to carefully consider, and I would defer clearly to the leader of the opposition on that particular issue.
GREG JENNETT: Alright we’ll keep an eye on that. Are you prepared to declare, and I suspect you might be, are you able to declare how you will be voting in the privacy of the ballot box in October or November, come referendum day?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, I don’t agree with the, the wording that has been proposed for the changes to the Constitution. And if that continues to be what is put to the Australian people, then I will vote no.
GREG JENNETT: Okay, we’re trying to flush out people for clear and definitive statements and I think we’ve virtually achieved that with you today. Karen Andrews we’ll talk again before too long.