Sky News First Edition – Voice to Parliament, Alice Springs



Subjects: Voice to Parliament, Alice Springs 

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Your first edition, thank you for your company this Thursday morning, folks. Live now to Labor MP Peter Khalil, Liberal Senator James Paterson. Good morning to you, gentlemen. Peter Khalil, we’ll start with you first. Just off this breaking news that we’ve received this morning: the Dorelle Anderson report to recommend that alcohol bans be reintroduced in the Northern Territory. Your thoughts on this this morning – is that precisely what’s needed? 

PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WILLS: Good morning, Pete. Good morning, James. My understanding is that the Prime Minister and the NT Chief Minister are actually meeting today to discuss the recommendations of the report. My understanding is that the report will be released by the NT Government in the coming days, along with all the concrete action that come out of those recommendations, two points. To answer your question about my thoughts, the Commonwealth is committed to working with both the NT Government and local communities around solutions because you get the best solutions when you work with local communities and also the Commonwealth’s number one priority, the Government’s priority, is really making sure that we improve community safety and protect women and children. So, on the basis of those principles, there should be concrete actions coming out of the the report in the coming days. 

STEFANOVIC: Where have you been for the last eight months, though? This isn’t an issue that’s just flared up. 

KHALIL: Well, this issue hasn’t just flared up. There have been problems for decades, and we understand that a lot of the challenges facing communities in central Australia are complex and they have been there for decades and they’re decades in the making. We’re not going to ascribe blame to one particular government, but this has been a failure of Australian governments of all political stripes and persuasions over many decades. 

STEFANOVIC: Well, I mean, I suppose, and people have said, James, that your former government made some mistakes as well by allowing the stronger futures laws to lapse. Have you got to take some blame in it? 

JAMES PATERSON, SENATOR LIBERAL PARTY: Peter, the news that this report is going to recommend reintroducing alcohol bans is utterly tragic and utterly unsurprising. Seven months ago, my colleague, Senator Jacinta Price said that if we lift the alcohol bans and if we abolish the cashless debit card that it will result in chaos and violence in the Northern Territory and in Alice Springs. The only problem with Jacinta’s prediction is that she was too optimistic. It took only six months for her to be right. She thought it would take a year. It’s not lost on me that some people are saying in this debate that if we had a Voice to Parliament that this might have been avoided. Well, we have indigenous voices in the federal parliament, including Jacinta, but also Marian Scrymgour, remember of the government, the Labor Member representing Lingiari and Alice Springs in the Federal Parliament. And both of them warned about the consequences of lifting these alcohol bans, and both of them were ignored. So, it is not clear to me why, if we’re ignoring the Indigenous voices that we already have, who were democratically elected to represent their fellow indigenous Australians are not being listened to, why a Voice to Parliament would change anything. The key thing is listen to people who are on the ground, who have made these warnings and a lot of this could have been avoided. 

STEFANOVIC: Well, just let’s go to the NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles, James. I mean, she said that the alcohol bans were essentially racist policy. Has she got a tin ear here? 

PATERSON: Well, I think it the proof is in the pudding. It’s been an utterly disastrous policy from the NT Government. Peter Khalil is right – there are problems going back decades and no government has covered themselves in glory, state or federal. I’m not going to pretend for a moment that anyone has got this right, but this was something that was specifically warned against, that these outcomes were predicted exactly, and the NT Government proceeded anyway, like it knew better and look at the consequences of that. 

STEFANOVIC: Yeah, I just had the Alice Springs Mayor, Peter, on the on the program a short time ago. He mentioned that it’s good news that this alcohol ban has been reintroduced, but they also need police. They also need better facilities for the kids, for families as well to be put in place. So do you believe that this is just one measure that now you’ve got to send more police in there to sort it out? 

KHALIL: Well, what you’re touching on there is this is not so simple. It’s quite complex. There are a number of issues with respect to resources, community support, various support services, housing, education, employment opportunities. All of this has got to be a part of it and with all due respect to James, conflating the voices of representatives of parliament like Marion Scrymgour and Senator Price is not the same as the Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution, because obviously they represent their electorates, their constituents, what we’re talking about with the Voice to Parliament with this referendum is a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament from a voice that’s heard from Indigenous communities that are representative of right across Australia: regional, the different clans, the different tribes, so that they can be heard, they can actually advise government and policymakers – the executive – on the issues that directly impact them. And there is a valid argument that having that strong representative Voice to Parliament would be something that improves the policy that we’re just talking about because it’s coming from the people that are being directly impacted and so yes, we of course we should be listening to our Members of Parliament when they make their arguments and their representations on behalf of their communities. But the Voice to Parliament is something else altogether, it’s a much bigger attempt by this nation to actually reconcile with Indigenous Australians and I’m sorry, the detail – James’s side of politics says there’s no detail on this – there are hundreds of pages of reports by the Constitution of the committee itself that – guess who co-chaired it with Pat Dodson? It was Julian Leeser around constitutional recognition. There are around 64 pages around what the Voice means, so I think we’re getting a lot of misinformation and disinformation about the Voice and some conflation with what’s happening with respect to what’s going on in the NT, which is tragic. So, I just wanted to make that point about the importance of Indigenous people having a Voice to Parliament. 

STEFANOVIC: Well, you’re definitely not rushing. Linda Burney, she’s quoted in the Australian this morning as saying she doubts that it’ll be in place this term, so the time frame is definitely blowing out. Speaking of blowing out, I’m almost out of time guys, so I’ve just got to ask you though, this IMF story is really interesting this morning. It has recommended – James, we’ll start with you – it’s recommended that Jim Chalmers looks at winding back capital gains tax breaks for the family home as well as broadening the GST, maybe even looking at stage 3 tax cuts as well to try and get the economy going again once it slows down. What are your thoughts on that idea? 

PATERSON: Pete, it’s very kind of you to throw to me on this question, but I think we can rely on Peter Khalil to mount a robust defence of the stage 3 tax cuts, because of course our Labor Party promised repeatedly and explicitly before the election that they would deliver the stage 3 tax cuts in full. 

Now we know before the last budget that Jim Chalmers did try and scrap those stage 3 tax cuts, but he was rolled inside the Labor Party, but it does look like he’s attempting to go there again. He’s done his Kevin Rudd essay in The Monthly talking about how he’s going to personally remake global capitalism. Good luck with that, Jim. And it’s very clear the Labor Party’s crab walking away from this very clear commitment that they made at a time when Australians are struggling more than ever with the cost of living. And the benefits of the stage 3 tax cuts will flow to families earning as little as $120,000 a year who have been counting on these tax cuts because they’re legislated because both major parties promised they’d be delivered at the last election. So, if they yanked it away at a time when inflation is running as high as it is, it’s going to seriously hurt a family budget and damage our tax system because it was going to make it much more efficient and deliver effectively a flat rate of tax for the vast majority of households. 

STEFANOVIC: OK. And just in the 10 seconds before I go to Peter, James, this idea to wind back capital gains for the family home, for the main home? 

PATERSON: I doubt there’d be any appetite for that anywhere in the political system. I mean, it would be outrageous for people’s family homes to be taxed. 

STEFANOVIC: I would have thought that that’s what you might say anyway, so over to you, Peter Khalil. Are you still committed to stage 3 tax cuts? 

KHALIL: James looks very angry over there. It’s a new year, 2023. Look, I’ve got to say, he might be right about that last one. The government will listen, of course respectfully, to views of all bodies and you know, the IMF of course, makes suggestions and recommendations as well. But what has been completely whitewashed here is the fact that overnight, the IMF provided a glowing report card for the Labor Government’s first budget. 

STEFANOVIC: Yeah, don’t dodge. Don’t dodge, Peter Khalil, are you are still committed to the stage three tax cuts? 

KHALIL: I’ll get to your point, Pete. Big ticks on many of the Labor policies put in place, like expanded parental leave, cheaper childcare, free TAFE places, because it obviously boosts labor supply and addresses critical labour shortage issues. They’ve welcomed some of these policies and importantly, the fiscal restraint that has been shown by the government in the budget, which helps with the inflation challenge.  

On the tax reform: of course, there’s a broader conversation around tax reform going forward, and I’ll tell you what we have said very clearly as a priority. This government is saying we’re looking at tax reform around multinationals paying their fair share of tax. Why should a multinational big company pay $0.05 in the dollar where your local cafe owner, your business owner, pays their fair share and gets away with it? 

STEFANOVIC: Stage three tax cuts? 

KHALIL:  That is something that was discussed in cabinet as you’ve been commenting on, and – 

STEFANOVIC: OK, you’re still committed. 

KHALIL: Our current policies, there’s no change. There’s been no change to our policy position. So, you can ask the Treasurer leading up to the next budget, but there’s been no change at this moment. 

STEFANOVIC: OK, got there in the end. Peter Khalil, James Patterson. 

PATERSON: Oh great, not at this moment. 

STEFANOVIC: Yeah. No, that can always change. Peter Khalil, James Patterson. Well, we’re out of time. We’ll see you next week.