SUBJECT | Referendum | 4 September 2023
DANICA DE GIORGIO: Joining me now live is Shadow Immigration Minister Dan Tehan. Thank you so much for joining us. So, what do you think of this? Do you support a second referendum for Australians?
DAN TEHAN: Well, what Peter Dutton is suggesting is, if we win the next election, then we will hold a second referendum on constitutional recognition. Now that has been our policy for over a decade now that we support constitutional recognition. So, we will obviously reach across the aisle, talk to the opposition, and then put a proposition forward, we’ll actually consult and do it the right way so that we've got bipartisan support so that we can get constitutional recognition. We won't do it the way that Anthony Albanese has done this referendum. He has not been interested in bipartisanship the whole way through and as a result, now we've got a very divisive referendum taking place which is in no one's interest.
DE GIORGIO: Okay, so you stand by this decision. Do you support Peter Dutton's decision for a second referendum?
TEHAN: Well, it has been our policy in every election for about the last decade to support constitutional recognition…
DE GIORGIO: But you support….
TEHAN: …Liberal Party….
DE GIORGIO: A second referendum. Do you support that? Do you stand by what Peter Dutton wants?
TEHAN: If we win the next election, then I support constitutional recognition. It's been the policy we've taken to every election for about the last decade. Everyone who has stood as a Liberal Party member of Parliament has supported that as part of our policy platform going to every election. There's nothing new here. This is what our policy has been and if we win the next election, then we will look to implement our policy. We're not like the Labor Party. We don't say we'll cut your power bill by $275 and then not even mention $275. We say we support constitutional recognition and that's what we'll try and achieve if we win the next election.
DE GIORGIO: Do you risk fatiguing voters, though? Because what you're asking them to do is to go back to the polls after having just gone to the polls on October 14, if the outcome is a no.
TEHAN: Well, Danica we've got a lot of water to go under the bridge between now and the next election. And my focus, and I know Peter Dutton’s and the Opposition's focus is on holding this Government to account. We're not going to get ahead of ourselves and talk about what we might do if we win or if we don’t win. What we've got to do is focus on the here and now. There is a cost-of-living crisis here in this country. Last week I had the Shadow Minister, the Shadow Treasurer, Angus Taylor, in my electorate. We went to a small community called Terang, where people have seen an 80%, or 90% increase in their gas bills in the last couple of months and they've got to make a choice between whether they use heating to eat or whether they use it to keep themselves warm. And these sorts of decisions shouldn’t have to be made in today's Australia and that's what we're very much focussed on, the here and now and addressing those cost-of-living crisis, holding the Government to account, for instance, on their decision on Qatar Airlines, we make absolutely no sense whatsoever.
DE GIORGIO: Well, do you think that that decision will be overturned, I see today in the paper that South Australia and Queensland are also supporting more flights into Australia. What are the chances, do you think, the Government will walk back on this decision?
TEHAN: Well, even Wayne Swan's out saying it should be changed now as well as those premiers. I hope it is. I hope Anthony Albanese has the courage to be able to say I got this wrong, I've made a complete mess of it. I may have let my friendship with Alan Joyce get in the way of this decision, so we're going to completely re-look at it and make a decision that is in the national interest, not one that seems to be in the short-term interests of the government at the time that it was made. So, my hope is, that Anthony Albanese will have the courage to say I've got this wrong, I’ve made a mess of it and re-look at it.
DE GIORGIO: All right, we're running out of time. But just quickly, the latest Newspoll, the Coalition is ahead of Labor on primary votes for the first time since last year's election. How much momentum does this give the Opposition?
TEHAN: Well, I think what we've got to keep doing is keep focusing on the issues that are important to the Australian people, and I think the Australian people are starting to see is there is a dishonest government that has been elected, that they didn't think that they had elected. And I think they're starting to get very disappointed. They were told that their electricity and gas bills would come down. That hasn't happened. They weren't told that there would be 1. 5 million people coming their way, putting pressure on rents, on housing, on the environment, on congestion. They weren't told about the new taxes. As a matter of fact, they were saying there would be no new taxes. So I think all these things are starting to resonate with the Australian people and they're starting to think that this government is a little bit dishonest. And what we need to do is make sure we keep holding the government to account, and pointing out what they said before the last election and what the reality is today with this cost of living crisis that people are facing.
DE GIORGIO: All right. Well, no doubt a busy week ahead in Canberra. Dan Tehan, thank you for joining us this morning.