SUBJECT/S: Uluru Statement

DAN CONNIFER: Thanks for joining us. What did you make of Ken Wyatt's Press Club speech today and the major announcement he made in regards to Indigenous constitutional change?

LINDA BURNEY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: Hello Dan, and happy NAIDOC week to you and everyone watching. Can I thank Ken Wyatt for what I think was a deeply personal and generous speech today. There was a lot of Ken in that speech and I have known him for a very, very long time. The speech was historic in the sense that it did go to the three principles of the Uluru statement. And I’ve met with Ken and we’ve made a commitment between us that we’ll work together towards constitutional recognition. It's too important an issue for the nation, for a lack of bipartisanship. And I think Anthony Albanese has very much made the point that you are not going to achieve referendum change unless there is bipartisanship. But I’ve also said two other things, and that is firstly that we're not going to agree on everything – and that’s understood. And of course, bipartisanship cannot be a race to the bottom, it has to be aiming for the very, very highest point.

CONNIFER: How confident are you that this can be settled within this term of Parliament, as Ken Wyatt is indicating that he wants? That a compromise position can be found, and that the Australian people can be convinced that this is a good thing?

BURNEY: We all know how difficult it is to achieve referendum change in Australia on any subject. I already know that there’s going to be a pretty ugly ‘no’ case run against this and I'm not worried about this. I believe that the Australian public, in the main, is ready for constitutional reform. And understands that whatever we have been doing for the last 200 years in Aboriginal affairs has not worked, and something has got to change. And that means Aboriginal voices into advising on what the legislative framework and processes and content should look like. Ken was interesting today in that he talked a lot about states and territories, particularly when it came to the point of treaty making. But Labor has said very clearly that we embrace the Uluru Statement wholly, and that does mean a voice to the Parliament. A voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to the Parliament.

CONNIFER: And does that voice need to be in the Constitution? Or could it be, that it’s been suggested, that the words in the Constitution may not even refer to the voice, yet the voice is enacted through Parliament, through legislation, would that be acceptable to Labor?

BURNEY: I'm not quite sure that it's Labor that it needs to be acceptable to. I mean, ultimately, of course, it does. But most importantly it needs to be the voices of First Nations people that make a determination about that. I think what Ken was hinting at today was perhaps a legislated voice, certainly in the questions that were asked after his speech, and that recognition of Aboriginal people be within the body of the Constitution. That is very much one of the models that has been put forward, and Patrick Dodson has talked about a legislated voice. And without getting technical, of course it is the head of power within the Constitution that’s important. But whatever happens, I would say to Ken that we may not get a consensus from everyone on this, and I'm not sure that a consensus is possible, I think that the real point of politics and the real point of what we are talking about here is, you do the right thing by as many people as possible.

CONNIFER: And if the Government reached that position, not a consensus, but doing the right thing by as many people as possible, you’d be advocating for it to go to the referendum?

BURNEY: Look, I have made a commitment to Ken, as have the people in the First Nations Caucus, as has Antony Albanese to the Prime Minister himself - that we will work collaboratively on this point. But there will be points of difference and we will have to work through those points of difference. As I said, Dan, bipartisanship is not a race to the bottom. And the point that you've asked me about, could Labor work – I think you said, is it a minimalist position you are referring to?

CONNIFER: Yes. A position that was suggested at the Press Club today. That you could have some nice words in the Constitution, but nothing potentially referring to the voice specifically. But then the voice purely in legislation.

BURNEY: That’s one model. I think Labor has been saying clearly that we would like a voice entrenched in the Australian Constitution, and I know that there are many people on the Government benches that also believe that. And I think that is ultimately what we would want to see. But let's have the discussion, let's have the consultation, and let's also importantly, Dan, look at the work that's being done over the last decade. Labor is certainly up for a collaborative approach on this, but of course it needs to be what people in the community are saying.

CONNIFER: And if we get to the point where we are going to a referendum, does the Government need to pump money into the ‘yes’ case, and possibly the ‘no’ case as well?

BURNEY: I did here that question at the Press Club, and I listened carefully to what Ken's answer was. And he said that that's normally the model. But on something like this, I would think putting money into a ‘no’ case is not necessarily acceptable. This is a change that is well overdue and there have been discussions for 10 plus years on entrenching an Aboriginal national voice. We did have one in ATSIC of course, and we saw that that was legislated and was able to be gotten rid of. I want to hear what people have got to say, distil that, and work with the Government on coming forward with what is the strongest case that we can possibly have. And the Uluru Statement, as I said Dan, said about entrenching a voice to the Parliament. But we've got to have a referendum that's going to be successful, I agree with Ken on that point. It would be a disaster if we had a referendum and it was lost. I don't anticipate that, and I think that those that want to run I ‘no’ case are going to run it anyhow, and I don't think they deserve any public funding, quite frankly.

CONNIFER: Linda Burney, thanks very much for joining us on ABC News this afternoon.

BURNEY: Thanks Dan.