Transcript - Radio interview - ABC Far North Queensland with Susan Graham-Ryan

SUSAN GRAHAM-RYAN: The date for the Indigenous Voice referendum has been locked in for October 14. As of 2023, there have been 44 referendums nation-wide, and there have only been eight successful in passing. This will be a once in a generation opportunity for Australians to make an important decision on representation of the country. Here's what some of regional Queenslanders said about how they'll vote.

PERSON 1: We think that we will be able to give them a yes vote, because it's been long year that the Aboriginal people need to have their Voice in their parliament. My wife and I, we've been working with the Aboriginal people as a Minister and I've seen that they only listen to their elders, not to any other person. And if they have their elders and have their Voice in the tape, I think they'll be able to listen to their elders.

PERSON 2: I'll vote no. I don't believe another bureaucracy, if you like, another say on behalf of Aboriginals, is going to make a hell of a lot of difference. I think they've got enough representation, enough say as it is.

PERSON 3: I’ll vote no, because I want all Indigenous people to be one with our white brothers and sisters.

JOURNALIST: And what do you know about the referendum?

PERSON 3: I haven't heard that before.

PERSON 4: I'm going to vote yes because I think everyone should have a Voice, no matter who they are. I think it's long overdue. I don't know a lot about it, but I know my own personal feelings would be to include everyone.

PERSON 5: I'm undecided because, yeah, I feel that it's going to divide our country instead of joining our country together, which is we need to stand as a nation, not as separate people. It's pushing us apart, instead of bringing us together. There's too much politics involved. My knowledge of it is very little. I haven't stopped to have a look yet, but seeing apparently, October 14 is it, I'm going to have to.

SUSAN GRAHAM-RYAN: Now let’s bring in the Federal Minister for Regional Development, Kristy McBain at this stage, just to talk more about the referendum. She's with me now. Good morning.

KRISTY MCBAIN: Good morning. How are you?

GRAHAM-RYAN: Great, thank you very much. Firstly, what do you make of those people's comments?

MCBAIN: There's a lot of people who are probably undecided and want more information, and now that the date is known, there'll be campaigns that kick off. The really important thing to know is that this is a proposal that has been brought to us by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It will be determined by the Australian people. This isn't politics, or governments, or bureaucracies that will decide this, it will be the Australian people. The most important thing, especially for people across regional Australia - we are constantly fighting for a fair go. We are constantly fighting for the status quo to change, because we want better services, better industry, better outcomes for people across regional Australia. Across regional Australia, people will look at this proposal and think we can do better as a nation. The Closing the Gap targets show us that First Nations people have an eight year less life expectancy, they have worse housing, education and social outcomes. Across regional Australia, we constantly fight to change the status quo, to make sure that we get better outcomes for our people. This is a way to do things differently, because we know what we're currently doing is not working.

GRAHAM-RYAN: Kristy, I want to ask though. A lot of people, from the conversations that I have, people are still very confused about what it actually is and what does it mean? How do you describe the Voice referendum to someone who doesn't know?

MCBAIN: I'd say the referendum itself is about changing the constitution. Our constitution gives the parliament heads of power to make laws on things. There is no detail on taxation law in our constitution. It simply says the Government can make laws on taxation. What this question is - should we change the constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through a Voice to Parliament? Then, if that question gets over the line, then the process comes back to the Parliament to make a series of laws on the Voice. Now, any legislation in this country, when it's introduced, goes through a committee process, goes through a range of public submissions and hearings. This isn't the end of the process; this is only the beginning of one. Then, we as a parliament decide what that looks like, and that is everyone across the parliament. It then goes out to public submissions. This is a process that is being determined now through this referendum vote, then all of the detail comes after that. That's part of the parliamentary process.

GRAHAM-RYAN: That is a sticking point for a lot of people, I guess, and that's something that people can, I guess, learn more about as well as they do their research. Some people are sort of still very undecided. How are you hoping that people will do their research in the lead up to this vote on October 14?

MCBAIN: It's really important that people go away and get factual information. There is a lot of misinformation out there and it's disingenuous for some of the no campaign to be putting out the information that they have been. We know that the Liberal and National parties want constitutional recognition of First Nations people. They've also said they want to see a legislated Voice. Their position is at odds with some of their personal murmurings that have been going around the media, because their stated position is that they both agree with constitutional recognition, and they agree with a legislative Voice. They just don't agree with this proposal. That's disappointing, but I would say to people, go to Get factual information as we head towards the referendum. Every year, we spend billions of dollars trying to implement programs across this country that we know aren't working, they're not Closing the Gap. If we start listening to Indigenous communities, we will start to get better outcomes. That's exactly what the Voice is trying to do.

GRAHAM-RYAN: And there are a number of different resources online that you can go to have a look at the different perspectives. There’s also the AEC website. You can also find out plenty of information on the Voice referendum on You are on ABC Radio Queensland,10:17. Susan Graham speaking here with Kristy McBain. She's the Federal Minister for Regional Development. Now to something a little bit different. Now, you are also launching a new grants program. What's this all about?

MCBAIN: We're launching the regional Precincts and Partnerships Program. It's a $400 million dollar program over three years. We want to see collaboration between all levels of government and communities, and this will look at partnering to deliver local priorities. Our Government's been really heavy on collaboration, and we want to see local priorities being implemented across the country. This program is aimed at how we can re-develop our regional towns and spaces. How we can diversify our economies, how we can see new and innovative precincts come together. There'll be two streams of this program. One which is aimed at the master planning, consultation, design and business cases - because we know that we need to get that right and we need to be really transparent about how public money is being spent. The best way to do that is through these design elements and business cases. Then stream two of that is helping communities to deliver one or more elements of that precinct in partnership with the other levels of government. I’m really excited to be working in this space and I know what a difference it will make to communities, when we're engaging directly with them over the priorities that they want to see come forward.

GRAHAM-RYAN: Just quickly, who can apply for the grant and where do they do that?

MCBAIN: Applications are open to partnerships which are led by state, territory or local government agencies or bodies. Regional universities incorporated not-for-profits, Regional Development Australia committees, and in some cases, private enterprises. You can get a tonne of information off our Grant Connect website, and I'm really looking forward to how this might change the outcome for regions across the country.

GRAHAM-RYAN: Federal Minister for Regional Development, Kristy McBain. Thanks so much for your time this morning.

MCBAIN: Thanks for having me.