Transcript - TV interview - Sky News, Afternoon Agenda with Kieran Gilbert

KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: Let’s get some immediate reaction now. I'm joined by the Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories, Kristy McBain. The Opposition Leader very clear there in his opposition to The Voice. He doesn't think that it's the solution to the very real issues faced by Alice Springs. What's your reaction to what you heard from him this afternoon?

KRISTY MCBAIN, MINISTER: What you've heard from the Leader of the Opposition is absolute politics. Issues in Alice Springs aren't something that have just come up in the last twelve months. There have been long-standing issues for decades now. If the Leader of the Opposition was so concerned, where was he during the ten years he was a cabinet minister of the former government - pressing some of these issues that he's now pressing?

It's disingenuous to say that this proposal is going to be a ‘Canberra Voice.’ It is very clearly going to be a Voice to Canberra, and that is the difference that we are talking about. We're talking about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples giving their Voice to Parliament, to the executive government, not being a ‘Voice in Canberra.’ It is disingenuous of him to frame it in such a manner.

It's disrespectful to the 1,200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that came together, that penned and signed The Voice and took part in numerous dialogues. These are people from all parts of the country, from remote, rural, regional and metropolitan centres. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living across the country who came together to frame that Voice. It’s pretty horrible how he’s just framed what that Voice statement says.

KIERAN GILBERT: When he had made the point though this afternoon - alongside one of his Coalition colleagues, Jacinta Price, he says he's listening to the voice of those on the ground, including that local businessperson that was with him, Jacinta Price herself - another Alice Springs resident.

KRISTY MCBAIN: There are numerous voices across the country who are talking about both practical measures that could be taken and also symbolic measures that could be taken. It is not a choice between one or the other, it is doing both and progressing both. That's where the Albanese Labor Government substantially differs from the Liberal and National Opposition. We think you can do both, you can walk and chew gum at the same time. This isn't doing one thing or another.

This is being really clear about the fact there should be formal recognition in the Constitution for First Nations peoples. We should also enshrine a Voice to Parliament in the Constitution, so that it can't be changed on the whim of any elected government going forward. This is about trying to change the day-to-day lives and outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across the country. We know the Closing the Gap target reports show us that there are worse housing outcomes, worse educational outcomes, and worse social outcomes. We need to make sure that we are taking what we are hearing and turning it into policy.

What we're hearing from Peter Dutton is he wants us to do the policy, and then put that to the people. That is no different to what's been done for the last 122 years since Federation, or the hundreds of years before that. The outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples haven't been any better under that system.

KIERAN GILBERT: Minister, the Opposition Leader also urged the Prime Minister to spend more time on the ground in Alice Springs, having a dig at him for not being there for long enough to understand the gravity of the situation. Should he take him up on that offer?

KRISTY MCBAIN: The Prime Minister's been in Alice Springs, has met with a local councillor, with local organisations, with local residents from the area, as well as some of the town camps. There is always more work that can be done, but again, this is the Opposition Leader playing politics here. I don't recall seeing him in Alice Springs when the same issues were being talked about under Prime Minister Morrison, or Prime Minister Turnbull, or Prime Minister Abbott. This is politics for Peter Dutton and I think it's disingenuous to suggest that he has done anything other than play politics today.

KIERAN GILBERT: The Shadow Foreign Minister, a leading moderate in the Liberal Party, Simon Birmingham, told me on this program earlier this afternoon that he won't be campaigning for a no vote at the referendum. It’s not his intention to do that. So clearly there are differences of degree in terms of the Opposition's view here, as we saw with Julian Leeser yesterday.

KRISTY MCBAIN: It's clear that there are people in the Liberal Party who are not going to actively campaign for a no case, even though that is the position that's been put by the party. Simon Birmingham, Warren Entsch has also said that he wouldn't actively campaign, and we've now seen the resignation of Julian Leeser from the shadow front bench. That speaks very much to his principles and the amount of work he's done with Indigenous groups over the last decade, coming up with a model for a Voice to Parliament through a change to the Constitution. We'll probably see more Liberal Party members come out in support of The Voice, like we saw from former Premier Perrottet, and which we've seen from Premier Rockliff. We know that the position held by a lot of the state Liberal Parties is in stark opposition to Peter Dutton's ‘Noalition.’

KIERAN GILBERT: Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories Kristy McBain, thanks for your time.

KRISTY MCBAIN: Thank you very much.