Politics with Michelle Grattan
Minister Ken Wyatt on constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians

Minister Ken Wyatt on constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians

July 10, 2019

The first Indigenous minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, says on the government’s proposal to constitutionally recognise Indigenous Australians: “I’m optimistic about achieving the outcome because if the words are simple, but meaningful, then Australians will generally accept an opportunity to include Aboriginal people in the Constitution.”

But he concedes Indigenous leaders would not take the same minimalist approach he is advocating for, but says it is “pragmatic”.

"What I want to see us make some gains. Later on as we mature as a nation, then we can have another debate of what the next phase is."

He admits getting support for the constitutional referendum in his home state of Western Australia would be difficult but he would be looking to the big mining companies – which have been supportive of the Uluru Statement of the Heart – to help make the case there.

As for issues affecting Indigenous communities, such as high youth suicide rates, he says there is “a sense of futility for some young people. The issue of broken relationships. The way in which young people have expressed the need for their culture to be valued”.

On the way forward, he is looking into “support structures that need to go into place on the ground” and thinks “there is a way that we can have some of this with existing resources”.

Additional Music:

A List of Ways to Die, Lee Rosevere, from Free Music Archive.


Rohan Thomson/AAP


Frank Brennan on Israel Folau and religious freedom

Frank Brennan on Israel Folau and religious freedom

July 3, 2019

Frank Brennan, Jesuit priest and member of the expert panel on Religious Freedom set up by Malcolm Turnbull says the Israel Folau matter is a "simple freedom of contract case regardless of Mr. Folau's religious views".

"I think the question is, did he voluntarily, and for a very large sum of money, agree with his employer to follow a work code which included an undertaking not to make statements on social media about various things which may or may not have a religious component?"

Responding to Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells' renewed call this week for a Religious Freedom Act - as distinct from narrower legislation favoured by the Morrison government - Brennan told The Conversation: "I continue to have my reservations about that, mainly on the basis that I don't think religious freedom is an enormous problem in Australia".

He sees the way forward as a Religious Discrimination Act, recommended by the review, in line with other existing anti-discrimination laws on race and gender.

As for issues to do with religious schools, "Penny Wong's bill was correct" - referring to the Senator's Amendment to the Sex Discrimination Act late last year which sought to remove the capacity of religious schools to directly discriminate against students on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status. The only addition needed to this, he says, would be a clear commitment that "religious schools are free to teach their doctrine".

Additional audio

A List of Ways to Die, Lee Rosevere, from Free Music Archive.


AAP/ Alan Porritt

ACTU president Michele O’Neil on John Setka and the government’s anti-union legislation

ACTU president Michele O’Neil on John Setka and the government’s anti-union legislation

July 1, 2019

The ACTU leadership has pushed controversial construction boss John Setka to quit his union job but its president Michele O'Neil says the final decision on his leadership rests on the union membership.

She told The Conversation “members of unions elect their leadership and that’s an important principle”.

In this podcast episode O'Neil denounces the government’s plan to bring back to parliament the Ensuring Integrity Bill - which would give the government greater power to crack down on union lawbreaking - saying it is a “very extreme and dangerous bit of law”.

“It is not about integrity, it’s a political attack,” she says, citing the ability of banks and politicians to adopt voluntary codes of practice.

O'Neil is highly suspicious of Scott Morrison putting industrial relations back on the policy agenda, with a review now in train, to which the unions, unlike business, haven’t yet been invited to contribute. But she flags they will strongly argue their case over coming months, saying “we’ve written to Christian Porter asking why he hasn’t asked to meet with us…[this] won’t stop us advocating and putting forward what we think because it’s important for workers”.

Additional audio:

A List of Ways to Die, Lee Rosevere, from Free Music Archive.




Corrected version: Richard Eccleston on the electoral mood in Tasmania

Corrected version: Richard Eccleston on the electoral mood in Tasmania

May 8, 2019

University of Tasmania political science professor, Richard Eccleston, says a lack of a coherent energy policy could count against the Coalition in the island state.

“The party which seems to offer the more compelling commitment to climate change and renewable production will probably be well placed to capitalize on that [Tasmania’s environmental interests].”

Eccleston told The Conversation the volatile seats of Braddon and Bass could won by the Liberals.

However he says Lyons should be a “safe Labor hold” after to the controversy over the Liberals’ now-dumped candidate Jessica Whelan.

On the Senate, Eccleston says there will be an impact from the minor parties, with fisherman Craig Garland - who attracted a big vote at the Braddon byelection - “a name to watch”. But he doesn’t think Jacqui Lambie will be successful. Lambie, who resigned from the Senate in the citizenship crisis, is trying to make a comeback.

“She’s clearly got a profile but I think she’ll be struggling to get a seat at a half-Senate election.”

Tim Colebatch on the battle in Victoria - and the Senate

Tim Colebatch on the battle in Victoria - and the Senate

May 6, 2019

Inside Story’s Tim Colebatch says three Victorian seats are seen as “pretty certain” wins for Labor - Dunkley, Corangamite and Chisholm. A number of others “are really open” - Casey, La Trobe, Deakin, Flinders and possibly even Higgins.

“It does strike me that [the Liberals] they’ve done a lot to show the flag in Victoria. Morrison has been down there frequently”.

Colebatch tells The Conversation climate change is a big factor in many of the blue ribbon Victorian electorates.

“The failure of the government to tackle climate change is a real drawback for the Liberals when they try and confront an electorate like this, because it’s full of an educated and wealthy people who understand that we have to do something and don’t mind the cost of doing it.”

On the Senate, Colebatch thinks it will have fewer crossbenchers because of the larger vote needed in a half-Senate election; he says it will be particularly hard for the minor parties of the right to get in.

William Bowe on the state of election play in WA

William Bowe on the state of election play in WA

April 30, 2019

Western Australia-based William Bowe, who runs The Poll Bludger website, says “there is a feeling that there is a Labor resurgence in the state”.

Bowe told The Conversation a “floundering” state economy after the mining boom downturn, with falling house prices and rising unemployment, has created a sense that “prosperity has been lost. And that sense of downward mobility is very dangerous for the government”.

“Because Western Australians are not feeling as prosperous, they are more receptive to a Labor message,” he said.

On the Liberal seats in play, Bowe says Swan is the most vulnerable, followed by Hasluck. But Labor also has its eyes on the possible prizes of Pearce (held by Attorney-general Christian Porter) and Stirling (vacated by minister Michael Keenan).

“There was a poll out a week ago that showed that it [Pearce] was line-ball. […] It’s certainly not the case that Christian Porter is gone for all money, but he has a fight on his hands and that’s not something that the Liberals are accustomed to in that electorate.”

On the other side, the Liberals are targeting Anne Aly’s ultra-marginal seat of Cowan. “[The Liberals] have got a leader who I think goes down better in an electorate like Cowan,” Bowe said. But he’d be “very surprised” if the seat were in danger.

Andrew Hughes on political advertising - and Clive Palmer

Andrew Hughes on political advertising - and Clive Palmer

April 29, 2019

ANU marketing lecturer Andrew Hughes says this is the first election where the advertising spend and activity has been more focussed on digital.

He told The Conversation that on Monday, the first day of pre-polling, there was a surge in social media ads - the Coalition had over 230 different ads on Facebook while Labor had over 200.

"The sheer volume of ads is probably the highest we’ve ever seen in Australian politics because of the number of ads just on Facebook alone," he said.

He also spoke about the major parties pivoting between positive and negative ads and the effectiveness of this strategy, personal branding, and the rise of micro-targeting.

Hughes said Clive Palmer's huge advertising spending spree seemed to be working for him - but it raised the question of the need for caps.

Also, "as that tipping point between traditional and social media goes more in favour of social media [...] in the future I believe the conversation will be on how many ads Australians should be exposed to as a quantity, not by dollar value."

Caroline Fisher on the spin machines of #AusVotes19

Caroline Fisher on the spin machines of #AusVotes19

April 24, 2019

While the major party leaders seem to have curated their images, University of Canberra assistant professor in communications and media Caroline Fisher says they can’t always control how these could be manipulated.

Fisher says there has been “a real attempt to soften” Scott Morrison as the “daggy dad” through candid personal selfies. In contrast, Bill Shorten has opted for more professional shots which portray him “in a more prime ministerial light” but “are almost otherworldly”.

She also discusses the way family, particularly their wives, have been used to increase warmth and relatability, as well as the use of negative messaging in the campaign.

Jim Chalmers on Labor’s budget reaction

Jim Chalmers on Labor’s budget reaction

April 3, 2019

Shadow Finance minister Jim Chalmers said Labor was looking for ways to make things fairer for low-income earners who were “largely left behind” in the government’s budget.

He told The Conversation the measures “would be through the tax system and would most likely be around the low and middle income tax offset which the government introduced”.

Peter Martin and Tim Colebatch on budget strategy and numbers

Peter Martin and Tim Colebatch on budget strategy and numbers

April 2, 2019

From inside the budget lockup, The Conversation’s Business and Economics editor Peter Martin and political and economic journalist Tim Colebatch from Inside Story shared their reactions to the pre-election budget.

Martin said the budget featured a substantial tax cut “that goes back in time” and that while the government was forecasting “good times around the corner,” there has been barely any sign of them.

He also said he thought while the budget gives Labor an advantage, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is unlikely to be embarrassed by it in the future.

Colebatch told The Conversation it “was a modest budget” and that the spending measures were “really fairly restrained”.

“It recognises that the debate has shifted and people are less likely to be bought by big spending and more likely to be bought by the impression of fiscal reticence and control and delivering a budget surplus,” he said.