Transcript of interview on Sky News Live with Kieran Gilbert

The Minister for Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt, was interviewed on Sky News Live with Kieran Gilbert on 30 May 2017

Page last updated: 30 May 2017

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30 May 2017

Kieran Gilbert: Now to another interview I did earlier this morning with the first Indigenous frontbencher within the Coalition and first Indigenous member of the lower house, Ken Wyatt. His portrait was unveiled, latest addition to the Parliamentary art collection attended by both the opposition leader and Prime Minister yesterday. I spoke to the Minister this morning.

[Excerpt]

Ken Wyatt: I think what I saw in that portrait was something that I expressed to Mary when I was talking to her over lunch, because had about four lunches and a couple of dinners, the way she does this, she takes- she took about 700 photographs.

Kieran Gilbert: This is the artist?

Ken Wyatt: This is the artist. And then over discussion she would tease out of me and she would say: you’re frustrated with the lack of advancement in Aboriginal affairs, aren’t you? And I said yes. The governments tend to hold us back. And I said it’s not the governments, it’s more the departments. I said we’ve got to do things with Aboriginal people not to them, but I said with being in the House I've got this sense of optimism and hope. And so when she did the first cut of the portrait, she put my hand down by the side but she made it prominent and wanted to show the wedding ring and if you look in that, you’ll see the wedding ring clearly. But then she showed the hand reaching forward, and she said it’s like a hand that’s testing out the concept of hope. And I said to her: look, being in the Parliament along with others I now have a sense of hope and I think that we will see change, and we’ve had a Prime Minister who is prepared to work with Aboriginal communities and people to seek solutions as opposed to Government agencies saying this is the way we’re doing it.

Kieran Gilbert: It’s interesting though when you look at the treatment of our Indigenous people in recent years. It hasn’t been from a lack of goodwill, has it, from policy makers. Because if you look back through prime ministers of- certainly recent decades, they’ve all wanted and sought to try and improve the lot of Indigenous Australians, haven’t they?

Ken Wyatt: They have and, look, I’m not sort of detracting from that. The challenge we’ve had is you can have commitment but it’s how you implement in partnership with. If we deal with local governments- we sit with local governments and we negotiate, and we reach a common position on how we move forward, and then funding flows. With Aboriginal communities, that doesn’t happen; we say here is a program for I-Health and we put it into place. We’ve got to change that paradigm, and I think that frustration is being manifested out of the Uluru Statement, and I know that there’s a strong sense of we want to shape our destiny, we want to have a say in how do we fix and find solutions to fix the problems. And we’ve got to change that paradigm. And look, I think-

Kieran Gilbert: : [Interrupts] So how does the Uluru Statement then- because obviously there are some different views across the Aboriginal people, but what’s the Uluru Statement, do you think, the significance of it. Can it be achieved to an extent in terms of constitutional recognition that would satisfy the likes of Noel Pearson and others?

Ken Wyatt: I think this has to be about satisfying the broader Aboriginal Torres Strait community, not just Noel Pearson and others. This about finding a way forward of entrenching a position of Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people within the constitution; whatever form that takes. But we shouldn’t block our minds at the moment, we should wait for that report to be tabled, consider what the options are in the voracity of argument around each of those options. But we’ve got to consider them to see if they’re constitutionally sound, because that is the test. It has to meet the rigour of the constitutional requirements. It then has to meet the rigour of whether the majority of Australians and the majority of states will support it.
Kieran Gilbert: If it’s too ambitious … say, some of the proposals refer to contribution into the legislative process or advice in that process; if it’s too ambitious are you worried that it will fail at a referendum?

Ken Wyatt: I think it will be challenging for Australians to accept something extremely ambitious. However, evidence shows that successful referendums have passed when there has been a deep understanding and awareness of what the change is, what it means, and what it offers for the future in terms of the foundation within the constitution. If it’s not, then Australians have always erred on the side of caution in terms of anything that comes from Canberra in the way of a referendum. We see that by the reflection of only eight out of 44 have ever succeeded.

Kieran Gilbert: Minister, I appreciate your time and congratulates once again on your recognition, much deserved, yesterday.

Ken Wyatt: No, thank you very much.

[End of excerpt]

ENDS

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