ANDREW BOLT: Now joining me is federal Liberal MP, Sarah Henderson, who has been campaigning against the bias of the taxpayer-funded ABC, and quite successfully. Sarah Henderson, thanks for coming on. Alan Tudge resigning – is he just simply the victim of his own mistakes?
SENATOR HENDERSON: Well Andrew, good evening and great to join you. And it is indeed a very sad day for the Liberal Party, for the people of Aston and for the Parliament, and I’ve also lost a very dear friend.
Alan is a magnificent Member of Parliament. He has got an incredible record of achievement as both a local member and as a minister. But I don’t agree with you. I think he went on his own terms. The Labor Party did everything they could to drive him out of his seat and at the last election he ran, and he won, and now he’s made a decision cemented, as he said today in the Parliament, by the death of his father, which has been very, very tough for him. He’s had a difficult few years. He’s now putting his beautiful children first. And I just want to wish him all the very best. He’ll go on to do other incredible things in his life.
ANDREW BOLT: That’s very nicely said. But as you say, he had a very difficult couple of years and it’s clear that from the way he broke down, et cetera, that this is one of the reasons he’s leaving. How much do you blame the ABC for the pressure that was put on Alan Tudge?
SENATOR HENDERSON: Look, I did an interview on ABC Melbourne Radio today speaking with Raf Epstein, and he asked me about that Four Corners program. And Andrew, I have to say, I thought that was absolutely disgraceful reporting. They thought they had a great story because the woman involved spoke out. But the bottom line was that Alan was cleared by two separate inquiries, including by Vivienne Thom, who’s one of the toughest independent investigators around. None of those allegations stacked up. The ABC did not care. Louise Milligan did not care. They did an absolute hatchet job on Alan. As I say, he’s been totally vindicated, but it was a very sorry time for the ABC.
But as you know, Andrew, in my position as the Shadow Minister for Communications, I continue to prosecute the ABC for failing to meet proper standards of journalistic integrity and impartiality. I’ve got a very big job because they continue to make many mistakes, but they certainly were disgraceful in the way in which they covered that particular story involving Alan Tudge.
ANDREW BOLT: Really, if politicians having affairs, I don’t, I don’t condone it, but if politicians having affairs with staffers or journalists or whatever was something of such newsworthy import, I don’t know – there’s plenty of targets sitting opposite you, Sarah Henderson, they could, they could certainly train their guns on, but they don’t. Now you are a Victorian…
SENATOR HENDERSON: And I have to say, Andrew, when I worked in the media, there were plenty of similar stories. But the bottom line, and I think this is the key point to make, is that the ABC’s story was fundamentally flawed. Their allegations were wrong, they did not stack up. And frankly, that’s an utter embarrassment for the ABC. And as I say, Andrew, the ABC has got to do much better than that.
ANDREW BOLT: Yes, Sarah, you can say that all you like, but I see absolutely no contrition to what they’ve done to Alan Tudge, to Christian Porter, and particularly to George Pell. That is a disgrace. Someone should be sacked for that. No one has been.
Now you’re a Victorian, how hard will it be for the Liberals to hold Alan Tudge’s seat of Aston in a byelection, which we don’t know yet when it’s going to be held, but how tough will it be?
SENATOR HENDERSON: Oh, look, it’s always tough to win any seat, we know that, but we’re going to give it a very, very big crack, a very big fight ahead for us, of course. I think it’s fair to say, Andrew, that the Albanese Government is really copping a lot of heat over the cost of living. Victorians and Australians are suffering from skyrocketing grocery prices, prices in fuel, mortgages going through the roof, and of course Labor has no economic plan. That’s absolutely clear. So, I think, frankly, that this byelection will all be about the cost of living and on that measure alone the Albanese Government is fundamentally failing the people of Aston, the people of Victoria and all Australians.
ANDREW BOLT: And that said, you know, you’ve got the Liberal Party ten points behind in the latest Newspoll, nationally that is, not in Aston. And also Peter Dutton has been successfully demonised in Victoria and the media here generally, I mean seriously, that’s got to concern you.
SENATOR HENDERSON: Look, we don’t take this for granted. This is going to be a very, very tough fight. It’s a marginal seat. But I have to say, Alan has done the most incredible job since he was elected in 2010. He stood up for every single community. He’s very well liked. Yes, of course we have those voices that the media will drag out on a day like today, but fundamentally, the people of Aston know that Alan has worked so for hard them, and I’m absolutely confident that the Liberal Party will preselect another very, very good candidate. Personally, I hope it will be a woman, but I’m certain that a very, very good candidate will be preselected and that we will fight very hard. This will be a test, frankly, for Anthony Albanese’s management of the cost of living, the cost of living for Australians is out of control…
ANDREW BOLT: I think it will probably be a test for both sides, though. No, look, I tend to agree, but it will be…
SENATOR HENDERSON: Look, well, of course. But, you know, Anthony Albanese is in The Lodge…
ANDREW BOLT: Sarah, just quickly, before we run out of time. That’s true too.
SENATOR HENDERSON: Sure Andrew.
ANDREW BOLT: Lastly, the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, tried to guilt the Liberals today into backing his plan for the Voice, a kind of Aboriginal-only advisory body to Parliament, suggesting, “If you weren’t for it, you didn’t have a heart.” And just think of the neighbours, here he is.
[Video clip of the Prime Minister speaking on the floor of Parliament:] “I ask them to join me in having an open mind, but importantly an open heart, when it comes to these issues. Because my colleague, the Minister, just spoke about what, how Australians would feel, who’d supported this change, the day after a referendum if, if it’s successful. I ask you to think about the counterfactual as well. How Indigenous Australians will feel if it’s not successful, how Australians will feel and how Australia is perceived internationally, internationally, internationally as well, including our economic partners in the region.”
Now Sarah Henderson, to his credit, Opposition Leader, Peter Dutton, immediately responded and said this is not a question of heart. Everyone in Parliament wants to do the right thing by Aboriginal Australians, everyone. It’s an argument about the means. But what did you think of Anthony Albanese framing this as a contest between kind people and heartless ones?
SENATOR HENDERSON: Well Andrew, I happened to be in the House of Representatives on the floor of the chamber waiting for Alan to make his speech, so I heard both the Prime Minister, and also the magnificent response from Peter Dutton, who made it clear that we all have a heart, we all care about Indigenous Australians, we all want them to do better. We all care about reconciliation. This is not something that only the Labor Party cares about. And I think Peter made that very, very clear. But he also emphasised, and Anthony Albanese was actually asked about whether the referendum would in fact adopt the key report that the Labor Party keeps talking about, but of course hasn’t referenced whether that report will be included or not. And so Peter Dutton made the very important point that there is so much uncertainty about what will, what this all means.
And we know that Peter Dutton has asked 15 questions of the Prime Minister. None of those questions have been answered. So, I’m concerned, Andrew, that the Prime Minister is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of all Australians, and that perhaps he is setting this up to fail because of the incompetent way in which he is running this process, including doing things like trying to stop the booklet, for instance.
ANDREW BOLT: Well, even that, you know, that’s leaving aside the fundamental issue that I think we are racially dividing Australia into, you know, different races and elevating one with different political rights. It’s just the most astonishing proposal and immoral one that I’ve ever heard. Thank you so much indeed for your time, Sarah Henderson, I really appreciate it.