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Outsiders, Sky News, 13 August 2023

Rowan Dean: Queenscliff, which is a small council in Victoria, has been slammed for spending thousands of its ratepayers hard earned money to fly in Yes campaign panellists to speak at its pro-Voice event, and they’re not the only ones, lots to talk about. Local residents asked the council to invite a member of the No campaign for balance but they refused. For more on this, we are joined first time here on Outsiders, Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson. Sarah, great to see you. How are you? Welcome to the show.

Senator Henderson: Rowan, it is really wonderful to join you. Thank you for having me.

Rowan Dean: No, our pleasure. Now what what’s going on with these Victorian councils? They don’t understand the basic principle of democracy or of a referendum that there are two sides to the debate?

Senator Henderson: Well, it seems not, and this is a really shocking misuse of ratepayer’s money, Rowan. In Queenscliff, where of course I asked to present the merits of the No case – the No case being unknown, permanent, divisive, and of course the secret mission to implement a treaty and possible compensation that we now know about from this deceptive government. But of course the council said no and so now they’re spending thousands of dollars, including flying down Kerry O’Brien from Sydney, to speak at this so-called community conversation, which is all about furthering the Yes case. It’s an absolute disgrace and I have called on the council to refund these monies. Perhaps the Yes campaign should pay these costs or the mayor, but certainly not the ratepayers.

Rita Panahi: Well, I’m looking at the costs here, Sarah, $1,700. I fly between Melbourne and Sydney, doesn’t cost $1,700 for Kerry O’Brien unless, I don’t know, maybe the pointy end of the plane for Kerry but we’ll get to the bottom of that. We don’t know if it’s in economy or not, but this seems astonishing given the amount of money the Yes campaign has. We know they’ve got a massive sum of money. They’ve got all the corporate support, so why are the ratepayers paying this money to fly in Sydney-based Voice advocates?

Senator Henderson: Well, it’s really disgusting and I think this is furthering the personal political views of the mayor and some councillors. I might say not Cr Donny Grigau, who is a former Liberal candidate, he has objected vehemently to the expenditure of this money. But it really is shocking and no wonder some of the ratepayers are saying this is disgraceful. I believe there will be a protest there this afternoon. I’m very much hoping, Rita, that everyone will come along to my forum with Warren Mundine, which is putting forward the No case at the Geelong West Town Hall this coming Thursday at 5.30, and people can go onto my Facebook page to look at that. But, really this is an affront to democracy. This is an appalling abuse of ratepayer’s funds and the ratepayers of Queenscliff and Point Lonsdale should not be paying this money.

Rowan Dean: James?

James Morrow: Sarah, I want to shift gears here and talk about a story that we had in the Daily Telegraph this week about the Albanese Government and you know, they’re all very much about the Yes and the treaty or the Voice rather is going to improve outcomes for Aboriginal education, and yet the report here was that they have axed plans to build two remote boarding schools for remote Indigenous kids. It would have been about 150 kids I think in WA and the Northern Territory. This is real practical, not symbolic, improvement of outcomes for Aboriginal kids. Your government pledged this and now Labor has decided to axe it. Tell us about it.

Senator Henderson: Well, James, this is appalling. We fully funded the construction of four boarding schools, one to be rebuilt, and three to be built from scratch and in the budget. And of course, as we revealed in Senate estimates, the government is scrapping the construction of two these boarding schools. Some of the most disadvantaged indigenous students in the country. So what an irony, the Prime Minister goes to the Garma Festival, spruiks what he’s doing for Indigenous children, giving them a better life, better opportunity, better education, and just up the road in East Arnhem Land, the government is axing the construction of a boarding school which would fundamentally transform the lives of young Indigenous students, including a situation where they don’t have to travel hours a day to go to school. So this would lift attendance rates and also make sure that they can go to school in a safe and stable environment. It was a hallmark Coalition policy and it’s just another example, James, of the hypocrisy of this government. They talk the big talk on the Voice, and yet when it comes to delivering for Indigenous students in schools, they are failing.

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