Anthony Albanese has offered up a passionate defence of the ‘Yes’ case for the Voice referendum, and a slight barb for the nation’s public servants – and an even bigger critique of external consultants.
During a commercial radio interview on Wednesday (19 July), the Prime Minister was asked about the big four accountancy firms currently and controversially in the media over how embedded they have become in government work.
He said his government was acting to rein in the excessive spending on external consultancy contracts, and suggested the public service had a few problems of its own.
He’d even raised it over dinner at the Lodge this week with departmental secretaries.
“We are doing something about it… because we can’t have a situation whereby we essentially contract out government advice,” Mr Albanese said.
“And I’ve noticed in the time in which I was a minister and returning to government, there’s been a real decline in the capacity of the public service.
“I had dinner on Monday night at the Lodge, with the secretaries of every department.
“They are all conscious about it.
“I think the Robodebt scandal highlights some issues with politics, but also there are some issues with public servants there.
“But we need to be able to have a capacity to ask the public service for advice and to get it direct from the public service.
“There has been a culture developed where any question gets referred off to one of these consultants and we need to do better.”
The PM raised the issue of workers who leave the employ of the Australian Public Service only to return sometime later as consultants to the government charging top dollar.
“One of the things I’ve noticed… I’ll tell you what a real scandal is, is people who were public servants 15 years ago, and no criticism of the individuals, but they get rissoled out of the public service,” he said.
“They then are essentially still giving advice to the government earning twice as much and getting fees to consultancies on top of that.
“Now public service is an honourable profession. We need to honour it. We need to enrich it and we need to make sure that government can get the right advice.”
It was when the interview turned to the Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum, however, that the Prime Minister got most passionate.
“There has been a debate between politicians in Canberra with some focus as well from the media on things that this isn’t about,” the Prime Minister said.
“There is now an opportunity. You have the Yes and the No cases published for the first time just yesterday [18 July].
“There’ll be a focus on what this is about. I think that if people actually read the question that’s being asked, and then they read both the Yes and the No case, I’m very confident that people will come to a view that if not now, when?”
Mr Albanese highlighted the positive nature of the Yes camp’s wording for the official pamphlet as opposed to what he described as negativity, “verballing” and “misquoting” from the No camp.
He stressed that voting for the Voice was not about a treaty or compensation.
“This is about doing things better for Indigenous Australians,” he said.
“This isn’t an idea that came from me, that came from the Labor Party, that came from politicians. This came from Indigenous Australians themselves…
“We’re giving people the opportunity to vote Yes. And to vote Yes in a form that Indigenous Australians have asked for.
“One that doesn’t have a right of veto. One that won’t be a funding body. One that won’t just run programs. But one that will just be able to say, ‘This is our view’.
“And then governments can say yes or no.”