Anthony Albanese’s fiery Ben Fordham interview: PM fired up as Voice Yes campaigner grills Thomas Mayo over ‘pay the rent’ comments

Anthony Albanese's fiery Ben Fordham interview: PM fired up as Voice Yes campaigner grills Thomas Mayo over 'pay the rent' comments

Anthony Albanese responds to questions about a leading ‘Yes’ campaigner’s comments that the Voice is a move to ‘pay rent’ for non-Indigenous Australians to live on Australian land.

Radio 2GB host Ben Fordham confronted the Prime Minister in a fiery 38-minute radio interview on Wednesday, about declining support for Indigenous voices in Parliament and her level of focus on the livelihoods crisis.

Mr Albanese was asked if he agreed with Voice architect Thomas Mayo’s comments about ‘paying rent’ and ‘punishing dissenting politicians’.

Daily Mail Australia revealed Mr Mayo said a ‘guaranteed representative body’ was needed. [to]… properly pursue due rents and abolish the system which harms us’.

He lists ‘all the things we imagine when we demand’, including ‘revenge, return of land, abolition of harmful colonial institutions’.

Mr. Albanese replied to Fordham: ‘May I say this, you are reading from no pamphlet—’

Fordham shot back: ‘Excuse me Prime Minister, I am not reading from any pamphlet, I am reading from my own question. Excuse me.’

Daily Mail Australia published tweets last month in which Mr Mayo said a ‘guaranteed agency’ was needed. [to]… properly pursue rent arrears and abolish systems that harm us

Mr Albanese said he did not believe in compensation and argued ‘it’s not about the contract’.

But Mr Albanese has agreed to fully implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which includes a Makarrata Commission with the end goal of moving towards an agreement.

‘It is not a matter of contract,’ he said four times.

‘I can’t make it any clearer, compensation has nothing to do with what people vote for later this year.’

Mr Fordham asked: ‘I’m talking after that. There are three stages, is it normal to assume that after we go through the voice we go through the voice?’

Mr Albanese said: ‘No it’s not normal.’

Mr. Fordham said: ‘So Thomas Mayo is wrong?’

Mr Albanese said: ‘Can I make this point, Ben, which is, if people look at the pamphlets, yes the pamphlet is positive. It doesn’t misquote anyone.’

Tweets written by Mr Mayo between 2018 and 2021 revealed he hoped the Voice would be ‘a competent body, a competent authority to discuss appropriate dates’ for Australia Day celebrations.

And in January 2021, he tweeted: ‘To celebrate January 26th is disgusting… make campaigning for a First Nations Voice referendum a priority. Twitter and Facebook warriors, and peaceful protestors without coordination… everything is changing.’

In an opinion piece on 2022, Mr Mayo even suggested the new date could be the day Voice to Parliament passes a referendum.

Mr Mayo has since told Daily Mail Australia that this is a view he no longer supports, saying he ‘no longer shares that particular view of Australia Day’.

‘These comments date back several years, many of them when reporting on Aboriginal deaths in custody,’ he said.

‘I support celebrating our race, I’m a proud Australian and I believe our democracy is important, and it’s enhanced when Aboriginal people are given a say in issues that affect things like health and education.’

Mr Mayo has long advocated for Voice in Parliament, insisting it would be the best way to change a date.

Mr Mayo said in January 2021: ‘The debate on 26 January is useless without a voice’

Mr Albanese said he did not believe in compensation and argued ‘it’s not about the contract’.

Fordham also said his audience was upset that the prime minister seemed to be putting all his focus on the Voice despite the nation being in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis.

‘Everyone is saying stop talking about the Voice. As important as tribal recognition is, we need to do something about this (cost of living) now,’ he said.

‘It’s really hard for people at the moment.’

The Prime Minister said her government was ‘fully focused on cost of living as the first priority’.

He also acknowledged that support for VOICE is declining based on polls conducted across the board. However, he remains hopeful that Australians will vote yes to constitutional recognition in a referendum later this year.

He said, ‘I am very confident people will come to see if not now.’

He told Fordham that he had a responsibility to use his platform wisely and not raise ‘red herrings’ with the audience.

‘Well Ben get on board. Guess what. You’re in a position to make a difference and (fight) to help make it a success, (like) other people in the media, by talking about what it’s about, not raising issues that aren’t going to be relevant.’

The Prime Minister has repeatedly rejected calls to suspend VOICE and instead focus on constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians.

Mr Albanese said doing so was ‘the definition of dumb’.

“If we’re going to continue to do the same, we need to do better, we need to listen to Indigenous Australians about what affects them,” he said.

The government has faced a barrage of opposition questions about how much influence Voice will have if Australians agree to establish the agency.

Mr Fordham took up the issue again on Wednesday, quoting Professor Megan Davies – one of the architects of VOICE – who said the agency would be able to speak directly to the Cabinet and the Reserve Bank.

‘I wonder if you agree with them on some of the following… yes or no, can the Voice speak directly to the RBA?’ asked the radio host.

‘I cannot speak directly to the RBA board and I am the Prime Minister.’

The interview comes after the Australian Electoral Commission published essays by politicians linked to the Yes and No campaigns online.

Pamphlets will be sent to all households a few weeks before the referendum is held.

What is Makarrata Commission?

A Voice to Parliament is part of the Uluru Statement from the Heart – which Prime Minister Antony Albanese has pledged to ‘fully’ support.

If Australians vote to enshrine an Indigenous Advisory Voice in the Constitution in a referendum later this year, a special commission known by the Aboriginal term ‘macarrata’ is the next step.

The Makarrata Commission will seek an agreement between the federal government and First Nations communities.

Makarrata is a Yolongo word that translates to ‘coming together after conflict’ and the concept of bringing ‘peace after conflict’.

According to the Heart to Uluru statement, this Makarrata Commission will have ‘authority to facilitate treaty-making and truth-telling processes’ between the two groups.

Mr Albanese said: ‘As stated in the Uluru Statement, the Makarrata Commission will have responsibility for overseeing the treaty-making and truth-telling processes.

‘The Makarrata Commission will be independent… and will act with a voice in Parliament if it is established.’

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