Grattan on Friday: Chalmers attracts some flak for blue sky ideas but the government has bigger problems

Jim Chalmers likes to say we need national “conversations” about the economic issues facing the country. Now, just as the new parliamentary year is set to begin on Monday, Chalmers has bought himself a doozy of a conversation, with his essay advocating we embrace “values-based capitalism”.

Values-based capitalism might sound more like a topic for a university economics seminar than something to grab the attention of Ms and Mr Suburbia, as they worry about what the Reserve Bank will do to their mortgages on Tuesday.

But Chalmers’ ideas, to the extent the government pursues them over coming years, could have considerable practical impact, even though there’s disagreement about exactly what he’s saying.

Some commentators insist there’s not much to see here, just a new version of the government-private partnership models that have taken various forms under Labor previously.

Others, in the business community and the business-oriented media, see this as interventionism on steroids. It’s a repudiation of Hawke and Keating, they cry. Chalmers rejects this as nonsense.

Looking to where Australia should be going after the international shocks of the GFC, the pandemic and now the energy and inflation crisis, Chalmers advocates more government-business collaboration, including co-investment; the renovation of institutions such as the Reserve Bank and the Productivity Commission, and improving the operation of markets.

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Politics with Michelle Grattan: Treasurer Jim Chalmers answers critics of his ’values-based capitalism’

Chalmers is attempting to interlock economic and social policy objectives. The success of his prescriptions, however, would depend on how they were implemented, case by case.

For example, co-investments can be productive and nation-building, or result in expensive white elephants if the choices are unwise.

An inquiry is already examining the Reserve Bank. Changes may well improve it, but if they are ill-conceived, that could compromise the bank’s independence and decision-making. Similarly, some markets need rules but it is the appropriateness and quality of the regulation that’s critical.

And on all these fronts, there will be differences of opinion about what, and how much, should be done.

The essay is also notable for what it doesn’t cover, especially the knotty question of the level and distribution of taxation. The International Monetary Fund’s latest report on Australia, released this week, gave the government another prod on tax, observing “there are opportunities to make the tax system more efficient and equitable, rebalancing it from currently high direct to indirect taxes, and raise sufficient revenue to fund the government programs”.

Chalmers, who seeks a good relationship with business, has risked losing some of that sector’s confidence with his blueprint. But more basic to the (short term) judgements of him by business will be his second budget, brought down in May, for which work is underway.

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Jim Chalmers lays out agenda for pursuit of ’values-based capitalism’

The October budget (with germs of the “values-based” approach in its “wellbeing” statement) was fairly easy, implementing election promises and garnering savings from Coalition programs. May will be more substantial and not everyone can be kept happy.

On the upside the economy, while slowing, “is expected to come to a soft landing in 2023”, according to the IMF. For the budget, high commodity prices are yielding a rich river of revenue. Welcome as that is, it makes more difficult selling the need to contain spending. Meanwhile, Chalmers is being hit by pressures for new spending.

If anything requires “renovation” it’s the nation’s health system, with doctor shortages and hospitals under severe strain: starting to fix that will mean more money, as well as extensive structural changes.

Then there are welfare payments. To secure industrial relations legislation last year, Anthony Albanese agreed to Senate crossbencher David Pocock’s demand for a committee to look at “the adequacy, effectiveness and sustainability of income support payments” before each budget. This group, chaired by former minister Jenny Macklin, will no doubt urge increases. The government doesn’t have to accept what it says, but will be under pressure to do so, not least because its findings are published before the budget.

The budget’s run up will also see another round of the debate about the controversial Stage 3 tax cuts, which Chalmers tried unsuccessfully to have the government deal with in October.

Back then, Albanese let Chalmers lay the ground for changing Stage 3 (which favour higher income earners), before deciding to shut down the debate. Chalmers said on Thursday the government had “other priorities in the budget”, but the calls for a rework of those tax cuts will continue.

In general, Albanese doesn’t cramp Chalmers, whose natural bent is to extend into whatever space is available (hence he was front and centre in dealing with the energy pricing crisis). Chalmers is activist in the moment, and ambitious for the future.

Albanese’s preferred style as PM is a relatively hands-off approach, leaving his ministers free to run their own shows as much as possible. At the same time, he keeps himself highly visible, constantly on the move around the country (not to mention around the world – he clearly relishes his international role).

As issues deepen and become more difficult, he is forced into the weeds. We saw that on energy policy late last year, and we’re now seeing it after the intractable Indigenous problems have blown up in Alice Springs.

On the latter, Albanese received on Wednesday the report on whether alcohol bans should be reimposed on Northern Territory communities. The report, by Dorrelle Anderson, who was appointed by the federal and territory governments last week as Central Australian Regional Controller, recommends the NT “urgently” legislates restrictions, something Albanese wants. Chief Minister Natasha Fyles has been reluctant (on the grounds bans are race-based). Both governments will consider the issue next week. It’s an important test for the PM.

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Grattan on Friday: Response to Alice Springs crisis poses early Indigenous affairs test for Albanese

On the Voice referendum, Albanese will have to become increasingly involved in managing the nitty gritty – there is already a feeling minister Linda Burney is struggling.

Albanese’s reputation from the last Labor government is as an effective political wrangler, rather than a policy innovator.
As prime minister he has, thus far, shown himself very good at the politics; he relates well to the public. Whether he and his government will prove as good at handling the looming policy challenges is the big question for 2023.

On the other side of the fence, Opposition leader Peter Dutton starts the parliamentary year bedevilled by party division over how to deal with the Voice referendum. For Dutton, there is no politically comfortable place on that issue, but the course he takes will say a lot about both the Liberals and him personally. Läs mer…

Former deputy prime minister John Anderson joins group spearheading ”no” campaign on the Voice

Former deputy prime minister John Anderson is one of the six- member committee launched on Monday to spearhead the “no” case in the Voice referendum.

The Voice No Case Committee’s “Recognise a Better Way” campaign argues the Voice is “the wrong way to recognise Aboriginal people or help Aboriginal Australians in need”.

The committee includes four Indigenous members and two former ministers.

The Indigenous members are Northern Territory Country Liberal party senator Jacinta Price; Warren Mundine, a one-time president of the ALP who ran as a Liberal candidate in 2019; Ian Conway, who started and developed Kings Cross Station in the Northern Territory, and Bob Liddle, owner of Kemara enterprises.

Anderson, former leader of the Nationals, was deputy prime minister between 1999 and 2005. Gary Johns was a federal MP in 1987-96 and served as special minister of state in the Keating government. Later he became a critic of Labor. He is the former commissioner of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.

Anderson said he could not support race-based measures in the constitution. He described those race provisions that are currently there as “regrettable”.

He condemned the “shaming” of those – many of whom were not against recognition as such – who were asking “legitimate questions” about the referendum. “It’s not the way that Australia should be doing business.”

Anderson also said there was a refusal by the “expertocracy” to listen to people with lived experience. He cited the debate over access to alcohol in NT communities – elites were saying the right to consume alcohol was more important than the safety of women and children.

Read more:
Federal Labor MP warns Alice Springs crime crisis is impeding Voice debate

The Recognise a Better Way campaign put forward what it described as “a positive three-point plan”. This would recognise Aboriginal prior occupation in a preamble to the constitution, establish a parliamentary committee for native title holders, and support Aboriginal community-controlled organisations.

“The Voice to Parliament is a distraction from important issues that need to be undertaken to improve the quality of life of Aboriginal Australians.

”Aboriginal Australians do not need more voices; they need a way into wider society,” the group said in a statement.

The group will be issuing discussion papers and holding meetings across the country.

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Grattan on Friday: Response to Alice Springs crisis poses early Indigenous affairs test for Albanese

On Thursday opposition leader Peter Dutton will attend, virtually, a meeting of the government’s referendum working group that is advising on the Voice.

Dutton has put an extensive list of questions to the government about the Voice, on which the Liberals still have to reach a position.

Nationals leader David Littleproud told reporters on Monday he personally supported the insertion of a preamble acknowledging Indigenous Australians were here first. He believed there would be broad support for that in his party room – which has declared opposition to the Voice. Läs mer…

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Treasurer Jim Chalmers answers critics of his ’values-based capitalism’

Treasurer Jim Chalmers has rejected as “laughable” criticism he has turned his back on the Hawke-Keating reform era in his blueprint for “values-based capitalism”.

In this podcast Chalmers also reveals he spoke with Paul Keating while writing of the essay, published in The Monthly.

“Capitalism after the crises” looks at Australia’s future following three international crises: the GFC, the pandemic, and the current energy and inflation shock. Chalmers advocates government-private co-investment, the renovation of the Reserve Bank and the Productivity Commission, and improving the functioning of markets.

Critics have labelled his values-based capitalism highly intervention, and counter to the direction of the reforms Bob Hawke and Keating implemented.

“I think that’s laughable […] particularly for me personally,” Chalmers says. “I’m someone who is here because of the Hawke-Keating period.”

“I wouldn’t be here were it not for Paul Keating. And he’s someone who is a friend. He’s someone whose advice and counsel I value and cherish a great deal.”

But, Chalmers says, “our heroes of the 1980s would say that our job isn’t to kind of double back and retrace their steps. Our job is to walk further and forward in the same direction.”

“The reforming spirit of the Hawke-Keating period was about looking forwards to the future. It was about looking upwards to aspiration and social and economic mobility and looking outwards to the world. And that is a pretty neat summary of how I approach these challenges.

”What for Hawke and Keating was financial deregulation and liberalisation of trade is for us the energy market. It’s technology, it’s getting capital flowing to the right places. And that’s something that Paul and I discuss frequently.”

Chalmers says some of the essay’s themes are the fruits of conversations with Keating during and before its writing.

He says Keating thinks “the energy transition is the big thing for us. And he thinks the intersection of critical minerals and advanced manufacturing is the big chance for us, as I do. And so a lot of the themes in the essay are familiar to the conversations that we’ve been having for some time, but including over Christmas. From memory, I think we had a long conversation on Christmas Eve about some of these sorts of things.”

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Jim Chalmers lays out agenda for pursuit of ’values-based capitalism’

Chalmers stresses that in promoting values-based capitalism “I’m not talking about a kind of 1950s-style approach to industry policy. I think the world’s moved on. But nor am I talking about this kind of approach, which has served us incredibly poorly for the best part of a decade, which says that we have to make this false choice between our social objectives for our community and our economic objectives.

”I think the pandemic and in other ways have taught us that a healthy, robust economy relies on healthy, robust people and communities.

”And that’s why I do talk about ‘wellbeing’, unapologetically so. I do talk about progress. I do talk about how we line up our values with our budgets and the economy, because I think that there’s an appetite for that. For a decade, we’ve been pretending these two things are at conflict. As a consequence of that, we’ve not really satisfied our economic objectives or our social objectives.

”I think we can neatly line them up. I think there’s an appetite in the investor community for a bit of that, so long as there are decent returns and we’re not messing with that – and we’re not proposing to.

”And so that’s the approach that I’ve taken. It’s wrongly caricatured – I think deliberately so – as some kind of old style industry policy. It is nothing of the sort.” Läs mer…

Albanese promises National Aboriginal Art Gallery in Alice Springs and pivots towards the modern and mainstream in new cultural policy

The Albanese government’s cultural policy, released Monday, “puts First Nations first”, while also promising regulated Australian content on streaming services and a shift to greater support for the popular in the arts.

The policy reflects the government’s view that arts policy – especially the Australia Council’s priorities – has become too elitist, and should be tilted more towards mainstream and commercial culture.

The initiatives for Indigenous culture include funding the establishment of a National Aboriginal Art Gallery in Alice Springs.

To be announced by Anthony Albanese and Arts Minister Tony Burke the policy, called Revive and funded by $286 million over four years, has as its centrepiece the setting up of Creative Australia, which will be the government’s new principal arts investment and advisory body.

Creative Australia’s governing body will continue to be called the Australia Council in what, however, is a total revamp.

Creative Australia will “expand and modernise the Australia Council’s work”, with an extra $200 million over four years. The overhaul is seen as the biggest in the council’s history.

Funding decisions will be at arms length from the government.

Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Response to Alice Springs crisis poses early Indigenous affairs test for Albanese

A statement by Albanese and Burke has been released ahead of the full policy.

Within Creative Australia there will be four new bodies

A First Nations-led body, to give Indigenous people autonomy over decisions and investment
Music Australia, to invest in the Australian contemporary music industry
Writers Australia, to support writers and illustrators to create new works
A Centre for Arts and Entertainment Workplaces, “to ensure creative workers are paid fairly and have safe workplaces free from harassment and discrimination”.

Albanese and Burke say Revive “puts First Nations first – recognising and respecting the crucial place of these stories at the heart of our arts and culture”.

In addition to the Creative Australia First Nations’ body the government will

legislate to protect First Nations knowledge and cultural expressions, including dealing with harm caused by fake art
develop a First Nations creative workforce strategy
fund the establishment of both the Alice Springs gallery and an Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Perth
provide $11 million to set up a First Nations Languages Policy Partnership between Indigenous representatives and Australian governments.

“Revive also commits the government to regulating Australian content on streaming platforms, improving lending rights and incomes for Australian writers, [and] increased funding for regional art,” Albanese and Burke say.

At present there is no requirement on streaming services to provide a certain amount of Australian content. The government will consult in the next six months, before legislating, with the aim of the regulatory regime coming into operation mid next year. No figure has been set for the Australian content.

Read more:
Federal Labor MP warns Alice Springs crime crisis is impeding Voice debate

The government says that $241 million is new money while $45 million is redirected from a COVID insurance scheme that is no longer needed.

Albanese said the government’s policy “builds on the proud legacies of earlier Labor governments”.

Burke said that under the policy “there will be a place for every story and a story for every place.

”It is a comprehensive roadmap for Australia’s arts and culture that touches all areas of government, from cultural diplomacy in foreign affairs to health and education.

”Our artists are creators and workers. This sector is essential for our culture and for our economy”.

The industry is worth $17 billion and employs an estimated 400,000 people. Läs mer…

Jim Chalmers lays out agenda for pursuit of ’values-based capitalism’

Treasurer Jim Chalmers has laid out an economic blueprint for pursuing “values-based capitalism”, involving public-private co-investment and collaboration and the renovation of key economic institutions and markets.

In a 6000-word essay in The Monthly titled “Capitalism after the crises”, Chalmers declares the Labor government wants “to change the dynamics of politics, towards a system where Australians and businesses are clear and active participants in shaping a better society”.

Chalmers’ essay looks to the future after the uncertainties of three global crises – the GFC, the pandemic, and the current energy and inflation shock.

The essay comes 14 years after then prime minister Kevin Rudd’s essay in The Monthly on the GFC, and will be seen in terms of Chalmers’ longer term leadership ambitions as well as his directions as treasurer.

While the three crises have been very different, Chalmers writes, their common thread is “vulnerability. In each case our communities, economies, budgets, environment, financial and energy markets, international relationships, and our politics – already fragile enough – became more so.”

Chalmers says Australia’s current economic outlook is being largely shaped by the war in Europe, how China emerges from its COVID-zero policy, potential recessions in large northern hemisphere economies, domestic interest rate rises, and the uncertainty of future natural disasters.

Australia’s growth is expected to slow considerably this year, and unemployment is expected to rise from historic lows.

“But Australia can do more and do better than just batten down the hatches in 2023 or hope for the best,” Chalmers writes.

“We can build something better, more meaningful and more inclusive.”

Doing so relies on three objectives: an orderly energy and climate transition; a more resilient and adaptable economy, and growth that puts equality and equal opportunity at the centre.

“How do we build this more inclusive and resilient economy, increasingly powered by cleaner and cheaper energy?

”By strengthening our institutions and our capacity, with a focus on the intersection of prosperity and wellbeing, on evidence, on place and community, on collaboration and cooperation.

”By reimagining and redesigning markets – seeking value and impact, strengthening safeguards and guardrails in areas of unchecked risk.

”And with coordination and co-investment – recognising that government, business, philanthropic and investor interests and objectives are increasingly aligned and intertwined.”

Stressing the need for open thinking, Chalmers foreshadows that “a depoliticised and more regular” Intergenerational Report will give a clear sense of Australia’s long term future, a Tax Expenditure Statement will provide more transparency about budget pressures, and the Employment White Paper will plan for a highly skilled work force.

Chalmers says the government will “renovate” the Reserve Bank, and “revitalise” the Productivity Commission.

“These institutions need to help deliver change in areas of disadvantage, to prod and inform and empower,” he says.

“It’s not just our economic institutions that need renewing and restructuring, but the way our markets allocate and arrange capital as well.”

In this, governments have a leadership role, not in “picking winners” but in “defining priorities, challenges and missions”.

One powerful tool for this is “co-investment”, Chalmers says, citing the role of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

Just as important is “collaboration” with the private sector. “There’s a genuine appetite among so many forward-looking businesspeople and investors for something more aligned with their values, and our national goals.”

Market design and disclosure are also important “to ensure our private markets create public value.”

Chalmers points to the clean energy sector as an example of how private investment increases when the government ensures there is first class information.

“So in 2023, we will create a new sustainable finance architecture, including a new taxonomy to label the climate impact of different investments. This will help investors align their choices with climate targets, help businesses who want to support the transition get finance more easily, and ensure regulators can stamp out greenwashing.”

The government will also try to expand “impact investing”.

“Across the social purpose economy, in areas such as aged care, education and disability, effective organisations with high-quality talent can offer decent returns and demonstrate a social dividend – but they find it hard to grow because they find it hard to get investors.

”Right now, the market framework that would enable that investment in effect doesn’t properly exist.” Läs mer…

Grattan on Friday: Response to Alice Springs crisis poses early Indigenous affairs test for Albanese

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese did the right thing in dashing off to Alice Springs this week in response to the publicity about that city’s crime crisis. But in doing so, he set up a test for himself.

That test will be early, and tough. The first round will come next week, when Albanese and Northern Territory Chief Minister Natasha Fyles receive a report on whether alcohol bans should be reimposed on Indigenous communities.

It’s clear the PM believes they should be. He has canvassed an “opt-out” system to replace the present arrangement, under which communities have to opt in to stay dry. The NT government installed the “opt in” arrangement to replace the bans which lapsed when federal legislation expired last year.

The territory government argued the bans were racially discriminatory, although Fyles has now (sounding reluctant) agreed to an “opt-out” scheme being on the table.

Does the “racism” argument justify what has been the NT’s policy? Undoubtedly imposing bans on Indigenous communities is racially discriminatory, curbing the rights of the Aboriginal people who live there. But the bans also promote “rights” – notably, the right of women and children to a safe environment.

Those who reject bans simply on the grounds of discrimination must be willing to accept some moral responsibility for the harm to the vulnerable that binge drinking is doing.

Read more:
Alcohol bans and law and order responses to crime in Alice Springs haven’t worked in the past, and won’t work now

Albanese still has a way to go to get everyone to agree to the opt-out program. Community consultations are underway, and there’ll likely be mixed views. And he has to keep the NT government on the same page.

Presuming he can announce the opt-out approach, the federal government also needs, within a reasonable time and in conjunction with the NT government, to come up with a comprehensive program for tackling the extreme disadvantage in NT communities in general and the town camps around Alice Springs in particular.

As those on the ground point out, the Alice Springs crisis goes way beyond the alcohol issues, and is endemic. The evidence indicates it is also beyond the capacity of the NT government to cope with it.

The challenges in Alice Springs shot to national prominence just as the debate about the Voice referendum is becoming more difficult for Albanese.

Polling indicates people haven’t got their heads around what’s being asked (indeed, they are unlikely to engage until much closer to the vote). Critics are attacking from the right and the left, including Indigenous Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe.

A range of factors will influence those who are uncertain: the force of the arguments put forth by the government and other advocates, where the Liberals land on the Voice, fear-mongering from “no” campaigners.

Opposition leader Peter Dutton and his spokesman for Indigenous Australians, Julian Leeser, this week again insisted Albanese must put out more detail. Leeser said people he’d have expected to support the referendum were cautious. “They’re saying to me things like, ‘Look I want to vote yes, but I’m just not sure I can because no one can explain to me how this will work.’”

Read more:
What do we know about the Voice to Parliament design, and what do we still need to know?

Albanese had hoped keeping the emphasis on the principles of the Voice – pointing out the detail was for parliament – would maximise the referendum’s chances.

But many voters who are uncertain won’t be satisfied without a more precise model. Referring people to the extensive Indigenous Voice report for these details doesn’t wash, especially as the government hasn’t said precisely which parts of that report it accepts.

The public needs the Voice’s skeleton – which may amount just to the government gathering and clarifying what’s out there and putting it into a succinct, clear presentation that also covers off on contentious matters. “Detail” doesn’t mean endless fine print.

If the government does this, the onus will be on Dutton. It will test whether his questioning is genuine and reasonable, or (as First Nations leader Noel Pearson fears) he is just playing a “spoiling game” – laying the ground for declaring the Liberals will oppose the referendum, as the Nationals have already done.

The issue is complicated for Dutton, whose party will never be united on this. He will be open to damaging criticism if the quest for detail is confirmed as spurious.

Albanese, pushing for bipartisanship, is going out of his way to get Dutton on board (or to wedge him, depending how you see it). This week, he invited Dutton to attend a meeting of the referendum working group, which is advising the government, so he can glean more information. Dutton has accepted.

The Liberals being naysayers would play badly in “teal” seats, at least some of which Dutton needs to win back to secure government. If the referendum went down, Dutton would be loaded with a large share of blame.

Pearson, an Indigenous figure much praised by Liberal leaders at various times, wrote this week: “By playing a spoiling game, the federal opposition will be responsible for destroying the three-decade quest for reconciliation”.

Pearson said this week, ‘We’ve got to understand what is at stake and that is the chance for reconciliation.’
Mick Tsikas/AAP

There has been speculation the Liberals might not take a formal position; this would be expedient for Dutton but a failure of leadership.

As the referendum debate intensifies, the stakes rise. Pearson says, “I cannot see how reconciliation will be a viable concept in Australia if the referendum fails”. The fallout from a loss would be huge.

On the flip side, the proponents of the Voice are wrong to raise unrealistic expectations for the body, even if their motives are understandable.

If it comes into being, the Voice will be symbolically important and, if it works effectively, it will institutionalise a compelling and authoritative source of first-hand advice.

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An Indigenous Voice to Parliament will not give ’special rights’ or create a veto

But it won’t have all the “answers”, for obvious reasons. Views among Indigenous people are not unanimous. Why would we expect them to be? They are not even unanimous about the Voice. Those serving on the Voice would argue among themselves, as do members of any other democratic, representative body.

More fundamentally, the complex issues bedevilling Aboriginal affairs are “wicked problems”, too often intractable even when governments seek and listen to Indigenous advice.

Those who over-hype what the Voice could do are paving the way for later disillusionment about the body and its role. It is important to be realistic.

Tom Calma, co-author of the 2021 Indigenous Voice report, described its potential value in his Wednesday speech accepting the award of 2023 Senior Australian of the Year. “We must have enduring partnerships, so Indigenous communities can help inform policy and legal decisions that impact their lives and we can recognise the special place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples in Australia’s history.” Läs mer…

Body image campaigner Taryn Brumfitt is 2023 Australian of the Year

Taryn Brumfitt, a body image campaigner whose work has been recognised internationally, is the 2023 Australian of the Year.

A writer and film maker from Adelaide, Brumfitt’s 2016 documentary Embrace, about women’s body loathing and her path of accepting her own body, has been seen by millions of people in 190 countries.

She founded the Body Image Movement in 2012, and in 2018 she was named in the Australian Financial Review’s 100 Women of Influence, in the global category.

The Body Image Movement describes its mission as being to “educate our global community and provide tools to promote positive body image; celebrate body diversity in shape, size, ethnicity and ability; promote positive physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health, [and] combat toxic messaging in media and advertising”.

Last year Brumfitt, who is 45, released Embrace Kids, a documentary aimed at teaching children aged nine to 14 to move, nourish and respect their bodies.

She collaborated with body image expert Dr Zali Yager to produce an Embrace Kids parenting book. They have also created the Embrace Hub, a resource for teachers, parents, children and communities to encourage “body positivity”.

“Taryn’s work has reached more than 200 million people. She is an internationally-recognised keynote speaker whose work is recognised by UN Women,” the announcement of her award said.

The senior Australian of the Year is Tom Calma, 69, Chancellor of the University of Canberra, who has an extensive record as an advocate for human rights and social justice. He was formerly a long-serving public servant, including having postings in India and Vietnam.

He served on the Human Rights Commission as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner and Race Discrimination Commissioner.

A leader in driving Indigenous advancement, Calma has had a particular focus on education, health and reconciliation. He has urged changing Australia Day to “a new date for a truly unifying national day of reflection and celebration”.

Mick Tsikas/AAP

Calma, from the ACT, co-chaired with Marcia Langton the senior advisory group that produced the report to the former government on an Indigenous Voice.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who presented the Australian of the Year awards in Canberra on Wednesday night, repeatedly refers to the report when pressed about the detail of the proposed Voice referendum.

Albanese used Wednesday night’s ceremony to declare the referendum, to be held in the second half of the year, would be “an uplifting moment of national unity”.

The Young Australian of the Year is Australian Socceroo and co-founder of Barefoot to Boots Awer Mabil, from South Australia. Barefoot to Boots is a not-for-profit organisation promoting better health, education, policies and gender equality for refugees. Mabil, 27, grew up in a Kenyan refugee camp after his family fled the civil war in Sudan; he was 10 when he came to Australia.

Dave Hunt/AAP.

The Local Hero award has gone to Amar Singh, 41, from NSW, who founded Turbans 4 Australia after suffering racial slurs because of his Sikh turban and beard.

Mick Tsikas/AAP

Turbans 4 Australia delivered hay to drought-striken farmers; supplies to Lismore flood victims and to those hit by bushfires on the NSW south coast; food to vulnerable people during COVID lockdowns, and supplies to the Salvation Army in central Queensland after Cyclone Marcia. It regularly delivers hampers to people in need in western Sydney.

Chair of the National Australia Day Council, Danielle Roche, said the four recipients “share a common bond – using their life experience as a power for good, helping others around them and making the world a better place.

”Taryn has inspired millions of women around the world to be more comfortable in their own skin.

”Tom has dedicated his life and career to being a champion of equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, lighting the path towards reconciliation.

”Awer fled conflict and went on to represent Australia at the highest level as a Socceroo – an extraordinary achievement. He has used his success to co-found Barefoot for Boots, a not-for-profit that supports and advocates for other refugees.

”Amar has turned his own experience of discrimination into a positive, and sparked a movement that helps thousands of people put food on the table.” Läs mer…

’Opt-out’ alcohol bans in prospect for Indigenous communities after PM’s Alice Springs visit

New temporary restrictions on takeaway sales and the prospect of reimposed bans on alcohol in Indigenous communities – with “opt-out” provisions – have followed Anthony Albanese’s Tuesday visit to crisis-ridden Alice Springs.

After a brief round of talks with local Indigenous, civic and police representatives Albanese fronted the media with Northern Territory Chief Minister Natasha Fyles, federal minister Linda Burney, senators Malarndirri McCarthy and Patrick Dodson and the member for Lingiari, Marion Scrymgour.

Albanese stressed the need for co-operation across levels of government and announced the federal and NT governments had appointed Dorrelle Anderson as Central Australian Regional Controller.

She will lead consultations with communities on an “opt-out” system for banning alcohol in them. A report will be made next week to the two governments on moving to the change.

The lapsing last July of the federal legislation banning alcohol in communities has been followed by a dramatic spike in crime in Alice Springs and problems in other NT Indigenous communities.

Despite widespread calls to do so, the NT government has refused to reimpose the bans, saying that would be race-based discrimination. Communities wanting to stay dry have had to opt to do so.

The outcry about the wave of crime put strong pressure on the federal government to act, and prompted Albanese’s visit, which was only announced on Tuesday morning. He had intended to visit Alice Springs late last year but was struck down with COVID.

Albanese told the news conference Anderson would “report back on February 1, to myself and to the Chief Minister, about the implementation of potential changes to alcohol restrictions in Central Australia, including potentially moving to an opt-out situation rather than opt-in that has applied”.

Fyles said: “We put in an opt-in system and we have seen communities opt-in. That opt-in finishes next week, and what I commit to is looking at the system, working with the community, including the possibility of placing an [opt-out] system”.

In immediate measures, Fyles announced takeaway alcohol won’t be sold on Mondays and Tuesdays. The hours in which it can be sold on other days will be reduced and purchases limited to one daily transaction per person. These measures, which the federal government hopes will be a “circuit breaker”, will be imposed for three months.

She told the news conference that “not everyone will be happy” with the measures she announced.

Fyles said the NT government had “done more than any other government around alcohol policy and measures to reduce harm in our community. But we need to give the community respite and support and we need to do that immediately.”

Read more:
Federal Labor MP warns Alice Springs crime crisis is impeding Voice debate

The federal government also announced it will spend $48.8 million over two years in Alice Springs “to tackle crime, keep women and children safe and provide support for young people in communities”.

Money will go to high visibility law enforcement, improved CCTV, lighting and other safety measures, additional emergency accommodation to give young people a place to go at night, a boost for domestic violence services, and extending funding for safety and community services where the funding is due to end in June.

Meanwhile a Resolve poll in Nine newspapers has found support for the Indigenous Voice to parliament referendum declining from 53% in August-September to 47% in December-January, with 30% against (previously 29%). When people were forced to choose between a yes or no vote, 60% supported and 40% opposed. Läs mer…

Federal Labor MP warns Alice Springs crime crisis is impeding Voice debate

The debate over enshrining an Indigenous Voice in the Constitution is being impeded by the Alice Springs crime crisis, according to the Indigenous Labor member for the Northern Territory seat of Lingiari, Marion Scrymgour.

Scrymgour, a strong supporter of the Voice, warned on Monday that until what was happening in Alice Springs and elsewhere in the NT could be fixed, people weren’t going to be interested in having a discussion about the Voice.

A former NT deputy chief minister, Scrymgour blamed the NT government for not acting when the federal alcohol bans expired in the middle of last year. The NT government said it would not support continuing the mandatory alcohol restrictions, which it described as race-based targeting of Aboriginal Territorians. Communities now have to choose to “opt in” to bans.

Police figures recently released for Alice Springs showed a 43% rise in assaults in the year to November 30. There were also big increases in commercial break-ins and property damage.

The federal opposition has seized on the Alice Springs situation to declare the Albanese government should step in. Opposition leader Peter Dutton said the prime minister should go to Alice Springs “tomorrow”.

Asked on Sky what Anthony Albanese could do, Dutton said:

He can implement the grog ban immediately and we would support any parliamentary measure to do that. He can send Australian Federal Police tomorrow. He can provide additional funding for family services workers.

Scrymgour said she “absolutely” backed the Voice. “But I think that we can’t have these conversations if there’s all these issues that are impacting on communities like Alice Springs.

”How do we get Aboriginal people but also communities to have faith and to vote in this referendum if they don’t believe governments are listening to them?”

She said “people are under siege in their own homes”.

“People that I know that might have been sympathetic to constitutional reform and the Voice and looking at the referendum have become really frustrated because nothing has been done,” she told Melbourne radio station 3AW.

“So they’ve gone to the opposite thing of ‘well, why should we support the Voice if we can’t even get police to protect me while I’m sleeping in my own home?’”

Meanwhile, Indigenous leader Noel Pearson has warned of dire consequences if the Voice referendum fails. He said if it were kiboshed by the opposition, the chance for reconciliation would be lost forever.

As the opposition continues to ramp up calls for detail of the Voice model, Pearson dismissed this pursuit as a “complete diversion”. Detail was a matter for legislation, not for the constitution. He also rejected the idea of legislating the Voice before the referendum, saying that would be legislating under the current race provision in the Constitution, when the hook for the Voice needed to be a new provision.

Pearson reduced the issue to the simple question: “Are we going to vote ‘yes’ for reconciliation through constitutional recognition?”

“This year is the most important year in the past 235 […] and this referendum is the most important question concerning Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians since the first fleet.

”What is at stake is the chance for reconciliation. And if this referendum is kiboshed through game playing and a spoiling game by the opposition, we will lose the opportunity I think forever,” Pearson told the ABC.

If the referendum were lost, “then I can’t see how the future will be anything other than protest. The Indigenous presence in this country will forever be associated with protest”, rather than reconciliation being achieved.

A Saturday Telegraph YouGov poll, done in NSW, found nearly a quarter (24%) of people undecided about the Voice. It showed 46% support for a yes vote, with 30% opposed. The paper reported that more than two-thirds (68%) thought the government had done a poor job in explaining how the Voice would work. The online poll was of 1,069 people.

Albanese, in a round of Monday media appearances, said that at the referendum people would be voting “for two simple things”.

To recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our constitution and to do it in a way which gives them voice so they are able to provide advice to the parliament on matters that directly affect them, on education, on health, on housing – on the matters [where] we need to close the gap.

The shadow minister for Indigenous Australians, Julian Leeser, said people he’d have expected to be likely to support the referendum were cautious and concerned. “They’re saying to me things like, ‘Look I want to vote yes, but I’m just not sure I can because no one can explain to me how this will work.’”

Leeser, a long-term backer of constitutional recognition, now suggests the government is “in danger of losing me because I just don’t think there’re listening”.

He accused the government of “ignoring the reasonable concerns of reasonable Australians about providing detail about how this will work”.

The Liberals are yet to announce a position on the Voice referendum, which will be held in the second half of the year, although the Nationals have said they will oppose it. Läs mer…