Indigenous leader Warren Mundine clashes with ABC 7.30 host Sara Ferguson over Voice to Parliament

Indigenous leader Warren Mundine has clashed with an ABC star after being asked about how Aboriginals have been marginalised.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese delivered a speech on the Voice to Parliament on Monday night and said, ‘an entire people have been kept so long at the margins’.

‘Surviving against the odds, surviving even against misguided good intentions,’ he said.

The ABC’s 7.30 host Sarah Ferguson quoted Mr Albanese while discussing the Voice debate with Mr Mundine but was quickly corrected after she referenced an ‘entire people’.

‘We know consistently from closing the gap reports that those targets of closing the gap have not been reached, and there have only been incremental improvements,’ Ferguson asked.

‘Do you accept the Prime Minister’s argument that the status quo is not acceptable for Indigenous people?’

Mr Mundine then responded: ‘You said an entire group of people, well it’s not the entire Aboriginal people out there who have been marginalised and not getting ahead.’

Indigenous leader Warren Mundine has clashed with an ABC star after being asked about how Aboriginals have been marginalised

‘I’m an example of that, Megan Davis (an Aboriginal activist) is another example of that.’

Ferguson then interrupted to discuss the closing the gap initiative.

‘Closing the gap’s work is to show us what indigenous people are achieving across the board,’ she said.

‘And unfortunately those reports just show year after year that the targets are not being met and gaps in education, in health and certainly in terms of indigenous incarceration – a national disgrace – are not being met.

‘So there is a great deal of unmet need.’

Mr Mundine responded saying: ‘Look – there’s a lot of stuff there but it’s not about that they have been totally marginalised. It is about outcomes.’

Mr Mundine explained that many state and territory governments were failing Aboriginal people, because most of the closing the gap targets covered areas they were responsible for.

‘And I think the state and territory governments get away with a lot of this stuff because it’s not a federal issue. We found that they had a failing of actually getting those Aboriginal kids to school,’ he said.

‘So it was the state and territory governments who have had those failings, not the Commonwealth government.’

Ferguson also grilled Mr Mundine on why he described the Voice as a ‘threat’ to Aboriginal communities.

‘I want to understand how it could act as a threat to organisations and communities?’ she said.

Mr Mundine, a Bundjalung man, is a leading advocate for the vote ‘No’ campaign and said he was concerned about a ‘third party’ interfering.

‘I believe that the First Nations, the traditional owners are a voice and we need to empower those voices, rather than building another layer on top,’ he said.

Earlier on Monday, Mr Mundine accused the ABC of bias over reporting of the Voice debate after appearing on the national broadcaster’s News Breakfast program.

Opposition leader Peter Dutton had warned the Voice would have ‘Orwellian’ consequences where ‘all Australians are equal, but some Australians are more equal than others’ – a direct reference to George Orwell’s satirical 1945 novel, Animal Farm. 

The ABC's 7.30 host Sarah Ferguson grilled Mr Mundine over his thoughts on the Voice to Parliament

The ABC’s 7.30 host Sarah Ferguson grilled Mr Mundine over his thoughts on the Voice to Parliament

‘I think Peter Dutton is onto something, this is turning into a very divisive, very hateful campaign,’ Mr Mundine said.

‘I know you like to pick on Peter Dutton but he is right, this is starting to get into a disgraceful campaign and the campaign hasn’t even started yet.

‘This referendum is dividing Australia and you see it in the polling, and you see it out in the community.’ 

Mr Mundine also called on NSW Supreme Court Justice Ian Harrison to be stood down after he sent an email from his work account to Nationals MP Mr Conaghan and labelled him ‘disgusting’ and ‘racist’ for opposing the Voice. 

He then slammed the ABC for not calling out the attacks by ‘Yes’ supporters who had targeted their opponents with hurtful comments.

‘I just find it bizarre that these people who are supposed to be Yes supporters and Yes campaigners who were looking at us to be the people who were dividing this country,’ he said.

ABC host Madeleine Morris clarified Mr Mundine’s remarks about the judge’s comments were his own views and were not supported by the ABC.

‘Of course you’re not supporting it. It’s my view,’ Mr Mundine said.

‘I just find it funny, if that person came out and did it, and he was a No person, I know where the ABC would be sitting on this whole thing.

‘It’s about time you have got a balanced view and actually started calling out these people who make these racial attacks.’

Morris attempted to change the topic as tensions flared onscreen. 

‘I’ll leave that there because we have invited you on and you are a very prominent member of the No campaign,’ she said.

‘So I’ll just say that we, you know, we are gonna be absolutely platforms to the No campaign and the Yes campaign and as the ABC, we will continue to do that.’

Morris added at the end of the segment: ‘Just to be clear, those are Warren Mundine’s opinions about that exchange that went on with a NSW judge.’

What is the Voice?

An elected body of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals who would give advice to the federal government.

Only Australians of Indigenous heritage would be able decide the representatives. 

To be established, a referendum would be held and would require a majority of votes in a majority of states.

Unlike the old Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission – formally abolished in 2005 with bipartisan support – the Voice would be enshrined in the Constitution. 

While Parliament would decide the make-up of the Voice, it would not have the power to abolish it without taking the issue to another referendum. 

The Voice would give advice to the cabinet and executive government about legislation, particularly proposed laws that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart – based on the input of 250 Aboriginal leaders – in 2017 called for a the ‘establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution’.

The Indigenous Voice Co-design Process Final Report was given to former Liberal prime minister Scott Morrison’s government in 2021.

It was co-authored by Tom Calma, a human rights activist, and Marcia Langton, an academic.