Monday, 21 June 2021
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022; Consideration in Detail
I acknowledge the contribution just made, and I acknowledge its sincerity and the member's sincerity, as well as the contribution made by the member for Lingiari on this consideration in detail. One of the ideas that the previous speaker, the member for Monash, just raised was around time: the time that it takes to get progress on these issues and the time that it takes to not just close the gap but heed the call of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
Time is important, because we have made Australia's Indigenous people wait too long. In this country, making them wait and introducing delays in answering and heeding the call of the Uluru Statement from the Heart is as critical as saying no in the first place. I think we all would agree that the time it took for this country to have its first Indigenous Australian serving as the minister for Aboriginal affairs was too long, but we all welcomed it and we all welcomed the fact that the minister was that person who was able to perform his duties in that portfolio. But, within days and hours of that minister giving his speech at the Press Club in July 2019, his efforts and his vision for the Uluru Statement from the Heart were undermined by the Prime Minister.
This government has not given its full backing to this minister to realise his vision in this policy area. As the previous member, the member for Monash, and the member for Lingiari correctly stated, it was in the Press Club that the minister said that he wanted to bring a referendum to the Australian people. That is the only way that we are going to change the Constitution, the very document that defines who we are as a country and our history. This government knows that the only way that is possible is if it has the full backing of the government and the full backing of the opposition, with everyone working together in order to make it a possibility. That is why timing is so important. That is why not putting the full resources of the government behind this cause in answering the Uluru Statement from the Heart is as good as saying no.
So the most pressing question that we have for the government is: Why is this thing taking so long? Why does it take so long to put the resources and the effort of the government behind a cause that we should all be united on? Why is it taking the government so long to say yes and to commit themselves fully to the three parts of the Uluru Statement from the Heart? The problem is that, if we let this get away, term after term, the Uluru Statement from the Heart will become more and more distant in the past. We, as custodians for the short period that we get to occupy these privileged roles, will look back and say, 'We were part of the problem, we were part of the delays and we weren't part of the government and the opposition and the parliamentarians that got this done at that time.' So the question that we have for the government is: please, will you try to speed things up, to speed up the urgency within the government?
I am going to pay tribute to a senator, Senator Bragg, who has written about this. It is difficult to speak up inside your own party room when there isn't the momentum for it. I would acknowledge him, because he has added his voice to this, and we need more to do the same. We need more to have urgency and we need more to ensure that time doesn't continue to pass without the Uluru Statement from the Heart being answered in full.