Monday, 21 November 2022
Private Members' Business
First Nations Voice
I rise to support the motion on the Notice Paper from the member for Jagajaga and moved in this House of Representatives this morning by my friend and colleague the member for Robertson. In 1967 the referendum that was put before the Australia people resulted in substantial change to our Constitution. It enabled the Commonwealth to make laws in respect of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and it included them in the census. But now we have the chance to make good on the unfinished business that remains. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our Constitution and to really make our nation better for everyone.
On election night, the Prime Minister made sure that our Labor government's commitment to the implementation of the Uluru statement in full was loud and clear. Labor is the only party that has committed to implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full—no ifs or buts from anyone on the government benches. We know the job that needs to be done. The Uluru Statement from the Heart represents an overwhelming consensus of First Nations people on a proposal for a Voice to Parliament and the establishment of a makarrata commission to oversee the truth-telling and treaty-making components.
Labor has repeatedly called for the Voice to Parliament to be enshrined in our constitution. Now that we're in government, we have set out a road map for its implementation, including a possible question for a referendum and an amendment to the Constitution to establish a voice. Along with treaty and truth, a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament will be a momentous step towards unifying our nation and creating a shared future. No idea or policy proposal has been subject to as much inquiry, research, consultation and deliberation as a voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. So I reject the argument that there is no detail on the table. Our Labor government has brought together experts and First Nations representatives from the referendum working and engagement groups, and they are guiding us on our way forward for a referendum. We are on track to have legislation to introduce into the parliament in the first half of 2023.
I want to thank the people of Newcastle who have already shown very strong support for the Uluru statement and an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament. The campaign to establish a Voice to Parliament should be above politics because the voice came from the people. It came from First Nations regional dialogues which commenced way back in 2016—this is not something new on our horizons; let's not fall for that trap—to ensure those regional dialogues took place and to ensure First Nation voices were always at the very heart of constitutional recognition, as they should be. The stories and messages from those dialogues were taken to the First Nations National Constitutional Convention at Uluru in May 2017, where they were endorsed and resulted in the Uluru Statement from the Heart being issued to the Australian people. We've got the three pillars. We've got voice, treaty and truth. That is what Indigenous Australians wanted. This is what we are committed to.
It has been a long journey, and there is still much work to be done. But after 55 years of unfinished business, since that original, successful referendum, the time for a First Nations voice is now. The Uluru Statement from the Heart is a very generous gift to our nation. It should not be beyond us, as a parliament or a nation, to address the absence of First Nations voices in our constitution, in our original birth certificate which remains silent and commits ongoing injustice as a result. Next year, every Australian will have an opportunity to fix this by voting yes in the upcoming referendum. There are conversations taking place in my electorate of Newcastle—indeed, they occurred this week—and I cannot tell you how excited people are, and Novocastrians in particular, to walk with First Nations people to find a just resolution to a longstanding injustice in this nation.