Tuesday, 17 October 2023
Matters of Public Importance
Australian Constitution: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice
I acknowledge his contribution and what the minister just said. All his statistics are correct, but all that his statistics mean is that in this country we have a lot of work to do. But I will actually bring it back to what this MPI is about: the process that this government followed with the referendum.
It was a flawed process and the flaws in the Prime Minister that got us into this situation we were, and are, in. What this is all about is the arrogance and bad judgement of the Prime Minister personally. As he says now, after the event, we needed bipartisan support. He didn't display a lot of behaviour and judgement before the referendum that encouraged that. There was no Constitutional convention and there was no process that encouraged bipartisan support. This was even down to the 15 questions about the referendum that the Leader of the Opposition gave him and asked him to come back to us on. He didn't even pay us the respect to respond to those questions. There wasn't even a response to the 15 questions that we had.
He ignored lots of advice. There was lots of advice about having two questions. We know that the Australian people are generous and we know that 85 to 90 per cent of Australians, I believe, would have supported constitutional recognition without blinking. But, no, he ignored advice on that. He ignored advice from strong 'yes' supporters, like Father Frank Brennan and like, in fact, the previous Labor leader, Bill Shorten, who was on record as saying, 'We need to legislate a Voice before we try to put a Voice in the Constitution.' That's because there were too many unanswered questions about the Voice. There were too many unanswered questions about putting the Voice into the Constitution—questions like, 'How will the power of the Voice work compared with the parliament, if it were in the Constitution?' A lot of people have respect for Father Brennan and the fact that he wanted to support the 'yes' case. But, again, the Prime Minister was arrogant and showed his bad judgement by ignoring people like that.
Instead, he went for the vibe—he went for the feel-good. He liked the T-shirt and he likes hanging out with the corporate elites, like the Alan Joyces. He likes hanging out with the celebrities, the jingles and everything else. He just went for the vibe and no detail. Again, it shows his arrogance on this, how he had no judgement on this and how out of touch he was with the Australian people. The Australian people—and, indeed, this chamber—wanted detail and we weren't given it. Again, there was a lot of confusion. As the Prime Minister said when he won the election, his first promise was that the Uluru Statement from the Heart would be in full. 'In full' meant not just the Voice but treaty and truth-telling as well. So where is he about truth-telling? Where was he about that? When questions were asked about that, about what the ramifications of the Voice were in relation to the Uluru statement, it was, 'Nothing to see here'. In fact, he tried to crab walk away from some of the things that he said. This made it more confusing.
The result—and I say this really, really humbly—has been a really sad result for this country, with this Prime Minister's flawed process and judgement on this whole thing. He has divided families, he has divided communities and on Saturday night he divided this nation. And he's divided Indigenous communities. He speaks generically—as did, might I say, a lot of commentators on Saturday night and Sunday—about the Indigenous community. The Indigenous community were divided on this. You had one group with Lidia Thorpe and people who supported her point of view and what she thought of the voice, and you had Indigenous leaders like Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Warren Mundine at the other end. They were divided. The Indigenous community was divided on this, and that's what this Prime Minister did with his lack of judgement and his arrogance about this. Before I go on, I want to acknowledge my parliamentary colleague Jacinta Nampijinpa Price. I thought her tone and her demeanour through this whole debate were to be congratulated.
We do now have to move on from this. We now have to get back to practical outcomes. We as an opposition—again, the shadow Indigenous minister has said we need in audit straight away; the one thing we need is an audit into the current spending. A lot of people on the ground don't see this money or don't feel it's hitting where it should. We also need a royal commission into sexual abuse. When we talk about closing the gap, that is most prevalent in rural and remote communities, and there needs to be a royal commission into the abuse, sexual abuse and assault in those communities. (Time expired)