Tuesday, 17 October 2023
Matters of Public Importance
Australian Constitution: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice
This is an extremely important topic and this is an extremely important time to discuss this topic; but, unfortunately, what we have today is a petty motion in which to frame this discussion. I want to start by saying that I was saddened by the result on Saturday night but I acknowledge that result, I accept that result and I think, in time, after we've had a time to reflect and after the Indigenous community has had a time to reflect, this chamber, this community talking with the Indigenous community, will figure out a way to move forward. I want to start with that acknowledgement.
I also want to say that I fully support all of the observations made by the Minister for Education. We had a result on Saturday, but we're all in here two days later and we are left facing a set of extremely troubling issues that this nation has been facing for a very long time. They haven't gone away. All of the issues that he talked about in relation to unequal access to education, all of the issues in relation to unequal access to health, all of the issues in our justice system—notwithstanding the fact we had the royal commission into deaths in custody, some decades later, on many metrics, the situation is worse. As the Minister for Education said, that's across governments of both stripes, but it is nonetheless a fact. In my own electorate we have far, far too many children in out-of-home care. There is issue after issue which this chamber, this parliament and this country are faced with regardless of the result on Saturday night, and that needs to be our focus moving forward.
It's in that context that what we have today is the most cynical, disingenuous and, frankly, juvenile of motions and set of contributions. It's a pointscoring set of contributions to a motion that is trying to take advantage of a situation in the basest way. I almost feel as though I'm listening to a set of observations on election night from a set of members of a panel trying to make observations about why this or that trend occurred or this or that suburb voted this way. What we're actually faced with now is a set of endemic, long-term problems, and we need to figure out a way forward.
If we had an opposition that was committed to its core function, which is to put up an alternative vision, we wouldn't be faced with this motion and we wouldn't be faced with a set of contributions that would have been well in place on election night with pundits trying to guess why the politics were playing out a certain way or going through the entrails of the mistakes this or that campaign made. If we had an opposition that was genuinely committed to trying to find solutions to these issues, they would have come here with an alternative. We already have a set of policies in place and we will develop more policies, but, when we come into this chamber, we talk about a positive vision in this space going forward. The point that I'm making is that this motion and the contributions to date have been entirely focused on the politics, on the tactics and on base pointscoring.
Those opposites say there was the opportunity for bipartisanship. Well, they had a decade in parliament and there was zero action. That was the opportunity for bipartisanship. There was the Statement from the Heart in 2017. Six years later, those opposite didn't embrace any of it; it was rejected. We had the Voice described as a third chamber by those opposite. When those opposite were in government, they didn't accept any of it substantively. Where was the genuine opportunity for bipartisanship? It's a completely disingenuous argument.
They come in here with phrases like our side didn't do the work. In our first term we are doing exactly what we said we would do; we took this to a referendum. They said we're not doing the work. They were in power for 10 years. Since 2017, when the Uluru Statement from the Heart was handed down—when they were in government—nothing had happened.
Those opposite come in here with all of these very disingenuous arguments, hand-wringing. It is absolutely ridiculous. Then they come in here with their alternative vision: an audit, an accountant's version—the accountant dog whistling, saying by implication that there's waste everywhere and trying to invalidate the money that's been spent and invested in our Indigenous communities. It's absolutely pathetic, and this motion shows that this opposition is not serious about coming up with sensible, long-term, meaningful policies.