House debates

Tuesday, 17 October 2023

Matters of Public Importance

Australian Constitution: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice

3:46 pm

Photo of Barnaby JoyceBarnaby Joyce (New England, National Party, Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs) Share this | Hansard source

Do you remember the start of this? Do you remember Shaquille O'Neal? Shaquille O'Neal, an African American basketball player, was rolled out to start the process of this referendum. What a joke. It just goes to show you the kind of competency that was going to be rolled through the whole program of this referendum. Remember when we found out that the Prime Minister, by his own admission, hadn't read the whole Uluru Statement from the Heart document? He hadn't read it all. What a debacle. The final one is that we had a referendum which could have had two questions: one on recognition, yes or no, and one on the Voice, yes or no. And I'll tell you what the Australian people would have done. The first one would have been a massive yes. The second one would have been a massive no—as we saw. But this hubristic, divisive debacle that was inflicted upon the Australian people had to be seen through, even though the Prime Minister's own Attorney-General was seen in the paper suggesting guardrails and amendments. Oh no, he knew better. He wasn't even going to listen to his own Attorney-General.

So why did people vote against what we had? Because it is a racial clause. I'm Caucasian, I'm a whitefella—I can't be part of the Voice. Chinese people can't be part of the Voice. Indians can't. It's determined by the colour of your skin and your DNA. In our areas, that's so offensive, because we find that the problems are determined by intergenerational poverty, regardless of the colour of your skin. Whether you're white, whether you're black, whether you're brindle, it doesn't matter. If the problem is in a regional village, like in my electorate, or in the outback, poverty is indiscriminate. Poverty doesn't care about the colour of your skin. That's how things should be addressed.

Of course, the Voice never had a right of veto; we all knew that. But it did have a right to go to the High Court, because that's why it's in the Constitution, and question the process of consultation. The Scarborough gas deal, $16 billion, 170 kilometres off the coast of Western Australia, is currently held up because the consultation process was apparently flawed. It was permanent. We couldn't get rid of it. Once it's there, it's there for good. But they never gave it a trial run. They never actually put it in legislation and gave it trial run.

Another thing was that 80 per cent of Aboriginal people supported the Voice. No, they didn't. That is not the truth. Let's look at my own electorate. The biggest Indigenous community—in my area they call themselves Aboriginal. The biggest Aboriginal community is Tingha. Do you know what the 'yes' vote was in Tingha? It was 13.5 per cent. At Tamworth High, it was 39 per cent; Oxley Vale, 28 per cent—and these are the ones with a strong Aboriginal component. Armidale south got 59 per cent, probably the best. In Werris Creek—I used to live in Werris Creek; we used to call it 'where it's crook'—it was 24 per cent. Inverell, 19 per cent; Glen Innes, 25 per cent—not even close. So stop the mythology and stop with this misleading idea that this was something supported by Aboriginal people as a whole. It wasn't. It wasn't 80 per cent. In my area it wasn't even half. It wasn't even close.

Why? I'll tell you why: because they weren't consulted. When you talked to them—I would go to former mission areas, and I went to NAIDOC Week—they didn't know what it was about. And you divided us up. So I'd go to NAIDOC Week and say 'Look, mate, you know I'm a no.' They would say, 'Yeah, Barnaby, I've kind of picked that up.' But if there was a different question this would have sailed through. You could have got it. You could have stopped this discussion. It was like discussing how your marriage is going. It was so hard for us in regional areas. We wanted to park this.

But things move on. And what they weren't discussing was the other issues out there. Other issues that are burning up. I tell you what the next one is going to be: it's going to be the transmission lines, the wind factories, the solar factories. It's going to be people in the seats of Cunningham, Whitlam, Paterson, Ballarat, Hunter, Shortland. Watch: this is the next issue.

You took a massive hit. You lost a lot of paint with that referendum. You really did. You trained people how not to vote for you. But if you get the next one—

An honourable memb er interjecting

You can laugh, mate, but if you get next one wrong you're going to be remarkable. You're going to be the second one-term government in the history of Australia.


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