House debates

Tuesday, 17 October 2023

Matters of Public Importance

Australian Constitution: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice

3:56 pm

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | Hansard source

I'm glad that the member for Fremantle mentioned public health in this matter of public importance, because public health is important. Indeed, we heard the minister for health today talking about urgent GP clinics, Medicare clinics and the Ipswich hospital-hotel. It's not Happy Hour for pharmacists, let me tell you. I know it was a slip of the tongue, but it is not Happy Hour for our pharmacists. In Trundle, with just a little community of 400, the pharmacist there, Sam Lee, who came to Australia from South Korea in 2005 and said he always wanted to own his own pharmacy, is now facing the prospect of having to leave town, of having to pack up shop because of the 60-day dispensing rules. This is an abomination. I say that because the government has talked about nothing other than the Voice in recent weeks, in recent months, indeed, since being elected to office. Shame on them for that. At the same time, they've brought in rules which are going to make it so hard for those frontline chemists. Those people are doing so much good, particularly in regional and remote Australia and particularly for our Indigenous Australians. But they now face the prospect of having their bottom lines halved and their profit margins taken away because of this nonsensical rule that the government has put in place without care or consideration for our pharmacists. Again, I say shame on them.

They said that life imitates art. In Warren Brown's excellent cartoon in the Daily Telegraph today, he depicts the Prime Minister flushing some notes down the toilet, saying, 'Oh, well. It was only $450 million.' At the same time, there's this chap behind him, saying, 'So, about my $275 saving on electricity, where exactly is that?' Indeed, one might ask the question. On no less than 97 occasions, the Prime Minister, as the opposition leader, prior to the May 2022 election, promised that there would be a $275 saving on power bills for households. There was no disclaimer. There was no saying, 'Well, it'll be in 2025 or into the Never Never.' He said it would happen under his watch when he came to government. Power prices, which had fallen eight per cent in the last 12 months of the coalition government, have just gone up and up and up. And yet all we heard about was a divisive, unnecessary referendum.

As the member for New England quite correctly pointed out, had there been two questions, had there been a question about including Indigenous history et cetera, as a preamble, into the Constitution, just acknowledging the fact that they have been here for 65,000 years, Australians would have said yes. There is no question: Australians would have adopted constitutional recognition. Then, if there had been a separate question, such as the one Australians were asked, regarding the Voice to Parliament—we all know what happened on Saturday. Unfortunately, there has been a lot said and written about the result on Saturday, and regional Australians particularly have been knocked and mocked by inner-city elites, by metropolitan media and by activists for the shame that they have supposedly brought on our nation for voting no.

Australians don't get it wrong. They might have got it a little bit wrong in May 2022, but they don't generally get it wrong when it comes to having the choice. Aren't we lucky that we have a democracy and that we can have that choice? On the War Memorial, there are 103,000 names of Australians who served and who sacrificed their lives so that we could have that vote. Now we've had the vote. Let's move on. Let's put in place the practical measures to close the gap. Let's do what Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and the opposition leader have said that we need to do. Let's make sure that we have a royal commission into child sexual abuse, particularly in vulnerable Indigenous remote communities. Let's have a royal commission whose terms of reference include where and how the $33 billion that we are spending on Indigenous programs is being spent. And let's do something else: reinstate the cashless welfare debit card which was taken away without thought or consideration for those Aboriginal women particularly and which was making such a practical difference to the lives and livelihoods of children and families in Indigenous communities. (Time expired)


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