Tuesday, 17 October 2023
Matters of Public Importance
Australian Constitution: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice
Thank you to all the speakers who have come before me. We may never again in this parliament, certainly, and however long we're here, have an MPI after a referendum. I think we can agree that it's going to be a long time before we have one again. So it's right and proper that we discuss it in this place.
Those opposite may not like the words of the motion, but I thought that maybe in their party room or in other places within this building they would be having these conversations. If they're not then I suggest that they do, because four out of five of their own seats had a different view to theirs. That's fine; that's okay. I remember when I expressed my view quite early on that many of them and their supporters said, 'Be careful, Wolahan, be careful; you're out of touch with your electorate.' That's not a fair thing to say to anyone and I won't say it to them. All of us owe three things to our constituencies: we owe our best efforts, our selfless judgement and our honest belief. And if our honest belief is different to that of others, particularly on a referendum, then that is okay. What are people asking us to do? To be dishonest? To be a follower and not lead? I'm sure that those opposite passionately believed in this, and I commend them for it. People on our side, like my friend the member for Bass, passionately believed in it, and I commend her for it. That's all we owe our electorates.
But we have to ask: 'How, when the idea was presented, did the goodwill of this nation go from close to 70 per cent in the polls to 38? How did that happen?' If you have not taken the Australian people on this issue, we need you to take them on important issues of national security and economics. Of course we want to hold you to account and of course we want to be over there one day. But we also need you to succeed in the national interest. You embrace the moments when people on our side cross the floor or speak out against our own party; there are politics and theatre in that. None of you do that, and if you did you'd be kicked out. Maybe that extreme discipline you have within your own party doesn't help you all the time.