House debates

Tuesday, 7 February 2023


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice

7:35 pm

Photo of Josh BurnsJosh Burns (Macnamara, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

At the heart of the Voice lies a simple truth: the pathway for a better future for First Nations people must be shaped by First Nations communities themselves. The Voice recognises the wisdom, experience and cultural expertise that comes from within the oldest continuous civilisation on Earth. Who better to help shape policy and advise government on the decisions that affect First Nations people than the communities themselves? The Uluru Statement From the Heart is a hand outstretched, seeking friendship and support. It's a big-hearted statement that asks Australians to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.

The referendum to establish the Voice is a chance for unity. It's a chance to unify Australia around empowering First Nations communities and responding to their outstretched hand. Underneath the Voice is a premise that the answers to a better future for First Nations people will come from within the First Nations community. It's about respecting who they are and what they can offer to not only the policy decision making in this place but the lives and the futures of First Nations people around the country.

Compare that to what is being proposed by the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition has not supported the Voice; in fact, he supported a different proposition. He's been calling for a royal commission into sexual abuse against Indigenous young people. Of course everyone in this place abhors sexual abuse. There is no place for it in Australian society. It is an abhorrent act. No-one is questioning that. But underneath the premise of calling for a royal commission into sexual abuse of Indigenous young people is the Leader of the Opposition saying quite clearly to the Australian people that there should be an investigation into First Nations communities around the country. Instead of marking this year with respect and giving respect to First Nations communities, Peter Dutton, the Leader of the Opposition, is calling for an investigation into First Nations communities. It's a dog whistle and it needs to be called out. If Peter Dutton, the Leader of the Opposition, wanted to help, he would have offered to help the Voice campaign. If he wanted this thing to succeed, he'd be offering to help it succeed. But he hasn't done that. What the Leader of the Opposition has done is try to undermine the Voice campaign. He's tried to create doubt and he's tried to hold back, frankly, what I believe is his position that he's trying to destroy the Voice.

I understand there are many views around the country, but we have to ask ourselves: what takes us forward? What gives us a chance for unity? What gives us the Australia that we aspire to be? Is it going back to a dog whistle and an Australia that targets and vilifies and discriminates against First Nations people, or is it a big-hearted Australia that answers the Uluru Statement from the Heart to walk alongside and with our First Nations communities? I know where I stand. I know that in my community of Macnamara there are many big-hearted people who are ready to walk side by side with First Nations people.

There are many challenges that Australians are going to face this year. There are families that are going to have a difficult year. But I know that, despite the challenges Australians will face in their day-to-day lives, there is room in the Australian people's hearts to walk alongside and have this opportunity for unity with our First Nations people. It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity we all have to be a part of this year. I would urge the Leader of the Opposition to end the dog-whistling, to get on board and to be a part of a unified Australia, an Australia that can right the wrongs of the past to recognise our First Nations people in the Constitution and consult them on matters that affect them and their communities.