Tuesday, 10 November 2020
Matters of Public Importance
I rise to support this MPI. We talk about photo opportunities. Well, there's an incredibly important photo opportunity right out the front of Parliament House where the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags are flying next to the Australian flag. There are so many of them flying out there—not just one, not just two, not just three. There is a whole row. In fact, there are two rows on the left side of the building, and there are another two rows on the right side of the building. Do you know what, Madam Acting Deputy President Brown? Of the 52 weeks this Senate and the other house could actually stand up and do something, say something meaningful for First Nations people in this country, this one week is the time to do it. This is the time to engage in a way that is deeply sincere. This is the time to engage and reflect on the kind of year that we've had—and not just on COVID 2020.
Let me take you back a couple more months to the black lives rallies across this country, where millions of Australians took to the streets to remind every single institution that every parliamentarian steps into in every single jurisdiction of this country that the deaths of First Nations people are still occurring at a far higher rate than they should be and that there has been no justice since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody for First Nations people who have been in custody in our jail system. Today, we could have done something to unite our country through symbolism.
Someone in the Senate asked me what that symbolism was going to do. Don't we use symbolism every day? When we come into the Senate, we have the 'Our father', we give thanks in prayer and we listen to the acknowledgement of the Ngunawal and Ngambri peoples. So why is displaying the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags—national flags—along with the Australian flag, such a hard symbol to reconcile? And how is it that, in this NAIDOC Week, the government could be so mean-spirited as to not dig deeper—dig much deeper?
This motion has actually been before the government for three months. It wasn't a surprise. I even went to the Chief Government Whip three months ago, and I sat in his office and said, 'This is what we would like to do.' It was not a surprise. You had all that time. When we talk about photo opportunities—
Senator Dean Smith interjecting—