Tuesday, 10 November 2020
Senate Chamber: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flags
I inform the chamber that Senator Thorpe will also sponsor the motion. At the request of Senators McCarthy, Dodson and Thorpe, I move:
That the Senate—
(a) notes the resolution of 8 October 1992 relating to the display of the Australian Flag in the Senate chamber;
(c) directs that the flags be installed within three weeks after the passage of this resolution.
There are many places and circumstances to appropriately display the flags of our nation, including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags. The government believes that the Australian national flag, which represents all Australians, is the only appropriate flag to be flown in the Senate chamber.
Honourable senators interjecting—
A point of order, Mr President: I ask the government to reconsider. This is NAIDOC Week. To deny a First Nations senator leave to speak for one minute on this motion I think is something this government will regret.
On this occasion we are happy to grant Senator McCarthy leave to make a one-minute statement, but I would draw to your attention that it wouldn't normally be the practice, given that she is the mover of the motion. But in this situation—
An opposition senator interjecting—
It says it's in the names of Senator McCarthy and Senator Dodson. However, Senator McCarthy, you have leave to speak.
I'm going to put the practice here. Firstly, Senator Urquhart, the motion is in the name of Senators McCarthy, Thorpe and Dodson, and, while it is not in the standing orders, on this occasion the government has granted leave. Established practice has been, and I understand it has been reflected on both major parties and across the chamber, that statements are made by leave in response to a motion being moved and that movers do not make a statement. The government has granted leave, but I think it is fair for those listening or watching that that established practice be explained. Senator McCarthy.
I point out that established practice, in terms of the Australian flag, began in 1992 by a unanimous vote of the Senate, which recognised the importance of supporting a national flag. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags are also national flags. I appeal to the Senate: when we fly the flags out the front, as we are doing this week, we have them on display for the whole of the country in NAIDOC Week, and they are an opportunity to show that we can unite our country. This is a time when we can show the best of the Senate, when we can say that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags, which we have seen through a recent Senate inquiry, are recognised as national flags. There are senators on the government benches who sat with me on that inquiry. So I urge the Senate to support this motion to have the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags fly in the Senate.
This is not my first speech, but thank you so very much for allowing Black people to speak about the Black flag! I remind you all that we are on stolen land, and the Aboriginal flag represents the oldest continuing living culture in the world. I'm not sure where everyone else comes from, but my people, the Aboriginal people—Wurundjeri, Ngambri, Ngunawal—have been here for thousands and thousands and thousands of generations. The Aboriginal flag is what we identify with and connect with, just as you connect with the colonial flag that you love and appeal to. You appeal to the colonisers that colonised these lands and that's why our— (Time expired)
Order! Without in any way reflecting on the movers of the motion or any speech made, I simply say, from the chair, it is a personal concern I've expressed on a lot of occasions where senators are being asked to vote on a matter of some passion and complexity without all having the opportunity to speak. I make it very clear: I'm not reflecting on the movers of the motion for bringing it during the time allocated in the Senate for them to bring it. But there is an issue, obviously, where a handful of senators are speaking on an issue that all senators are being required to vote on. I will now put the motion moved by Senators Thorpe, Dodson and McCarthy. The question is that motion No. 753 be agreed to.