Tuesday, 2 August 2022
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Senator Gallagher. Last night on the ABC's Q+A program, the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, stated that 'Labor plans to ingrain a body likened to ATSIC in the Constitution'. Given the failure of ATSIC to improve the outcomes, opportunities and hopes of Indigenous people in areas of health, education and employment and the fact Labor supported the abolition of ATSIC, why is the Minister for Indigenous Australians using ATSIC as the basis for the Labor Party's model?
I thank Senator Price for her question. I would begin by acknowledging the huge amount of work that the Minister for Indigenous Australians, assisted by Senator Malarndirri McCarthy and Senator Dodson, has done in supporting the Prime Minister and the announcement he made on Saturday about progressing a referendum and voice, treaty and truth. This is a period of time—and certainly we discussed it this morning in our party room—of enormous pride to get behind and build momentum to amend the Constitution with a referendum—
I'm sorry, Madam President: with all due respect to Senator Gallagher, Senator Nampijinpa Price's question was very, very clear. It was in relation to comments made by the minister on ATSIC and why the Minister for Indigenous Australians is using ATSIC as the basis for the Labor Party's model. It wasn't about the work that had been done to date; it wasn't about anything, yet, that Senator Gallagher is referring to.
Senator Brockman, please resume your seat. I'm about to rule on the point of order. I listened very carefully to the question. It was broad ranging. It did talk about Q+A. It talked about ATSIC. It talked about the health and welfare of First Nations peoples in this country. I've listened carefully to Minister Gallagher, who's still got one minute 15 to go. If she is not addressing the question, I will draw it to her attention. Minister Gallagher.
I didn't see the minister's comments, but I know the minister well and have had many conversations with her about this, as I have with many of my colleagues on this side of the chamber. The point, I think, of the discussions that we've been having since the Prime Minister's address on Saturday is really about progressing constitutional recognition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which has been worked on for many, many years.
President, with all due respect—yet again, the question was very, very clear. It was in relation to comments about ATSIC and why the Minister for Indigenous Australians is using ATSIC as the basis for the Labor Party model. I put it to you—and I may have to request that you have a look at your rulings—that the mere mention of a word in a question does not enable the minister to refer to that particular word as the answer.
As I said, I didn't hear the comments that the minister made, but I understand the approach that she, Senator Dodson, as the special envoy, and Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, as assistant minister, are bringing to this discussion. As the Prime Minister has said, there will be further consultation and deliberation with First Nations people, and with the community more broadly, as we work towards the referendum, but we've been talking about this for 15 years. We want the debate around it to be respectful, we want to bring people together on the journey and we want to get the outcome in the end. That is what Minister Burney and all of us are working towards.
On last night's ABC Q+A program, the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, stated that there will be extensive consultation conducted before the legislation is drafted and that the general public will get to decide what the voice will be. Earlier the same day, the Prime Minister outlined that the Australian parliament would decide what the voice will look like—after the referendum. On behalf of all Australians, can the minister please clarify who is correct: the Prime Minister or Minister Burney?
Again, the approach that the Prime Minister has made is around consulting, and consulting widely. That work needs to be undertaken. Minister Burney will be leading that, along with Senator Dodson.
Obviously there will be a mechanism for the voice, but we are not determining that ourselves. For too long, policies have been imposed rather than developed. And that is the work that needs to be done now. We won't play the game of dividing people on the basis of certain quotes that I haven't heard. This is a process where we would like to work together, to reach across the chamber, to hear different views, to have that fed back in—we understand there isn't unanimous agreement even in this parliament, let alone outside the parliament. So let's work together to deliver a magnificent outcome for this country.
This is an argument about symbolism versus practicality and practical implementation of policies. We would say that we need both: that we have constitutional recognition of the oldest continuous culture on the planet and, at the same time, that we implement and improve—through consulting, rather than imposing, and through bringing people together—the policies that are designed to support First Nations people. It's that we do both and that they're interlinked. That is the whole point; it's not one or the other. There is universal agreement that we need to see improvements for First Nations people, in a whole range of areas—health, education, jobs and economic security, housing, community safety and all of that—but that doesn't mean that we should walk away from this opportunity— (Time expired)