Page 3741 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 23 November 2022

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But here is the thing: I have spoken to quite a number of Aboriginal people on the ground who disagree. These are people who are focused on outcomes, and they do not believe that another layer of bureaucracy will provide better outcomes for their people. I had dinner on Monday night with Senator Jacinta Price, and we had a long conversation about the proposal for a voice to parliament. Senator Price has made her views on this matter well known. She believes that the proposed Indigenous voice to parliament is an elitist proposal that is more about relieving non-Indigenous people’s white guilt than solving the problems faced by Indigenous Australians. She said that Australians are being asked to sign over a blank cheque and support a proposal that has been driven by a tiny minority of activists who do not represent the views of most Indigenous Australians.

I had a conversation recently with an Aboriginal community leader who said to me, privately, “Jacinta’s right, you know; I hate to admit it because I don’t like the woman.” He said, “She’s absolutely right, but don’t quote me on that,” and “I can’t come out and say that, because if I did there’d be a big pile-on.” This very prominent spokesperson said to me that he would be attacked if he was brave enough to support the view that he believes is correct.

I would also note and pay tribute to the fact that our federal parliament currently includes 11 Indigenous members, representing 4.8 per cent of the parliament, which is an outstanding result. I think it is a result that we as a nation should be really proud of—that Indigenous members represent 4.8 per cent of the federal parliament when Indigenous people make up less than four per cent of Australia. I think that is enormous. We are progressing as a nation, and we should be proud of it.

I will not indicate whether I support the voice to parliament or whether I do not, because I have not seen the detail of the proposal. Nobody has. Dr Paterson’s motion calls on us to fully support something, even though we do not know what it is. It reminds me of a moment during Julia Gillard’s prime ministership when Bill Shorten had been away overseas. He flew back and there was a press conference at the airport. A journalist asked him whether he supported the prime minister’s statement, Julia Gillard’s statement, from earlier in the day. He said, “Yes, I strongly support the Prime Minister’s statement.” Another journalist asked him to clarify what that statement was and he did not know. He had no idea what the statement was. He confessed that he did not know, but he said, “Whatever she said, I support it strongly.”

I am not sure that that works for me. I think we need to see the detail before we, as a parliament, can sign up to advocate for something. I think we need to focus on outcomes. When I see the final proposal, I will make a determination on whether I believe this path will lead to better outcomes and decide whether or not to support it on that basis. I think that the signalling of virtue in this space has not achieved a great deal in recent times.

Mrs Kikkert’s amendment rightly focuses on outcomes, and I think that should always be our focus in this space. Mrs Kikkert has clearly articulated where the ACT is not kicking goals in this space, and I think that is where we should be directing our attention.

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