Voice to parliament wins lifeline

Marcia Langton. Picture: James Croucher

Marcia Langton. Picture: James Croucher

Scott Morrison has left the door open to backing an indigenous “voice to parliament” if he wins the election, allocating $7.3 million to investigate a model for an Aboriginal advisory body that could be ­enshrined into the Constitution.

The Prime Minister has diverted funds from a stalled referendum on constitutional recog­nition and will use it next ­financial year to canvass the design of an ­indigenous voice.

Bill Shorten has vowed to hold a referendum on a constitutionally enshrined voice in the first term of a Labor government, with yesterday’s budget announcement showing the government is also considering backing the proposal recommended by indigenous leaders in the Uluru Statement from the Heart in 2017.

Malcolm Turnbull was quick to reject the proposal from his government’s Referendum Council, claiming it would act as a “third chamber of parliament”.

The money will be used to progress the recommendations of a report handed down last year by the parliament’s joint select committee on constitutional recognition. Labor and Coalition members of the committee said the government needed to engage in a process of “co-design” with Aboriginal communities before finalising a model for the voice.

After an extensive consultation with remote, regional and urban indigenous communities, the committee recommended the federal government consider legislative or constitutional options to establish the voice.

“The government remains committed to the process of constitutional recognition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and will conduct a referendum once a model has been ­settled, consistent with the recommendations in the joint ­select committee,” the budget ­papers say. Indigenous figures including Megan Davis and Marcia Langton criticised the committee’s recommendations, believing they would delay a voice referendum.

Yesterday’s budget also included $35m to support indigenous women impacted by family violence and $5m on an initiatives to reduce indigenous youth ­suicide.

“These initiatives will be … tailored to meet the needs of each community and reflect the ­Coalition government’s commitment to empowering young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians to design and lead ­efforts to tackle high rates of youth suicide in their communities,” the budget papers say.

The budget also included $200m to fund an indigenous education package.

This article originally appeared in the Australian on April 3 2019, by Greg Brown

Uphold & Recognise