A proposal has been submitted by Senator Thorpe:
Pursuant to standing order 75, I give notice that today I propose to move "That, in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:
'The government progresses the unfinished business of Treaty now and without delay, being a key mechanism to address systemic injustices towards First Nations people in this country and allowing us all to unite and heal as a nation.'"
Is the proposal supported?
More than the number of senators required by the standing orders having risen in their places—
That, in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:
The government progresses the unfinished business of Treaty now and without delay, being a key mechanism to address systemic injustices towards First Nations people in this country and allowing us all to unite and heal as a nation.
Treaty is an end to the war that was declared on First Nations people 230 years ago. Yes, it is a war. Yes, we are still in a war. The war contains over 500 deaths in custody. The war contains 23,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children taken away from their families, from their mother's breast. War is destruction of land, sea, waterways and totems. That is a war against First Peoples and this country—this country's beautiful natural resources that were used by our people before invasion. It's how we survived as a race of people, the oldest continuing living culture on the planet. We survived. We survived genocide by those who came 230 years ago.
That's why we want peace today. A treaty is about coming together as a nation and having peace amongst us. It's having a day we can all celebrate. It's removing the systemic racism that we deal with every single minute of every single day in this country. Treaty is what Bob Hawke called for. Treaty is what the Redfern speech by Paul Keating was all about. Now what are we doing? We're doing everything but treaty. We're tinkering around the edges because the true sovereigns of these lands have never ceded their sovereignty.
When the Crown invaded these shores, they planted their flag and said that they were sovereigns. The King over there in another country says he is sovereign of these lands. How is that possible? How does someone come and knock on your door—in fact, not even knock; they just barge right in—and take you and your family out of your home and say, 'Good luck; do your best; this is ours now, and we're going to rape and pillage every part of this continent to make ourselves very wealthy for our future generations', not First Peoples' future generations. The only inheritance we have in this country is misery, genocide and a continued war on our people—230 years of a war and no treaty.
We need steps to treaty. This government promised. They said they would do treaty. The Minister for Indigenous Australians herself said we can do everything together. But are we seeing that? No. Labor are too scared of treaty, just like Hawke couldn't get it over the line, or Keating. And do you think they'll do it again?
Could you refer to people by their proper titles, please.
Hawke and Keating? They're not here!
Mr Hawke and Mr Keating.
Oh, well, that's for you; that's not for me. They're not 'Mr' to me. They're people who also failed to deliver justice for First Nations people in this country, who promised the world and delivered absolutely nothing. And now everyone is swallowing this assimilation pill that is going to harm any treaty going forward. We want a treaty now, today. (Time expired)
Jacinta Nampijinpa Price
I'm speaking today on this matter of public importance because I disagree with its premise. A treaty is an agreement between two or more sovereign states. It is not an agreement between a state and its citizens. It seems to me that many people want to treat Indigenous Australians as if they are not in fact Australian, as if we are different and separate. But the reality is that Indigenous Australians are Australians. We have the same legal rights as every other Australian, including the right to participate in the democratic process. I have had the right to use my vote as my voice to have a say on who was going to be my local representative since I was 18, and I've had the right to nominate myself for public office, just like every other Australian. This matter of public importance claims that a treaty would allow us all to unite and heal as a nation, but I disagree. I do not believe that a treaty is a way to unity or healing. I think it is divisive. I think it creates an us-and-them situation in the country that should be treating everyone as equal.
Like most other Australians, I also come from mixed heritage. I am a Warlpiri woman, but I also have European heritage, and in my European heritage there were those who were dispossessed of their own land and brought to an entirely new country. On which side of a treaty would I be? What would a treaty mean for the huge number of Australians with similar diverse backgrounds? If, as the case seems to be in Queensland, there are reparations involved, would those of us with mixed backgrounds be on the paying end or the receiving end? What about the Australians who have come more recently? What would a treaty mean for the immigrant population or recent-generation Australians?
The reality is that the push for treaty from the Left has nothing to do with addressing the real problems facing marginalised Indigenous Australians now. A treaty will do nothing to stop alcohol and substance abuse. It'll do nothing to stop domestic violence and sexual abuse or violent assaults in Indigenous committees. A treaty will do nothing to address child abuse or fatherlessness. It won't bring better medical care or health outcomes. It won't stop fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. And it won't lead to better education for Aboriginal children.
I'm more interested in using this parliament's time, money and resources in pursuing real solutions that will have real impacts on the lives of marginalised Australians. We know there are things we could be doing right now to improve these lives, but we're not doing them. Australians have an incredible capacity to care for their fellow Australians. The people of this country want to see real effort to improve the lives of Australians who need help. Instead, we argue over grand gestures like treaties or the Voice that divide Australians and have no guarantee whatsoever of providing any improvement in the quality of life for those who need our help the most.
The government opposes this urgency motion. In 2017, over six years ago now, 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander delegates gathered at Uluru to endorse the Uluru Statement from the Heart and deliver the invitation it offers our nation to walk along a path of reconciliation to a better future for all. The Uluru statement calls for tangible forms in multiple stages to start to heal the wrongs of the past and bridge the gap that exists between First Nations people and non-Indigenous Australians. Those reforms are voice, treaty and truth, in that order—that is, voice first, then a makarrata commission to supervise agreement-making and to oversee a process of truth-telling. This was the order decided by the delegates who gathered at Uluru in 2017.
It is that sequence of reforms that makes up the generous offer designed to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians, extended to government through the Uluru statement. It is only right to deliver the reforms of the Uluru statement in that order, as they were requested by First Nations Australians. And that is the order the Albanese government has committed to implementing in full. In support of this, the October budget committed $5.8 million to start work on establishing an independent makarrata commission to oversee the truth-telling process. The order of reform is important because progressing a voice to parliament is the first step in the process and offers a practical way of addressing the political disempowerment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, which contribute so much to the unacceptable gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
We know a policy disconnect exists between bureaucrats in Canberra and Aboriginal communities on the ground, who daily face significant issues in housing, health and education. The Voice recognises this disconnect and recognises that, for reform to work, the government needs to make policies with Indigenous people, not for them. I was privileged to sit on the joint select committee on the Voice legislation, and time and time again we heard this from Indigenous people who took the time to appear before the committee as it deliberated.
The Voice seeks constructive and practical change that recognises that decades of often well-meaning government policies haven't worked to improve the lot of First Nations people. This is a positive and hopeful opportunity for Australia, for all of us. It will make a difference for Indigenous Australians who live, on average, nine years less than non-Indigenous Australians. It will make a difference for Aboriginal communities experiencing homelessness and overcrowding in housing. It will make a difference in addressing suicide rates of Indigenous Australians, which are increasing. After all, addressing systemic issues like these is what the Voice is all about.
Opportunities like this to change the country for the better are a big affirmation of fairness and optimism, and they don't come along very often. I believe fairness is an innate part of the Australian character, and I believe giving the most disadvantaged people in our society a voice to help make their lives better is only fair. That's why I am campaigning for yes—
I listened to you in silence, so maybe you could be a bit quiet while I'm speaking. We can disagree in a civil way. Getting a successful result won't be easy; it will depend on every Australian talking to their friends and family about why it's time to recognise Indigenous Australians in our Constitution and time to start listening to their voices. It will be these conversations which decide the referendum, not the political games being played in this chamber.
I note that across Australia there is great support from business, sports, arts and entertainment sectors. Most importantly, there's an overwhelming support for the Voice from among the Indigenous community. This widespread support exists because Australians understand this referendum is the best chance we have at implementing real and lasting change. I can imagine how uplifting it will be for Australia when the nation wakes—
It's about treaty, not voice.
one Sunday later this year to the news of a successful—
Senator Thorpe, could you please stop interjecting. People listened to you when you had your speech, so could you just sit quietly. Interjections are unparliamentary.
I'm using my voice.
Please sit quietly. Senator White, you can continue.
The Voice represents an opportunity to make our country better. I can imagine how uplifting it will be. It gives me a great sense of hope to think of that morning, and what a force for a more cohesive Australia a successful vote will be.
In closing, I want to remember these words from the Uluru statement:
We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.
Long debate text truncated.
Date and time: 4:45 PM on 2023-06-13
Senator Pocock's vote: Abstained
Total number of "aye" votes: 12
Total number of "no" votes: 33
Total number of abstentions: 31
Adapted from information made available by theyvoteforyou.org.au