Friday, 6 January 2023

Op-ed: The proposed Indigenous voice to Parliament

There has been much said in recent weeks – and there will be more to come – about the proposed Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

Australians will get their say in a referendum expected to be held later this year.

I think very few Australians would disagree that Aboriginal people must have communities that can access proper health care, education, justice and safety. Successive governments have thrown billions of dollars at addressing these long-term issues and it has not solved anything.

For me, it’s a values proposition and my view is straightforward: we are one people, we are one country, we are all equal.

I’ve had a number of discussions with people from all walks of life and the Australians I talk to want to be treated as equals.

If we make changes like this to the Australian constitution it means Australians are not all treated equally and that’s not something I can support. In the Referendum I will be voting ‘no’. Others will have a different view and that is democracy at work.

There is no doubt there are challenging situations right across the country in Aboriginal communities, particularly in very remote and regional communities.

But no-one has been able to explain how the proposed Voice will help one child who has been assaulted, help stop one incidence of domestic violence, or how it helps get one individual an education.

I stood with Senator Jacinta Price on 28 November 2022 to publicly commit our opposition to the Voice.

Senator Price represents the Northern Territory and she is one of 11 Indigenous Australians in the Parliament. These Members and Senators were democratically elected by the people and sit across political divides and geographic regions.  

As Senator Price said on that day: “We are here to serve Australian citizens of all backgrounds, and it is not right to divide us along the lines of race, especially within our Australian founding document.”

Since 1901 there have been 19 referendums in Australia, proposing 44 changes to the Constitution and only eight changes have been agreed to.

Referendums which propose to change the Constitution are incredibly important and the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaigns should be funded equally, as they always have been.

The Albanese Labor Government disagrees. It has already ruled out providing financial support and has stated “campaigns in the Voice Referendum should be organised and funded by the Australian community”.

If the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaign aren’t funded by the Government, will there be any regulation to make sure this is honest and accurate? Or will it be a case of which campaign has the deepest pockets? Will ‘No’ case supporters be hounded out of existence by those keyboard cowards, always hiding behind a fake profile?

My fear is that not enough is known about what the Voice will actually be. We shouldn’t vote in a Referendum without all the details, which are broadly promoted and understood.

There is a mountain of work to do to improve real outcomes for all Australians, but creating division and disunity should not be part of the solution.

Keith Pitt MP
Federal Member for Hinkler

Published in Bundaberg Today 06-01-2023


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