Q&A panellist rejects audience question


Politicians have been urged to "get on with it" when it comes to the recognition of Aboriginal people in the Australian Constitution, although not everyone agrees it will create the change people want.

During Monday night's discussion on Q&A, views were at times split on whether establishing a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution would be effective and whether it's what Aboriginal people want.

Sally Scales, a delegate who helped develop the Uluru Statement of the Heart calling for constitutional recognition, said she wanted to see this implemented, despite statements from the Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt ruling out the possibility.

"We've compromised so much already … so why do we have to keep compromising?" Ms Scales said.

"We put a beautiful statement which was done by about 250-odd First Nations representatives. "It was given to the Australian public, not to parliament, not to politicians.

"The law is not the problem around the Uluru statement, I think politics is the problem."

But Jacinta Price, a Liberal candidate for the Northern Territory seat of Lingiari at the last election, and director of the Indigenous program at the Centre for Independent Studies, said the statement lacked significant detail about how the voice would function and who the Aboriginal representatives would be.

Ms Price said some Aboriginal people didn't know what the voice was and there were a lot of indigenous people who had been left out of the conversation.

"The media like to portray indigenous people as all having one voice," she said. "We need to be recognised as individuals as well, that we don't all think with one head."

EXPLAINER: What constitutional recognition involves

The Q&A panel on the Indigenous voice.
The Q&A panel on the Indigenous voice.
Jacinta Price on Q&A. Source: ABC.
Jacinta Price on Q&A. Source: ABC.

Ms Price said there were already many bureaucracies set up to be voices for indigenous people.

"If they're not doing a good job now then how do we know that this voice is going to do that job?"

Ms Price said she agreed with recognising the Aboriginal people as the original inhabitants of the land but said having the voice constitutionally enshrined would mean Aboriginal people would forever be disadvantaged.

"We are Australian citizens and we are often looked at separately to everybody else in this country, it shouldn't be the case," she said.

"We want to be part of the fabric of this country like everybody else."

But one audience member named Bill didn't agree with Ms Price.

"Jacinta, the way you talk, that sounds like a Liberal Government standing behind you and you're turning around and talking for them," he said.

"You're not talking for the rest of the people."

Bill is not impressed by Ms Price’s comments.
Bill is not impressed by Ms Price’s comments.

Ms Price hit back at the comments saying: "just because my views are probably different to yours, doesn't mean I can't think for myself as an Aboriginal woman".

"I form my own views based on my own lived experience."

She said there needed to be grassroots empowerment of Aboriginal people and she didn't see how a voice would achieve that.

"I see it as another place where the indigenous elite can sit there and be the representatives for other indigenous people, and be that voice," she said.

Bill said he didn't want another "symbolic" gesture.

"What I'd like to see is both sides of politics get their act together, start moving the thing along because this is just (taking) too long," he said.

Julian Leeser, the co-chair of the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition said he understood the frustration with the process but it was necessary because the Uluru Statement didn't give detail about how the voice would function.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has committed to a co-design process that involves consulting with Aboriginal people on a voice. Originally Mr Wyatt suggested there could be a referendum within the next three years about enshrining the voice in the constitution, provided it would be assured of passing, but has since said the referendum would not mention a voice.

Shadow minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney said Labor supported a voice enshrined in the constitution.

Ms Burney said some people in the Aboriginal communities she had visited recently were not aware of the Uluru statement but wanted to be involved once they learned of it.

"They said 'well we want to make sure that our voices are heard and we should be part of it'."

She said it was normal that not everyone agreed, even among the Aboriginal people.

In defending the idea of constitutional recognition, Ms Burney said it was important to remember that Australia's constitution was the only constitution of a first-world nation with a colonial history that does not recognise its first peoples.

"There are three states and territories who have embarked on a treaty making process," she said. "It is inevitable, that federally we will have to look at the same thing.

"We can't leave this, we can't leave this for another generation, to have the same discussion about a permanent secure voice to the Australian parliament representing the views of first nations people."


Q&A panel on the Indigenous voice.
Q&A panel on the Indigenous voice.