Federal Labor has used its response to the annual Closing the Gap report on indigenous policy outcomes to promise to legislate an Indigenous Voice to Parliament before any future referendum on the issue if the government did not come to a position on it.
The proposal for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament came from the Uluru Statement from the Heart in 2017 which was part of the federal government’s consultation on constitutional recognition of indigenous people. Indigenous leaders who authored the statement claimed that a simple preamble in the constitution recognizing indigenous history was not enough.
Many have raised concerns that such an advisory body could be a defacto third chamber of parliament which could veto the decisions of the democratically elected government of the day and potentially violate the principles of representative democracy and equality before the law.
It was for this reason the Turnbull Government rejected the recommendation in October last year and in addition stated it would never gain support at a referendum.Both the Turnbull and Abbott Governments had been supportive of the initial recognition proposal.
Bill Shorten at the Garma Festival in Arnhem Land last year said Labor was receptive to the idea. However his commitment today to enshrine an indigenous representative body without holding a referendum reveals that he does not trust the Australian people being asked such a question, legislation alone could potentially be unconstitutional.
Shorten in his reply to the report also announced Labor’s intention to introduce a compensation scheme to members of the stolen generation as this was also the 10 year anniversary of the Rudd Government’s apology to the stolen generation, which rejected compensation at the time.
Shorten’s commitments today and the Labor Party’s backing away from celebrating Australia Day this year is another sign of just our far left the party has gone on indigenous issues.
It is unclear whether at this stage Labor’s support for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament will see the Turnbull Government revisit the issue. Turnbull in Question Time did not rule out supporting a stolen generation compensation scheme.