Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney has hit back at the Federal Government’s controversial decision during NAIDOC Week to not fly the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags in the Senate, saying its indicative of the Federal Government’s commitment to an Indigenous Voice.
After a motion that had been in front of Government for three months was shot down 29 to 28 votes last Tuesday, Burney said the Government was on the wrong side of history.
“The reasoning the Government used is that the Australian flag unites everyone—it actually doesn’t. I think the Government has misread the mood of the people on this,” the Shadow Minister told NIT.
While Labor remains publicly committed to the Uluru Statement from the Heart, with Burney telling Parliament at the beginning of NAIDOC Week the party’s commitment to the Statement is “absolutely rock solid”, embattled Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt is still trying to legislate a Voice with multiple advisory groups guiding him.
Burney said the NAIDOC Week flag dispute does not convince her of a serious commitment to a Voice to Parliament by the Coalition.
“If they can’t even bring themselves to fly the flag, I’m not convinced that they’re going to establish an Indigenous Voice in the legislation or in any other way.”
Burney said it will be “absolutely fascinating” leading up to the election to see whether Minister Wyatt achieves his original commitment of establishing an Indigenous Voice during the current government’s term.
Senior Advisory Group Co-Chairs Professor Dr Marcia Langton AO and Professor Tom Calma AO have handed their report with model recommendations for a Voice to Minister Wyatt, whose next steps are now to have a conversation with the Cabinet about the options available.
Appearing with Burney on ABC’s Insiders on Sunday, host David Speers asked the Minister whether any of the models included constitutional enshrinement.
“I don’t want to pre-empt what’s in the report before Cabinet discusses that report,” he said.
Like the persistence of those championing an Indigenous Voice, Burney said voting against flying the flag won’t stop the issue from resurfacing in the political arena.
“It will just keep getting moved [in Parliament] and the Government are going to have to vote.”
By Hannah Cross