At a press conference outside of Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison deliberately tried to puncture another gaping hole in the fight for a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
When asked whether he’d consider a referendum on constitutional recognition, Mr Morrison said there was “still no clear consensus proposal at this stage which would suggest mainstream support in the Indigenous community or elsewhere”.
Just when we thought it wasn’t possible, the Canberra bubble has become even more opaque.
In May 2017, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from across the nation came together to establish and endorse the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
Before that, there were 12 regional dialogues which sought input from First Peoples on what they wanted in an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
In other words, a clear “consensus proposal” outlining the best way forward for recognition of Australia’s First Peoples. And constitutional recognition was the consensus.
The reform framework fits into three simple words: “Voice, Treaty, Truth”.
And it clearly outlines what First Nations people want.
It’s just not what Scott Morrison wants to hear. And it’s not what Mr Morrison’s chief enabler, Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs Ken Wyatt, wants to hear either as the duo continue to undercut the status of and voice of Australia’s First Peoples.
The Referendum Council’s final report from co-chairs Pat Anderson AO and Mark Leibler was clear as day:
“The 12 First Nations Regional Dialogues, which culminated in the National Constitutional Convention at Uluru in May 2017, empowered First Peoples from across the country to form a consensus position on the form constitutional recognition should take”.
Scott Morrison is feigning ignorance, one of his modus operandi. We’ve seen it before. Recently, actually, when he pretended not to realise the gravity of sexual assault and harassment until his wife Jenny sat him down and urged him to consider his daughters.
Not only are the Prime Minister’s comments appalling and untrue, they completely undermine the years of hard work by Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike towards securing the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the fairness and equity that it represents.
It is an attempt to erase the self-determination of every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person who participated and had their say in the Uluru Dialogues.
But if there’s one thing we know, it’s that First Nations peoples know how to endure.
So, they will endure this Government, and the following government, and each government there after until Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are recognised and enshrined, rightfully, in Australia’s Constitution.
It’s time for the Prime Minister to learn the meaning of the word “consensus” and relay it to the rest of Parliament House.
Probably “consent”, too.
By Hannah Cross