An indigenous convention in Uluru last week recommended a constitutional body that would have the ability to scrutinise proposed legislation and make recommendations to government.
But Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce warns the idea “just won’t fly” because it was unlikely to garner sufficient support amongst Australians to change the constitution.
“We want something we can sell to the Australian people,” he told ABC radio on Monday.
“If you come up with something that we can’t sell for the Australian people then we’re not going to get anywhere.”
Joyce said while he accepted constitutional recognition, the proposed a new body was self-defeating and placing in jeopardy any bipartisan support for the Uluru Statement.
The statement on Friday – reproduced in full below – rejected a simple acknowledgement of indigenous people in the constitution.
Meanwhile, a Referendum Council leader is urging politicians to wait for its final recommendations on how best to recognise indigenous people before speculating on the prospects of success.
Co-chairman Mark Leibler says a full report from its indigenous steering committee, due in the next few days, will add to the Uluru statement.
“That will tell us what indigenous people want to have and what they definitely don’t want to have as far as constitutional reform,” he told ABC radio.
“Obviously, the Referendum Council is not going to recommend any particular referendum which is opposed by our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
Federal Labor frontbencher Linda Burney, a Wiradjuri woman, said the Uluru proposals were all “very possible” and the task now was to see how they could be applied.
She noted the statement was silent on constitutional recognition, which she saw as an important change, and scrapping the constitutional race power.
“I would advocate strongly that we do have to deal with the race powers because if we don’t do that it could actually still give the parliament the capacity to do away with a body of any sort within the constitution,” she said.
Ken Wyatt, the first federal indigenous minister, is confident the Referendum Council’s work on top of six years of discussion will lead to a referendum in 2018.
Greens MP Adam Bandt said when it came to a referendum, the parliament was probably more conservative than the Australian population.
“It’s time for a treaty in Australia,” he said.
“You only have to look across the ditch to New Zealand to see what difference a treaty makes.”
Full text: Uluru statement from the heart
We, gathered at the 2017 National Constitutional Convention, coming from all points of the southern sky, make this statement from the heart:
Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands, and possessed it under our own laws and customs. This our ancestors did, according to the reckoning of our culture, from the Creation, according to the common law from ‘time immemorial’, and according to science more than 60,000 years ago.
This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.
How could it be otherwise? That peoples possessed a land for sixty millennia and this sacred link disappears from world history in merely the last two hundred years?
With substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood.
Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future.
These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness.
We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.
We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.
Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination.
We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history. In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.
– with AAP
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