By HARRY CLARKE
THE National Party of Australia has announced it will not be supporting the proposed implementation of an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
Speaking in Canberra surrounded by party room colleagues, Nationals leader David Littleproud said the decision to oppose the Voice was made after consulting with regional and remote communities around Australia.
“As the men and women who represent regional, rural and remote Indigenous Australians, it was important that we got comfort with the fact that this (the Voice) would close the gap, and unfortunately we have got to a position where we don’t believe this will genuinely close the gap,” Littleproud said.
“The National Party has made a decision that we will not support a Voice to Parliament.
“We believe in empowering local Indigenous communities, giving them the power at a local level – not creating another layer of bureaucracy here in Canberra, but to give those communities the opportunities that those in metropolitan Australia enjoy every day.
“We just say to Australians this is a respectful conversation, but hear those voices from regional and rural and remote Australia, not just those that might be in Redfern, because this is an important moment in our nation’s history and unfortunately it will be lost.”
The Albanese Government has promised a referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, which would create a new body enshrined in the Constitution that would enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to advise government on policies and projects that impact their lives.
A draft of the referendum, which would need a majority of ‘yes’ votes in a majority of states to pass, reads as follows:
There shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to Parliament and the Executive government on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to the composition, functions, powers and procedures of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
Nationals Northern Territory senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price (Warlpiri), an Indigenous parliamentarian from Alice Springs, criticised what she believed was a lack of detail about what the Voice would entail.
She also criticised Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney for taking “a private jet out into a remote community, dripping with Gucci and telling people in the dirt what’s good for them”.
“We are part of a liberal, democratic Australia and one of our fundamental principals is that we are all regarded as equal under the law despite race, despite gender, despite anything else,” Price said.
“Why should I, as an Indigenous Australian, be governed under a separate entity than the rest of Australia because of my race?
“I’ve spoken to people throughout communities in the Northern Territory, those whose first language is not English, who don’t understand a thing about what this Voice proposal is about, who are living their day to day worrying about how they’re not going to encounter violence in their lives.
“These are the issues that people are concerned with now. They’re not sitting around waiting for a proposal to come up with details as to how its going to improve their lives.
“We have to stop dividing our nation along the lines of race and recognise our contribution to this nation, from the first people of this country to the migrant people who have come here and made this their home, to the people with convict backgrounds.”
Linda Burney’s office as been contacted for comment.