Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Wyatt finds a voice
The minister for Indigenous Australians has got the recognition ball rolling again


Today’s bipartisan commitment to hold [$] a referendum on Indigenous recognition within the next three years is a welcome start to the Coalition’s third term, and suggests the Morrison government may have more policy ambition than its fearmongering election campaign indicated. After suffering a near-terminal experience during Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership, the recognition cause is back on the agenda courtesy of Ken Wyatt’s first speech as minister for Indigenous Australians, at the National Press Club in Canberra. As was well flagged this morning [$], Wyatt said he would work with shadow minister Linda Burney to bring forward “a consensus option for constitutional recognition to be put to a referendum during the current parliamentary term”.

Wyatt told ABC Radio’s AM the three-year timeframe was not overly ambitious, given that “we started this process under John Howard with a preamble”. Shadow assistant minister for constitutional recognition Patrick Dodson told the same program that Wyatt should move much faster, taking no more than six to eight months to legislate a voice to parliament as envisaged in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and 12 months to get a referendum process. He blamed former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce for setting the process back three years by putting forward furphies about the voice creating a “third chamber” of parliament.

But Wyatt told the press club today that it was important to take the time to get the referendum right if the country is to replicate the overwhelming success of the 1967 referendum that gave the Commonwealth power to make laws for Aboriginal people and include them in the census. Wyatt said the 1967 success was “the result of tireless advocacy and an extraordinary nationwide momentum for change … If we want to see that kind of national consensus again, we need to be thorough.” Burney, who was due to hold a press conference this afternoon, said in a statement today that while the Opposition was waiting for more detail, “We look forward to working constructively with the government.”

Ahead of Wyatt’s speech, Professor Megan Davis, a co-author of the Uluru statement, told the ABC today that there was every prospect of success at a referendum in which Indigenous Australians were seeking an “enhanced role in our democratic decision-making”. Her colleague Gabrielle Appleby said the amendment to enshrine a representative body for Aboriginal people into Australia’s Constitution would need to be carefully drafted, but that there was already “remarkable consensus around the level of detail that should be included in the Constitution versus what should be left for a future parliament to provide for in legislation”.

Wyatt, however, flagged today that he would try to reframe the key demand of the 2017 Uluru convention for a voice to parliament, as “not a singular voice [but] a cry to all tiers of government to stop and listen to the voices of Indigenous Australians … The development of a local, regional and national voice will be achieved.”

No doubt there’s a way to go, but at least the ball is rolling again.

“In any event, as a minister, my personal beliefs make no difference to the commitment to the task of drafting legislation.”

Attorney-General Christian Porter responds to anonymous internal conservative critics who said he cannot be trusted to draft a religious freedom bill because he is not a person of faith.

“The major cause of suicide in this country is not mental health problems but rather the toll taken by family break-up, where fathers often face mighty battles trying to stay part of their children’s lives, up against a biased family law system which fails to enforce contact orders, and often facing false violence allegations which are now routinely used to gain advantage in family court battles.”

Sex therapist Bettina Arndt bemoans the appointment of a woman, Christine Morgan, as national suicide prevention officer.

Scott Morrison and the Laffer napkin
Scott Morrison’s tax cuts are based on an American theory of economics trialled in the 1970s. Mike Seccombe on why the Coalition perseveres with its reforms.

The number of delegates at Hillsong Conference, Australia’s largest annual Christian gathering, at Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena last night, attended by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“Water recovered by the Department and held by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder represents real water for the environment. Arguments about return flows diminishing savings have been thoroughly examined by the University of Melbourne and found to be vastly overstated … The department stands by its management of these programs … Projects are selected, developed, and assessed through competitive, fair and robust systems that ensure projects are delivering water savings and represent value for money.”

The federal Department of Agriculture sets out its response to the “Cash Splash” investigation by ABC TV’s Four Corners this week.

The list

“In June, the butterfly effect of Minogue’s crime reached the core of Australian democracy, forcing the High Court to assert its judicial power against the legislature. At issue was the power of the state over the courts – our shield against tyranny. The picture is muddied by how we regard the man responsible for holding the frontline: as Dr Craig Minogue, or as the Russell Street Bomber?”

Booksmart has little time for the real and often lasting wounds of youth. The prevailing mood is cartoonish; literally so during one interlude where Molly and Amy, under the influence, morph into figurines. Debut feature director Olivia Wilde works hard in the service of her hard-working characters ... If you can deal with its unflagging zest – for some I suspect it will grate like nails down a blackboard in the classroom of their nightmares – then you may enjoy watching Booksmart. I did. Yet something niggles at me.”

“What if money didn’t matter much in Australian politics? Clive Palmer just spent $53 million on ads for his United Australia Party and had zero candidates elected ... Voices for Indi, after electing Cathy McGowan in 2013 and 2016, just made history when they elected Helen Haines, making her the first independent to succeed another independent in the house of representatives. Their budget was minuscule compared with the major parties. And Jacqui Lambie won a senate seat having gone through a lot of shoe leather but spent only $50,000.”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Body Count: How Climate Change Is Killing Us, Inside the Greens and Born To Rule: The Unauthorised Biography of Malcolm Turnbull.


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