MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE - Morrison Government

A good government would govern for all Australians. It would ensure that it worked to bring Australians together, rather than constantly allowing division and discord, hatred and lies and attacks on those who cannot defend themselves in this parliament, which takes place from time to time. First Nations people do not see the current Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government leading or, in fact, governing for us. We saw the debacle that took place when the Uluru statement came to this place. It was not even immediately brought to this chamber. It was leaked to some newspaper in Queensland and dribbled out to say there was no interest in acknowledging First Nations people either by way of legislation or by way of constitutional guarantee.

Then we get the absolute absurdity of an envoy being appointed to represent First Nations people. I'm not sure to whom—is it to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, or the Prime Minister, or is it for the First Nations to be representing themselves back through this envoy, Mr Abbott, to one or other of those ministers? I don't know what resources he's got. I don't even know what he's going to do. He's appointed himself to be the schoolmaster of Indigenous kids around Australia, as if many of those families can't look after their own kids. There is an assumption that we cannot look after ourselves and we need a special envoy. One of my friends, who is very ill, when he heard of this—he's a West Australian—said, 'What we need is an Abbott-proof fence. We need to keep this bloke away from us.' Because when he came into power and was supervising the place as the Prime Minister, he called the homelands, where people live in poverty in remote communities, a lifestyle choice. He said the Eora people basically didn't exist. There was empty bush, and the invasion of these lands was a blessing upon us. In 2014 he said, 'When you look around at the glorious city of Sydney, as we see the extraordinary development, it's hard to think that back in 1788 there was nothing but bush.' This is the envoy to the First Nations of this country. What an insult. What an arrogant position the current Prime Minister, Mr Morrison, has taken. He hasn't defined what his position is. He hasn't shown us what he is prepared to do. He hasn't even made a statement as to the obligations of this particular envoy.

Again, when Mr Abbott was the Prime Minister and Mr Hockey was the Treasurer, they slashed the budget to Indigenous programs, which has left us with legacies that we're still trying to mop up. We've seen in recent times the role of the Minister for Indigenous Affairs—I don't know what his role is in relation to this envoy—in slashing the remote housing program, one of the key factors to get social determinants of health actually fixed and to give people, kids and families a decent quality of life. This government have just slashed that and decided that Western Australians, Queenslanders and people in South Australia are of no regard—these are remote Indigenous peoples.

Again, under the community development scheme—I hope the envoy is going to fix this because people are penalised by this draconian program that puts people on penalties for eight weeks, trying to survive without food—in fact, it's a starvation program. It's a horrid program. It creates poverty and despair, and I'm not sure how he's going to help the Minister for Indigenous Affairs fix this or help us fix the problem with his current government.

What we need is a united government that's not divided and can talk to its colleagues, have debates, have arguments but come out with consensus, a clear strategy and a clear approach as to how we're going to get behind the constitutional recognition of the First Nations and social policies that are, in fact, going to lead to equality. We've got some truth-telling to do about how the First Nations people are being denied their rightful place in this country. Thank you.

 

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