Politicians doubt constitutional change will get up

1967 Referendum Photo

Mark Davis Sydney Morning Herald November 9, 2010

The Prime Minister believes it will be a challenge to get enough voter support to recognise indigenous Australians in the constitution, despite support for the move across the parties in Federal Parliament.

Warning that most referendums had failed, Julia Gillard said the federal government will establish an expert panel to devise options for recognising Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in the constitution.

The panel would be made up of indigenous and community leaders, constitutional experts and MPs. It would "lead a national discussion and broad consultation" before reporting in December next year.

"Recognition will demonstrate that we are a country that is united in acknowledging the unique and special place of our first peoples," Ms Gillard said. "To achieve this historic reform we must make sure we build the most robust and persuasive case for change."

The previous prime minister, Kevin Rudd, promised in 2008 to have a referendum on constitutional recognition of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.

Ms Gillard contested this year's election proposing to put the question to a referendum either before or at the next election, due in late 2013.

The Liberal-National Coalition and the Greens also support constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians.

But the Opposition's spokesman on indigenous affairs, Nigel Scullion, said having MPs on the expert panel could politicise the process, jeopardising the ability to secure a consensus.

"... It is absolutely crucial that this is not voted on until we have a high level of confidence that all Australians fully understand the need for constitutional change," Senator Scullion said.

"I don't think we should have parliamentarians on the panel. We need a body that is completely independent, not appointed by the government."

Senator Scullion said the Coalition would ask the government to have the consultations carried out by the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, a new representative body for indigenous people established earlier this year.

Attached is a draft position paper by the Law Council of Australia. It is not representative of the Law Council's views as yet as they require comments and suggests for review. Once they have received all feedback, amendments will be made to the paper, as necessary, before it goes to their Board for approval.

Comments

Where is constitutional reform in Australia going?

A J Brown ABC 'Unleased'

... The minimum form of more substantive recognition for Indigenous Australians could be recognition that the Commonwealth Parliament may make special laws in respect of Aboriginal and Islander people, but only for their benefit.

This would fix the problem identified by the High Court of Australia in 1998, that previous changes to the Constitution to end discrimination against Aboriginal people did not actually - in law - flow through to their intended result. In 1998, only Justices Kirby and Gaudron on the High Court took the position that the 1967 changes had the result which was probably intended by the majority of Australians.

But it is also valid to talk about going further. Australia is the only Commonwealth country that does not have a treaty with its First Peoples ...

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From ABC 'Unleashed' - Comments

'dubious the third'

There's lots wrong with our Constitution. One is that it makes special provision to be able to make laws for particular races, as if there exists more than one human race.

The recent UN Eliminating Racism report recommended, amongst other things, getting rid of this provision. It's a strange concept used to take control of these lands, and allows the government to constitutionally suspend the RDA. - Simply put, it's racist.

As to The Preamble. That's currently an Act of Westminster, so, are we to ask westminster to amend their act and include our first nations, in the entity that legitimises the sovereignty of this nation state?

Or are we just going to do a cosmetic job, and keep pretending that we're not still a British squat with unfinished Treaty business?

And how can having a referendum change the Preamble? Referendums are to change the contents of the Constitution.

As a committee seretary to a local Incorporated Association, we can change our internal rules by referendum, (or simple vote) but we can't use such a vote to change the laws by which we are incorporated. - Same with the Preamble.

Our sovereign first nations need to be in The Preamble alongside Almighty God, her madge, and westminster.

Maybe somewhere down the track, a "we the people" could go in there too, and replace the westminster bit, but evidently, many folk are happy with the precarious position on which the premise for our nation exists.

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