COMMENT by DON FULLER
The ALP is once again set to cause major problems, both to Aboriginal People and the wider Australian community, due to naivety and a superficial understanding of Aboriginal human development in remote regions.
The introduction of self-management and self-determination by the Whitlam government in the early 1970s resulted in devastating living conditions and outcomes for Aboriginal people living within rural and remote regions, where most Aboriginal people live.
“The Voice” is the current hand-out thrown by Mr Albanese to his left wing faction.
As with the Whitlam government, this is likely to further escalate the misery suffered by Aboriginal peoples and lead to increasing division within the Australian community.
About 35% of Australia’s Indigenous people live in major cities, with 65% living in regional and remote areas.
Many elite left-wing activists from the city who noisily say that they speak on behalf of Aboriginal people have had little or no experience living within remote communities.
They also possess very weak linkages with traditional Aboriginal culture and law.
If disadvantaged and marginalised, such urban Aboriginal people have far more in common with poor white people within urban regions than Aboriginal people living within remote regions.
This can be seen from the virtue signalling through “welcome to country” presentations where body painting, dance and musical instruments have been assembled in a manner more reminiscent of a school theatre presentation, than a serious and respectful acknowledgement of traditional Aboriginal cultures.
Such virtue signalling is an insult to traditional Aboriginal people and to the wider Australian community.
It is mainly such “woke” urban Aboriginal people who have been pushing the left-wing of the Labor party to include “The Voice” within the Australian Constitution.
A similar voice to government has already existed in the form of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC). This organisation existed from 1990 to 2005. It too, was established under an ALP government.
ATSIC was also supposed to be the body through which Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders were formally involved in the processes of government affecting their lives.
ATSIC involved widely elected regional councils established throughout Australia and a board of commissioners who made decisions on policy and funding.
However, this body became characterised by corruption, mismanagement and serious alleged criminal behaviours by its leadership. It was completely ineffectual in overcoming the major problems faced by Aboriginal people – particularly within the remote regions of Australia.
As a result it was disbanded in 2005.
A major problem with “The Voice” is that its proponents want it enshrined in the Constitution, so it can’t be abolished even if it follows the performance of ATSIC.
By wanting the body included in the Constitution, the proposal suggests that regardless of unacceptable performance, the body should be free to continue.
This is a proposal without precedence within responsible governance arrangements, anywhere in the world!
Such a body would be, like ATSIC, elected by Indigenous Australians that may exercise de-facto vetos over any policy or legislation that was seen to affect Indigenous Australians. This would be likely to include all policies and legislation that come before the Australian Parliament.
It would therefore have enormous power and influence and would effectively, despite vehement denials, become a third chamber of parliament.
To further add to the insurmountable problems this would pose for governing Australia, there would be a “truth-telling” commission and a treaty. This would inevitably lead to compensation payments or reparations to be funded by tax-payers and would seriously impair the Federal and State government budgets.
What is it about the proposal for a “Voice” to government that is likely to drastically change the disastrous outcomes or be different from ATSIC?
No detail has been released by the government nor the proponents of “The Voice” on how it will function in practice, or on how the previous problems experienced by ATSIC could be avoided.
This is a major problem given that it is intended to include this new body in a changed Constitution.
For example, how is “The Voice” going to deal with the waste and incompetence that was common in ATSIC and many Aboriginal organisations?
The ALP is supposed to be a party with the ideals of economic and social equality for all Australians. However, their political representatives appear voiceless and clueless when dealing with the substantive issues of economic and human development for those living within remote regions.
NT Senator Jacinta Price on the other hand, rightly points to the need for legislative change in a number of practical areas.
She also calls for economic development to be the main basis for improvements in the standard of living and human development of Aboriginal people.
In the Northern Territory Aboriginal people own around 45% of the land area and 80% of the coastline. Such vast assets have however, failed to generate economic and employment opportunities due to road blocks imposed by governments.
Urgent legislative change is needed to reform the Land Rights Act and the land councils acting as impenetrable gate keepers to economic development on Aboriginal land.
Over many years commentators have pointed to the substantial economic activities that could be generated through joint-venture operations in numerous industries, including horticulture, tourism, environmental management, forestry, agriculture and pastoral operations.
There is also a major opportunity for small enterprise development in Aboriginal remote communities in the form of bakeries, fuel service stations, laundromats, furniture retailing and landscaping, for example.
However, governments have listened with a tin ear and lacked the courage and commitment to act.
It is far from clear how “The Voice” to government will change this. We can expect a never ending gravy train of reparations for past misdeeds, by those claiming some relationship with Aboriginal people, however marginal this may be.
Such payments are likely to reduce the resources available for Aboriginal people living within remote regions and further damage already intolerable living conditions.
If we are to succeed as a nation on behalf of all citizens we need to find ways to work together for mutual benefit rather than increasing the divisions within our society.
Dr Don Fuller has published widely in the field of Aboriginal economic development in remote regions of the Northern Territory. He has worked in a number of remote communities in the Territory attempting to assist in the building of small enterprises to aid community development. Dr Fuller is an occasional visitor to Alice Springs.
PHOTO at top from FaceBook.