Labor Media Release: Malcolm Turnbull turns back on Referendum for First Nations Voice

Reports of Cabinet leaks this morning suggest that Malcolm Turnbull and his conservative government are walking away from Indigenous recognition.

After years of hard work and goodwill, this looks to be a sad day for First Nations Australians and all of us who believe First Nations people deserve meaningful recognition in our nation’s Constitution.

It appears that Malcolm Turnbull has rejected the legitimate aspirations of First Nations Australians for a Voice to parliament.

It is not clear whether the Government has also rejected the calls from Uluru for a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history, or the recommendations of the Expert Panel.

All of this indicates that Malcolm Turnbull is seeking to impose his own view of what recognition of First Nations people should be and does not seem willing to listen to First Australians about what recognition and reconciliation means to them.

It has been five months since the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and four months since the Government received the Final Report of the Referendum Council.

Three months ago Malcolm Turnbull travelled to Garma and promised Indigenous leaders from across the nation that he would give the report the respect it deserves.

But after months of silence, rather than be honest with Indigenous Australians, his government appears to have secretly rejected the Referendum Council report, without having the decency to be straight with the nation. Instead, he has let it leak out anonymously.

For months, Labor has been trying to engage with the Prime Minister on a constructive path forward to Constitutional change that would reflect the wishes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We believe that a Joint Parliamentary Select Committee will be an effective way of undertaking this work in a bipartisan fashion, and Bill Shorten has written to the Prime Minister several times to propose a bipartisan approach to these issues.

Thousands of First Nations peoples, from every part of the nation, participated in conversations and made submissions telling the government what Recognition would mean to them.

Without bipartisanship, the path from here is far from clear.

Labor will continue to work with Indigenous people around the country on a meaningful way forward that is respectful of their views.

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