Geoff Helisma |
There could not have been a more appropriate time for Australia’s first Minister for ‘Indigenous Australians’ Ken Wyatt to deliver his speech, Walking in Partnership to Effect Change, to the National Press Club of Australia in Canberra last week.
The club’s president, Sabra Lane, said it was her “pleasure in NAIDOC Week to announce that … [Minister] Wyatt … has decided to make his first major speech of the portfolio here at National Press Club”.
In his speech, Mr Wyatt said: “The concept of the Voice in the Uluru Statement from the Heart is not a singular voice.
“I perceive it as a cry to all tiers of government to stop and listen to the voices of Indigenous Australians at all levels, who want to be heard by those who make the decisions that impact on their lives.”
He invited “all sides of politics to work with” him to “bring forward a consensus option for constitutional recognition to be put to a referendum during the current parliamentary term”.
“The Morrison government is committed to recognising Indigenous Australians in the constitution, and working to achieve this through a process of true co-design,” he said.
He spoke of the importance of recognising Australia’s true history.
“I will work on approaches to progressing how we address truth telling,” he said.
“Without the truth of the past, there can be no agreement on where and who we are in the present, how we arrived here and where we want to go in the future.
“That’s what truth does; it sets you free.
“Only when we tell the truth, and when we are willing to listen to the truth, can we find common ground to walk on.
“Only then can we begin to trust each other and to walk together, side by side.”
However, within hours of his speech elements of division seeped into the media: The Guardian reported that “[Liberal MP] Craig Kelly says he could ‘campaign for the no side’ on Indigenous recognition”; The Australian reported “[PM Scott] Morrison to veto ‘voice’ as part of constitution; and, The Northern Daily Leader reported “Constitutional change to recognise Indigenous people needs Senate shakeup says
[former Nationals leader Barnaby]
The Independent sought some comment from Page MP Kevin Hogan who, in his maiden speech to parliament on November 22, 2013, completed his oration with: “And I say to the people of Page, my community, I will always speak for what I believe is in your interests and vote for things that are for the best interests of our community and our great nation of Australia.”
Earlier in his speech, he said in relation to supporting “those Australians who are having a go” that “this Australian belief, together with the First Australians, who I believe are the guardians of this nation’s soul and who give us a spiritual connection with our land, makes us the great country we are”.
Speaking to the Independent, Mr Hogan said he would prefer to leave the reconciliation processes outlined in Mr Wyatt’s speech to play out under Mr Wyatt’s leadership.
Nor did he think it would be productive to offer his opinion on the issues raised in various media reports during the days following Mr Wyatt’s speech; instead, he said he was “supportive of a referendum to recognise our First Australians in the Australian Constitution”.
“It is important to get the wording right so the referendum doesn’t fail,” he said.