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Speech: SA First Nations Voice to Parliament

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I rise to speak to this motion. The Greens will not be supporting the motion without amendment and so, therefore, I move to amend the motion as follows:

Paragraph 1. Leave out all words after 'Voice' and insert 'was one of the first election commitments made by the now government, and was legislated by this parliament on 26 March 2023; and'

Paragraph 2. Leave out all words after 'Recognises that the' and insert 'South Australian First Nations Voice is designed to give First Nations people the ability to have a say on the matters that affect their lives.'

The Uluru Statement from the Heart is what brings us here and has been debated many a time, and is debated again today. The Uluru Statement from the Heart is a short, incredibly powerful piece of prose. It reads:

We, gathered at the 2017 National Constitutional Convention, coming from all points of the southern sky, make this statement from the heart:

Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands, and possessed it under our own laws and customs. This our ancestors did, according to the reckoning of our culture, from the Creation, according to the common law from ‘time immemorial’, and according to science more than 60,000 years ago.

This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.

How could it be otherwise? That peoples possessed a land for sixty millennia and this sacred link disappears from world history in merely the last two hundred years?...

Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future.

These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness.

We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.

We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.

Makkarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination.

We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.

In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future. That is the Uluru Statement from the Heart. I am proud that the Greens were the first party to accept the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full and I commend the work of then Senator Rachel Siewert in her leadership on that matter. Indeed, she is not the only leader in a parliament to have embraced the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and I note the fine words that I shall share with the council right now: 

The national discussion about the needs for a First Nations' voice speaking to government and parliament has been gaining momentum, especially since the Uluru Statement from the Heart in 2017. There is a clear call for government at all levels to better engage with Australia's First Nations peoples and to find ways to formally include their voice at the highest levels of decision-making

They are not my words. They are fine words and I agree with them. They are the words of then Premier Steven Marshall when he introduced the Liberal Party government bill for a Voice to Parliament in October 2021. I share some more words from that particular bill:

The bill establishes formal legal requirements for the exchange of information and communication of advice between the [Aboriginal Representative Body] and both the parliament and the government. The aim is to ensure that policy developments and initiatives that may affect Aboriginal South Australians have regard for their concerns and perspectives.

It was not a new idea when the Malinauskas government then in 2019 announced that they, from opposition, were committed as a government to having a Voice to Parliament: Voice, Treaty, Truth. Indeed, this parliament has previously had a Treaty commissioner in a previous government. It has had Treaty conversations before, but part of the conversation about Voice, Treaty, Truth is what comes first.

There are disputes about what comes first out of Voice, Treaty, Truth, but in the model that this state has embraced as a legislature through our parliament, which has primacy over our laws— we do not have any impact on the federal laws and the federal parliament has limited impact on our laws—we have here in this parliament an act, the First Nations Voice to Parliament, which implements part of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Not only does it establish the parameters and premises for a Voice, which this council and the other place have already voted on, debated in full and accepted, it also makes mention of both truth telling and Treaty, and recognises that a voice, a structured voice of Aboriginal people, of First Nations People, is a very good start if you want to start some truth telling and some treaty making. It only makes common sense.

But there is a lacking of common sense in this debate because here we are debating a motion about a federal referendum yet again, when we have an act of parliament that is seeing elections currently underway for a First Nations Voice to our parliament, our South Australian parliament—not to the commonwealth parliament, not to the Tasmanian parliament, not to the Victorian parliament or the ACT parliament, but to the South Australian parliament—that the South Australian parliament has debated, has consulted on and has voted on. I recognise that not everyone in this parliament voted in support of a First Nations Voice and not everyone in this parliament necessarily does support a First Nations Voice, but we have had a vote on it and the numbers have not changed.

I note that in the third reading contribution of the Hon. Dennis Hood, while his party and he had voted against a First Nations Voice, he actually committed to listen to the First Nations Voice, but I do not see a lot of listening going on here as we literally have an election of First Nations people to elect their very first First Nations Voice to Parliament in this state, and we are having a debate from a One Nation motion, that the Liberal Party is wholeheartedly the cheer squad for, to revisit old ground.

While I will not go to the content of a piece of legislation that is before this place to be debated, I note that that piece of legislation sits there on the Notice Paper with the mover having full knowledge that it does not have the numbers to pass this place or the other place. It will not become law. The first Nations Voice will not be repealed in this parliament unless you have a few more by-elections and you change the numbers of this parliament substantially.

What I will note, though, is that the voters of Dunstan, when they went to the polls in 2022, had a choice of Steven Marshall, the then premier, who supported a First Nations Voice to Parliament. They had a choice of a Labor candidate with a Labor leader, now Premier Malinauskas, then opposition leader, who supported a First Nations Voice to Parliament. They had a choice of a Greens candidate, who supported a First Nations Voice to Parliament. Indeed, a First Nations Voice to Parliament was not even a contentious issue during the last state election.

One Nation opposed a First Nations Voice to Parliament at the last state election, but we did not even know who the candidate was, and it took some weeks to establish that. Their policies were not given proper scrutiny, they were not part of the debate, and all of the main players, certainly those vying for the government of this state, the Liberal Party and the Labor Party, both had a bipartisan approach that they both supported the Uluru Statement from the Heart and a First Nations Voice to Parliament.

So much so that even though the Marshall government was not returned, and the Malinauskas government—and I note on election night their very first statement, the very first statement of the newly elected Premier, Peter Malinauskas, was to talk about the fact that he was going to implement a First Nations Voice to Parliament.

I remember that, along with acknowledging Ryan, the candidate for Unley, in my watching of the television coverage of that night. It was the very first thing that was said on election night. It was promised by the Labor opposition back in 2019. It was not front page news, because it had bipartisan and cross-party support and it was not seen as contentious. I still fail to see what is contentious about listening to First Nations people about the issues that impact them, particularly things like child protection, incarceration and inequality.

Given we had a referendum before that was needed to recognise First Nations people as human beings of value and worth back in 1967, I think some people have very short memories indeed about why we find ourselves in the position we currently are. If people were serious about addressing racism in this state and in this parliament, they would be campaigning right now to remove the race power from our constitution in section 51. I have not heard a peep from those who talked about this being a divisive debate about removing the race power from section 51. I look forward to that campaign and people putting their efforts into that campaign instead of pointless motions coming before this council.

We are here debating yet again a piece of legislation that has already passed this parliament. I have to scratch my head and wonder why members of this parliament do not know how to parliament, because parliament is about having votes. You have an election, you take it to the people of South Australia, you get voted in or you do not. Then you come here and the numbers line up, as they do.

Those who have the most numbers and can get the confidence of a leader to take to the Governor across the road in the lower house get to have the government of the day and the Premier. That is how this works, that is democracy, that is parliament. If you do not democracy and you do not parliament, I do not know what you are doing here. You are wasting our time, you are dog whistling and you are preparing for your next appearance on Sky News would be my guess, but I have become very cynical in this place.

I look forward to the election of the First Nations Voice to the South Australian parliament. I look forward to this parliament hopefully listening to those voices, hearing their concerns and listening to their solutions and finally having First Nations people treated not as the problem but as the solution to the problems.

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