Indigenous ABC presenter wants ‘reparations’, justice for Aboriginal people in Voice to Parliament

A senior ABC editor has called for the planned Indigenous Voice to Parliament to include ‘reparations’ and for the ‘transfer of power’ and ‘control’ to Aboriginal people.

Reparations involve making amends for a wrong that has been done, by providing payment or other assistance to those who have been wronged. 

On Sunday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese drew criticism from some quarters over the ill-defined and very broad powers of the Voice to Parliament would work – after announcing it will be the subject of a referendum over the next three years. 

Among those was the Coalition spokesman for Indigenous Australians Julian Leeser, who said ‘we need to see more of the detail’ while broadly supporting the idea of  a race-based body that will have the power to instruct government over any policies that impact Aboriginal people.

Speaking on the Insiders program, the public broadcaster’s Indigenous Affairs editor Bridget Brennan filled in some of the blanks on what she thinks the Voice should mean. 

‘This has to be about justice. It has to be about reparations. It has to be about giving some power to Aboriginal communities,’ she said. 

Country Liberal Party Senator Jacinta Price (pictured) called the Voice to Parliament ‘a gravy train’

So far, all that is certain about the Voice to Parliament is what the referendum question will be. 

The question likely to be put to the public is: ‘Do you support an alteration to the constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?’ 

The Prime Minister is concerned that giving too much detail would mean people voting ‘no’ if they ‘disagree with one out of 50’ clauses put forward. 

‘We’re not doing that, we’re learning from history,’ said Mr Albanese – referring to the failed 1999 referendum on Australia becoming a republic, which many voted down not because they were against it in principle but because there was conflict over how the head of state would be chosen.

Speaking at the Garma Festival in the Northern Territory on Sunday, Ms Brennan said a Voice to Parliament would not supersede the Federal Parliament. 

‘The Parliament will have ultimate supremacy, of course,’ she said. 

What are reparations? 

Reparations involve making amends for a wrong that has been done, by providing payment or other assistance to those who have been wronged. 

They can also be the compensation for war damage paid by a defeated state. 

‘But what sort of transfer of power does this mean for Indigenous people, because that needs to happen.’

Ms Brennan said the Prime Minister has a difficult task ahead of him, in convincing people across the country to vote Yes in the referendum.  

‘(Mr Albanese) is going to have different messages to sell to people. But I actually think there is an appetite now to see some transformative change,’ she said.

Ms Brennan, who has Dja Dja Wurrung and Yorta Yorta heritage, emphasised that a Voice to Parliament needs to be strong and powerful.  

‘When we imagine was a Voice (to Parliament) would look like, I think it does need to have teeth, it does need to be feared (and) revered.

‘It needs to be a building, it needs to be an institution that has much more than a voice. It has (to have) some control and some autonomy,’ she said. 

The Aboriginal flag is seen in Canberra. A referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament is expected to be held next year.

The Aboriginal flag is seen in Canberra. A referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament is expected to be held next year.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is pictured with Aboriginal dancers at the Garma Festival in the Northern Territory

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is pictured with Aboriginal dancers at the Garma Festival in the Northern Territory

However there was concern that leaving the parameters of the Voice undefined risked making it too powerful.

Janet Albrechtsen, a columnist with The Australian, said the wording of the constitutional change establishing the Voice must include the right of parliament to abolish it.

Poll

Should the Australian Constitution be amended to include an Indigenous Voice to Parliament?

  • Yes 39 votes
  • No 340 votes
  • Unsure, I need to know more about it 50 votes

‘The only safe way to ensure this novel indigenous body does not become a governance disaster of unholy scale is to give parliament the ultimate control to abolish it,’ she wrote.

She also argued that the wording in the Constitution establishing the Voice must restrict the role of the Voice to making representations to parliament and to MPs, and not – as the proposed wording says – to being able to lobby ‘executive government’ over the fine detail of policies.

‘Extending the reach of this body to everything done by executive government means it could permanently second-guess everything that passed across the desk of ministers or public servants,’ Ms Albrechtsen wrote. ‘This extension is an act of massive overreach that will radically change our system of government.’ 

Anthony Albanese is pictured speaking at the Garma Festival in the Northern Territory on July 30, 2022

Anthony Albanese is pictured speaking at the Garma Festival in the Northern Territory on July 30, 2022

However Ms Brennan said it was important the Voice ‘has much more than just an advisory role’. 

Speaking on the same panel as Ms Brennan, ABC’s Q&A program host Stan Grant said there are many questions yet to be answered about the referendum. 

‘(Without knowing) how much of the detail will come before the referendum, what the Opposition does is critical,’ he said. 

‘We know the bar is set very high with passing a referendum.’

Linda Burney, the Minister for Indigenous Australians, is set to partly answer that in this Monday’s edition of Q&A (ABC, 9.36pm), which has already been recorded at the Garma Festival. 

‘There will be a lot of information out to the community about what people are voting on. It would be nuts for that not to happen,’ she will say. 

ABC's Indigenous Affairs editor Bridget Brennan (pictured) said a Voice to Parliament 'has to be about reparations'

ABC’s Indigenous Affairs editor Bridget Brennan (pictured) said a Voice to Parliament ‘has to be about reparations’

Some of the criticism of the process of getting a Voice to Parliament has come from within the Indigenous community. 

Writing on Facebook Sunday, Country Liberal Party Senator Jacinta Price, a Warlpiri-Celtic woman, said ‘the voice is being (led) by members of the Indigenous elite who’ve spent their lives on the backs of the most marginalised and changed nothing for them…

‘The Voice to Parliament is a gravy train attempting to ingrain itself into the constitution so despite its failures and lack of accountability can never be dismantled.’

Daily Mail Australia has contacted the ABC seeking comment on whether or not it supports Ms Brennan’s comments on the Voice to Parliament.  

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk

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