‘Nonsense and mischief’: Pat Dodson slams critics of the Voice
Labor senator and Aboriginal elder Pat Dodson has warned Australians won’t get another chance at reconciliation for another generation if the proposed Indigenous Voice to parliament fails, urging the federal Opposition to back the referendum to avoid electoral oblivion.
Dodson also criticised Opposition Leader Peter Dutton over his calls for a royal commission into sexual abuse of Indigenous youth in the Northern Territory, saying it was evidence of why a Voice is needed.
Senator Pat Dodson says the government will never be able to satisfy the critics of the Voice with more detail.Credit:Rhett Wyman
In a speech to the Chifley Research Centre’s annual conference in Canberra on Saturday morning, Dodson took on critics calling for more detail on how the Voice will operate.
“It’s a principle matter … the Constitution is about principle, it’s not about detail,” said Dodson, who is Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s special envoy for the implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
“The Parliament deals in detail. We do that every day of the week. That’s why we have oppositions and arguments and committees and reviews etc. That’s where detail is done.
“There are some out there who are pressing for more detail. They will never get enough … Our political process is in the parliament, and that’s where the detail is always settled and proposed. So don’t get distracted by the call for more detail.”
Dodson also stressed that the Voice would be the start of the reconciliation process, with the Albanese government also committed to a “treaty and truth telling”. He said the government would be in a position to say more about the next two steps later this year.
Dodson said he had previously committed to not attacking opponents of the Voice because “they are entitled to their opinions, as wrongheaded as they might be”.
“I’ve held to that pledge. But let me tell you, with so much nonsense and mischief being peddled out there, there have been times where it’s been hard to hold my tongue,” he said.
Dodson said there were “some myths and misinformation which I must put to rest”, including that the Voice would act as a veto or a third chamber of parliament.
Dodson said the working group advising the government will give its final recommendations on the referendum question and the constitutional amendment “within the next couple of months”, with the enabling legislation to be introduced to parliament in March.
Dodson noted that he recently turned 75, which makes him a “very, very old man in Aboriginal society”. “There won’t be another opportunity like this… in my lifetime,” he said.
“I hope that Australians will respond generously to this very simple request as the first step in us fixing things.”
Dodson said he hoped Dutton would back the referendum, to be held around October this year, but questioned in the current social media age whether gaining the support of the opposition was as important as in the past.
“I’m not dismissing it, I think it’s very important. But there is [already] bipartisanship for the unity of the nation,” he said.
Dodson said there was something going on internally in the Liberal Party “that’s causing them to … stay in oblivion – we’ve seen the results in some of those teal seats”.
Dodson said Dutton appeared to show goodwill in a meeting with the government’s working group on Thursday and he hoped that would be “carried forward”.
“This is not an Albanese magic trick. This is a request from the Aboriginal place in which the Albanese government is responding,” Dodson said.
Dodson also criticised the then-Labor opposition in 2007 for backing the Howard government’s Northern Territory Intervention that involved sending the army into the jurisdiction.
He said Dutton’s rhetoric over increased crime rates in Alice Springs was also evidence of why the Voice is needed.
“If ever there needed to be a First Nations’ Voice to parliament, that was the time,” Dodson said referring to the NT intervention.
“And it’s currently the time because of the way the current leader of the Opposition carried on in relation to the Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory in seeking a royal commission into so-called sexual abuse of children. Obviously, there are very sensitive and very challenging causes, but we are in a different climate today.”
Cut through the noise of federal politics with news, views and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley. Subscribers can sign up to our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here.
Most Viewed in Politics
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article