the Voice to Parliament

Hollow Voice to Parliament is Cruel and Misleading

3 July 2023

3.7 MINS

by Robbie Katter

The idea that there is a silver bullet to solving the deep-seated challenges facing First Australian communities, especially in rural Australia, while well-intentioned is naïve and ill-informed.

Presenting the Voice as the panacea to all problems relating to our First Australians is a cruel and misleading approach and disregards the great problems they confront. Not only would it reinforce a divided Australian culture, but it also would create an effective diversion from true solutions.

My experience of working with government in this space leads me to question what is the point of having even the greatest voice if there is no one willing to “listen and act” at the other end?

I think it would be fair to say there would be a direct correlation between the decline in support for the Voice, the closer you get geographically to First Australian communities.

That is to say that most of those living among or beside these problems are already getting their hands dirty trying to fix things, not just to create another office to talk about what they are going to do.

I claim no particular authority in this area, but my current work and background provide a fair argument for basic competency in it.

Deep Understanding

My family settled in North-West Queensland around 1890, and I am proud to say that they are described as being the first local family businesses in the small cattle and mining town of Cloncurry to employ Aboriginal staff in a store on the main street. This was a very controversial and very deliberate move for my family at the time.

My grandfather also proudly removed the segregation bar in the local cinema promptly after taking ownership.

The area has been continually represented by my family in politics for 57 years.

A politician aspiring to be egalitarian, with these roots, must gravitate towards the challenges in First Australian communities as they arguably require more political assistance than any other group.

I do not pretend to be Indigenous or act as their spokesperson, but I am simply a servant of them, heavily burdened by their issues.

Coupled with this background is the fact that I deliberately continue to live in the North-West (of Queensland) and Gulf, where we don’t talk about multiculturalism, we live it. This is a place where words are subordinate to actions.

The Voice to Parliament proposes that it will more effectively address the issues in Canberra. This is based on the critical assumption that the government will suddenly become better listeners and blast into action.

Sadly, regardless of who makes up the Voice, no one could believe politicians are suddenly going to start acting on many of these issues that they already know about.

Giving a new collection of people a Voice on top of the existing leaders and representatives is unlikely to make a lick of difference.

No-one’s Listening

Regrettably, we have had a very recent test run for the willingness of the government to listen and act on burning issues facing our First Australian communities. It failed miserably.

I refer to the recent bill put to Parliament by the Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) (for the third time in nine years) on amending the Blue Card system to make it fit for purpose in remote Indigenous communities.

Blue Cards are necessary to secure most of the jobs in these communities and are about protecting children. But the existing system has someone in Brisbane signing off on people thousands of kilometres away.

In the KAP Bill, we proposed that Local Justice Groups instead make the decision in some situations on who can work with their kids in their own community. This is provided they have not committed any disqualifying offences.

The State Labor Government’s response in Parliament was that, if you deliver Blue-Card decision-making back to the community, then it will compromise the safety of the children. And there you have it!

A very deliberate rejection of a solution to a pervasive problem in Aboriginal communities. The Blue Card could very well be the greatest barrier to employment in these communities and the Government continues to pretend it doesn’t exist.

Voices Ignored

The voices of every Aboriginal mayor in Queensland that I spoke to (which was most) backed this strongly and called for it, along with most organisations working in these areas. If they are not listening to the mayors of all the communities in Queensland now, why should we expect anything different down the track?

Another way that the Government could be improving prosperity for our First Australians right now is title deeds. If you live in any town or city in Australia today, you can purchase a house with a title deed… except if it is a First-Australian community, which are specifically excluded from this right.

This must be one of the most reprehensible, prejudicial oversights in policy towards First Australians that remains deliberately unattended.

Proudly, my father as State Minister was the first ever to offer title deeds to these communities, which are still referred to as “Katter Leases”.

In all my time in and around politics, I haven’t seen the same activists, academics and urban elitists who are backing the Voice belting on the doors of Parliament for Blue Cards or title deeds.

The desperate need for action in First Australian communities is increasing and putting more people in Canberra is not the answer. Many of the answers are sitting right under the decision-makers’ noses right now, but they are either incapable of making a decision or just unwilling to.

Giving a new collection of people a Voice on top of the existing leaders and representatives is unlikely to make a lick of difference.

___

Robbie Katter is the leader of Katter’s Australian Party and the Queensland Member for Traeger.

Originally published in News Weekly. Photo by Monstera.

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One Comment

  1. Ian Moncrieff. 3 July 2023 at 11:58 am - Reply

    Thank you Robbie for caring so much for our Aboriginal Australians.

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