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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9189

Mr WYATT (Hasluck) (20:26): I thank the member for Fremantle for her motion on the Chiapas Declaration. I acknowledge the comments of the member for Scullin. One of the things that we have to seriously think about is that statements like the Chiapas Declaration are the culmination of people coming together to look at righting wrongs and making changes that are more far-reaching than just their own circumstances. One of the challenges that we often face when we consider international conventions is our capacity to take elements of them and use them within a domestic context. If we bring about change, then change has to be influenced. When I listen to colleagues speak on this motion, the points they raise are extremely valid, but there is also a divergence of viewpoints. There is nothing wrong with that in the debates that you have around a statement that has come from a forum of like-minded people seeking to find a way forward and a resolution to the complex issues that impact in terms of socioeconomic determinants. But it is more important that we take the intent and the spirit of statements such as this one and collectively, with a tripartisan approach, look at how we use that framework to bring about the changes.

We have within Australia a bilateral commitment in respect of closing the gap. One of the critical elements that is missing but that is reflected well in this statement is the one of partnership, the way in which we allow people to sit as equals to plan their destiny. I agree with an earlier speaker that it does not matter how many Indigenous or minority members we have in this chamber—although it is good when we have a number of such members both in the Senate and here—but rather it is the capacity to have people involved in the policymaking within the bureaucracy, to have people not at the lower echelons of government agencies but at the senior levels. When you sit as a member of the senior executive service, you impart a perspective that influences people's thinking and the way in which an agency will implement programs, policies and services. I think that is the crux of this statement from Mexico. It is about the equal positioning in those plans and in setting future directions.

All of us at different times have given a commitment with regard to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs. To some extent, it has been there but not in a way that is changing. I think the previous Prime Minister in his apology made the comment quite succinctly that if it has not worked and that if change has not occurred then we should change the way we do business. The statement said that participation as equal partners will bring about the reforms that we need. Everybody in this chamber has an electorate, and if we consider everyone's roles within their electorates then I would certainly challenge each and every one of us, including myself, to get out there and make sure we know what the issues are that Aboriginal people and communities and organisations and communities face. It is by that process that we can effect and influence change.

Whilst I acknowledge the statement, I think that sometimes we do not need a statement of that ilk in order for us to better represent those within our electorates who are disadvantaged. Certainly there is nothing preventing any member from making a difference and personally working towards the closing of the gap that prevails for Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander communities.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr KJ Thomson ): Order! The time allotted for the debate has expired.

Debate adjourned.