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Thursday, 9 December 2004
Page: 62

Senator MOORE (1:35 PM) —I rise to make a few comments in reply to the Governor-General's speech at the opening of parliament. I wish to concentrate on the issues around Indigenous Australians. As we have heard this week, there has been wide interest in the reformation of the role of Indigenous Australians in our community. Whilst the Governor-General in his speech did talk about this being one of the issues the government would pick up during its fourth term, I am very much afraid of what is going to happen to the community over the next few months. Already we have seen, and we have heard in this place through other senators talking on issues that affect Indigenous Australians, that there is a growing concern, and in fact a distrust, that is overwhelming the community across our country.

In this environment it seems to me that the Governor-General, given his speech, and in particular the fourth term government must accept that it is a major responsibility of this government to pick up the concerns of Australians. I am concerned that these issues have not been effectively picked up, and in fact that they have worsened, because in this place last week we had a motion concerning the issue of Indigenous incarceration across the country. Whilst there were attempts by the government to defer this issue, describing it as a state issue, that is just not accurate. I say that, as the Governor-General pointed out that there would be concern by the government on this issue, let us see this put into action.

In terms of the process, we have seen since the first Howard government a reluctance to prioritise the issues of a strong, unified community which includes the Aboriginal voice. We saw only this week the new consultative committee being put in place. Let us hope that through this term of government there will be an understanding of the real role of Indigenous Australians and a move towards a united society.