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Thursday, 3 August 2023
Page: 56

Mr LITTLEPROUD (MaranoaLeader of the Nationals) (14:50): I second the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I second the motion because this Prime Minister and government have taken our nation to a pivotal moment in its history. While that's their prerogative, the onus of their responsibility is to lead our country and build trust, with honesty and transparency, about their proposition to the Australian people. It's an important decision about their Constitution. They should be brought along on that journey every step of the way. The Uluru Statement from the Heart is one about voice, truth and treaty. That journey should be explained in entirety, not in part.

This is an important moment for our nation's history, for our nation to make a determination. The proper procedures and processes should be taken from the outset. Because the Prime Minister has failed to trust the Australian people, to bring the Australian people on this journey with him, we have seen the erosion of support for this first element, the Voice, from over 60 per cent in December last year to now less than 50 per cent today. That's a direct result of the government failing to create an environment for the Australian people to have faith and trust in their government in the proposition they put before them. They failed to create an environment where they went through due process, of a constitutional convention. Australians were denied that due process.

Instead, they deferred to the Uluru Statement from the Heart, where only one cohort of Australians got to make a determination about our constitutional future. That's not leadership. That's not about bringing the Australian people on a journey. That is creating division. That erodes the opportunity for every Australian to have a say in their document, a document that is important to them, that governs them and will define our nation into the future. They have misled the Australian people in saying that the Voice is a new concept. It's not. We are repeating the mistakes of the past. We had a representative body before. It was called ATSIC.

It's for that premise that the National Party, some nine months ago, made a principled position that we cannot repeat the mistakes of the past. We're not doing something new. We represent the people who are the most disadvantaged. We bear the scars from the mistakes of the past and the ones that we will repeat. We need an intervention in 2023. That intervention needs to be in bureaucracy. It needs to be about reshaping the bureaucracy and empowering local elders in local communities—not regionally, but in the local community—empowering those local elders, because we're repeating the mistakes of the past and they will not shift the dial.

We have the data. We have the understanding, of where the gap needs to be closed. This is about making sure Canberra goes to them, not have them come to Canberra. Don't allow bureaucracy to repeat the mistakes of generalising the feedback into national programs. You need local programs to close the gap. You need to be able to understand what they are in bespoke models, in bespoke communities. This is a government-top operation saying to the people out there, 'We know best,' instead of empowering those local elders.

This isn't about tangible outcomes. Because if this was about what we all want, which is Constitutional recognition, we made it very clear that if we didn't conflate the two, if we wanted to unify our nation in a meaningful way, to take opportunity, to take that hand on both sides—a moment of political leadership where this nation could actually achieve what the Prime Minister set out to in Constitutional recognition—that would be a unifying moment. But it has been lost, not just in how this Voice has been devised but in the processes that flow beyond it. It's about the processes of treaty, and the consequences and the reach of that, so that Australians understand. If the Prime Minister wants Australians to come on this journey with him, he should be prepared not only to put the legislation for the Voice to parliament to demonstrate he runs the business in this parliament, and be open and transparent to the Australian people about what it is, but also to be open and transparent to the Australian people about what a treaty is, how far-reaching it is and what it means for every Australian. This could be a unifying moment but, unfortunately, this Prime Minister has missed it.