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Monday, 1 August 2022
Page: 257


Senator ROBERTS (Queensland) (11:37): What an honour to follow Senator Price, a woman, a person, an Australian of integrity; a deeply caring and informed person; a practical person.

As a servant to the people of Queensland and Australia, I wish to indicate some concerns I have about this bill, which is both divisive and, mostly, unnecessary. Our country is Australia. Our country consists of people from many nations, cultures and religions and from many racial groups providing a rich tapestry of positive contributions to our Australian nation. What we do not want or need is legislation that picks out a particular cultural group and makes laws aimed at that particular cultural group, driving a potentially divisive wedge between Aboriginal Australians and other Australians. It does not matter where a person comes from or what that person's cultural or racial background is. 'I am, you are, we are Australian' are the words of a well-known theme song. And it's true. We know that, and we do not need legislation that is geared to a 'them and us' mentality that leads to a 'them versus us' mentality.

This bill is intended to affirm into Australian domestic law the contents and intention of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This is a requirement necessary before the UN declaration provisions become enforceable in Australian law. Aboriginal Australians, as Australians, already have the same rights as any other Australian right now. If there are gaps in services available to Aboriginal Australians, these gaps are due to poverty and remoteness, issues that affect many isolated people across our country. It's the failings of successive governments to adequately address health, housing, education and infrastructure that have led to many people, Aboriginal and otherwise, to fall into the poverty gap. I call on the Australian government to address these issues with priority before considering this bill, which is unnecessary and does nothing more than acknowledge what is already in place for all Australians.

This bill perpetuates the victimhood of Aboriginal people. It places blame on the past cultural divide for the current plight of some Aboriginal minorities. There are many Aboriginal people in Australia who have access to free education, have worked hard and have prospered as Australians in the broader community. I followed one in this speaking roster. They do not need this bill. There are many Aboriginal Australians who would be offended by the content of this bill, which virtually enshrines a them-and-us mentality.

The most divisive clause in this bill is clause 7, which throws blame on colonisation for all the ills that prevent their right to develop in accord with their own needs and interests. All of this is in the face of facts, including that determined native title claims now cover approximately half of the Australian land mass, Aboriginal Australians represent approximately 3½ per cent of Australia's population and all Aboriginal children are entitled to scholarships to continue education through high school and beyond. Assistance to Aboriginal families has now become an enviable yet divisive issue within small remote communities where other minorities in similar living conditions are not able to access assistance at the same level. This is where the true problem lies. Treating Australians differently on the basis of race is racist, scientifically false, legally questionable, morally condemnable and socially unjust. It is simply wrong.

I want to draw the chamber's attention to three words: care, core and cure. That is what we must do if we really care for people. We care enough to get the facts, to understand the core issue. Then, and only then, do we have any right to impose a cure or to propose a cure. Greens and Labor do the reverse—cure first and ignore the core. That shows they do not care. To truly care for any group of people, we need to care enough to understand their issues, and that means listening and having the courage to really listen, and then we must have the courage and the integrity to address those issues. Virtue signalling is hollow, dishonest and uncaring. Following the UN is hollow, dishonest and uncaring, and it means selling out Australians, all Australians. I do not support this bill.