Constitution should recognize Indigenous people as first Australians, says Noel Pearson – Michmutters

Constitution should recognize Indigenous people as first Australians, says Noel Pearson

The Albanese government’s proposal to enshrine an Indigenous advisory body in the constitution should include words that formally recognize Indigenous people as Australia’s first inhabitants, advocate Noel Pearson says.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese outlined the core three sentences of a draft constitutional change in a speech to the Garma Festival of Aboriginal culture on the weekend.

Those three sentences would establish a Voice, with a role of advising the parliament and the executive, with its exact powers to be defined by the parliament in future legislation.

But right before outlining the proposed words, the prime minister said the change would be “in recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the First Peoples of Australia”.

Mr Pearson said it was important that those introductory words themselves be written into the constitution, alongside the enshrinement of the Voice.

“I think that they’re important words to retain as a prelude to those … substantive sentences,” he said.

7.30 host Sarah Ferguson asked if that recognition needed to be “spelled out” in a clause of the constitution, or whether it could be sufficiently “implicit” in the creation of the Voice.

But Mr Pearson said again the words of recognition were an important inclusion.

“It would adorn the substantive words,” he said.

Voice proposal ‘constitutionally conservative’ and practical

Anthony Albanese speaks from a podium on a stage at the Garma Festival
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese speaks at the Garma Festival on Saturday.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

Mr Pearson said the Voice proposal should appeal to “constitutional conservatives” because it respected the primacy of the constitution and the parliament.

“This isn’t a proposition that has its origins in a leftist proposal. And in my view, this is the formula for success, because we need conservative constitutionals and conservatives and Liberals generally, to join this journey to complete the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Mr Pearson said he was “extremely moved” by Mr Albanese’s speech at Garma.

“I didn’t know that he could connect with me in that way.” Mr Pearson said.

yin and yang

The Opposition’s shadow attorney-general, Julian Leeser, has left the door open to the Coalition supporting the proposal while calling on the government to release more detail about the body’s role.

Indigenous Coalition senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price has called the Voice an exercise in “virtue signaling” over practical action.


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