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  • Rikki Lambert

SA's Indigenous Voice half-way there


The Malinauskas Labor government's push to change the state constitution to enable a new indigenous body to appear before parliament has passed the state's upper house.


The bill is opposed by the SA Liberal opposition and One Nation MLC Sarah Game, but passed with the support of the two South Australian Greens MLCs.


Debate now shifts to the House of Assembly from 7 March, before which the proposed voice would be able to send its elected representatives to speak on issues of concern to indigenous people.


Aboriginal Affairs Minister Kyam Maher said the vote was a significant moment in the state's history.

"We are leading the nation in our delivery of a First Nations Voice to Parliament.
"Never before has a house of parliament in an Australian state or territory given endorsement to a model of this nature.
"We still have a long way to go, but I welcome this significant step forward to giving our First Nations people the voice they deserve in state parliament."

The Opposition say the bill is rushed and defective, with shadow Attorney General Josh Teague telling Flow on Thursday:

" It's a bad bill, provides for a model that just isn't workable, that's particularly in relation to the way it would provide for engagement to Parliament, just a disconnect that won't work. And we're committed to improving outcomes, practical outcomes, for Aboriginal people throughout South Australia.

The shadow minister drew the distinction between the federal debate on a referendum to insert a Voice into the Australian constitution, with what is going through parliament in South Australia to change the constitution without a referendum:

"There's no requirement for a referendum in South Australia and this is a very different thing and it's important to highlight the difference. And there is a federal debate going on. That's true. This bill would provide for changes to the constitution. There's no referendum required to do it because the relevant parts of the constitution are not entrenched or requiring a referendum.

That said, the way that the constitutional changes are presented in the bill, they're presented in such a way as to give significance to those statements and to put them in the Constitution Act raises them to a level of at least a projected level of importance and we need to look very closely at that, of course.


This is a bad bill. It's defective in a whole variety of ways

Listen to the full interview with shadow attorney-general Josh Teague on the Flow podcast player below:


Flow has asked the Aboriginal Affairs minister several times to speak about the bill with no response.



TRANSCRIPT

The following is an automatically generated transcript and may contain errors. Check against audio delivery.


LAMBERT:

Josh Teague is the Shadow Attorney General in South Australia. Thanks for joining us today on Flow, Josh.


TEAGUE:

Thanks for having me on your programme, Rikki, and g’day to all of your listeners.


LAMBERT:

Thanks very much. We have been tracing this debate about a voice to the South Australian Parliament being proposed by Premier Peter Malinauskas. Now, where has the opposition landed on this at the moment?


TEAGUE:

Well, you're right to say that the government has introduced in the last couple of weeks the opposition opposes the bill. It's a bad bill, provides for a model that just isn't workable, that's particularly in relation to the way it would provide for engagement to Parliament, just a disconnect that won't work. And we're committed to improving outcomes, practical outcomes, for Aboriginal people throughout South Australia.


This is a bad bill. It's defective in a whole variety of ways and I'd be happy to spell that out to your listeners and I know that in due course, people will be interested to look at the detail of this bill, but it really is a bad model and for that reason we oppose it.


LAMBERT:

Well. And you're the shadow minister for shadow Attorney General. It does look to me, when I tried to look at it in some detail, that it looks like a shadow parliament in the sense that people get elected and there could be dozens, if not more people that are elected to this. They call it a voice, but it's really another chamber, isn't it?


TEAGUE:

Part 4 of the bill provides for the means by which this body would engage with the Parliament and it has been described in terms of a third chamber, because what's clear about the way this model would work is that the body that's directed by the bill would come onto the floor of Parliament and weigh in on every piece of legislation that the Parliament was looking at. But worse than that, it would do so in an unworkable way because it wouldn't be connected to the debate. It might happen before, during or after the debate and in a way that's just not defined at all.


Now, the model that I've introduced, and that's been on the notice paper for a long period of time, provides real mechanisms by which Aboriginal people can work up policy that's going to make real differences.


That stands in stark contrast with the model in this bill. That's regrettable. And it's the result, I might say, of the government having ignored the work that's been done over many years, going back to Professor Roger Thomas, Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement back as far as 2018, ignored that, decided to reset a process in its own image and has gone and produced this bill, which is just unfortunately not workable.


And we're about legislating for improvement and I'll certainly not stand by and wave through defective legislation.


LAMBERT:

Now, we spoke and always tried to speak with the Attorney General and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Kyam Maher about this proposal they've put forward. He's so far declined to interview on their version of The Voice. But what I find odd about this is that Labor, I think, going right back to the Dunstan years, preached about one vote, one value, but yet an Aboriginal person would get to vote, say, in the seat of Stuart or Frome or anywhere else in the state. But then they get another dip through their representative elected through the voice.


TEAGUE:

Well, we all know that those of us who are fortunate to be elected to the Parliament. Elected to represent all South Australians. There's no doubt about that. And I also note that there are a range of bodies that can speak up and make contributions for particular groups within South Australia. The challenge, Rikki, for any step that we take is that it must be a step towards greater unity.

And in order to have a step towards greater unity, you've got to have effective means by which to bring about improvement. Now, this bill, and I say particularly in relation to the way that it provides for engagement to the Parliament, unfortunately won't do it.


It has hallmarks of ceremonial or formal engagement and a number of set pieces in the course of a year, but nothing in terms of the means by which to achieve real improvement.


LAMBERT:

I guess it really comes down to now the Upper House, the Liberal Party is in opposition, doesn't have the numbers in the Lower House. Is there a prospect that this could be waved through with the support of the Greens or, what, SA Best, or both?


TEAGUE:

Well, we understand clearly enough that the Government's gone about this in such a way to secure the support of the Greens. And so it's really a Labor-Green coalition that guarantees the passage of the bill in the Legislative Council. That's where the debate is happening. This week. The Government said that it wants to rush it through, I think, in a very hasty way, through the Legislative Council council this week.


It's been described, not by me, but by others, in terms of the haste with which that is occurring. And we know that the Government has the numbers in the Lower House, but that's no reason to sit back and to say, well, we don't control the outcome, so we'll just give up and let it go.

We need to speak up for the merits. And I'll continue to do that each day, that's my job.


LAMBERT:

And just on a legal point, but I think it's a significant one, knowing there's a federal debate about a referendum on a voice to the Federal Parliament. There's no referendum required here. The Parliament can actually make changes to the constitution, or is it not making changes to the constitution in this particular package?


TEAGUE:

It's true that there's no requirement for a referendum in South Australia and this is a very different thing and it's important to highlight the difference. And there is a federal debate going on. That's true. This bill would provide for changes to the constitution. There's no referendum required to do it because the relevant parts of the constitution are not entrenched or requiring a referendum.


That said, the way that the constitutional changes are presented in the bill, they're presented in such a way as to give significance to those statements and to put them in the Constitution Act raises them to a level of at least a projected level of importance and we need to look very closely at that, of course.


LAMBERT:

So is there a prospect there could be a Supreme Court challenge in relation to the bill, if it does, to get through the Parliament?


TEAGUE:

Well, I don't anticipate that, as presently advised, but I'll be certainly looking through all of this in close detail. And I come back to the point, if we're going to legislate, we've got to legislate in ways can I say this, Rikki, in ways that are characterised by a degree of humility and practicality. There's no doubting that we've been over decades and decades, involved in searching for improvement. For Aboriginal people. It's a perennial challenge. We need to walk together towards better unity and better outcomes. But we won't do that by waving through a defective bill and a bad model.


LAMBERT:

Well. Josh Teague, the shadow Attorney General, thanks for going through that with us. We'd love to speak with the actual attorney general as well, but as yet, no dice. Thanks so much for joining us today.


TEAGUE:

Thanks for having me, Rikki. And glad to speak again soon.





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