Socialist Alliance: Voice to Parliament has to be more than a token gesture

January 25, 2023
Sydney, last September. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

This Invasion Day comes as the Labor government prepares to hold a referendum to amend the Constitution to establish an “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice” to make representations to parliament and the federal government on “matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples”.

Essentially, the objective is simply to set up another First Nations advisory body to the federal government.

At its best moments, the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee, established by the Whitlam Labor government in 1973 helped mobilise First Nations resistance to the weakening of the limited land rights that had been won through popular struggles.

But the historical record shows that Labor and Coalition governments consistently resisted any proposals from these advisory bodies.

Given this history, it is unsurprising that the Voice proposal faces criticism from militant First Nations activists. They have seen the previous token gestures to address the oppression of First Nations peoples that instead demobilise rising movements for First Nations justice.

At its 17th National Conference, January 14–15, the Socialist Alliance passed the following resolution.

* * *

In the face of a rising movement for First Nations justice, Australian governments have made token gestures at addressing the oppression of First Nations peoples.

There is a persisting and growing gap on a number of key social indicators between First Nations peoples and the rest of the population. This includes the ongoing removal of children from First Nations families and communities; First Nations deaths in custody; and the attacks on First Nations peoples’ land and sea rights by mining and other corporate interests.

The current moves by the Anthony Albanese Labor government for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum will be another token gesture, unless the government is also forced by a strong popular movement for real First Nations justice.

Socialist Alliance reaffirms its commitment to a genuine treaty process with First Nations peoples.

Socialist Alliance will critically support a “Yes” vote in the referendum on federal constitutional recognition of First Nations people and for a First Nations Voice to Parliament if these measures do not in any way weaken First Nations’ sovereignty and treaty demands.

Further, Socialist Alliance supports calls from First Nations activists for the federal government to fund and support a Truth and Justice Commission to fully investigate and educate the public on historical and ongoing oppression of the First Nations peoples. This commission should be empowered to make recommendations to address the consequences of this oppression and the government must commit to fully implementing such recommendations.

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