In February 2016, I wrote an article for Green Left Weekly about that year’s Closing the Gap speech, with the headline “PM’s Closing the Gap speech — more Turnbullshit”. Aptly named I thought. But two years later nothing has changed.
The federal Coalition government is planning to hold a referendum in 2017 on Constitutional Recognition of Australia’s original inhabitants. So far the campaign consists of establishing the Recognise campaign, in a bid to educate Australians about the importance of the recognition referendum. The government has already funded the Recognise campaign to the tune of $15 million, and promised another $15 million in this year’s budget. At the same time, it has cut funding to Aboriginal medical centres, Aboriginal legal services and other Indigenous programs and services.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull began the annual Prime Minister's “closing the gap” speech on February 10 with a few lines in the Ngunnawal language. But, as an Aboriginal woman, all I heard was more Turnbullshit. “We recognise that prior to the arrival of European settlers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians spoke hundreds of languages and over 600 dialects," he said. In my mind this means that, despite the Mabo High Court judgement of 1992, he still believes Australia was "settled".
The ACTU released a statement on June 22 highlighting one impact of the federal government’s White Paper on Developing Northern Australia. The government’s strategy to boost Aboriginal workforce participation in remote communities means that Northern Australian businesses will be able to exploit free Aboriginal labour.
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has written to Prime Minister Tony Abbott stating its complete opposition to the forced closure of remote Aboriginal communities.
Sharlene Leroy-Dyer, the lead Socialist Alliance candidate for the Legislative Council in the upcoming March 28 NSW elections, released this statement on February 11. * * * The NSW and other state governments must share the blame for the latest shameful and outrageous results of the Closing The Gap Report tabled by PM Tony Abbott in federal parliament today.
At its national conference over June 7-9, the Socialist Alliance adopted an amendment to its Charter of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Rights, which stated that it does not support Constitutional recognition in the current form put forward by the government and the Reconciliation Australia initiative Recognise. The policy now states that Constitutional recognition must be accompanied by sovereignty, land rights and a treaty.