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17 Jun 2019 14:35
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  •   Home > News > International

    Indigenous MPs split on what federal election 2019 result means for Aboriginal affairs

    Labor Senator Pat Dodson and Liberal MP Ken Wyatt stick to party lines over which side had the better agenda for Aboriginal affairs and providing an Indigenous voice to the Parliament.

    Senator Pat Dodson has said Australia would have been a better nation if Labor had won the federal election.

    The WA Senator, who was expected to be Indigenous affairs minister, said Labor's agenda was a positive one when compared to the Liberals'.

    "We would've seen a different Australia," he said.

    "A totally different Australia, one where there's greater equity, greater fairness, and greater prosperity for all Australians.

    "But also one with greater social equity, with the tolerance and respect for our differences and diversity would've been more part of our civil fabric than it is under these people."

    Going into the election campaign, federal Labor had committed to a plan for a referendum on constitutional recognition for Indigenous people.

    Senator Dodson said this, and the Indigenous voice to Parliament, seemed to be lost.

    "Now we've gone back to potentially not having a voice to Parliament for First Nations people, no referendum on that matter.

    "The removal of the Makarrata Commission, so no real interest in truth telling and agreement making.

    "And certainly no regional assemblies to enable First Nations people to have a greater say in their own affairs.

    "So, a real rolling back, and more of the draconian activities that have underpinned the CDEP program with penalties applying to people and treating First Nations people as mendicants and a drain on the public sector."

    Senator Dodson said he believed a reforming, visionary agenda had been destroyed with lies and creating fear, and a "misperception" of what Labor stood for.

    Wyatt says Coalition win still gives Indigenous voice to Parliament

    Ken Wyatt, who has been serving as Minister for Aged Care, and Australia's first Minister for Indigenous Health, has rejected Senator Dodson's claims.

    Mr Wyatt said he considered Mr Dodson to be a friend, and said he would've made a great minister.

    "I have no doubt about that," he said.

    "He and I and Linda [Burney] and Malarndirri [McCarthy] talk frequently, we set aside the political differences.

    "We talk about the philosophical things we are aiming to achieve but at the same time we recognise our party positions are different."

    Mr Wyatt said Labor's loss didn't mean the end of an Indigenous voice to Parliament.

    "It doesn't set back the causes for a voice to Parliament of some form, certainly a better way of engaging with Aboriginal people.

    "I know that in Aboriginal health we were establishing strong partnerships so I can't see that diminishing.

    "I have every faith in the Prime Minister to continue the work that we were proposing in the Aboriginal Affairs reform agenda."

    Mr Wyatt said he wanted a structure to which Indigenous people could bring their concerns, and then that body could work with relevant ministers, including the Prime Minister.

    "If we do that, then that provides an avenue for people having a say in their future, but we've got to get it right at the community level," he said.

    Mr Wyatt said if he was offered the Aboriginal Affairs portfolio, he would "do it with great pride", but said it was up to the Prime Minister and he wouldn't seek to "circumvent" any decision.

    "Any position you're given in cabinet is an honour to serve in," he said.

    © 2019 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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