Turnbull had no choice on indigenous recognition

Turnbull had no choice on indigenous recognition, by Paul Kelly.

Malcolm Turnbull had no choice. The referendum to enshrine an indigenous voice in the Constitution is dead.

Three months after its release, its fate was obvious: this referendum had no prospect of being passed. …

The Prime Minister’s message brings overdue realism to this issue. He rejects the proposal as a bad idea and something the public would never contemplate. He is right on both counts.

Beware false laments for this idea. No one at any stage offered a credible view of how the public would accept a proposal that amounted to a blank cheque. The Referendum Council, which submitted this idea on a take-it-or-leave-it basis this year, ultimately was responsible for a serious blunder. …

Much of indigenous leadership sentiment is geared to a treaty rather than constitutional recognition. That is a tragedy. Indigenous leaders asked for too much and are left with very little. …

Turnbull yesterday told some fundamental truths: that constitutional recognition must be based on “equal civic rights” as distinct from separate arrangements for ­indigenous people; that a body representing indigenous people in our Constitution was a false step and never going to be accepted by the nation; and the true course for ­indigenous representation was through indigenous MPs sitting in the national parliament not in ­advisory bodies. …

The initial view of John Howard and Tony Abbott when they backed this concept was to complete the Constitution. Yet a combination of indigenous leaders and Labor trashed this idea. The process has never recovered — a truth most don’t want to confront.