The truth was that Prime Minister Jonesy had never really been interested in First Nations issues. When his advisers told him the Voice was a matter of manners, it seemed fair enough. The referendum went through, pushed by $200 million from his government. Now the Voice MPs had him over a barrel. They were demanding 10 per cent Indigenous staff for the new submarines, which was impossible. As a result, the Bill could not pass.
“Why didn’t someone explain this to me?” Jonesy asked his chief of staff. “I will be a laughing stock in Washington and London.”
“Paris and Beijing too,” the advisor added. It was his job to be honest with the PM.
“They’re supposed to be on our side,” Jonesy said.
On top of that, the Voice MPs wanted some other alarming things. Houses with air-conditioning for every First Nation person sounded reasonable in the Northern Territory, but 70 per cent of them were being built in Sydney and Melbourne. Same for late model 4WDs. Cabinet had approved the deal based on conditions in remote areas, but they were being driven in the south by university academics and students.
An ABC journalist had been booked for parking in a First Nations parking area at Bondi Beach and was furious. Four Corners was now making phone calls to get to the bottom of how such a divisive outrage could have occurred.
Read it all.
A reminder about ATSIC:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) (1990–2005) was the Australian Government body through which Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders were formally involved in the processes of government affecting their lives.
Geoff Clark (pictured) is an Australian Aboriginal politician and activist.