Monday, 15 September 2014

Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples: review report required by legislation to be handed to federal government by 27 September 2014

Tony Abbott is determined that recognising indigenous people in Australia's constitution is a "national crusade'' that should be important to everyone…. He has promised to finalise a draft form of words for changing the constitution by September. [The Australian, 26 January 2014]

Under federal legislation, An Act to provide for the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, enacted by the former Gillard Government, a review committee comprising former Nationals MP & Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson, Campaign Director of Recognise Tanya Hosch and Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister & Cabinet Mr Richard Eccles, was formed by the Abbott Government in March 2014.

This committee is under a mandatory deadline and has until 27 September 2014 to submit its report to the Federal Government on support for a referendum to amend the Constitution.

Another requirement under this legislation means that the Abbott Government must table this review committee report in the House of Representatives within 15 sitting days of receiving it - that is on or before 27 November 2014.

Thus far there has been no media release from the Minister for Indigenous Affairs concerning receipt of the report.

As has become the norm these days, Abbott & Co. appear to be briefing the media before the Australian Parliament and people:

TONY Abbott’s hand-picked panel advising on a constitutional change to recognise Aborigines has paved the way for delaying a vote as late as the 50th anniv­ersary of the highly successful 1967 “Aboriginal” referendum.
The panel is concerned that the public is not nearly ready for a recognition referendum and has raised the possibility of delaying the vote until 2017 — after the next election.
The foremost recommendation that has gone to the government is that a “council of elders” — indigenous and non-indigenous — be established to oversee and crystallise the referendum model for constitutional change.
The new council would be separate from the other inquiries and panels currently reviewing the future of the referendum.
The recommendations of the review panel, chaired by ­former deputy prime minister John ­Anderson, include the ­creation of a timeline for action as soon as possible.
Recognising that poor public awareness and ­extreme views would threaten any referendum held too soon, the review panel canvassed with the government an “outer limit” for the vote of the 50th ­anniversary of the 1967 referendum, the highest “yes” vote in a referendum in Australia’s history…. [The Australian, 12 September 2014]

Scullion also said it was unlikely the referendum would be put to voters in this term of parliament. He said it would be a “very brave” government who injected this issue into its first bid for re-election. [The Guardian, 9 September 2014]

It seems that the Abbott Government intends to allow the current recognition legislation to lapse on 27 March 2015 without there being a timetable for a national referendum or concrete details of any referendum question.

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