ABC AM Programme Interview with Anna Henderson

Release Date: 
4 July 2015

Topics: Constitutional recognition E&OE…

Monday's summit on the referendum to recognise Indigenous Australians in the constitution is looking as though it might not reach any consensus.

Indigenous representatives remain sharply divided on the best way to achieve constitutional recognition - and the Government is also facing internal dissent.

The Prime Minister's parliamentary secretary, Alan Tudge, will be among a small group of non-Indigenous MPs who will attend the summit.

He told our reporter Anna Henderson that the Government hasn't yet settled on a position.

The meeting is mainly about us listening to the Indigenous leaders. Of course, the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader will give some indicative sense of where their thinking is but the main process, the main purpose is to listen to what they have to say and a way forward from here.


And one of the key things that came out of the committee process last week was a multi- partisan endorsement of the proposal that included an option to prohibit race discrimination in the constitution. Is that something your Government would support?

Oh, listen, we're not at the stage yet to be making "yes" or "no" decisions to particular proposals.


On Monday, clearly, we'll be discussing various different options but we won't be settling on a form of words on Monday; rather, that we'll be outlining some principles and trying to reach a consensus how we go forward from here.



What's your message to those within your own party who are now actively campaigning against a referendum? What's your message to those forces within your own party?

Oh, I'll have private conversations with my own colleagues. But overall, we will just be asking people to be open-minded and generous in their views.


We've heard from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Gooda, that he would like to see the question settled by the end of this year. Can the Government meet that timeline?

Listen, we haven't got an exact timeline for when a form of words will be produced. It's going to be governed by when we reach a broad consensus, rather than a specific timeline.

And at this stage we still have more work to do. We want to do it but we don't want to rush it. The important thing is to get it right.


What do you say to those people who haven't been invited to this meeting and feel  excluded through that process, including the Aboriginal Land Council representatives in New South Wales - who say they're the biggest Land Council. This meeting is happening on their land.

Why haven't they been given a seat at the table?

Listen, I'd just say to them that this is just one further step in the process and it's not the last step but it's just a further step. And there'll be plenty more opportunities for everybody to have their say because, at the end of the day, we want to build as large a consensus as possible so that we have the best chance of having a successful referendum down the track.