It seems at this stage at least, the idea of an indigenous voice in our national parliament is a vague concept that needs more meat on the bones.
So many questions and so few answers.
What is it exactly? What will it look like? What will its powers be and what exactly will it be designed to achieve? Who will it represent? What are its goals and key performance indicators (KPI’s) and how will they be measured? Who will constitute the committee?
Will they be nominated or elected? If so by whom?
If The Voice recommends or advises a particular course of action with respect to a particular policy area and the government of the day declines the advice, what then?
In this wired and interconnected world, what will it be able to achieve or bring to the attention of our national parliament, already with at least three popularly elected indigenous representatives (Dodson, Burney and Wyatt) that hasn’t been, or can’t already be brought to the attention of parliament?
What would be the mix of representation of those that sit on the committee, in terms of demographic, geographic and political representation? Would for example, Jacinta Price get a look in or be locked out?
What will a parliamentary indigenous voice in 2019 be able to achieve that ATSIC wasn’t able to achieve between 1989 and 2005?
Is the intention to take this to a referendum without giving too much away in terms of how it will operate and relying on the people to buy into it on the back of community goodwill and a guilt trip of other Australians?
In the areas of health, housing, education, work opportunities and drug addiction, how would it make a difference?
What would it bring to the attention of the parliament of which it is not already aware via the Department of Indigenous affairs?
How many and by how much will it lift those living a life of poverty and penury in remote areas out of their situation. By how much will the low indigenous life expectancy be lifted because of the Indigenous Voice?
Will The Voice get kids to school and decrease family violence and child abuse?
What about illiteracy? What about the prevalence of kidney disease, glaucoma, diabetes and the chronic cases of deafness by infection?
ATSIC was established in 1989 to oversee indigenous matters but was abolished in a bipartisan decision in 2005 due to scandal and corruption.
Isn’t the concept of an Indigenous Voice just another sideways version of ATSIC, but this time concreted and embedded in the constitution, and therefore can’t be abolished under similar circumstances?
Is the Indigenous Voice the first move in a long game to seek reparations? If so to whom? A central body or individuals?
Is the long game about a treaty and if so between which parties and represented by whom?
Is it between federal or state governments or both and whichever it is, which Indigenous body, tribe or First Nations? (purloined from the Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada)
Finally, which indigenous people will The Voice purport to represent?
Could it be explained how the 79.5% (the actual figure) of indigenous people who work and play and live out ordinary lives alongside their fellow Australians and are generally getting on with their lives in the cities, suburbs and towns across the country, aren’t already represented in parliament?
How will they benefit further?
As for the remaining twenty percent that live in remote areas they too are represented but unfortunately the ‘loudest voice in the room’ of the educated, gentrified and urban indigenous elites who are more proximate to the state and federal centres of power and who have no understanding and seemingly no care of their brethren’s circumstances, drown them out. Where’s the voice of that 20% now?
As the indigenous minister for indigenous affairs, Ken Wyatt himself has asked: “..how long has it been since those inner city indigenous elites and city based indigenous organisations sat down and talked to those in remote communities?’
If they have, what thoughts and ideas have they developed and brought back and recommended to parliament as a way forward?
Until they can answer these questions and probably many others and fill in the blanks, this entire putsch will be seen as one, of the indigenous elites, by the indigenous elites and for the indigenous elites..