A Treaty Process Post Election?

January 15, 2019

 by Charles Pakana. Treaty Engagement Correspondent

On Saturday the 24th of November, Victorians will take to the polls to vote for the next State Government.

Regardless of your preferred party, your vote will have an impact on the Treaty process. Based on interviews conducted over the past several weeks with Aboriginal Affairs/Justice spokespersons from the three main parties – the ALP, Liberal/National Coalition and Greens – here’s how this will unfold.

In a nutshell, the incumbent ALP government remains committed to the treaty path along which it first started walking in 2016 with the community consultation and the formation of the Treaty Working Group.

The Liberal/National Coalition has remained steadfast also, but in contrast to the ALP and Greens, it is committed to pushing treaty off onto the Federal Government.

The Greens, with Lidia Thorpe, MP as its Aboriginal Justice spokesperson, while strongly supportive of treaty, have been emphatic and vocal in their call for changes to the currently proposed treaty process.

The Coalition: Leave it to Federal

Coalition spokesperson for Aboriginal Affairs, Tim Bull, MP, said: “We won’t be proceeding with the process at a state level. Our leader made that fairly clear. For the simple reason that it’s best suited for the Federal level.”

Even if the Coalition were to win power at the election, it will face difficulties in bringing the process to a halt. With the process protected under law – The Advancing Treaty with Aboriginal Victorians Act 2018 – the Coalition would need to seek amendment or repealing of the Act support in both the Victorian Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament.

With 45 seats required in the Lower House for a clear majority, the Coalition would need to gain at least another six seats (building on its current 39) to achieve that majority.

(The full interview of our interview with Tim Bull, MP, can be found here.)

The Greens: Support with changes

According to Victorian Greens Aboriginal Justice spokesperson Lidia Thorpe, MP, calling for a lifting of bureaucratic layers and full representation of the 38 Victorian Aboriginal Nations in the proposed Aboriginal Representative Body (ARB).

“Bureaucracy to be lifted and to go back to Aboriginal lore, which is the 38 Nations,” Ms. Thorpe said. “We need to… allow all Nations to have a voice, which they’ve had since the beginning of time.”

Along with full representation for all 38 Nations, the Greens are also insistent that there be other major changes.

“We’d like to see sovereignty recognised and we’d also like to see a meaningful way that Elders, not just participate, but provide that cultural authority to people. It’s disrespectful to tack Elders in on the end…”

Ms. Thorpe has stated, though, that the Greens are committed to working with the Government to achieve treaty.

(The full interview of our interview with Lidia Thorpe, MP, can be found here.)

The ALP: Within 12 months of election

For the ALP, the planned direction post an election win is absolutely clear – proceed as planned and manage challenges as and when they arise.

This is particularly evident when it comes to Nations whose whose lands fall across State borders. The Yorta Yorta Nation, for example, has traditional ownership of lands in Victoria and New South Wales.

While the Coalition pushed this as a reason for treaty to be left to the Federal Government, ALP’s Natalie Hutchins, MP, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, said: “They’re issues that local governments and State government face already with people that operate and utilise resources on either side [of borders].”

For the ALP, its treaty goals are made succinctly in Ms. Hutchins’ comment: “…hopefully be at the negotiating table within 12 months of the election.”

(The full interview of our interview with Natalie Hutchins, MP, can be found here.)