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Coalition dodges questions on Treaty and January 26

Giovanni Torre – September 18, 2023

Conflicting statements by leading No campaigners about the prospects of treaties and changing the date of Australia Day have seen a senior Coalition MP refuse – five times – to say whether he supported Warren Mundine’s comments on the two issues.

On Sunday Mr Mundine told ABC’s Insiders he backed treaty and changing the date, and said both would be more likely if the Voice proposal was defeated.

“I’ve always been honest, even though I know people on my side don’t agree with me on these two issues,” he said.

Mr Mundine said that while January 26 “will always be an important day because of the fact that European countries came to Australia and set up the colonies here (and) We can’t get away from that”, we also “can’t become captive of it”.

“We have to face the facts and move on. Yes, recognise history. Yes, recognise the invasion. Recognise the good and bad that is in our history, but we still have to move on. We are going through this perennial argument which is not helping us. We are just arguing and arguing and arguing about this … we need to confront it and talk about it. We need to have a mature debate,” he said.

Mr Mundine said he supported “treaties in the plural sense because we have to recognise Aboriginal culture” and that treaties “solve issues of sovereignty”.

“We need to give protection to Aboriginal culture and Aboriginal heritage on these lands and we are moving very strongly in that position with the Land Rights Act and Native Title Act where Aboriginal people have a major say on what happens on their land,” he said.

“We need to resolve the issues and stop the fights.”

Asked on Seven’s Sunrise program the same day if he supported Mr Mundine’s position regarding treaties and changing the date, former deputy PM, Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce, refused to answer directly.

Sunrise host Nat Barr put the question to Mr Joyce again, and the MP gave another non-answer, saying Australia was a “peaceful nation that has never had major internal conflict” that “lives with the No case as the status quo”.

“I can’t see why that will substantially change in regards to treaty but I can tell you that delivering on the Uluru Statement in full is yes to the referendum, yes to treaty,” he said.

Ms Barr asked three more times without a direct answer forthcoming.

Mr Mundine also told Insiders said he opposed the Indigenous Voice to Parliament because it would simply put “another body of bureaucracy” on top of these existing systems.

“Because on October 15, if it is a No vote, that’s when the real work starts… We have to have accountability. We are spending billions of dollars every year and according to Closing the Gap we are still not going places. We have to deal with that. And also the real things about accountability, in education, in jobs and that needs to be done. Now, if we can do just three things — accountability, jobs and education — then we will resolve most of the problems we’ve got,” he said.

Treaty is one of the three elements of the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart — “Voice, Treaty and Truth”.

Victoria and Queensland have begun formal treaty processes.

Barnaby Joyce during the Voice debate in parliament. Image: Mick Tsikas (AAP)