Canberra, Feb 15 (IANS) Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been labelled as “deceitful” over his public rejection of enshrining an indigenous voice in the nation’s constitution.
Noel Pearson, an indigenous leader from Cape York in far north Queensland, and other members of the Referendum Council on Thursday expressed their outrage with the Prime Minister over an answer he gave in Parliamentary Question Time on Tuesday, Xinhua news reported.
In response to a question from Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Turnbull told Parliament that he had warned the Referendum Council that “a representative body available only to Indigenous Australians” was “inconsistent with a fundamental principle of our democracy.”
The Referendum Council is a body that was appointed by Turnbull and Shorten to advise on the best way to formally recognise the indigenous population in the Australian Constitution.
In June 2017, the council recommended that a referendum should be held on establishing an indigenous advisory body that would be consulted by Parliament on legislation and policy affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. However, Turnbull rejected the proposal.
“I also said, being frank and honest, that I thought the prospects of such an amendment to the constitution being successful were absolutely zero, absolutely zero,” the Prime Minister told Parliament on Tuesday.
Pearson said that Turnbull’s assertion on Tuesday was contrary to the advice given to the council in November 2016 that he would genuinely consider any proposal made by the council, including the ‘voice’ to the Parliament.
Pearson said Turnbull’s answer in Parliament exposed “his duplicity in relation to his dealing with Indigenous constitutional recognition” by misrepresenting what he told the council.
“The prime minister had pre-judged the whole dialogue process even before the consultations with indigenous people and the wider Australian community had even commenced,” Pearson told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Thursday.
“His opposition to the ‘voice’ is based on his own opinion and takes no consideration of the outcomes of a public consultation process,” Pearson said.