Transcripts

Laura Jayes Sky News Interview | Buraadja

Laura Jayes

A statement from the heart. The statement was released four years ago and called for a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous advisory body to oversee treaty-making and truth telling. The book makes the case for constitutional reform, arguing that the liberal side of politics can take the lead on indigenous advancement. And Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg joins me now. I have the book in hand.

Good to see you. I'm going to say I haven't read it yet, but I have read the reviews and the excerpts in The Australian.

It seemed like at least the Turnbull government did not want to take this on. They completely shelved it. Is there any impetus within the Morrison government to do this? 

Andrew Bragg

Well, at the moment we've got a co-design process which is running by Ken Wyatt, which is looking at how a voice could be deployed. And I think it really is designed in my mind to meet two things. Firstly, you want to have a voice to give people on the ground agency and control to hear their voices. But also, I think there is a symbolic need here we need to deliver on, which is a debate that John Howard kicked off on constitutional recognition back in 2007. 

Laura Jayes

How important is that it's Indigenous led and there's not this top-down paternalistic approach.

Andrew Bragg

We've made this mistake for the last two hundred and fifty years, of thinking that we know better than indigenous people on matters that relate to their affairs. And so the whole point of having a voice is to make that a bottom up process where Indigenous people can have a say on policies and laws which affect them, which is, I would have thought, pretty straightforward.

Laura Jayes

I mean, the problem is with your side of politics, that there are constitutional conservatives. 

Andrew Bragg

I'm a constitutional conservative. 

Laura Jayes

OK, so what's the case for change then? 

Andrew Bragg

Well, I think if you were to pursue this to constitutional reform, which is where this debate started with John Howard, and therefore I think it should end with constitutional reform, I think you should have a fairly modest constitutional amendment to ensure that the Commonwealth does consult with indigenous people on laws and policies which relate to them. And then you could legislate the Voice.

 Laura Jayes

Your colleagues don't agree with you. Why not? 

Andrew Bragg

There are mixed views about this, but there is a good process which Ken Wyatt is running, where people have been free to put in submissions. I put in a submission that closed on Friday. Let's see what people say after all the submissions are in.

Laura Jayes

Are we going to get there?

Andrew Bragg

Well, I think we have to and I think the question is, what is going to be, now the process we're following here is to design the voice and then to consider legal and constitutional arrangements. So it's a two-step process. We're almost halfway through.

Laura Jayes

It feels like we're about 20 steps in.

Andrew Bragg

It's taken 15 years since John Howard put this on the map. And we really need to deliver this because the indigenous people won't wait forever and nor should they. I mean the Uluru statement is a very good statement.

It's a unifying statement. It's saying that indigenous people want to be in the Australian Constitution. I would have thought for patriots, it's a pretty good message.

Laura Jayes

It was dismissed so quickly by Malcolm Turnbull. Was that a mistake?

Andrew Bragg

I think that was mishandled and I think it was a real shame that the Uluru statement was dealt with in that way. The fact is, though, at the time there was much less detail about what the voice would be. I mean, Noel Pearson had discussed it in broad terms, and now there is a lot more meat on the bones. And we know what the voice would be.

It would be about providing agency and control on the ground. I think that is quite a conservative in quite a liberal notion. And so I'm more optimistic that we could pursue this agenda now.

Laura Jayes

For many Australians, this argument, or the debate about constitutional recognition seems really academic. And the question I get constantly is what does it change for the lives of Indigenous Australians?

Andrew Bragg

It's quite simple. So we have 18 different laws on the Commonwealth statute books which relate only to indigenous people. Indigenous people are the only Australians that have special laws made for them. And so this is about saying if you have special laws, you have to have a special system to manage those laws, to consult those people on how those laws are deployed.

Native title, land rights, heritage protection. For the moment, we just make the laws and we don't really have a system to engage with the people. So that is illiberal. So I think there is a liberal argument that is that you consult people when you make special laws.

Laura Jayes

What do you think about the changes? And this is a bit separate from your book. I acknowledge that, looking at changes in the curriculum.

Warren Mundine, for example, has criticised these changes and how First Nations people is taught in schools.

Andrew Bragg

It's not a choice. I mean, this is not England, this is Australia. And so indigenous heritage and culture is part of this land, just as the British institutions are just as the multicultural tenor is of our country. As Noel Pearson has talked about, we're a, we are a three-part country Indigenous heritage, British institutions and a multicultural gift. So you need to tell the story about all those things.

And until we do that, the country is incomplete. I mean, Tony Abbott used to say the Constitution is incomplete until we recognise indigenous people. And I think that's right.

Laura Jayes

Do you think there's a political willingness to get this done on both sides, but there is such a fear of failure?

Andrew Bragg

I don't think there's any politics in this, Laura. I think this is an issue that is genuinely not in politics.

And I don't think it's about votes. I think the reality is...

Laura Jayes

It seems to be a huge fear of failure and that the political problems that would bring if you failed.

Andrew Bragg

I think people are afraid to wade into this debate.

Certainly, I've thought about it very carefully before doing so because people are worried about saying the wrong thing. But I think unless we engage on these issues, three percent of Australians, which is the indigenous population, are not going to be able to muster the support for a change to the Constitution, even if it was a minimal one, unless the rest of the Australian nation care about it and engage on these issues. And I think it's terribly important, unless we fix these issues, these issues about national identity, it will dog our country.

Laura Jayes

You're not the first person to say that, but you've laid it out eloquently in your book. Andrew Bragg, thanks so much for your time.

Andrew Bragg

Thanks, Laura.


Laura Jayes Sky News Interview | Buraadja - powered by Happy Scribe

A statement from the heart. The statement was released four years ago and called for a constitutionally enshrined indigenous advisory body to oversee treaty-making and truthtelling. The book makes the case for constitutional reform, arguing that the liberal side of politics can take the lead on indigenous advancement. And Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg joins me now. I have the book in hand.

Good to see you. I'm going to say I haven't read it yet, but I have read the reviews and the excerpts in The Australian.

It seemed like at least the Turnbull government did not want to take this on. They completely shelved it. Is there any impetus within the Morrison government to do this?

Well, at the moment we've got a code design process which is running by Ken Wyatt, which is looking at how a voice could be deployed. And I think it really is designed in my mind to meet two things. Firstly, you want to have a voice to give people on the ground agency and control to hear their voices. But also, I think there is a symbolic need here we need to deliver on, which is a debate that John Howard kicked off on constitutional recognition back in 2007.

How important is that it's indigenous led and there's not this top-down paternalistic approach.

We've made this mistake for the last two hundred and fifty years, thinking of thinking that we know better than indigenous people on matters that relate to their affairs. And so the whole point of having a voice is to make that a bottom up process where indigenous people can have a say on policies and laws which affect them, which is, I would have thought, pretty straightforward.

I mean, the problem is with your side of politics, that there are constitutional conservatives.

I'm a constitutional conservative.

OK, so what's the case for change then?

Well, I think if you were to pursue this to constitutional reform, which is where this debate started with John Howard, and therefore I think it should end with constitutional reform, I think you should have a fairly modest constitutional amendment to ensure that the Commonwealth does consult with indigenous people on laws and policies which relate to them. And then you could legislate the voice.

Your colleagues don't agree with you. Why not?

There are mixed views about this, but there is a good process which Ken Wyatt is running, where people have been free to put in submissions. I put in a submission that closed on Friday. Let's see what people say after all the submissions are in.

Are we going to get there?

Well, I think we have to and I think the question is, what is going to be, now the process we're following here is to design the voice and then to consider legal and constitutional arrangements. So it's a two-step process. We're almost halfway through.

It feels like we're about 20 steps in.

It's taken 15 years since John Howard put this on the map. And we really need to deliver this because the indigenous people won't wait forever and nor should they. I mean the Uluru statement is a very good statement.

It's a unifying statement. It's saying that indigenous people want to be in the Australian Constitution. I would have thought for Patriots, it's a pretty good message.

It was dismissed so quickly by Malcolm Turnbull. Was that a mistake?

I think that was mishandled and I think it was a real shame that the Uluru statement was dealt with in that way. The fact is, though, at the time there was much less detail about what the voice would be. I mean, Noel Pearson had discussed it in broad terms, and now there is a lot more meat on the bones.

And we know what the voice would be.

It would be about providing agency and control on the ground. I think that is quite a conservative in quite a liberal notion. And so I'm more optimistic that we could pursue this agenda now.

For many Australians, this argument, or the debate about constitutional recognition seems really academic. And the question I get constantly is what does it change for the lives of indigenous Australians?

It's quite simple. So we have 18 different laws on the Commonwealth statute books which relate only to indigenous people. Indigenous people are the only Australians that have special laws made for them. And so this is about saying if you have special laws, you have to have a special system to manage those laws, to consult those people on how those laws are deployed.

Native title, land rights, heritage protection. For the moment, we just make the laws and we don't really have a system to engage with the people. So that is illiberal. So I think there is a liberal argument that is that you consult people when you make special laws.

What do you think about the changes? And this is a bit separate from your book. I acknowledge that, looking at changes in the curriculum.

Warren Mundine, for example, has criticised these changes and how First Nations people is taught in schools.

It's not a choice. I mean, this is not England, this is Australia. And so indigenous heritage and culture is part of this land, just as the British institutions are just as the multicultural tenor is of our country. As Noel Pearson has talked about, we're a, we are a three-part country Indigenous heritage, British institutions and a multicultural gift. So you need to tell the story about all those things.

And until we do that, the country is incomplete. I mean, Tony Abbott used to say the Constitution is incomplete until we recognise indigenous people. And I think that's right.

Do you think there's a political willingness to get this done on both sides, but there is such a fear of failure?

I don't think there's any politics in this, Laura. I think this is an issue that is genuinely not in politics.

And I don't think it's about votes.

I think the reality

It seems to be a huge fear of failure and that the political problems that would bring if you failed.

I think people are afraid to wade into this debate.

Certainly, I've thought about it very carefully before doing so because people are worried about saying the wrong thing. But I think unless we engage on these issues, three percent of Australians, which is the indigenous population, are not going to be able to muster the support for a change to the Constitution, even if it was a minimal one, unless the rest of the Australian nation care about it and engage on these issues. And I think it's terribly important, unless we fix these issues, these these issues about national identity, it will dog our country.

You're not the first person to say that, but you've laid it out eloquently in your book. Andrew Bragg, thanks so much for your time.

Thanks, Laura.


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April 22, 2021
By 
Senator Andrew Bragg