It is my pleasure to thank Theresa for her kind welcome. I’d like to welcome and acknowledge all the Indigenous people here today along with Liberal Party colleagues.
To my favourite Premier, thank you for being here to launch the book in the Premier State.
Your leadership has made a real difference to Australia’s prospects during the pandemic.
As you know, I wrote the book for two reasons: the first was that there was an urgent need to set out the liberal and conservative case for reconciliation, especially on the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
We Liberals should lead on this just like we have on the referendum in 1967 under Harold Holt and land rights under Malcolm Fraser.
Some of the best advocacy was thanks to Billy Wentworth who pushed the Menzies government to preserve Indigenous culture.
The institution (AIATSIS) Menzies established helped with the name of my book and we have a representative from the Wentworth family here today.
The second reason I wrote Buraadja was that we need to conclude the important commitments we have promised on reconciliation and recognition.
Buraadja offers both the liberal case, as well as a pathway to conclude the unfinished business as Rachel Perkins puts it.
The New South Wales angle here is significant.
I’d like to pick up on three key points: population, representation and Uluru.
Australia’s largest Indigenous population is here in New South Wales.
It has a population of more than 300,000. It is the place of first contact.
It means that the state has the biggest and deepest vested interest.
It is a largely urbanised population. I have travelled around the state to visit communities. Burke, Brewarrina, Coonamble, Kempsey, Nowra and Redfern.
Wherever I go in New South Wales, Indigenous people talk to me about wanting more agency, more control and that’s what a voice would do.
That’s why the Federal government is progressing a voice through Ken Wyatt’s co-design process.
But the Voice must work for the Indigenous population of New South Wales. This will likely mean different things to people living in Redfern as opposed to Brewarrina.
I will be working with the NSW population and our State Government to ensure that the voice of our state is heard. We have the single biggest stake in the success of the federal voice project as measured in our greatest commodity: the people.
The New South Wales Liberal Party has never sent an Indigenous person to represent the state in the federal Parliament. We have tried but not succeeded.
Indigenous representation is important in our system. As Neville Bonner said when asked of his achievements, he said “it was that I was there, they no longer spoke of boongs, they spoke of Aboriginal people.”
This is not identity politics. It is a reflection of Australia’s history and future as it acknowledges the ongoing need for special laws. The nation has 18 different laws on the books for Indigenous people - the only racial group with a slew of special laws.
My view is simple. The existence of illiberal laws for one group of Australians demands the most input from those groups, both inside and outside Parliament.
Just as we have led with Neville Bonner and Ken Wyatt, we should continue striving for more Indigenous representation in federal Parliament from our state.
The South Australian Liberals have already selected Kerrynne Liddle in a winnable position for their Senate ticket.
I will write to the NSW Division asking the Division to work with me on this important initiative.
The Voice from the Uluru Statement should be implemented because we need community input on the special laws we make in Canberra. That is a central theme of Buraadja.
I argue that to deny Indigenous people a say on special laws made for them is fundamentally illiberal.
Buraadja sets out the liberal case for the Voice but also offers a way for the constitution to be amended which could be won in a campaign which keeps faith with both Uluru and the concerns of constitutional conservatives.
I know from my experience as a legislator in Federal Parliament that it would improve our deliberations.
That is why our government is progressing the Voice reforms under the co-design process.
I think the states could benefit from the same system by instituting their own voices. This is something that South Australian Premier Steven Marshall has committed to in recent weeks.
Uluru is more than the Voice. It also speaks to truth telling and agreement making which are both laudable objectives. In this state, we have significant land rights legislation which could be reviewed to ensure it is working and driving economic development.
As I travel around the state, I fear that communities may have land but have no real prospect of achieving any economic development. That is why I recommended reviewing the land rights schemes. It is possible that we could pick up good ideas from other jurisdictions.
For example, the WA South West (Noongar) land agreement is widely seen as Australia’s first successful treaty - this has delivered both land and capital to the Noongar.
Ultimately this is about the type of country we want to live in. We want to live in a nation that isn’t restless about its past. We want to move forward together, Buraadja.