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First Nations Voice to Parliament

6 March 2024


Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. S.L. Game:

That this council—

1. Acknowledges that the South Australian First Nations Voice was not democratically agreed to by the people of South Australia;

2. Recognises that the federal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice referendum campaign has caused deep division and uncertainty in the community.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (18:05): I rise to speak against this motion. In so doing, I want to call out the One Nation party for engaging in cynical and divisive politics and to call out the opposition in this place for debasing themselves by aligning with One Nation in this way—rolling in the mud with the One Nation party in this way. I actually think it is outrageous. I think it is shameful. What is particularly galling about this is that the previous speakers have talked about division and wanting to bring the community together, yet they are lining up with the mother of all divisive political parties, One Nation. They are lining up with those who seek to fan the flames of division and disquiet in our community and are seeking to wreck this Voice to Parliament. It is deeply disappointing.

I had hoped, when we saw members of this chamber speak against the Voice to State Parliament, that when they did not get their own way they would hope that this project, this ambitious plan, would succeed. But no. Instead, they have embarked on a very different mission; that is, to try to wreck and undermine this project, and I think that is deeply, deeply disappointing.

I want to speak to some of the elements of this motion, the first being in relation to the point that the South Australian First Nations Voice was not democratically agreed to by the people of South Australia. That is complete nonsense. I refer to an article in The Guardian on 6 July 2019:

Indigenous leaders welcome SA Labor's vow to take Uluru statement to polls...Peter Malinauskas says party will establish a voice to parliament if it wins next election.

I seek leave to table the document.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: That article makes it very clear what the Labor Party's commitment was. They made it very clear, heading into the last election, that they were seeking to establish a State Voice to Parliament if they won the election. The Greens party made it very clear that that was something that we would support if we were in a position of balance of power in this place.

We had an election—the greatest test of our democracy that we have in our state in terms of reaching democratic agreement. There was an election and the Labor Party formed government, and the Greens found ourselves in a key position in this place. So, together, the Labor Party, the Greens—and I acknowledge also the Hon. Frank Pangallo and the Hon. Connie Bonaros—supported a Voice to Parliament. End of story. That is democracy in action. This nonsense of 'Well, the outcome that we got is not what some people in this place wanted and therefore it's undemocratic and needs to be undermined and wrecked,' I think is utterly ridiculous.

I think also that the approach that is being taken by the Hon. Ms Game of One Nation, which is being supported by the opposition, is really disappointing because it is also a slap in the face to the First Nations people who have engaged in this process in good faith. I think it is important to track the history of this reform here in this place.

Indeed, the South Australian government committed to a state-based implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and as a first step in July 2022 the government appointed the inaugural Commissioner for First Nations Voice, Dale Agius, who led a series of community engagements and provided advice to the government on these engagements.

The commissioner held two rounds of engagements, I understand, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across South Australia between August 2022 and January 2023. The first round focused on input from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities on the underpinning design principles for the Voice.

This engagement found that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were seeking a direct Voice to the South Australian parliament; a Voice that is elected by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to represent local communities; a Voice to represent the diversity of South Australian and Torres Strait Islander communities, including nation group diversity, gender, youth and elders; and direct access to government decision-makers, i.e. ministers and chief executives.

Following this, the South Australian government developed a draft bill and a model based on these findings. The draft bill and two boundary options were released for feedback. In November 2022, the commissioner commenced a second round of community engagement to seek feedback on the draft, the bill, the model and the boundary options.

This included face-to-face statewide engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities, as well as written submissions from the broader community. Feedback was received and that process informed the final design of the model and the legislation. In March 2023, the South Australian parliament passed the First Nations Voice Act—March of last year.

How is that not a democratic process? The government embarked on a truly representative consultative process that engaged with First Nations communities. We are now in the middle of an election. I am not sure, Mr President, whether you have had the opportunity to look at the nominees. Some really impressive people have put themselves forward to represent their communities, and I think that is a really great thing.

I find it really saddening that rather than get behind that and say, 'Great, let's hope this succeeds,' you have the One Nation party, with the support of some of the members opposite, trying to wreck this and undermine it, peddling Trumpian policies where they talk about people not following democracy, making a series of half-truths and whatever.

Really, I think the people of South Australia have had a gutful of this kind of misrepresentation and divisive politics. Surely the least that this parliament can do, after generations of dispossession of Aboriginal people, the stealing of land and the stealing of children, is to actually give First Nations people a Voice in this place? I find the arguments against it, quite frankly, insulting.

I also want to remind the members opposite, who are in the middle of a tight by-election campaign, that electors in the seat of Dunstan, a seat that they currently hold by a wafer-thin margin, voted 55.3 per cent in favour of a Voice. I look forward to going out, continuing to campaign in that seat and reminding people in that seat of the views of the Liberal Party in this place, because I think many people in the seat of Dunstan will be, quite frankly, horrified that the party that is seeking to represent them in this chamber is peddling this sort of nonsense.

Shame on the Liberal Party for debasing themselves and rolling in the mud with One Nation. Surely, we have had enough of this. I say to the Hon. Ms Game: I hope this motion is knocked on the head tonight and then let that be the end of the matter. Stop trying to undermine the South Australian Voice to Parliament. Stop trying to wreck it. Get behind it, hope that it succeeds and actually listen to the views of First Nations people. That is what we should be doing, not seeking to silence them, not peddling the sort of nonsense that we have heard in the chamber just now.