‘Only we can deliver the referendum’
- Opposition legal affairs spokesman George Brandis
INDEPENDENT Lyne MP Rob Oakeshott has appealed to Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition leader Tony Abbott to rise above politics and agree to the wording of a referendum question on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander recognition in the Australian Constitution.
“It is a major concern that there are some people wanting to put this important issue in the too-hard basket,” Mr Oakeshott said.
“And I am increasingly disappointed that the Prime Minister and alternative Prime Minister won’t talk to each other about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians,” Mr Oakeshott said.
“This referendum is doomed if bipartisanship across political leadership cannot be found, regardless of who is in government or opposition.
“Bipartisanship is the key to any referendum, so any argument that a change of government will somehow create that bipartisanship is just wrong.
“This is something Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard can deliver for Australia from either Opposition or Government, as this is more about political party leadership than parliamentary leadership.
“And it is this bipartisan logic that makes today’s comments from the alternative Attorney-General so concerning.
“He reportedly believes in constitutional recognition, and that it is a priority for the Liberal Party, but is conditional on them being in government,” Mr Oakeshott said.
“Since when do political parties only believe in something when they control government,” Mr Oakeshott said.
“I also fail to see the Brandis logic of ‘delay will win conservatives over’ as the many good Liberals I know are hardly slow thinkers.
“There is one path and one path only for any referendum question in Australia. It is not about Government or Opposition. It is about major political parties reaching a bipartisan position and working together that wins the day.
“I urge the Prime Minister and alternative Prime Minister to take the only path that will resolve this issue – to lead together on this matter, and soon.
“They have reached agreement on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and on troop commitments overseas.
“Constitutional recognition of our 40,000 year-old-history is surely an issue that transcends the day-to-day battlefield of politics, such as the partisan divide of asylum seekers and carbon pricing,” Mr Oakeshott said.
“I ask both leaders to trust the Australian people and agree on a referendum question soon, rather than fear the Australian people and hide behind delay.”