Legislative Council: Wednesday, November 15, 2023



First Nations Voice Repeal Bill

Second Reading

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 1 November 2023.)

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (16:37): I will keep this short and sweet. Here we are yet again seeing on our Notice Paper a bill to repeal the First Nations Voice—something that this parliament, both houses, has already passed, is in the process of enacting, and is getting on with the job of doing.

I am a proud member of a party that voted for that, keeping our election promise. The Malinauskas Labor government also promised to have a First Nations Voice in South Australia. If we keep our promises from the Greens and the Labor Party keeps their promise, that means that the 11 votes required to ensure the First Nations Voice, in terms of a vote of this chamber, are secured. I give my assurance on behalf of the Greens, and I am sure that the Labor Party will do the same when we finally see this particular bill eventually taken to a vote, that those 11 Green and Labor votes will stand firm and that we will see a First Nations Voice. The 11 votes are simple numbers.

I also note that it is 851 days to the next state election. I suggest that those who have a policy about repealing a state First Nations Voice take that to the election, because the Liberal Party certainly did not take to the last election that they opposed a First Nations Voice. In fact, it was not even that they were silent on a First Nations Voice. They had a policy and a previous piece of legislation that they had consulted on and intended to implement, had they been the Marshall Liberal government again.

The Liberal government had tried to legislate a First Nations Voice and indeed, after the election in 2002, one of their first pieces of legislation in the other place was to continue that bid for a First Nations Voice. If they change their election policy between now and the next state election in 851 days, I imagine that the votes might reflect those moderate liberals who might be a little disillusioned that the last time they voted for the Liberals they thought they were getting something different.

Another set of numbers is that it is now 122 days before we will see the election for a First Nations Voice of South Australian Aboriginal people. That is not very long—March next year. We have one more sitting week. I suspect the member who has put this piece of legislation to repeal the good work of this parliament will not have the courage to take this particular issue to a vote, but I assure the South Australian people that those 11 votes will stand firm in this chamber.

In 122 days we will see the first election for a First Nations Voice, and in 851 days I suspect the Liberals will regret their flip-flopping on this issue and their lack of commitment to those voters who put their faith in them at the last election to keep their promises, and this will be yet another step into oblivion for the current Liberal opposition.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (16:40): I rise to place on the record our support for this bill. We, the opposition, did not support the First Nations Voice Bill back in February. We outlined our reasons for not supporting that bill at that time and those reasons remain. One of the fundamental problems with this legislation is that it rests on the notion that parliamentary democracy is not capable of representing certain minorities. This is an attack on parliamentary democracy in principle.

One of the foundations of political liberalism is that all citizens are equal in civic status, regardless of race, gender, religion, background, and the like. In fact, one of the South Australian Liberal Party's core values is to ensure that we will do everything in our power to ensure all South Australians have the same opportunities—that is, a level playing field—no matter their geographical location, social background, race, religion, gender or any other factor. Allowing effectively a fourth arm of government, one where one race will have a direct say on health, education, defence and other policy or pieces of legislation over another is undemocratic. It goes against the heart of our democracy, that is, that all Australians are equal under the law.

As Liberals we also believe not in big government but in a right-sized government. We believe in running an efficient government, one that provides essential services, a safety net and laws that form the basis of a free and fair society without unnecessary bureaucracy or wasteful spending. The functions performed by a right-sized government are those things that are necessary to protect the life, liberty, property and sovereignty of the people.

This piece of legislation will enable what is essentially a fourth arm of government, and will certainly create a fourth bureaucracy. It is another elected body that has the power of making a contribution to any piece of legislation that comes through this parliament. This is something that no other South Australian, except for those who are privileged enough to be elected to this place as part of the Westminster system, has the right to do.

This extra layer of bureaucracy will delay what is already a slow-moving government wheel, and it will do so because section 7 ensures the continuance of existing Aboriginal bodies around the state. This act will not replace or reduce an existing layer of bureaucracy; it will only add to it. If there is one thing I have learnt since coming into this place, it is that more bureaucracy generally equals fewer practical outcomes on the ground.

Ultimately, we all want to see practical outcomes for First Nations people, but this is not the way to achieve it. We should be taking the advice of Senators Jacinta Price and Kerrynne Liddle, who are calling for an audit or inquiry into the billions of dollars the South Australian and Australian government spends on Closing the Gap each year, and for more accountability on that spending.

During my second reading speech on the government's First Nations Voice in this chamber, I expressed my disappointment and frustration that the Malinauskas government was pushing this legislation through both chambers before allowing the people of South Australia to have their voices heard in the referendum.

A referendum is the purest form of democracy. Promises made during an election campaign, which were not widely disseminated in any case, cannot be appropriated by the winners as proof of endorsement of legislation such as this. The two-thirds vote for no in a referendum is proof positive that South Australians do not want it. But of course, left-wing ideological governments like this one are not all that keen on democracy.

Members interjecting:


The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: They are not wedded to it in the same way as the party I represent.

Members interjecting:


The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: We have heard these voices but the question remains: will the Premier and those opposite who make up the government benches listen?

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.