I was very disappointed yesterday to see politicians from all sides unanimously support a bill which paves the way for a constitutional referendum, aimed at adding a statement about the inhabitation of Australia prior to British settlement.
PARLIAMENT has taken another stride toward reconciliation on the fifth anniversary of the national apology to the stolen generation, as campaigners urged MPs on both sides not to give up.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott put aside politics on Wednesday as the lower house passed legislation to create an Act of Recognition of indigenous people.
The legislation, which contains a two-year sunset clause, is to pave the way for constitutional change while giving time to build community support.
In September, the government shelved plans to hold a referendum on the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal people because of a lack of public awareness.
It introduced the Act of Recognition as a stepping stone towards constitutional change.
(h/t Liza Kappelle of AAP, via news.com.au )
The constitution has a very simple and important role. It is there to set up the basic rules by which our society is ordered, to outline the powers which can and can not be granted to the various branches and levels of government, and to outline the remedies available to the people in order to keep the government in check. It is not there to act as an historical record of the comings and goings of people from the country.
The constitution can, to a limited degree, explain things or values which give context to the rules which it sets out, but it should not act as a sounding board for documentation of truth or opinion of events which have transpired.
At the level of the basic format of a constitution, that is why I oppose what happened in Parliament yesterday, but I also have a specific reason for opposing this specific proposed change to the constitution.
Having a constitution which acknowledges “traditional owners” of the land or “prior inhabitants” or anything along those lines gives immediate rise to the very real possibility of Aboriginal people being given more rights or more legal status than other Australians, and would pave the way for racially preferential legislation to be passed in their favour.
It is bad enough that, under current legislation, there is a limited ability for government to treat Aboriginal people more preferentially than other Australians (such as Centrelink payments specifically granted to Aboriginal people due to their racial background), but this will be able to get much worse if the proposed changes to the constitution are approved by the public.
It is not accident that this legislation passed on the anniversary of Kevin Rudd’s dangerous apology to the so-called “stolen generation”. I noted back then that it was a bad idea which would have dire consequences , and we have seen some small-scale examples  of the potential fallout since then. It bothers me greatly that Tony Abbott, a usually sensible man, still fails to see the problems  with this whole idea.
Hopefully the rest of the population are smarter than our federal politicians and see through this whole thing. Hopefully they will vote against this dangerous change to the constitution.