Recognition of Aborigines in the Constitution

  • Formal, constitutional recognition of the status of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders
  • Initiated by the Aboriginal and TSI Commission
  • Altering s 25 and 51 xxvi
    • Section 25 holds the possibility that a State may exclude people from voting based on race. The council supports removing this.
    • 51 xxvi allows the C’th to pass special laws for any race of people as necessary. Since this allows discrimination, the council wants to amend this to ensure that only beneficial laws can be made for a specific race. However, ‘benefit’ can be contentious.
  • Mostly symbolic recognition
  • Recognition in the preamble

Effect

  • No adverse effects are foreseeable (unless judicial activism interprets the words differently to the original intention)
  • Aborigines, the original owners of the land, will be formally recognised
  • Less racist Constitution

Evaluation

  • Likely to pass, has bipartisan support. Also, the 1967 referendum (over 90% voted yes) showed that Australians did care about Aborigines
  • If the changes are too radical, the public may not support it (especially if it favours Aborigines over them)
  • If changes are too small, the public would probably not support it either, since it seems to be a waste of money for no real change
  • For:
    • Recognises Aborigines, redress human rights violations etc.
  • Against:
    • Other minority/migrant groups may demand recognition, it could be deemed discriminatory to favour one race over others
    • The Constitution is working well as it is, changing it would be a waste of money with no real benefit
    • It may reopen old wounds already resolved, such as the Stolen Generation

Issues

  • Referendum may no longer be about recognising Aborigines in the Constitution, but inserting an anti-discrimination based on race clause, or similar provisions which
  • Or, insert a charter of rights
  • If these occur, the chances of failing become quite high, plus the Lib/Nats don’t support it.
  • It doesn’t look like this referendum will come up before the 2016 general election.

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