“INDIGENOUS VOICE” – Has it really been ten years since Kevin Rudd’s national apology to Indigenous people? Time flies.

An indigenous voice will be added to parliament if Labor wins the next election but Malcolm Turnbull is holding fire until he hears from Aboriginal Australians.

Handing down the 10th annual Closing the Gap report on Monday, the prime minister said four of its seven targets to improve indigenous health and welfare were not on track.

But he also announced the extension of a successful policy that has allowed indigenous businesses to win more than $1 billion in government contracts since 2015…

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten pledged to add an indigenous voice to parliament if there wasn’t a bipartisan commitment to hold a referendum.

“I say to the prime minister and the government – we will work with you, but we will not wait for you,” Mr Shorten told parliament.

Federal cabinet last year rejected the Referendum Council’s proposal for a constitutionally enshrined indigenous voice in parliament.

Just what exactly is an “indigenous voice” in parliament? Does it imply that the current Members and Senators are not representing their Indigenous constituents well? Or does it imply that the current Members and Senators who are Indigenous do not provide Indigenous people as a whole with a voice in Parliament?

Or does it mean racially-based seats? And if so, will some federal seats (for example in the Northern Territory) or Senate spots be reserved for Indigenous politicians only, or will they be “floating seats”, where in effect every Indigenous voter gets to votes – one for his or her local MP and Senators, and one for the extra Indigenous seat/s in Parliament? Just how exactly an “Indigenous voice” interplay with “one person, one vote” principle?

Or will the voice perhaps be advisory only? A council of elders of sorts, requiring every piece of legislation to have an Indigenous Impact Statement? Would they have a veto, or a co-vote on legislation directly affecting Indigenous people?

I’m confused, if anyone can help.

But I’m most curious to hear an explanation, which I have not heard so far, how “adding an indigenous voice to parliament” will make things better for Indigenous Australians. How will the parliamentary voice close the 10 year gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians? Are the tragic levels of violence, domestic violence, sexual violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and criminality in Indigenous communities symptoms of frustration at not having a sufficient role in the parliamentary process? Will the health, education and employment outcomes for Indigenous Australians improve because thanks to the Indigenous voice our federal governments will institute successful policies that have not been tried before?

Lest somebody gets a wrong idea, I am not being facetious. I’m asking all these questions as someone who genuinely wants to see a real improvement in the lives of Indigenous Australians.

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