Contributed by Joe Montero
By turning his back on the Uluru Statement from the Heart, Malcolm Turnbull Malcolm Turnbull delivered a huge insult to the First Australians.
Whether he agrees with the content of the statement or not is secondary. What stands out, is the eagerness with which he has been prepared to metaphorically give the two-finger salute, to a people who deserve to be respected.
He showed no respect and the incident is testimony to his transformation from someone who was once seen as having some compassion, to a heartless and brutal individual.
If it hasn’t happened already, surely this is the moment when our joke of a Prime Minister should have lost any of the credibility he had left.
Noel Pearson has responded by having a go at Tony Abbott, who he blames for the scenario that has brought about this outcome.
“Tony has been lurking in this entire debate. His presence, and the fact that the Prime Minister has not had the political capital to lead on the issue, is because of Tony,” he said.
Undoubtedly Abbott and those around him have had a hand. At the same time, this provides no excuse for Turnbull. If he is acting differently from what he really believes, it only goes to prove that Australia is saddled with a leader without a backbone. If factional pressure can force him to act so heartlessly, his principles must be weak indeed.
Turnbull did not only walk away. He also signalled that his government has no intention of doing anything to right the wrongs of history, and is moving backtowards to the dark past, when those who were on this land first, were not even considered as human beings.
It is disgraceful and a national shame that it has come to this.
No wonder Turnbull has caused so much anger amongst indigenous leaders and their communities.
The Uluru Statement was the result of six months of consultations, initiated by the Turnbull government itself. There was a lot of criticism of the process and tension between the call for recognition in the constitution, including representation in the political system and the call for a treaty.
This tension has given way to a new situation now, because even the most minimal position has been declared as too much for this government.
In a statement, Turnbull said, “the Government does not believe such a radical change to our constitution’s representative institutions has any realistic prospect of being supported by a majority of Australians in a majority of states”.
In case anyone is wondering, he is talking about the minimalist change.
Consequently, Indigenous communities must deal with the new political landscape and this could well lead to significant overall shift away from the minimal position, towards a broader based and more determined push for a treaty.
Turnbull and his government have shown that the consultation process has been a fraud and that the only answer left, is for communities to rely more on their own efforts, strengthen their own grass roots campaign to assert their voice more loudly and effectively.
Part of the debate is whether there should be a push for a referendum, something like the push for the marriage equality issues. Supporters feel that this would put the matter on the political centre stage. Opponents fear that there is a real danger that a proposal for any change would be watered down so much that it would become meaningless.
For the First Australians, the most important need is, to assert more control over decisions that affect them and are the stepping stones to their future. On this foundation, they can work out their own their own strategy and put up their own demands.
For the rest of Australia, it is about finding more effective ways to galvanise support to a new level, back the efforts of our fellow Australians to assert their sovereignty and isolate those who want to turn us all back to the past.