ABC 730

SUBJECT: Indigenous affairs

LAURA TINGLE: Linda Burney, thanks for joining us.


TINGLE: Bill Shorten and your predecessor in this role, Senator Pat Dodson had big ambitions for Indigenous affairs if Labor won government. To what extent will your first task in this portfolio be about resetting expectations?

BURNEY: I think that's probably a very important point to make. So I think that when you think, Laura, about the bar for referendum change in Australia, it is a very high bar. And we need to as Labor caution slowly. I'm going over the west to see Patrick Dodson hopefully next week, to sit down and really work through where we head now in the Aboriginal affairs portfolio, including where we head in terms of a voice to the parliament. We are clearly still embracing and we'll continue to embrace the Uluru statement. That’s really important.

TINGLE: Is the issue of a voice to parliament able to be separated from the question of Indigenous recognition?

BURNEY: I don't think that it can. The recognition that people spoke about in the Uluru Statement was in fact an entrenched voice to the parliament within the referendum, with an advisory power to the parliament and nothing has changed in that light. But recognition is also about I think truth telling. And I know that that sounds to some people like some airy fairy concept. But when you think about the importance of truth telling to us as a nation, it's absolutely fundamental to recognition and a voice to the parliament.

TINGLE: Well, one of the things that Labor has been pushing or supporting is a Makarrata commission that goes to that point. And Pat Dodson was also arguing for a series of regional assemblies.

BURNEY: That’s correct. Yes.

TINGLE: Are these ideas that you would urge the Government to embrace still?

BURNEY: These are ideas that certainly are part of Labor's present agenda. My goal in going to meet with Patrick and Warren Snowdon and Malarndirri and others is to talk through and then take back to the leader and take back to the First Nations' caucus and the Labor Caucus on what our direction is. We're not to be rushed with it and I think that’s really important. The fundamental principles of recognition of Indigenous people's rights, addressing the social justice issues that I know and heard you speak about so often, and issue of the voice to the parliament are all things that we need to consider carefully. And one of the reasons we have decided to give Patrick as an assistant minister the role of recognition and constitutional reform, is so that people like myself who has the responsibility of Indigenous Australians, can actually focus on those closing the gap targets and those social justice issues. And I think that’s a really wise way to approach this.

TINGLE: Well finally, the Prime Minister's announced a new Indigenous agency as part of his changes last week. What would you be hoping might change in the way Indigenous services are delivered?

BURNEY: How long do you have? Well, I’m going to be asking for a briefing about that agency in the next few days and I know that that will be forthcoming. The key issue is to reset the agenda so that Aboriginal people's voices are loud and clear and listened to and taken heed of. I think that the fact that there is a peak body of Aboriginal organisations now part of the COAG process and whether or not we proceed with the regional assemblies but whatever we end up with, we have to make sure that the Government is listening to people that live the issues, that know the solutions and can help provide them. And that's First Nations' people.

TINGLE: Linda Burney, thanks so much for talking to us tonight.

BURNEY: Thank you.