Budget Review October 2022–23 Index
In their election
commitment to First Nations peoples, and in Prime Minister Albanese’s election
victory speech, the Government committed to implementing the Uluru
Statement from the Heart (the Uluru Statement) ‘in full’. This article
analyses the October budget commitments made towards implementing the Uluru Statement.
Constitutional and policy aspects of the Uluru Statement are discussed in the
constitutional recognition and representation’,
from the Parliamentary Library’s Briefing Book for the 47th Parliament.
All page references are to Budget
measures: budget paper no. 2 unless otherwise stated.
In their pre-election Labor’s
Plan for a Better Future, the ALP committed $27.7 million to ‘implementing
the Uluru Statement from the Heart’. The Parliamentary
Budget Office (PBO) also costed the commitment at $27.7 million. The ALP
did not specify how this funding would be allocated to the various components
of the Uluru Statement.
Table 1 Uluru Statement PBO Costing
|Implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart
This is apparently separate from the cost of a referendum. Since
Pre-election economic and fiscal outlook statement, $160 million has
been included in the Contingency Reserve for the cost of a referendum (p. 107).
However, the PBO
estimated in 2021-22 that due to inflation since 2016, the 2021 cost of a
referendum would be $188 million. The government may need to make some
provision for this cost increase, although it may be covered by the Contingency
Reserve’s Conservative Bias Allowance.
measures: budget paper no. 2 includes 4 measures associated with the Uluru
Statement. Collectively, these total approximately $83 million, exceeding the
ALP’s $27.7 million pre-election commitment.
Referendum and voting
The measure Delivery of a First Nations Voice to
Parliament Referendum – preparatory work (p. 107) provides $75.1 million
over two years from 2022–23,
of which $65.3 million is in 2022–23. This includes:
million to the National Indigenous Australians Agency to support the
referendum, including supporting ‘special advisory groups that will engage with
stakeholders and provide advice to Government’. This appears to refer to the Referendum
Working Group and Referendum Engagement Group.
million to the Attorney General’s Department and $0.8 million to the Department
of Finance for ‘preparation and support work’, such
as ballot paper printing and advertising space.
million to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) to prepare for the
referendum. It is not clear whether this figure is intended to cover the $28
million plus cost increase of a referendum since 2016.
million to the AEC to increase First Nations voter enrolment and ‘participation
in future electoral events’.
First Nations voter enrolment
Although voter enrolment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander citizens has been compulsory since 1984, their voter enrolment has
consistently lagged below that of non-Indigenous Australians. According to the Australian
Electoral Commission (AEC), in 2022
Indigenous enrolment rose above 80% for the first time, to 81.7%, while the
enrolment rate is 97.1%.
Furthermore, Indigenous enrolment is not uniform. Despite
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people comprising relatively high
proportions of their populations, the Northern Territory, Queensland and
Western Australia (and South Australia) have the lowest rates of Indigenous
voter enrolment. These states and territories have higher Indigenous
populations in remote and very remote communities, which creates challenges for
registering and voting. According to one
analysis, policy changes in recent decades have created further significant
obstacles to voting in such communities.
Figure 1 Indigenous voter registration rate vs Indigenous % of population, by state/territory
Sources: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Estimates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Australians, June 2021; Australian
Electoral Commission, ‘Indigenous enrolment rate’, June 2022.
CLP Senator Jacinta
Nampijinpa Price, and former Member for
Snowdon, have previously expressed concern
about low Aboriginal voter enrolment in the NT and other remote areas, and
called on the AEC to improve their enrolment policies and practices. In June
2021, the Mayor of West Arnhem Council, Matthew Ryan, and another complainant (who
is now deceased and not named for cultural reasons) lodged
a complaint with the Human Rights Commission alleging that the AEC’s enrolment
policies in remote Indigenous communities are racially discriminatory. This
complaint has not yet been resolved.
The measure Implementing the Uluru Statement from the
Heart – Makarrata Commission (p. 171) provides $5.8 million to ‘commence work
on establishing an independent Makarrata Commission to oversee processes for agreement
making and truth telling’. The description states that this is ‘part of the Government’s $27.7 million election commitment to
establish a Makarrata Commission’, implying that the entire $27.7 million will
be dedicated to the Makarrata Commission at some point.
Sequencing of a Voice referendum and a
Makarrata Commission, and work on truth-telling and agreement making/treaty,
has been politically contentious between the ALP and the Australian Greens. While
the ALP’s election policy commits to both a
Voice and a Makarrata Commission, and they have previously committed to treaty and truth-telling, the ALP argues that implementing the Uluru Statement
as intended requires the Voice to be the
first substantive reform. The Greens have argued that truth-telling and
treaty should occur first, or concurrently with the Voice referendum.
Before the Budget the Greens called for $32 million annually
for a truth and justice commission and $8 million annually for a treaty
commission. However, they have since welcomed the budget commitment of $5.8
The receipt measure Philanthropy –
updates to specifically listed deductible gift recipients (p. 17) grants
tax deductible gift recipient (DGR) status to the small charity Australians for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition (AICR). AICR had previously undertaken legal action
against the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission after its
application for DGR status was denied. AICR’s directors are also members of the
From the Heart campaign. As the measure also includes DGR status for the
Australian Women Donor Network in its $0.8 million cost, it is not clear what
fiscal impact AICR’s DGR status will have.
Since announcement of this DGR status,
prominent Bundjalung, Gumbaynggirr and Yuin politician Warren Mundine has called for a potential future
organisation promoting a ‘No’ campaign to receive DGR status. He had previously
called for a constitutional amendment enshrining ‘local Indigenous bodies'
instead of a single national representative body, but has since shifted his
stance to blanket opposition.
The measure First Nations Foreign Policy
(p. 112) provides $2.0 million over 2 years to establish an Office of First
Nations Engagement, headed by an Ambassador for First Nations Peoples. This
measure was previously costed as $0 (funded from existing resources) in the ALP
Plan for a Better Future. The position will be administered by
of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which is already seeking expressions
The ALP’s election
commitment to First Nations peoples states that the Ambassador will ‘be
supported to engage with likeminded countries to share our commitment to the
Uluru Statement from the Heart and experience of treaty and truth-telling
processes, as well as the implementation of our commitments under the
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’, playing a role in trade,
protection of Indigenous intellectual property rights (see the United
Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) Articles
11, 24 and 31), and repatriation
of Indigenous ancestral remains and sacred objects. The Ambassador’s terms
of reference give more detail, specifying that the Ambassador will ‘Establish
international First Nations dialogues on Voice, Treaty and Truth with
likeminded countries to share experiences and knowledge of reconciliation
processes and other First Nations issues, starting with New Zealand and Canada’.
Table 2 below summarises the current position of these
countries on indigenous constitutional, representational, treaty and other
instruments, and truth and reconciliation, processes.
Table 2 Key First Nations
institutions and processes in likeminded countries
All online articles accessed October 2022
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