The Australian Greens acknowledge the First Nations people of this continent as the Traditional Owners and custodians of the lands and waters of this country.
The Australian Greens believe that First Nations peoples have a right to self‑determination over their own destiny, to prosper and achieve the aspirations they have for their lives and for their children and grandchildren and for First Nations peoples to have all they need to live their lives in health, well-being and peace on their lands.
The Australian Greens acknowledge that First Nations people never ceded sovereignty over their lands and waters. Without the full and true acknowledgement and reckoning that this country was built, often violently, on the unceded lands and waters of First Nations people, we cannot build a nation where everyone feels that they belong.
To have it still in view that shedding the blood of these people is a crime of the highest nature...They are the natural, and in the strictest sense of the word, the legal possessors of the several Regions they inhabit. No European nation has a right to occupy any part of their country or settle among them without their voluntary consent. Conquest over such people can give no just title; because they could never be the Aggressors.
Advice given to James Cook before his voyage to the continent by James Douglas, the 14th Earl of Morton.
Building a nation begins by telling the truth. Concepts of nationhood and identity on this continent pre-date British invasion. There were over 250 distinct nations on this continent when James Cook arrived at Kamay.
British invasion and colonisation has been devastating for First Nations people. Since British colonisation there have been at least 270 massacres of First Nations peoples in this country. Unfortunately, we will never know the true number of casualties – only that many thousands of First Nations people across this nation were massacred in numerous frontier wars, over many decades, often in cold blood.
Men, women and children are shot whenever they can be met with…For myself, if I caught a black actually killing my sheep, I would shoot him with as little remorse as I would a wild dog...They will very shortly be extinct. It is impossible to say how many have been shot, but I am convinced that not less than 450 have been murdered altogether.
Coloniser on Gunnai Country, Henry Meyrick, 1846.
The ongoing legacy of settler colonialism has not yet been fully recognised and understood. Our foundation for nationhood and identity must be based on a process of truth telling, reconciliation, justice and healing.
It is not possible to become a forward looking, united, and visionary nation if our horrific past isn’t acknowledged, understood, and where possible, repaired. The future of this country begins with understanding its past. To heal this land we must address the inequality and injustice faced by First Nations people; injustices directly linked to colonisation.
A common response by governments to egregious human rights violations, like those that occurred all over this country, has been to establish a truth and justice commission. These bodies serve to investigate and tell the truth of what happened, reckon with trauma, and to foster reconciliation and healing.
First Nations people have been deliberately and wilfully locked out of the prosperity of this country – their country – from the moment of colonisation, to federation, and beyond. We must embark on a process of truth telling and reconciliation, together.
The Greens recommend that the Australian Government establish a truth and justice commission to explore the ongoing impact of colonisation on First Nations people.
A treaty is a written agreement between sovereign nations, and Australia is the only Commonwealth country without a treaty with its First People. If we write it together, a treaty can be a blank canvas to reframe the story of who we want to be as a country.
We can simultaneously celebrate what unites us, protect the rights of First Nations people and acknowledge injustices, both past and present. There can be no justice without peace. Treaty could bring that peace.
The disadvantages and inequality that First Nations people are pushed to are not due to inherent failings in their character; they are symptoms of the persecution and oppression this country and its Constitution were founded upon.
Treaty is about mutual respect – speaking to one another, as equals, and starting with the truth about what First Nations people have faced, since invasion. A treaty would transform this country. A genuine national treaty would elevate Aboriginal voices and reframe us as a more caring society where nobody is left behind.
The Greens recommend that the Australian Government enact a national Treaty and/or Treaties with First Nations people in this country.
Trust and confidence in our democracy
Public trust and confidence in our democratic institutions, especially the federal parliament, have reached historically low levels in recent years. The committee report notes this loss of faith in democracy, but fails to comprehensively engage with its drivers. As noted by the Grattan Institute and others, there remains significant public concern about the undue influence of donors and lobbyists on political outcomes.
The Senate Select Committee on the Political Influence of Donations in 2018 noted:
[A]ll stakeholders have a right to have a legitimate say in the democratic process. However, there is significant public concern around the motivations of some donors, and that the influence they have on the decision-making of governments is disproportionate to the influence other citizens enjoy…The committee heard compelling evidence that the current political funding and disclosure regime fails to provide the necessary safeguards to prevent corruption of the political process. The fact that the source of the significant majority of funding to those involved in the political process is undisclosed and unknown, is inimical to maintaining trust in the process.
The inter-relationship between industry and parliament that allows lobbyists, including former politicians and their staff, to gain privileged access and to exert significant influence over policy outcomes, further erodes public trust.
The Grattan Institute estimates that 25 per cent of former federal ministers and assistant ministers take on roles with special interests after their political career ends. Reform is needed to avoid the actual and perceived conflicts of interest that arise as a result of this revolving door.
While we strongly support this committee’s recommendation to establish a robust, independent federal anti-corruption commission, this must be supported by broader reforms to regain the public’s trust. We need to remove the influence of big money on politics, and ensure people know who is gaining from the decisions being made.
Much needed reforms include:
greater transparency of political donations through lower disclosure thresholds and more timely reporting;
donations caps to ensure that democracy is not sold to the highest bidder;
bans on donations from damaging industries;
election spending reforms;
strengthening the Lobbying Code of Conduct;
requiring publication of ministerial diaries; and
introducing enforceable Parliamentary Standards, and appointing a Parliamentary Ethics Adviser.
Senator Lidia Thorpe
Senator for Victoria