Constitutional Change – A Slow Process

Posted: May 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

Australians are slow to make changes to our Constitution – and rightfully so, since the Constitution provides stability to a nation.

But the latest bit of news has got me curious.

I was interested to see that a national referendum has been called to recognise local government in the constitution, but we still haven’t got to the point of recognising indigenous Australians.

This is the third time that a referendum on recognising local government has been put to Australians. The 1974 and 1988 votes were unsuccessful.

In the meantime many Australians are still waiting for a referendum on the recognition of indigenous Australians and the removal of the clause which says the States can ban people from voting based on their race.

John Howard proposed a Preamble to the Constitution in 1999 that was defeated and in 2007 he made an election promise to hold a referendum to recognise indigenous Australians in the constitution. Kevin Rudd also pledged bipartisan support. It is still part of both Coalition and Labor policy.

The Recognise website outlines the current situation:

In 2010, Julia Gillard struck a deal to form government with Independent MP Rob Oakeshott and the Greens that included a commitment to hold a referendum on constitutional recognition by the 2013 election. An expert panel was appointed to advise on a model and process. It reported in January 2012.

In September 2012, Labor announced it would delay the referendum, citing concern at low levels of public awareness.

As an interim step towards a referendum, the Government proposed an Act of Recognition in the Parliament.

The legislation has a sunset period of two years, which Liberal MP Ken Wyatt – the only Indigenous federal MP – likened to a “post it note on the fridge” to remind the Parliament to finish the task.

Meanwhile, a grassroots movement of Australians is growing steadily to build the community support needed for a successful referendum.

The post-it note is still on the fridge.

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