The Third Chamber furphy!

It was a catchy term coined by a little known blogger to draw attention to his post, written as a contribution to a debate on the desire of Indigenous Australians for a political voice in parliament, as expressed in the Uluru Statement from the heart.

It was a poorly chosen but well intentioned suggestion that the people of Australia proudly embrace for example, a small representative body of twelve to eighteen state representatives, within the confines of the Australian Parliament.

It was never envisaged to have a legislative role, and therefore not truly a so-called third chamber, but merely to provide an opportunity for Indigenous leaders to meet together to draw attention to, and discuss ways and means of solving pressing problems in Indigenous society. But should it not also have an ability to express opposition to parliamentary proposals that would unfairly violate their basic human rights, such as parenting rights? The enforced separation of child from parent under the misguided policy of compulsory assimilation, caused great family anguish during the era of the “Stolen Generations”.

Unfortunately the media seized upon the term to galvanize controversy about details that had intentionally not been specified in the Uluru Statement. Constitutional change was however deliberately requested, because an earlier representative body in ATSIC had been completely wound back by John Howard after the alleged misappropriation of some ATSIC funds.

Instead of the feedback they wanted as to what might be feasible, any constitutional change was adamantly rejected by political commentators with the power to adversely influence any referendum outcome. PM Malcolm Turnbull, faced with such a divisive issue could see no way forward, and terminated the initially promising work of the Referendum Council established in 2015.

Despite the rocky road thus far, there is still hope for a favourable outcome for First Nation peoples expressed in an article by Constitutional Expert Professor Anne Twomey.

While the Commonwealth government was initially unsettled by the Uluru proposal, it has allocated money in the most recent budget to develop the detail of that proposal further. This suggests that it has recognised the underlying merit in it and is prepared to contemplate it more seriously. Perhaps with further consideration, both at the political level and across the country, the Uluru proposal which at first seemed so confronting to some, will grow in familiarity and be seen as a natural part of Australia’s evolution.

About Kenneth Robson

I studied at Adelaide Boys' High School, and the University of Adelaide, Medical School. graduating in 1961. My field of specialisation was Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Prior to establishing my practice in Adelaide, I spent 5 years working in India, and Papua-New Guinea, in the field of reconstructive surgery for leprosy. In retirement I joined the Australian Technical Analyst Association and passed the two examinations for a Diploma inTechnical Analysis, and the designation Certified Financial Technician (CFTe) by the International Federation of Technical Analysts.
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