Nationals make themselves irrelevant by not supporting a First Nations Voice to Parliament

The National Party propose on their website that "We believe in freedom of speech, movement and philosophy; freedom of religious activity, association and assembly; and equality and justice for all before the law." Therefore it is understandable that commentators and advocates for a First Nations Voice to Parliament responded with confusion at the Nationals decision yesterday not to support and First Nations Voice to Parliament. Noel Pearson in a powerful interview on Radio National this morning said the party are "writing themselves off for the future."

Young people overwhelmingly support a First Nations voice to Parliament. Young Australians voters, including those in regional Australia are voting more progressively on issues on social issues and climate change with younger people recently surveyed by JWS Research showing the strongest support for Voice is among 18 to 34-year-olds. The National Party risks losing the youth vote in the regions with this shortsighted and premature decision.

Co-chair of the Uluru Youth Dialogue Allira Davis, said that young Australian voters will be the driving force behind a successful referendum due to their willingness to accept change and strong desire for society to progress.

“Everyone needs to watch out for the young people,” she said. “Look at the climate action groups - they're led by young people. Marriage equality was led by young people. Young people are so progressive and want change and want to see change within their communities, whether it's First Nations or minorities.

Polling conducted for Guardian Australia by Essential in August found that a majority of Australians living in rural and regional areas support the idea of a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous voice to parliament despite not having heard much about it. In rural areas, 69% of respondents said they had heard hardly anything to nothing at all about the voice, but based on what they had heard, 57% said they would support it. In regional areas, support was at 66%.

Labor Sentor for the Northern Territory Pat Dodson said he was “taken aback” when he heard of the decision, adding that he didn’t believe it was a setback:

"I was a bit taken back because last week I spoke to senator Price and said I would like to talk to her. That hasn’t happened. I was more taken aback by the fact that I had made a statement in the chamber last week that set out some of the key agreed principles between the working group that has been set up … It is inclusive, respectful, culturally informed, gender balanced and includes youth.

It also is accountable and transparent and works along existing organisations and traditional structure. I outline those in the Senate last week and maybe Senator Price was not there, None of those would be objectionable to you or anyone listening to that list.

I don’t see it as a setback quite frankly. This is the beginning. The campaign hasn’t even begun. We are introducing amendments to the machine reap provisions for the referendum.

We haven’t even put forward the bill that will set up the referendum so it is a bit premature really and a bit inept to think that you would adopt a position well out before you saw anything of what the people, First Nations people were asking for the government.

It is not about the politicians, remember. It is about an invitation from the First Nations to the nation. This is about the Australian people and they will need to vote on it."

Dean Parkin, director of the From the Heart group campaigning for the voice, slammed the Nationals.

“Today’s decision of the National federal partyroom to oppose constitutional recognition through a voice to parliament is rash, illogical, and dismissive of the overwhelming will of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reflected in a vast survey published by Reconciliation Australia last week,” he said.

“The Nationals have taken a position that is vastly out of step with Australians, who understand that constitutional recognition through a voice to parliament is a simple and effective way to give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people a direct say over laws and policies that affect them.”

The Nationals have already said they'll oppose the vote and Noel Pearson says the party are "writing themselves off for the future."

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