• Senator Nova Peris delivers her maiden speech in the Senate chamber in Canberra Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013. (AAP)
A prominent Tasmanian lawyer has called on the Commonwealth to introduce legislative change for greater representation of the nation’s First Peoples with a designated number of Indigenous seats in the Senate.
By
Malarndirri McCarthy

Source:
NITV News
9 Sep 2015 - 5:28 PM  UPDATED 9 Sep 2015 - 6:35 PM

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Lawyer, Michael Mansell, has told NITV that he wants 13 seats to be set aside in the Federal Senate for Indigenous representatives.

Mr Mansell said now is the time for serious talk on designated Indigenous seats in the Senate, given the current discussion about constitutional reform.

"If you get 13 Aborigines in the Senate and even if you got one in the Lower House at least it sounds more representative," said Mr Mansell.

“It gives Aboriginal people more political power base to negotiate a whole range of deals, normal part of Australian politics and perhaps get more land get more empowerment to local communities.”

“It gives Aboriginal people more political power base to negotiate a whole range of deals, normal part of Australian politics and perhaps get more land get more empowerment to local communities.”

Australia has only had six Indigenous politicians in the history of the Commonwealth parliament.

Currently, the Upper House has 76 seats and three are already held by Indigenous Senators.

Mr Mansell proposes that of the 12 senators from each of the six states, two positions should be Indigenous seats.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said he agrees with Mr Mansell and added that debating a model for identified Indigenous seats should be in the mix.  

 

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"But I know in other parliaments in the world that that works and there's no reason why that shouldn't be on the debate,” said SA Independent Senator, Nick Xenophon.

“If we're going to be talking about Indigenous recognition which I fully support then that should be on the agenda as well."

But not all Senators agree. NSW Liberal Senator, David Leyonjhelm said he is opposed to a quota system because he believes it is racist.

“I am absolutely 100 percent opposed to anything to do with racism and selecting people on the basis of race whether its positive or negative is racism, I won't have a bar of it," Senator Leyonjhelm said.

Jo Lindgren, new QLD Liberal Senator and granddaughter of Australia's first Indigenous Senator Neville Bonner, does not agree with dedicated Indigenous seats.

 

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However, she said, her reasons are not about racism.

"I don't think its a racist proposal," said Senator Lindgren.

"I think it's a fair proposal... It doesn't matter what party they join but I think they really should go through a political process of pre-selection - get there on merit and feel free to be part of a team and treated like every other parliamentarian."

If Mr Mansell's model gains public momentum, the question of whether it requires an ammendment to the Commonwealth Electoral Act or a change to the Australian Constitution is still not yet clear, due to different legal opinions.

 

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