A Seat at the Table

06 October 2011 | 0:00 - By

Video journalist Richard Davis on the push for allocated Indigenous seats in Federal Parliament.

WIP 051011 ALLOCATED SEATS MASTER ATTN RICHARD DAVIES 00003007_125316432

Ken Wyatt is a quiet, considered man. You get the impression he carefully ponders everything he says and does.

But the Liberal Party backbencher has changed his mind.

Ken is the first Aboriginal MP to sit in the lower house. He used to believe that seats should be set aside for Idigenous people, but now he’s in Parliament he’s decided that people should be elected on merit and not necessarily because of their Aboriginality.

But there’s widespread agreement that the current system isn’t working. 110 years since federation, only three Aboriginal people have been elected to the nation’s Parliament. Indigenous people make up about  2½ per cent of the population, which means that on raw numbers, there should be about 3 Indigenous MPs in the lower house after every election.
 
And so many people think seats should be reserved for Indigenous people to boost their parliamentary representation. New Zealand has had seats set aside for Maori MPs since the 1860s.

There are also calls for the major political parties to pre-select Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in winnable seats. But as history has shown, that’s extremely uncommon and Indigenous people continue to be under-represented in the Parliament.

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