Australia

New Liberal senator uses maiden speech to back Indigenous voice

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New Liberal Senator for New South Wales, Andrew Bragg, has used his maiden speech to throw his support behind an Indigenous voice to parliament in the constitution.

Newly elected Liberal Senator for New South Wales, Andrew Bragg, has backed an Indigenous voice to parliament in the constitution.

Senator Bragg used his maiden speech on Wednesday evening to speak out against some of his colleagues who have labelled the voice, a key proposal of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, a "third chamber".

“A First Nations voice would not be a third chamber. It will not have the standing, scope or power of the Senate or the House of Representatives,” Senator Bragg told the Upper House.

“I will walk with Indigenous Australians on this journey.”

“Almost every comparable nation has landed some form of legal recognition of First Peoples. We should not wait any longer,” he said.

The issue has divided the Federal Government with many in the Coalition, including the Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, all against enshrining a voice in the constitution.

Andrew Bragg with Indigenous leaders
Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg with Rachel Perkins, Richie Ah Mat and Sean Gordon.
SBS News

Australia’s first Indigenous cabinet minister and Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, promised to hold a referendum on Indigenous constitutional recognition in this parliamentary term.

Mr Wyatt left the door open to including a voice in the referendum, but changed his tune after a number of backbenchers came out against the idea. 

Senator Bragg acknowledged he is at odds with his Coalition colleagues and said the issue is a "challenge".

“I know my colleagues share strong feelings about this,” he said.

“I am worried our country has not been able to reconcile with Indigenous Australians.”

He also said the country should adopt a contingency measure if the referendum fails.

“If recognition fails, more radical concepts could be proposed such as reserved seats as already exist in New Zealand and the US state of Maine for First Peoples,” he said.

Senator Bragg is one of 27 new faces in the parliament who are delivering their first speeches this week.

New Victorian Labor Senator Raff Ciccone used his maiden speech to emphasise the importance of multiculturalism.

With his father Amato watching on in the gallery, Senator Ciccone spoke about his upbringing in a typical Italian-Australian family in the working class suburb of Huntingdale.

“We had a modest, but comfortable home, ready at a moment to warmly welcome visitors. It was a house that was filled with food, family, and love.”

Senator Raff Ciccone and his father Amato.
Senator Raff Ciccone and his father Amato.
Supplied

He said he was proud to count himself among the Australians who are the children or grandchildren of migrants that makes up half the population.

"More than 118 years since Federation, our nation has come a long way to become the vibrant, more inclusive multicultural country we are today," he said.

The former trade unionist, who represented exploited 7-Eleven workers, also used his speech to call for the extension of whistleblower protections to cover temporary visa workers and increase the penalties for wage theft.

“I regularly met with workers that were paid between $8 and $10 an hour, and in one instance a young foreign student, was making as little as $5 an hour.”

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