As Labor opens the door to treaty, Malcolm Turnbull argues for keeping the focus on constitutional recognition.
Myles Morgan

14 Jun 2016 - 4:25 PM  UPDATED 14 Jun 2016 - 4:25 PM

A formal agreement between Indigenous people and the Federal Government would undermine the campaign for constitutional recognition, according to the Prime Minister.

On day 37 of the election campaign, both major parties were campaigning in Perth and both spoke about the issue of treaty.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he is committed to constitutional recognition of Indigenous people, but is also ready to discuss a treaty.

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“I am up for the conversation on a treaty, absolutely, but what I'm not going to do is impose paternalistic top-down solutions,” Mr Shorten told reporters in Perth alongside Aboriginal Labor candidate Tammy Solonec.

Mr Shorten wouldn’t be drawn on any detail beyond his general support for the notion of a treaty.

But he did say he was aware that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people did not support moves to change Australia’s Constitution to recognise them.

“There is a level of cynicism amongst parts of the Australian community that somehow constitutional reform in and of itself will deliver all the other outcomes,” Mr Shorten said.

The Prime Minister gave his most frank assessment yet on the idea of a treaty existing alongside constitutional change.

“Mr Shorten should have more discipline and more focus on ensuring we maintain support for constitutional recognition rather than introducing other concepts which will, in my view, undermine the prospects of getting the very high level of public support you need for constitutional recognition of our first Australians,” he said at a press conference.

Turnbull wades into history wars

The Prime Minister was also asked to comment on the controversial question of whether Australia was colonised or invaded.

He didn’t dispute that Australia was invaded.

“I think it can be fairly described as that and I've got no doubt and obviously our first Aboriginal Australians describe it as an invasion,” he said.

“But it’s really an argument about a word. The facts are very well known: This country was Aboriginal land. It was occupied by Aboriginal people for tens of thousands of years, 40 000 years.”

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