Earlier this month, I gave the Prime Minister credit for rejecting calls for taxpayer funded conventions or conferences to assist advocates of constitutional recognition and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people come up with a proposal.
Clearly, I spoke too soon:
On Friday, [Prime Minister Tony] Abbott reversed his opposition to taxpayer-funded conventions for indigenous people to try to build consensus on constitutional recognition.
The chairman of Mr Abbott’s indigenous advisory council, Warren Mundine, told The Australian yesterday he was relieved the conventions would go ahead.
It is entirely inappropriate that the government would assist one side of the debate in their quest to change, and entrench division, in the constitution.
However, this merely carries on a trend of taxpayer funding for the cause. Reconciliation Australia is funded predominantly by the federal government, and on at least two occasions has pledged extra taxpayer money for the express purpose of promoting constitutional recognition. In July 2012, Reconciliation Australia entered into a $10 million, two year funding agreement with the then ALP government, while the Coalition government promised to top up RECOGNISE (which is a part of Reconciliation Australia) with another $5 million last November.
Some groups have even been required to demonstrate what they are doing to advance constitutional recognition to justify government funding, as this segment on Four Corners highlighted:
Unlike the local government referendum, where the official ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ cases were funding by significantly different degrees, constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians is being rigged before the referendum campaign has even begun.
Proponents for constitutional recognition are free to conduct their own conventions – and should do so at their own expense.