‘I ACKNOWLEDGE THE PRESENCE IN THE HOUSE OF EVERALD COMPTON AO’.

These friendly words of welcome were made last Wednesday by Hon. Milton Dick MP, Speaker of the House of Representatives in the Australian Parliament.

I was visiting Parliament, negotiating on behalf of community projects in which I am personally involved, for the 121st time since my first visit there 66 years ago, covering an era in which 14 Prime Ministers have held office.

Milton had invited me to be his guest in the front row of the Speakers Gallery at Question Time, so I relaxed there as I took in the spectacle of Parliamentarians tearing one another apart – verbally – as usual.

During the proceedings, he announced my presence and the Members greeted me with warm applause. I was not expecting this, so I instantly decided that I better stand up and nod my thanks. This caused a bit more applause. I was quite moved by the honour, especially as the response came from all Parties in the Parliament, something that does not often happen in a Parliament that is constantly becoming more divided.

That same evening, Milton invited me to share an upmarket whisky with him and other MP’s in the Speakers Office as we chatted about political people and events over my six and a half decades as a visitor to Parliament. As we enjoyed our drinks, he asked me to express an opinion as to who were the best and worst Prime Ministers in my era. I responded that I have no doubt that Julia Gillard was the best and Scott Morrison the worst.

The visit to Parliament in this past week enabled me to have private meetings with 29 politicians and bureaucrats. I made sure that I covered Labor, Liberals, Nationals, Greens. Independents. This is a practice I have followed over all the years as I learned long ago that, to achieve anything significant at Parliament, it is vital to get as many people and parties onside as is possible.

On this occasion, at the conclusion of my three days there, I can say with confidence that I am pleased with the progress made with my projects, but am always aware that I should have done better,

I must mention that I found this Parliament, led by Anthony Albanese, to be a much more progressive place on sound government than those run by Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison. They were consumed by the exercise of power whereas this one shows clear evidence of genuinely trying to achieve results in an ever changing and challenging world of huge social, economic and religious divisions. A totally different attitude prevails at this moment and I found it to be refreshing. My hope is that it will continue to be so.

Right now, the major political battlegrounds are in the fields of industrial relations, anti-corruption, robodebt, voluntary assisted dying, child care, climate, environment, voice referendum, aged care and skills shortage, with many other initiatives in the pipeline. It will be good for Australia if most are successful

A few matters are obvious headline gatherers that are worthy of special comment right now.

*The Voice Referendum is currently in trouble. I found only a few MP’s who are confident that it will pass as most of them feel that Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania will vote No. The Australian Constitution clearly states that a majority of States must vote Yes for any Referendum to pass on the issue of constitutional change. I will vote Yes and will campaign strongly to secure an overall Yes vote as it is fundamentally wrong for Australia to have a Constitution that does recognise 65000 years of indigenous heritage. However, it will require a a well planned and very positive campaign to secure a Voice to that heritage.

*Along with the political demise of Scott Morrison, the power of the Christian Right has faded considerably in the current Parliament. I doubt that it will ever regain its influence as most Christians are in the centre ground of politics, not out on the extremes of the right.

*Many veteran Nationals and Liberals in Parliament intend to retire at the 2025 Election. They are resigned to the inevitability that Anthony Albanese will enjoy two terms as Prime Minister and Jim Chalmers will follow him for at least another 2 terms. They do not want to be in the political wilderness for so many long years. I can understand their feelings on this matter but the key issue is this. Can they find replacements who are Prime Minister material? This task is of great importance as they do not have anyone in their ranks at this moment who is electable as Leader of our nation. As matters stand at present, they are obviously very weak as the official Opposition. This is shown by their consistently poor performances at Question Time. Too many of their questions are embarrassingly ridiculous.

*The TEALS and other Independents are not political amateurs. They are preforming with positive credibility and getting results. One example of this is the humble but powerful performance of David Pocock in gaining amendments to Industrial Relations legislation.

So there it is for now.

Many things can change in a hurry in politics, so nothing is certain. But, for now, the new Labor government is doing better than most people expected.

I will be back there in Canberra in February. It may be a different world by then. Who knows.

But let me close by saying that I will never ever forget my first meeting with Sir Robert Menzies way back in 1956. He had a commanding presence and looked and acted like a Prime Minister of huge distinction. The key issue to remember is that he clearly occupied the centre ground of politics. It was obvious that he was a genuine Liberal. He was not a Conservative. The future of Australian politics will always be in the Centre. The LNP must get back there in a hurry or remain in the lonely wilderness for decades.

Yours with an open mind.

Everald

My book DINNER WITH THE FOUNDING FATHERS is enjoying increasing sales. Many Australians are realising that to vote in the voice referendum, they must have some knowledge of what our Founding Fathers put into the Constitution. My book is written as a thriller in which Barton, Deakin, Griffith, Kingston, Forrest etc are the very credible heroes.

Go to my books website, EveraldBooks.com, to place an order for it (and my other books).

THE MURDER OF CASSIUS TURVEY

Three weeks ago, a young Indigenous Aussie, just 15 years old, was peacefully walking home with his friends from the school they attended at Middle Swan in Western Australia.

His name was CASSIUS TURVEY.

They were attacked by a 21 year old man who hit him, and some of his friends, with an iron pole. He died two weeks later and his attacker has been charged with murder.

When he was laid to rest this week in the ancient and splendidly spiritual traditions of his ancestors, there was a genuine outpouring of grief across Australia as people of many cultures and religions met to light candles of remembrance. These gatherings were not organised as a part of any campaign against racists. They just happened. Indeed, the family of Cassius asked that his death not be used in any way as part of a political campaign.

Certainly, most of us do not want a nationwide crusade similar to that which happened when George Floyd was murdered by 4 police in USA. That incident was not a show of grief. It was as close to anarchy as it was possible to get. Simply, it was naked political unrest fostered by extremists who capitalised on the sincere feelings of many peace loving Americans who were appalled at Floyd’s death.

The death of Cassius is a stark reminder to all of us that we live in a violent society that is growing in its incidence of brutality for no valid reason.

This has been fostered by the ever growing use of hostile and insulting words that millions of us use every day in the normal course of our lives.

I cringe when politicians abuse one another in Parliament on every occasion they can. They set a dreadful example to the nation of disrespect and intolerance.

Media stirs divisions among us every minute of every hour of every day by creating controversial headlines that are blatant lies designed to divide society into warring factions that will support whatever sick ideology they are fostering at the time.

Social media is the worst centre of abuse by far. The bitterness, nastiness and lies that are spewed out every day are hugely disgraceful. So much so that I have recently taken up the practice of instantly blocking any follower or reader who is even slightly abusive, vulgar or hypocritical. We do not need them in our society in any shape or form.

We can commence our crusade against abuse by the way in which we participate in the debate during the forthcoming Referendum which will be held in Australia sometime during 2023 on the creation of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander VOICE.

This referendum has the capacity to create huge social divisions across the nation, not because there is anything illegal or divisive or dishonorable about it, but simply because it will give racists and bullies a respectable platform to vent their appalling spleen across our society and try their very best to divide us into warring factions.

I intend to campaign strongly for a YES Vote simply because I passionately believe it is time to recognise in the Australian Constitution the 65000 years of Indigenous heritage of our nation. This was deliberately omitted when our Constitution was written and voted on in 1901.

However, I will use no nasty language and I will respect the right of opponents to express their differing views as citizens of a democratic nation. If ever I overstep the mark, I will apologise sincerely.

My profound hope is that Australia will grow as a nation that has a predominantly cohesive society and that, in the years ahead, young Aussies like CASSIUS will be able to live with an expectation of security in a peaceful community, no matter whether they are black or white or of any other ethnic group or religion or culture.

May I say this in closing.

I did not attend a public gathering for CASSIUS. I paused for a few moments at my home to quietly shed a tear for him. He died before he had the opportunity to play the music that was in his soul. There and then, I made a quiet commitment to work relentlessly to foster a nation of peace.

And I now remember the words of the great English poet, John Donne, (amended to remove the word Man).

‘The death of any person diminishes me as I am involved in humankind. Therefore, never ask for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for you.’

Sincerely,

Everald Compton

ONE SMALL STEP

Sometime during 2023, a referendum will be held to determine whether constitutional provisions can be approved to create an Indigenous Voice within the process of democracy in Australia.

Its passing will not alone solve the many cultural, social and economic challenges that face Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders, but it will constitute a step forward along a pathway to find solutions to some of the more significant divisions in our society.

At the annual Garma Festival held recently in the Northern Territory, Anthony Albanese announced the words that are proposed to be included in the Australian Constitution if the voters of Australia approve them.

They are –

1. There shall be a body to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.

2. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to Parliament and the Executive Government on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

3. The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have powers to make laws with respect to the composition, function, powers and procedures of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.

Consultations will be held around Australia before the final wording is put to us at the Referendum when we will vote quite simply – YES or NO.

I intend to vote YES and to publicly campaign strongly for a majority of voters to do likewise.

How did we reach this point in our history?

Except to state in the Constitution that Aborigines are a responsibility of State Governments, the Founding Fathers in 1901, ignored them.

There was a widely held belief that they were a dying race and would have no part in the future of the nation. Indeed, the indigenous population was declining at that time, but this is not now the case. The reverse is occurring. 3.5% of the population of Australia now identify as being indigenous.

At that time, New Zealand withdrew from participating in the proposed Federation as they had already signed a treaty with the Maoris at Waitangi in 1840 and made them full citizens, something that the Australian States did not ever attempt to do and were not willing to do.

To our eternal disgrace, indigenous people were not given the right to vote until 1967, when a referendum gave approval with a vote of 97% in favour.

Then, in 1992, the High Court of Australia held that native title existed for all indigenous people.

Far too many Australian Governments have believed that they could achieve peace with aboriginals by buying their goodwill with money. Although billions of dollars have been spent in this way, little has been achieved.

Then, just a few years ago, the Uluru Statement from the Heart was prepared by the most significant gathering of Indigenous people in the history of Australia and presented to the Federal Government. Malcolm Turnbull declared that the voters of Australia would never accept it. Anthony Albanese believes otherwise.

So it is that you and I will now decide.

I wont set out here the case for either YES or N0.

This will be presented to us in the official referendum documents before we vote. I will now just comment on the draft wording that the Prime Minister has presented to us for consideration.

I find it to be acceptable except for two words.

The word ‘powers’ in the second line of paragraph 3, could cause the referendum to be lost. Paragraph 2 gives the Voice power to make representations only. Paragraph 3 gives Parliament power to give more power to the Voice. In my view, this can only be done via another referendum. The word should be removed from the paragraph.

The word VOICE is a strange title to give to a constitutional entity. It would be far better to call it an ASSEMBLY. This gives it the stature it deserves and we can more readily understand what it is.

Let me make an additional comment.

Once this new body is formed, I hope that it will of its own accord reach out to every nationality now living in Australia to mutually agree of ways and means of becoming a more cohesive society. There are now more than 100 nations represented here and each could send one delegate to a gathering of goodwill organised by the Voice once every parliamentary term.

Finally, may I note with dismay that Pauline Hanson has announced that her political party will campaign for a NO vote. I had hoped that political parties would stay out of it so we can enjoy a genuine exercise in democracy that will bring us together as a nation. Sadly it wont be so. Racism will raise its ugly head and divide us.

After all, we are simply acknowledging that people whose ancient heritage of 65000 years, the longest in the history of the entire planet, should be recognised in our national constitution.

Its just a small step to take.

Everald.

PS. Buy my book DINNER WITH THE FOUNDING FATHERS from my website

EVERALD@LARGE

It tells the mighty story of how our Constitution was written and approved back in 1901. Sadly it reminds us that only 20% of referendums to change or add to our Constitution have ever received the approval of voters. I hope that this one adds to the list of winners.

ULURU REFERENDUM.

It is now time for Australians to vote in a Referendum that embeds the basic principles of the Uluru Statement into the Constitution of Australia.

This historic milestone must not be delayed beyond this year and, as the Prime Minister has affirmed that his government is ready to pass legislation enabling the Referendum to be held, it is highly possible to achieve this.

As my contribution to the debate, here is wording I believe should be voted into the Constitution as Section 129, with the heading FIRST AUSTRALIANS.

*An Assembly will be established called FIRST AUSTRALIANS, in acknowledgement of the heritage of the oldest culture in the world.

It shall

*be elected by a democratic vote of indigenous persons managed by the Australian Electoral Commission.

*consist of not more than 50 members who shall serve five year terms.

*formulate policies relating to the livelihood of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and present these to Parliament annually.

Parliament shall have

*no obligation to approve the recommended policies, but shall debate them and formally convey responses to the Assembly within one year.

*powers to make laws relating to the functions and procedures of the Assembly.

Let me have your thoughts on how these words can be improved.

In doing so, I suggest you note these thoughts.

I have used the least possible number of words as the more words that are used the more doubts can be created in the minds of voters by opponents who see words as an opportunity to nitpick.

I am aware that significant leaders of indigenous communities would like the name of the Assembly to be FIRST NATIONS VOICE but I have the firm view that this will cause the referendum to fail as many Australians will feel that it recognises indigenous people as a separate nation.

The Constitution states that to gain approval, a Referendum must not only gain a nationwide majority of votes for YES, voters in four out of 6 States must vote YES. This is a huge task and I hope that you will join me in working for its achievement.

It is important that FIRST AUSTRALIANS is part of the Constitution rather than it being created by an Act of Parliament as that can be amended or removed by a subsequent government.

As this year is the 30th anniversary of the Mabo decision of the High Court to recognise the land rights of Indigenous Australians, it is fitting that Australia now takes this next step forward in continuing to achieve a just society.

Written with a genuine sense of history in the making.

Everald

PS. Read my book DINNER WITH THE FOUNDING FATHERS to discover why aborigines, as they were then called, were omitted from the Australian Constitution.

EVERALD@LARGE

Click on Books.