While the Liberal Party formally opposed the Voice, opposition leader Peter Dutton kicked off his no campaign in Alice Springs last week. His allegation that child sexual abuse is widespread was soon attacked by the government and others who accused him of engaging in politics, using the issue as political football.
Marion Scrymgour, a former Deputy First Minister in the Northern Territory, is the federal Labor member for the seat of Lingiari, an electorate that encompasses almost all of the NT outside Darwin.
Scrymgour says Dutton is taking up the same theme as during the intervention in the Northern Territory. The same campaign that has been waged to justify the intervention is the same campaign that has been waged with the Leader of the Opposition.
“I’m not saying he has no commitment to resolve this matter,” she says. But she rejects the “excuse” of Dutton, his new shadow minister for Indigenous Australians, Jacinta Price and others that “he can’t bring out the names”.
“That is a complete abolition of their responsibility. Those stories and the names of people who bring those stories forward can be done in a confidential manner.
Scrymgour has proposed a statutory Family Responsibility Commission, as it operates in Queensland. “I think the most important part of the Family Responsibility Commission is that it’s Aboriginal oversight, you get Aboriginal people, Aboriginal leaders who go through a vetting process.
“The families are brought before the committee: they look at school attendance, they look at the well-being of the child (…) but also at the support that the family needs.
“The family must sign a family responsibility agreement, and those agreements are then entered into by both the commissioner, who has legal status, and the family.”
There has been a push recently, including from Senate crossbencher Jacqui Lambie, to reinstate a former employment program to bring jobs, skills and pride back to communities in the NT.
Scrymgour tells the podcast, “We need to move beyond talking about it (…) and actually rolling out this program. I agree with Jacqui Lambie.
“This is a program that took place in the Northern Territory almost 15 years ago. Everyone in many communities had jobs and communities were happy and healthy and we need to get along (…) and continue to do so.”
Scrymgour, who had spoken about the Voice in remote communities just before the podcast, admits there is a wide range of opinions on the ground and more information and clarity is needed.
“Look, you have people who have different views in many communities and I just came back from my own community in the Tiwi Islands, and there was great discussion and support for The Voice. But before that support came, people needed to know.
However, she does believe the “vibe is good” on the property and in the community.
“The atmosphere was really good. I found the atmosphere really interesting yesterday. It was good. There were people who were not convinced, but people who more or less did not understand. And when I talked about what was different about constitutional recognition and how that would apply, it led to the discussion about ATSIC (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission), because a lot of communities still remember ATSIC, and a lot of times people talk about ATSIC and they say they got rid of it and that was their vote. So it then generates another discussion on that. But this Voice will not be able to be removed that way because it will be embedded in the Constitution.
“Many of the land council men, you know, sort of stood up and said, ‘Oh, well, we don’t agree with what you’re saying. We think we should just talk about this. And, you know, this is a good thing. Let’s talk about how this can be something we can all get behind.
“So I’m going to set another time where I can go back and sit down with my crowd and go over it. But I’ll do that with all communities.”