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March 28th 2009 print

Michael Connor

The break-up of Australia

The Chief Justice of Australia, Robert French, has been reported as  supporting calls for a treaty with Aboriginal Australians. With his eyes wide open, the Chief Justice is driving Australia towards a precipice. Inexcusably, he is ignoring the obvious, the desired consequence of the treaty sought by activists - the destruction of Australia's sovereignty.

The Chief Justice of Australia, Robert French, has been reported as  supporting calls for a treaty with Aboriginal Australians. With his eyes wide open, the Chief Justice is driving Australia towards a precipice. Inexcusably, he is ignoring the obvious, the desired consequence of the treaty sought by activists – the destruction of Australia’s sovereignty.

It is no secret what the activists want.

In an essay published in Quadrant last year, Keith Windschuttle referred to a book by law academic Lahrissa Behrendt:

Behrendt’s book makes it clear that the aim of a treaty is far from some amicable social compact which will further reconciliation. Instead, the principal rationale for a treaty is to establish Aboriginal sovereignty. The argument is that Australian courts have recognised that traditional Aboriginal society was governed by its own laws. The existence of a legal system, the book argues, logically entails the existence of Aboriginal sovereignty, which was never extinguished by the Crown’s own declaration of sovereignty. The problem for the activists is that the issue of sovereignty is not justiciable in any Australian court. Nor can an ethnic minority group like the Aborigines bring such a case before an international court, since only states can normally do that. But if a treaty recognises Aboriginal people as a group distinct from the Commonwealth — in Henry Reynolds’ words, a nation within the state — then there may be room for the latter kind of legal manoeuvre, especially if accompanied by Australian endorsement of the UN’s declaration on indigenous rights.

That was written last year. Next Friday the Federal Government will announce its support for the UN declaration on indigenous rights.

 

See also: Keith Windschuttle – Why there should be no Aboriginal treaty (Quadrant, 2001).