Aborigines

Daniel Andrews’ Aboriginal ‘Treaty’ Con Job

In 2019, the Victorian government of Premier Daniel Andrews announced it would set up a First People’s Assembly to prepare for “treaty negotiations” with Aboriginal “sovereign First Nations”. One can only assume that “sovereign First Nations” is another way to describe citizens who are descendants of Aborigines who lived in what is now Victoria when the first settlers arrived.

It appears to have escaped Mr Andrews’ attention that an Australian state has no power nor authority to enter into a formal treaty of the kind recognised by international law. States or provinces cannot enter into treaties, it’s that simple. Mr Andrews should know this from bitter experience, having seen his secret Belt & Road pact with Beijing scuttled by the Morrison government. Only sovereign nations can enter into treaties recognised by international law.

The Andrews government proposal for Victoria to enter into multiple treaties with identifiable Aboriginal groups was raised in parliament on June 22, 2022. In his dissenting speech to parliament on the proposed treaties, Member for Kew Tim Smith put it succinctly: “You can’t enter into a treaty with your own fellow citizens”. Unlike his fellow Liberals and their Nationals partners, Smith crossed the floor rather than support what he regards as an abomination.

Drawing and expanding upon the Aboriginal demands contained in the Uluru Statement of 2017, the Referendum Council established by the Turnbull government raised three significant and very controversial proposals in its Final Report for consideration by the Australian people and parliament. One of those proposals, drawn directly from the Uluru Statement, was for treaties between federal and state governments and Aboriginal groups able to trace ancestry to tribes in existence before the First Fleet.

No one appears to have told the  Uluru delegates — or members of the Referendum Council, for that matter — about what a  treaty needs in order to be valid under international law. Hint: it requires more than a formal amity between those overseeing a piece of, in this instance, the Australian land mass and a particular ethnic, racial or cultural group already residing, and accorded full rights, in that jurisdiction.

The time is long overdue for politicians to be honest and tell Aboriginal Australians that the time for genuine treaties is long past. The time for treaties was certainly dead by Federation, when every Aborigine and every person of Aboriginal descent became citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Perhaps inspired by thoughts of the Waitangi Treaty of 1840 in New Zealand and the 29 treaties entered into between the United States and American Indian tribes between 1778 (Delawares) and 1868 (Treaty with the Sioux Confederation at Fort Laramie), treaty advocates fail to notice why those pacts are entirely different from that which they wish to achieve. The Maori and American Indians were not citizens of New Zealand or the United States when their chiefs signed. The Waitangi Treaty was an attempt to halt bloody warfare between British colonists and Maoris defending their own sovereign homelands. The Maori chiefs agreed in the Waitangi Treaty to become citizens living under the British Crown. The American Indian chiefs agreed to halt warfare with the United States and to their people becoming citizens of the when each of those twenty-nine treaties was signed.

In 1988, Prime Minister Bob Hawke attended the taxpayer-funded annual Barunga Aboriginal Festival in the Northern Territory, where Aboriginal representatives presented him with the Barunga Statement which demanded a treaty between Aboriginal Australians and the Australian Federal government. Hawke signed the Barunga Statement and promised “a treaty within the life of this parliament”. Having returned to Canberra, Hawke discovered that he could not deliver on his pledge because international law does not recognise as treaties agreements between the government of a country and any group of its own citizens.

A formal treaty with Aboriginal Australians would have required dividing Australia by creating a new country inside Australia — the Northern Territory, perhaps? — and giving this new Aboriginal entity sovereign status under international law. It would have destroyed the Australia loved by the 97 percent of Australians who have no Aboriginal ancestry. It would also have destroyed the Hawke government.

In the end, Hawke compromised by creating the elected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) in 1990, but ATSIC was stricken with scandal, embezzlement, nepotism and corruption and was finally abolished by Prime Minister John Howard in 2004.

If Daniel Andrews knows any of this (he would be a fool if he did not), he should apologise to Victoria’s Aboriginal citizens for deceiving them into believing his government has the legal right to negotiate and enter into bona fide treaties with them or anyone else, for that matter.

The best treaty supporters can hope for is a joint ‘motherhood statement’, one whose cliches must be by definition as empty as Premier Andrews’ promises.

12 comments
  • Daffy

    Now you’re talkin’. The NT could become an independent country. The Aboriginal government could crack on and mine uranium and build a few nuclear reactors, in the SW and SE corners of newly named Uluru Land and export power to the dopey states. What a windfall (word chosen for irony potential)! The sensible Aborigines make a motza out of our energy poverty and we get cheap reliable power.

  • restt

    This should be taught in schools. A time for a treat was over 200 years ago. The Aboriginal people were too low in the scale of civilisation to enter into or negotiate a treaty. Aboriginals did not meaningfully defend their lands and most actually “came in” to live on the fringes often as mendicants. The land was ceded piece by piece in the settlement of Australia. There never was any requirement under British Law to have a treaty.

  • Tom Lewis

    Just another government waste of money, like that idiot Perrottet in NSW with his $25m flagpole.

  • geoff_brown1

    Google “1988 Draft Treaty’ – the sums demanded as “compensation” and “Reparations” are substantial, to say the least.

  • Daffy

    @geoff_brown1: Compensation! We’ve already paid out several billions of dollars. Compensation done! And in spades.

  • restt

    Mabo 2 – the High. Court decided no compensation was payable. That should be rammed home every time. Native title was lawfully extinguished and the Aboriginal has to reconcile with that instead of whining for another 50,000 years.

  • Ian MacKenzie

    James Bowen above accurately describes the difference of any agreement (it can’t be a treaty) between the State of Victoria and part-Aboriginals, and the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi between various Maori tribes and the British Crown. None the less, Australians concerned about additional racial division in this country would be well advised to familiarize themselves with the outcomes of Waitangi today, as those advocating special treatment based on race see it as a model.
    The first Waitangi innovation to impact most New Zealanders was establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal set up in 1975 to examine alleged breaches of the treaty and recommend redress. Obviously only Maori grievances have been examined, with substantial land transfers made and many hundreds of millions of dollars in “compensation” paid. Claims have even been made with respect to radio frequencies, something which it is safe to say wasn’t envisaged by the treaty drafters in 1840. It is truly amazing what an unelected, activist judge can “discover” in Victorian text. Little wonder that such ambit claims have been referred to as the “Treaty of Waitangi Grievance Industry”. So far, so similar to Australia.
    Where New Zealand has ventured beyond Australia is to legislate for veto rights by iwi (tribes) on local government development applications. So far this hasn’t impacted many applications for veranda extensions (beyond the review fee payable to said iwi), but if for instance a new bridge is to be built for a national highway it is safe to assume that this will disturb any local taniwha (river spirits) requiring either substantial compensation to placate said taniwha, or repositioning of the bridge, both options costing in the millions.
    It is also instructive to see where New Zealand is heading, given that we will inevitably be pushed to follow in that direction as well. It would seem that PM St Jacinta the Umpathetic has in mind an apartheid state, divided between part-Maori (there are no full-blood Maori anymore) and the rest of the population. Labour’s He Puapua plan describes establishing two governments in New Zealand by 2040. By then it is envisaged that the governing bodies of New Zealand’s most powerful and wealthy iwi (as a result of the never-ending hundreds of millions of Waitangi dollars diverted to them from taxpayers in recent decades) will preside over all aspects of New Zealand’s policy-making. Australians would be wise to see something similar as the inevitable long-term outcome of an Australian Voice to Parliament, or even of Daniel Andrew’s “treaties” as interpreted by unelected activist judges of the kind currently reinterpreting the Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand.

  • Peter OBrien

    Good on Tim Smith (the only Victorian State Liberal worth a pinch of the proverbial) but he needs to get his facts straight. On Outsiders yesterday he suggested the 1967 referendum conferred citizenship on Aborigines when we (and he should) know that Aborigines, who had been British subjects hitherto, became Australian citizens along with the rest of us when the Australian Citizenship Act came into force in 1949.
    He also acknowledged the massacres that took place in the Port Philip district in its early days. This puts undue emphasis on a minor and very questionable aspect of colonization. Far better to acknowledge the initial dispossession, if he felt the need to say something.

  • Ian MacKenzie

    Perhaps Tim Smith could have also mentioned some of the positive aspects of British settlement, like literacy, enlightenment science, agriculture, effective medicine, engineering, housing, Westminster democracy, a more than doubling of life expectancy, an end to intertribal warfare, much reduced infanticide etc. Just as the queues of immigrants wanting to get here are one of the most effective ways to illustrate that Australia isn’t the hell hole that the Left makes out, the fact that Aboriginal lives have improved in 200 years more than they did in tens of thousands of years before 1788 means the interaction has been a two-way street. Both sides benefited.

  • john.singer

    Dan Andrews is IMHO exceeding his power and that of the Victorian Government and if Mr Guy is conducting an Opposition worthy of the title he should refer the matter to the High Court.

  • whitelaughter

    Maybe we should sign a treaty with the Maoris putting the title of ‘indigenous Australians’ up for grabs? after all, they’d have arrived by now but for the arrival of whites; so just say any area where the Aboriginal flags have been torn down and replaced by Maori flags has changed hands.
    And we get to watch a *real* invasion take place.

  • Andrew L Urban

    Everyone playing treaty dress-ups knows the ‘treaty’ is make believe. A playschool thing, like a print of a famous painting hanging on the wall. It’s not the real thing.

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