Adjournment – First Nations, Identity, 20 June 2023
Senator BABET (Victoria—United Australia Party Whip) (20:34): Thank you, Senator Roberts. That was a great contribution. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Yesterday, I planned to speak in support of Senator Hanson’s motion on Indigenous identity fraud, but unfortunately, as is too common in this place, those opposite silenced the debate and stopped me from speaking. So here I am, ladies and gents, in this empty chamber at adjournment.
Senator Scarr interjecting—
Senator BABET: Thank you, Senator Scarr. I am here, almost by myself—there are a few senators here—to put on the record my views. We’re going to put it on the record. We’re going to get it done. We’re going to make a great video for social media. It’s going to go up, and people are going to see what’s happening in here.
Senator Scarr: You’re going to go viral.
Senator BABET: I’m going to go viral.
I supported the referral of this matter to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee. The government’s insistence on inserting race based rights into the Constitution of Australia is fraught with problems. We all know that. Why does it take a brown guy to tell you that? It is fraught with problems. In endeavouring to solve one problem, that of Indigenous disadvantage, which we all know is true, the government is creating more problems. That’s all the government’s doing—more problems.
The most obvious of these problems—I’ll tell you what it is—is the question of who gets to identify as an Aboriginal and how. Who are they? We don’t know. It is well established there is already a huge problem in our country with non-Indigenous people who go on to tick a box on a form and identify as Indigenous in order to take advantage of all the government benefits. In fact, the National Indigenous Times last year called for an investigation into Indigenous identity fraud. They were claiming that non-Aboriginals were stealing cultural and leadership opportunities from those who are obviously Australia’s most disadvantaged people. Indigenous entrepreneur Dean Foley estimates that up to 20 per cent of people claiming benefits as Indigenous people are, in fact, not even Indigenous. If that is even close to being true then perhaps the only worse thing is the government’s NDIS. It is perhaps the most attractive thing for fraudsters apart from the NDIS, which we all know is a complete shambles.
The 2021 census recorded there were 812,000 Indigenous people in Australia. That was a jump from 2016 of 25 per cent, just like that. Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council chief executive Nathan Moran told the Sydney Morning Herald that those numbers are a bit suspicious. That’s what he said. I think he’s probably right; it is a bit suspicious. How are we to believe that one in 25 people all of a sudden are Indigenous? It seems a bit far-fetched. Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania chair Michael Mansell was reported to have written in the Mercury:
… he found it ‘unbelievable’ that 5 per cent of Tasmanians now identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
He said that the increase in Aboriginals—I’ll quote again—is due to:
… “identity seekers” who are “poor and white” and believe they will have more cultural cachet if they identify as Aboriginal.
I can give you more examples of Indigenous leaders who allege rampant Indigenous ID fraud in this country. It is for that reason that I supported Senator Hanson’s motion to clarify the way in which Aboriginal identity is identified. I think it’s fair enough. If we’re going to be pushing with the Voice and all sorts of other things, such as grants et cetera, then we should at least know who is an Aboriginal. We should solidify what that is.
If we are going to establish race based rights, which is what we’re trying to do in this place, then we had better make sure that we get race right. That’s probably fair enough. But wouldn’t it be better instead if we had human rights rather than race based rights? Wouldn’t it be better to help the disadvantaged on the basis of their need rather than the colour of their skin? It’s crazy what’s happening right now. Not only would it be a more equitable way of providing aid but it would put an end to race identity fraud. It’s crazy what’s going on right now. What if we helped the disadvantaged not because they’re Indigenous but because they’re Aussies? It’s as simple as that. I know it’s a crazy idea—it’s a radical idea in our race obsessed nation! But just imagine this: we judge people on the basis of their need rather than their ancestry. It would be almost like it were a liberal democracy once again. That’s what it would be.
Speaking of which, the Voice has no place in a liberal democracy. The government has already said that the Voice is step 1 in a process, outlined in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, that leads to truth-telling and then eventually to treaty. If we think we have problems with Indigenous identity theft now, senators, wait until treaty reparations begin; then we’ll see a real problem. When you dispense money based on race, which—let’s be honest—is what it’s going to lead to, good luck sorting the genuine claims from the fraudulent claims. Solving the problem of Indigenous disadvantage with race based solutions does nothing to improve the lives of Indigenous people nor this country. It only serves to divide and invite unscrupulous actors to take advantage. The Voice is a mistake, but in this place this week we have made the referendum a reality. Ultimately, the Australian people will have their say.
We know that this government is determined to push ahead with race based changes to our Constitution. The least they can do is to diligently ensure that those identifying as Aboriginal actually are Aboriginal. Frankly, from my point of view, we really should not be giving people any special rights at all based on the colour of their skin or their ancestry. We should all be judged on the content of our character, as a great man once said. That’s all I’ll say about that.