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Motion for treaty action passes NSW upper house

Jarred Cross -

A motion to progress treaty processes in New South Wales has passed the state's Upper House this week, albeit with a slim majority.

New South Wales are trailing behind on treaty in comparison to other jurisdictions around the country, with the new Labor government recently taking backwards steps on their election promise.

In October, Premier Chris Minns said "major changes to our constitutional arrangements or law" would be held off until the next election.

It came just days after he said acting on recommendations from the consultative process with Indigenous people would not necessarily be left until the state heads back to the polls in 2027.

In the legislative council on Wednesday, Greens MP and spokesperson for First Nations Justice, Sue Higginson, presented a motion calling on the Government "to work with the Parliament to ensure there is support for agreement-making with First Nations peoples so the processes are not undermined by the election cycle".

The motion also supported "free, prior, informed and ongoing consent, as outlined in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People" as core to treaty making processes.

The motion passed with a slim margin with support from the Government, Greens, Animal Justice Party and Legalise Cannabis Party.

"This is an important signal to First Nations communities across the State that there is support in the Parliament for progressing a Treaty process. A Treaty will set the framework to move forward together, to begin the work of addressing the root causes of the challenges First Nations people continue to experience," Ms Higginson said in a statement.

"It is encouraging to have this show of support from the Parliament for a Treaty process that the Government took to the NSW election. First Nations people have waited for too long for their sovereignty to be recognised by the State and for power to be handed back to them and their communities.

"The principle of Free Prior Informed and Ongoing Consent (FPIC) is imperative from the very beginning of the process to ensure First Nations people are empowered with the knowledge and capacity to meaningfully engage with any consultation process and the power imbalance between the State and those in the community is addressed."

Minister for Roads, Arts, Music, Night-time Economy, Jobs and Tourism, John Graham, sought to express the Government's support, and commitment to initial consultation processes.

"That is why $5 million was committed in the recent budget. The consultation will determine whether Aboriginal communities in New South Wales want a treaty or agreement-making process and what that process will look like," Minister Graham said.

"As the member (Ms Higginson) said, the process should be centred on free, prior and informed consent. Treaties can have a tangible impact in addressing disadvantage faced by Aboriginal communities. Agreements with Aboriginal people have been part of the New South Wales landscape for a number of years, as members would know."

The motion was met by commentary from coalition and minor party members citing the state's rejection of a Voice to Parliament in October's referendum.

One Nation's Tania Mihailuk "utterly" opposed it, saying "the reality is that the people have spoken on this issue".

"They made it abundantly clear on 14 October that they are tired of this type of virtue signalling… people have had a real gutful," Ms Mihailuk said.

"It does not surprise me that Minns made it clear to his caucus that, beyond a consultation process, he is not prepared to entertain a treaty."

She claimed the Premier had made it clear he would not take the same "risk" Prime Minister Anthony Albanese had with proceeded with the referendum.

Liberal member Rachel Merton echoed sentiments around the Voice rejection being a reflection of the public's position.

"Whilst election promises should be fulfilled, that one has surely been overtaken by the events of 14 October and the actions of people who said no to the politics of division," she said.

"I firmly believe that the people of New South Wales do not want a treaty with themselves."

Ms Merton also cited the potential cost to taxpayers.

The motion progressed to pass the house 20-17 in favour.


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