Aboriginal leader Sean Gordon will help form a new political party after this week quitting the Liberals in disgust.
Speaking to NIT on Thursday, the CEO of Darkinjung Aboriginal Land Council says his decision to quit the party he joined only a year ago had not been an easy one but that Malcolm Turnbull’s rejection of the key recommendations arising from the ‘Uluru Statement from the Heart’ had left him no choice.
He said moves were afoot to form a new party that would not only represent the interests of Aboriginal people but also other “voiceless” groups within Australian society who were socioeconomically disadvantaged.
He said ‘Social Equity Party’ was a working title at this early stage.
“I was part of talks about doing this a couple of years ago, but the time wasn’t right then – the time is right now,” Mr Gordon said.
“It took me a long time to finally align with a party and I thought the Conservatives were the right place for me; that this was a government that believed in people making decisions for themselves to better their lot in life without the need for over-the-top policies.
“But while Malcolm Turnbull has made a big thing about saying his government wants to walk alongside us, making decisions with us rather than to us, that is simply not the case.
“Neither he nor (Aboriginal Affairs Minister) Nigel Scullion even consulted their Indigenous Advisory Board before making the decision to scrap the recommendations of the Referendum Council.
“Our people need to accept that this government doesn’t have the answers for our people – and I don’t believe the Labor Party does either.
“This new party, which I am helping to drive, will not be Labor or Liberal – it will sit in the middle and come up with its own solutions.”
Mr Gordon said he had tried hard to work with the Turnbull Government but that it was “ultimately hard to bite the hand that feeds you … you’re hamstrung.
“They don’t want self-determination for Aboriginal people – they say they do but at the end of the day it’s all government-led.
“The Closing The Gap strategy – it’s all government-led, and the minute Aboriginal people try to take a lead in the process, it’s rejected.”
He said Turnbull had been misleading in his representation to Cabinet and the public of what the Referendum Council actually wanted.
“There was so much scaremongering,” he said. “Basically what was asked for was a seat at the table, to have a say in the policies and programs that impact Aboriginal people, not to overhaul the houses of Parliament or redesign the Constitution.
“He accused Aboriginal people of being too ambitious, which is absolutely ludicrous.
“I don’t know how much more needs to happen – the dire situation in remote communities, the deaths in custody, the rejection of the Uluru Statement.
“It’s important for our people to stand up morally against bad decisions; to send a clear message – and that’s what I have done in resigning.”
Mr Gordon dismissed the suggestion a new party might create an us-versus-them divide that would prove counter-productive to achieving real change.
He said he was heartened by the success of people like Nick Xenophon in winning national support and believed many Australians would get behind a new minor party if it was powered by the right messages.
“Just like the same-sex marriage vote, if you put (the recommendations of the Referendum Council) to the people of Australia, you would have strong support.
“I’ve seen enough evidence to support that belief and I’ve conducted my own survey recently that gave me great confidence.
“There are enough Aboriginal representatives in each state and territory for this to be successful and if we’re serious about having a voice to Parliament, this is how we do it.
“But we also have to generate broader support beyond just Aboriginal people … to connect with other voiceless people in this country.”