Australia braces for costly indigenous treaties ahead of Voice vote

Government officials warn of significant costs associated with Indigenous treaty negotiations.

Australia braces for costly indigenous treaties ahead of Voice vote
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Australians preparing to vote on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament are being warned that treaties with Indigenous groups will cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Queensland cabinet minister Craig Crawford told The Australian this week that state governments would factor in the amount of land taken by British colonialists when calculating how much money taxpayers would pay as part of a treaty process.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart, which the Albanese Government has embraced in full, calls for a Voice to Parliament followed by Truth Telling commissions that would inform Treaty settlements.

Crawford said treaties would involve the payment of money along with things like updates to school curriculums, renaming of landmarks and changes to health and criminal justice systems.

He said Indigenous groups would be invited to put “anything on the table”.

“We would then, like any negotiation, start working through that process,” he said.

“There may be some things there that we say ‘no you can’t have that’, and sovereignty might be one.”

Crawford said state governments were looking to countries like New Zealand and Canada where treaties had been agreed to.

The process would be complicated by the fact that, in Queensland alone, there were about 150 ‘Indigenous Nations’ that would need to be negotiated with.

Even before treaties are worked out, taxpayers are being billed millions of dollars for the process.

The NSW government will spend $5m in the next 12 months to determine what a treaty process might look like, while the Northern Territory government has put aside $4m over the next four years to start the process.

The Dan Andrews government included $150m in its 2022/23 budget to fund a First People’s Assembly that would negotiate key elements of a treaty in preparation for a treaty.

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