Uluru words likened to Lincoln address

November 30, 2022 12:14 PM AEDT | By AAPNEWS
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Anthony Albanese has likened the Uluru Statement from the Heart to a famous US speech, while urging the Australian people to back a voice to parliament as a means to improving Indigenous wellbeing.

In an address to parliament on Wednesday about the release of the 2022 Closing the Gap report, Mr Albanese said a constitutionally enshrined voice would empower First Nations people and lead to better outcomes on health, education and justice.

"This is not a gesture, it's not either or, it has never been," Mr Albanese said.

"The Australian people have room in our hearts, certainly to do both."

He compared the statement to the Gettysburg address delivered during the American Civil War. 

"People in the United States speak about how succinct the Gettysburg address is," Mr Albanese said.

"This is the Australian equivalent, so much said in so few words and a humble request."

The prime minister said the rate of Indigenous people being jailed in Australia remained "unforgivably high" and the report challenged whether the nation would continue to accept the disparity between their non-Indigenous counterparts.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said the proposed voice would be a body without precedent, and said the government could not expect people to vote on an issue without all the facts.

"Australians do have a right to know what they will be voting for," he said.

Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney paid tribute to the slain WA Indigenous teen Cassius Turvey in her address, and spoke of the need for people to have a say in the policies that affect them.

Former Indigenous Australians minister Ken Wyatt has lashed the Nationals after the party said they would not back the referendum.

The ex-Liberal MP said he had taken a report to cabinet on two separate occasions when he was in office on what an Indigenous voice would look like. 

Mr Wyatt said the argument by Nationals MPs that they did not have enough detail about the voice was being used as an excuse for not backing the referendum.

"To my mind, it offers up a level of immaturity around a very complex issue," he told ABC Radio on Wednesday.

But Nationals Leader David Littleproud defended the move, saying the party wanted to "close the gap" and didn't believe the voice would have a tangible impact on the ground. 

Some Nationals, including the party's WA branch and federal MP Andrew Gee, have already broken rank with the federal party saying they would campaign for the voice. 

The Closing the Gap report shows many key targets are not on track.

In 2020, an agreement between the federal government, the Coalition of Peaks, all state and territory governments and the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) was struck.

But two years later only four of the targets are currently on track, while four are getting worse and others have insufficient data to assess their progress.

Worsening targets include the number of children who are school-ready, adult incarcerations, children in out-of-home care and deaths by suicide.

Targets currently on track are the number of babies born at a healthy weight and children enrolled in preschool.

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