9 Apr 2015

Australian senator wants indigenous seats

7:24 am on 9 April 2015

An Australian politician is pushing for dedicated indigenous seats in the federal parliament and cites the dedicated Māori seats in New Zealand as a good example.

Independent Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie has called for a national debate on the introduction of dedicated indigenous seats to the federal parliament.

Jacqui Lambie

Jacqui Lambie Photo: SBS

Ms Lambie pointed out that New Zealand had had dedicated Māori seats in its Parliament since 1867.

The senator said studies showed that having dedicated seats for tāngata whenua increased their well-being. The difference in mortality rate between Māori and non-Māori was only 8.5 years, compared with the 23.2 years between indigenous and white Australians.

She said Aboriginal people should at least have dedicated seats in proportion to their population.

"Three to four per cent of the seats in parliament should be indigenous" Ms Lambie said.

"I'm aware of you guys over there [in New Zealand] having 17 percent Māori and about 17 percent in parliament are also dedicated or given to the Māori people.

"And the issue I have is, if you don't have a seat at the table when the 'national pie' is being cut up then it's no surprise to me if you miss out on a slice of the pie".

Ms Lambie recently told Te Manu Korihi that if Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had dedicated seats in parliament, then perhaps the issue of the Western Australian state government planning to close down remote aboriginal communities may not have arisen.