Eden Gillespie and Ben Smee, The Guardian, October 18, 2023
The Queensland Liberal National party will abandon the state’s efforts to reach a treaty with First Nations people if elected next year, claiming the process will create “further division”.
The major backflip comes after all 34 LNP MPs supported legislation for a path to treaty in May, which includes a truth-telling inquiry.
The premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk has said the path to treaty “will define our humanity, our sense of fairness, and the legacy we leave our children”.
The opposition leader, David Crisafulli, said in May he hoped the bill could be “the catalyst for true accountability of government” and improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
But on Thursday, the LNP leader claimed a path to treaty was “not the right way forward” for Queensland.
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“It’s clear to me Queenslanders do not want to continue down a path that leads to more division and uncertainty,” he wrote in a statement seen by Guardian Australia.
“Pursuing a path to treaty will lead to greater division, not reconciliation, and I cannot support that.”
Crisafulli said the LNP would no longer pursue a treaty if elected next October. It comes after nearly 70% of adults in the state rejected a voice to parliament in Saturday’s referendum.
“When Queenslanders speak it is the duty of leaders to listen,” Crisafulli wrote.
“Queenslanders have spoken and I have listened.
“We must find a better way forward to improve the lives of Indigenous Queenslanders that unites us all in this cause.”
Crisafulli’s comments come less than six months after he supported treaty during a historic vote held in Cairns in May.
Speaking to parliament, the LNP leader said the path to treaty was “an opportunity I believe Queensland should embrace wholeheartedly.”
“I believe in truth-telling and to me that means telling it like it is… We cannot shy away from the real experiences of Indigenous Australians throughout history. We must tell the truth about the real challenges they are facing today.”
The Path to Treaty Act 2023 established a legal framework to set up a three-year “truth-telling and healing inquiry” and a new independent body of Indigenous Queenslanders called the First Nations Treaty Institute.
Crisafulli’s support for treaty was controversial within the LNP, and reportedly sparked intense anger from his federal counterparts.
Three weeks after supporting the path to treaty bill, the LNP leader revealed he would be voting against the federal voice to parliament. It came after months of reluctance to state his position.
Crisafulli said he was not convinced it was “the best mechanism to deliver changes needed”.
He later told The Australian his backing for a treaty was not unconditional and he would not support “compensation, reparations, sovereignty, right of veto.”
This prompted Queensland’s minister for treaty, Leeanne Enoch, to accuse Crisafulli in July of walking back support for the path to treaty process.
“This is David Crisafulli continuing to bow to the far right of his party,” she said.
The only Queensland LNP MP to campaign on behalf of the Yes campaign in the voice referendum, Sam O’Connor, said he agreed with his leader’s position to back away from treaty.
“I was proud to campaign for a Yes vote in the referendum but what the result showed is the overwhelming majority of Queenslanders don’t support this way forward for reconciliation,” he said.
“We must focus on what unites Queenslanders instead of going down a path that will lead to further division.”
Recent polling shows Labor’s support ebbing away in regional areas, including those that voted heavily against the voice proposal.