A Geelong MP leading the state’s First Nations treaty process has accused her Coalition counterparts of taking policy tips from the federal opposition leader.
Days out from Australia Day the Liberal and National party has pulled their support for a treaty, citing concerns about ‘secret’ land use deals between Traditional Owners and the government.
The opposition say development projects are being stalled throughout the state because of agreements struck with Traditional Owners who are required to sign off on planning.
“The legislation is there, the opposition can go and look at that legislation any time they like, it’s got nothing to do with secret deals,” Geelong MP Christine Couzens said.
The Parliamentary Secretary for First Peoples is suspicious of the timing for the policy backflip from the Coalition, who’ve supported the treaty process since 2022.
“I know that after the (Voice) referendum Peter Dutton was very clear about his views on treaty, and how opposed to it he was,” Ms Couzens said.
“When we started the journey to treaty in 2022 with the introduction of the Treaty Authority Bill, which I led, there was bipartisan support.”
Ms Couzens says the state opposition should “be ashamed” for their policy u-turn, and “have turned their back on reconciliation and treaty.”
“Is it because of Peter Dutton influence?” she questioned.
Polwarth MP Richard Riordan has dismissed suggestions anything should be read into the timing of the decision, saying instead the opposition was responding to community concern over planning and development projects being held up over cultural heritage issues.
“We’ve been given no choice,” he said.
“I read something in to the timing that the pressure coming on to the opposition from concerned community members has grown and grown.”
After the Coalition told leading Indigenous elders in the state they were backing the treaty process, Mr Riordan says his side of politics is now pushing back against it.
“It’s active opposition until the government comes clear on what they’ve signed up for, what secret agreements have been made,” he said.