Federal Election 2016: Bill Shorten indicates Indigenous treaty possibility, will wind back border protection secrecy

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has given his strongest indication yet that a future Labor government would be in favour of a treaty with Indigenous people as well as constitutional recognition.

Key points:

Bill Shorten says a move beyond constitutional recognition of Indigenous people could look like a treaty

He also vows to wind back secrecy around border protection

He says journalists and independent observers would be allowed on offshore detention centres

Mr Shorten's comments on Q&A last night came after Labor's star Indigenous recruit to the Senate, Patrick Dodson, revived debate on the issue last month.

Mr Shorten said there were arguments about the "best form of reconciliation" for Indigenous people and he was open to discussions about a treaty.

A treaty would be a separate formal agreement between the Government and Indigenous people with legal outcomes.

"Do I think that we should have our First Australians mentioned in our national birth certificate, the constitution? Yes. Do I think we need to move beyond just constitutional recognition to talking about what a post-constitutional recognition settlement with Indigenous people looks like? Yes I do," Mr Shorten said.

"Could it look like a treaty?" host Tony Jones asked.


"Is that something you might move towards in government, a treaty?"

"I just have a sense, Tony, maybe you think I'm being a little harsh on you, that there's a little bit of gotcha going on here," Mr Shorten said.

"No, no, it's not gotcha, it's a question based on what you just said when you said yes I assumed certain things," Jones replied.

"Yeah, but you can. I think you were just surprised to hear me say yes ... I do think that this country is not handling Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people well ... I do think there needs to be a discussion about should you have a treaty or shouldn't you have a treaty, but what I'm not going to do is give all the answers on one spot at one time."

'I do not see why that has to be a secret': Shorten

Mr Shorten also vowed to wind back secrecy around border protection issues and the offshore detention system.

MPs from both major parties have defended the newly-implemented Border Force Act, which contains controversial secrecy provisions that make it a criminal offence — punishable by two years imprisonment — for entrusted employees working in detention facilities to "disclose" or "record" protected information to the media and external organisations.

Mr Shorten said he wanted more transparency about offshore detention facilities.

"If I was Prime Minister it would have to be an amazing set of circumstances where we're not prepared to tell you what's going on," he said.

Jones asked if a Labor government would "allow journalists, independent observers onto Nauru and Manus Island or any offshore detention centre".

"Yeah," Mr Shorten responded.

"When I say that I do that on the basis that I don't want to see the people smugglers back in business.

"A Labor government will not be, will not be, any different to the Liberals in terms of our determination to stop the people smugglers full stop.

"When it comes to transparency and the way that people directly or indirectly in Australia's care are treated I do not see why that has to be a secret."

Source: ABC News

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