Mean Log Word Frequency: 3.06
Counted but not yet heard
We are incredibly appreciative that we’re getting this hospital.
vegetation: plants in general: plants that cover a particular area
Aborigines want more than a mention in Australia’s constitution
But would other Australians vote for that?
Jul 6th 2017| SYDNEY
LINDA BURNEY was ten when Australians voted in 1967 to remove the clause
in the constitution that excluded aborigines from the national census.
“The notion that you weren’t worthy of being counted was very painful,”
she recalls. Ms Burney belongs to the Wiradjuri clan, and grew up in
rural New South Wales. Last year she became the first aboriginal woman
to be elected to the lower house of the federal parliament. Australians
should soon get the chance to vote on another constitutional amendment
concerning aboriginal rights. The new one is intended to go quite a bit
further than that of 1967, in some way acknowledging aborigines as the
first Australians. But just how far it should go is a matter of intense
In late 2015 Malcolm Turnbull, the conservative prime minister, and Bill
Shorten, the leader of the opposition Labor party, agreed to set up a
council to propose a specific change to be put to a referendum. On June
30th the referendum council delivered its recommendation to the
government, which has not yet made it public. Mark Leibler, the
council’s co-chair, says the referendum will be an “important milestone
in Australia’s history”.
Aborigines inhabited Australia for perhaps 60,000 years before the
British began settling it in the late 18th century. But they were
excluded from the conventions that drew up the constitution in the
1890s. The document only acknowledged their existence insofar as it
denied them certain rights. It also imposed a high bar for amendments: a
majority of voters nationwide, plus a majority in at least four of the
six states. Just eight of 44 proposed changes have succeeded. Yet the
amendment 50 years ago to include aborigines in the census was approved
in every state, and by more than 90% of voters nationwide—a record to
Aborigines are about 3% of Australia’s 24m people. They are more likely
to go to prison and tend to die younger than most Australians. Ken
Wyatt, one of five aborigines in the federal parliament, says a few
aboriginal MPs are not enough to achieve an “aboriginal voice” on issues
affecting his people.
At a referendum 18 years ago Australians rejected a clunky proposal by
John Howard, the prime minister at the time, to mention aborigines in
the constitution’s preamble. Mr Wyatt is “glad” it failed: “It was done
in haste with the wrong set of words.” (The proposal simply spoke of
“honouring” indigenous people “for their deep kinship with their lands
and for their ancient and continuing cultures which enrich the life of
our country”; veterans and immigrants also got a shout-out.)
This time, the referendum council took a different approach. For six
months it consulted indigenous people around Australia, culminating in a
“First Nations National Constitutional Convention” at Uluru (Ayers
Rock), in central Australia in late May. The resulting “Uluru Statement”
demanded more than token recognition. It called for “Makarrata”, or
“agreement-making between governments and First Nations”—a treaty, in
other words. (Unlike those in neighbouring New Zealand, the British
colonisers in Australia never signed any treaties with the indigenous
A treaty would not necessarily involve constitutional change. But the
convention’s other big demand would: it asks for a “First Nations voice
enshrined in the constitution”. At the very least, this seems to mean
that aborigines should have some formal involvement in the drafting of
laws that affect them. “In 1967 we were counted,” the convention
declared. “In 2017 we seek to be heard.”
Distilling all this into a referendum question will be a challenge. Mr
Leibler expects the council’s report will be released after the council
meets Messrs Turnbull and Shorten later this month. Its proposal, he
says, will be “reasonable, moderate and achievable”, with “a great deal
of respect for the Uluru Statement”.
Ms Burney would like to add a further element to the mix. Two
embarrassingly antiquated articles of the constitution—one allowing the
use of racial criteria in defining eligible voters and one allowing laws
specific to particular races to be made—should be deleted. Unless these
“race powers” are finally discarded, she says, the referendum’s
legitimacy will be diminished.
A vote had been projected for this year, but is now unlikely before
- For some indigenous leaders, the risk that a substantive amendment
might be defeated is reason to delay even further. Such an outcome might
set their cause back decades and would embarrass all involved. Political
and business leaders seem more optimistic. So is Ms Burney, who sees the
vote as part of a bigger process of reconciliation: “I think Australia
is up for it.”
This article appeared in the Asia section of the print edition under the
headline”Counted but not heard”
1,000 rugby pitches’ worth of forest disappear every day
Permissive forestry laws seem especially odd given the billions of
dollars the government spends planting trees, fighting climate change
and conserving native species. In 2016 Queensland’s minority Labor
government tried to pass a bill to strengthen controls on land clearance
once again. It was defeated by a hair. But Labor, which won a state
election late last year, has promised to reintroduce the legislation.
This time, it holds a majority.
MOST deforestation takes place in poor countries. In richer places,
trees tend to multiply. Australia is an unhappy exception. Land
clearance is rampant along its eastern coast, as farmers take
advantage of lax laws to make room for cattle to feed Asia. WWF, a
charity, now ranks Australia alongside Borneo and the Congo Basin as one
of the world’s 11worst “fronts” for deforestation.
Cars kill them as do dogs and disease.
But this patch of wetland forests, north of Sydney illustrates a
subjective nature of the decisions.
Mean Sentence Length: 14.88
Last year, New South Wales relaxed laws controlling the amount of land,
farmers can clear of trees.
Lexile®Measure: 1100L – 1200L
Word Count: 491
It’s owned by the Education Department of the state government which
doesn’t need it for a school, so two years ago sold it to a developer.
bulldozer: a powerful and heavy vehicle that has a large curved piece
of metal at its front and that is used for moving dirt and rocks and
pushing over trees and other structures