Opposition Leader Bill Shorten went for the tried-and-true solo appearance on Q&A last night – which can either be a confident, positive experience, or a chance to cop a series of devastating sledges from the audience until you resign in disgrace.

Luckily for Bill, he performed well. He talked university fees, more transparency in offshore processing, action on the Great Barrier Reef, negative gearing… all bread and butter stuff for Labor this election. Shorten needs it, too – though polls peg the Coalition and Labor equally on the two party preferred stakes, Labor is lagging when it comes to actually capturing the seats it needs.

But the more interesting conversation had on the show was about recognition for Indigenous Australians. A questioner asked Shorten what his take was on the University of New South Wales curriculum, which holds that the settlement of Australia was an invasion.

Shorten didn’t give a straight answer on that one. He replied “if I was Aboriginal, I wouldn’t exactly call it a welcome, would you?”, but bloviated when it came to actually answering how he felt as a white Australian.

That’s disappointing. But the notion of a treaty was also raised, which is a positive step forward. Unlike many other nations colonised by European settlers (like the the United States or New Zealand) Australia never signed a treaty with its first people establishing means of self-governance and true recognition.

The questioner asked Shorten about the prospect of a treaty, arguing that what Aboriginal people want is the ability to govern themselves in their own nation. Shorten replied that he thinks there ought to be a “post-constitutional recognition settlement with Indigenous people”. Meaning that once the Constitutional recognition debate is over, then this is a conversation we should have.

It isn’t conclusive stuff – and like every pollie there’s a lot of mealy-mouthed manoeuvring. But with Shorten agreeing with it, and new Labor Senator Pat Dodson clearly in favour, it’s good that the notion of treaty is getting support inside Parliament.

Source: ABC.

Photo: ABC.