A Facebook post has claimed that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese spoke against recognising Indigenous Australians in a preamble to the Constitution during a speech to parliament in 1999.
The post (archived here) claims Mr Albanese is currently trying to “sneak this voice through” even though he spoke out against recognition 24 years ago in the early stages of his parliamentary career.
The claim is false.
Mr Albanese spoke in federal parliament in 1999 about opposing the proposed preamble to the Australian Constitution. However, this was not because of the recognition of Indigenous people – but because the recognition did not go far enough.
The question over the inclusion of a preamble was the second question as part of the 1999 Australian republic referendum.
To its supporters it was seen as a way for Australians to highlight the characteristics and values that unite the country. To its detractors, it was a distraction from the republic debate.
It is clear from these speeches he was not against the inclusion of Indigenous Australians in the preamble, rather he thought the recognition didn’t go far enough.
On March 23, 1999, Mr Albanese said: “It (the preamble) goes no further than recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as having `inhabited’ the land before European invasion. Big deal! The Prime Minister acknowledges that there were people here before 1788.
“He does not go further than that because he is not capable of making that step forward. How can we have equal sovereignty if the oldest form of sovereignty in Australia, the sovereignty of indigenous peoples over the land, is denied?”
On June 21, 1999, he criticised the proposed preamble for its “straight refusal to acknowledge indigenous custodianship of our land”.
On August 25, 1999 he again criticised the preamble for not including reference to “custodianship”.
Days before Mr Howard released his initial preamble draft, Labor released its own, largely written by then MP for Holt, Gareth Evans.
This version included the wording: “Recognising Indigenous Australians as the original occupants and custodians of our land. (page 405)”
When Mr Howard’s proposed preamble was going through the Senate, ahead of the referendum, Labor again tried to include mention of Indigenous people having custodianship of the land.
The proposed amendment sought to omit the wording “Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, the nation’s first people, for their deep kinship with their lands” and replace it with “Indigenous Australians as the original occupants and custodians of our land”.
However, this was rejected. Mr Howard’s proposed preamble went to the public vote but was rejected along with a move to make Australia a republic.
The claim that Anthony Albanese spoke against recognising Indigenous Australians in a preamble to the Constitution in a speech to parliament in 1999 is false.
While he opposed the proposed preamble, this was not because of its recognition of Indigenous people but rather because the recognition did not go far enough.
In particular, Mr Albanese – and Labor – had sought to have the phrase “custodianship” included when making reference to Indigenous Australians.
False – The claim is inaccurate.