CEO quits Libs over recog­ni­tion re­fusal


Mal­colm Turn­bull’s re­jec­tion of in­dige­nous con­sti­tu­tional recog­ni­tion pro­pos­als con­tained in the Uluru State­ment has prompted the fu­ri­ous res­ig­na­tion from the Lib­eral Party by an in­dige­nous leader and busi­ness­man cen­tral to the process.

Sean Gordon, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the wealthy Dark­in­jung Lo­cal Abo­rig­i­nal Land Coun­cil on the NSW cen­tral coast, a sig­na­tory to the Uluru State­ment and a leader in the Em­pow­ered Com­mu­ni­ties pro­gram that the Prime Min­is­ter this week sug­gested was an al­ter­na­tive to a pro­posed in­dige­nous par­lia­men­tary ad­vi­sory body, said in his res­ig­na­tion let­ter he was “dis­il­lu­sioned and dis­ap­pointed in the lack of lead­er­ship ev­i­dent in the party”.

In the let­ter, ad­dressed to NSW party di­rec­tor Chris Stone, Mr Gordon said the spurn­ing of the pro­posed ad­vi­sory body con­tra­dicted both Lib­eral Party prin­ci­ples and “Turn­bull’s own phi­los­o­phy, and his prom­ise ‘to do things with, rather than do things to’ in­dige­nous peo­ple’. “This was Turn­bull’s op­por­tu­nity to con­sti­tu­tion­alise his prom­ise (but) in­stead he has be­trayed in­dige­nous Aus­tralians and un­der­es­ti­mated the Aus­tralian peo­ple,” he said.

The Ref­er­en­dum Coun­cil, es­tab­lished by Mr Turn­bull and Bill Shorten to ad­vise on ways for­ward for con­sti­tu­tional recog­ni­tion, en­dorsed the Uluru State­ment’s rec­om­men­da­tion of a con­sti­tu­tion­ally en­shrined ad­vi­sory body to the par­lia­ment, as well as a Makar­rata com­mis­sion to over­see treaties and a truth-telling process, and a dec­la­ra­tion of recog­ni­tion es­tab­lished out­side the Constitution.

Mr Gordon said the sum­mary dis­missal of its sole con­sti­tu­tional rec­om­men­da­tion — the ad­vi­sory body — through a news­pa­per leak, with­out ref­er­ence to the coun­cil or any other in­dige­nous lead­ers, had left him “heart­bro­ken”. He told The Aus­tralian a fol­low-up press re­lease from Mr Turn­bull was a “cruel and de­lib­er­ately fe­ro­cious at­tack on the en­tirely sen­si­ble re­form”. “I was dis­gusted at the me­thod­i­cal slan­der of the Ref­er­en­dum Coun­cil, let alone the hun­dreds of del­e­gates at Uluru and the pre­ced­ing re­gional di­a­logues at­tended by hun­dreds of peo­ple,” he said.

Mr Gordon, who this year an­nounced he was con­sid­er­ing run­ning for the state seat of Gos­ford, said he had come to re­gard the Lib­eral Party as his “po­lit­i­cal home” and one from which he could “ar­gue and agi­tate for my peo­ple — for our rights and for our right to take re­spon­si­bil­ity”.

He said his res­ig­na­tion was “not some knee-jerk re­ac­tion born just of out­rage” or an “im­promptu dummy spit”, but that he was “deeply and fun­da­men­tally dis­il­lu­sioned and dis­ap­pointed at the ab­ject lack of lead­er­ship in the party and Turn­bull’s in­abil­ity to lead for all Aus­tralians and to up­hold his own party values”.

“I am proudly Abo­rig­i­nal and a strong be­liever in the prin­ci­ples of em­pow­er­ment and self-de­ter­mi­na­tion,” Mr Gordon said.

“I prac­tise these values in every as­pect of my life and I thought my values aligned with those of the Lib­eral Party. I have come to see this is not the case.”

Mr Turn­bull’s char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion of the re­form as one that would not win wide sup­port was in­cor­rect, Mr Gordon said, and this was demon­strated by a grow­ing cho­rus of voices back­ing it: “Peo­ple like Alan Jones, Chris Kenny, Jeff Ken­nett, Ju­lian Leeser MP and Ma­jor Gen­eral Michael Jef­frey.”


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