Scepticism over PM's 'preamble'

TWEED Aboriginal leader Russell Logan has branded John Howard's promise of a referendum to recognise indigenous people in a preamble to the Constitution "another political stunt to try to turn the polls around". But Mr Logan, the Tweed Byron Land Council chairman, has called for the local Aboriginal and%Islander community, and for white residents, to make the best of a rare opportunity for a referendum within 18 months. Mr Logan said the Prime Minister's speech to the Sydney Institute on Thursday night calling for reconciliation "based on equity rather than apologies" was a calculated political strategy in the wake of the federal government's recent takeover of Aboriginal affairs in the Northern Territory. "He's failed to do well in the polls since the Northern Territory intervention, so he's playing a game no doubt and playing his cards very carefully," Mr Logan said. "Reconciliation has always been a people's movement, not too many political parties have used reconciliation as a modus operandi to get votes." Mr Logan said he remained in favour of a treaty for indigenous Australians, but he believes Mr Howard's latest proposal is worthwhile. "I think we have to take this in good faith." "I walked across Sydney Harbour Bridge in 2000 (in favour of reconciliation) and I was outnumbered as an indigenous person, and there were both elderly and young people there, and many of them. "This year we have celebrated the 40th anniversary of the 1967 referendum (in which indigenous people were given voting rights), so it's an appropriate time for further reconciliation. "I've always supported a situation where two parties sit down together on an equal footing and discuss each other's needs and concerns rather than a victim seeking compensation." Mr Logan said it was time Australia formally recognised "the first people here". "We ought to follow the precedent of America, Canada and New Zealand." Mr Logan said the Tweed indigenous community had been calling him throughout yesterday to discuss Mr Howard's speech. "Our people are eager to see what the government and the%opposition is saying."

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