Details about a proposed Indigenous Voice to parliament will not be known before a referendum on the issue, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says, arguing he does not want a repeat of the failed 1999 republic referendum.
Albanese, speaking from the Garma festival in Arnhem Land, said the detail of the Voice would be left to federal parliamentarians to debate rather than let it be a central element of a proposed referendum.
In a speech on Saturday to the festival, Albanese proposed this question be put to all Australians in a referendum: “Do you support an alteration to the Constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?”
There have already been calls for more details about the Voice, including from Coalition spokesman for Indigenous Australians Julian Leeser who says while the referendum question was a positive start there were many details to be explained.
But Albanese said he wanted to avoid the situation caused by the republic referendum where people may have disagreed with one element within the proposed model and were then urged to vote no.
“One of the things I’m trying to avoid here … [is] people looking for all of the detail and saying well, if you disagree with these 50 clauses, if you disagree with one out of the 50 but 49 are OK, vote no. We’re not doing that. We’re not doing that. We’re learning from history,” Albanese said on ABC television on Sunday.
He said the key issue was getting support to change the Constitution to include the Voice, with the details able to be determined after.
“What I am not going to do [is] to go down the cul-de-sac of getting into every detail because that is not a recipe for success.
“The legislation of the structure of the Voice won’t happen before the referendum,” he said.
“What some people are arguing for is having a debate about the consequences of a constitutional change before you have any idea of whether the constitutional change should happen or not.
“We’re appealing to the goodwill of the Australian people and as I said, the Australian character as I see it.”
Albanese said including the Voice in the Constitution meant the overriding principle would remain intact, although how it actually worked could change over time.
“The thing that enshrining in the Constitution does, it ensures that the Voice cannot be eliminated or silenced by a change of government or a change of prime minister,” he said.
“When it operates, people will wonder why we didn’t do it before. I see this similar to the apology for the stolen generations or the 1967 referendum or native title.”
Although a time has yet to be set for the referendum, there has been concern the government is pushing too quickly.
But Albanese said Indigenous Australians had already waited a long time before getting to this point.
“If you don’t try to get this change – and I recognise that it’s a risk – but if you don’t try, then you have already not succeeded. And we have waited a long period of time,” he said.
If the Coalition decides to oppose Labor’s referendum proposal, the Greens and crossbench Senator David Pocock may hold the balance the power in the Senate.
Greens First Nations spokesperson Senator Lidia Thorpe said she is seeking discussions with the government about their proposal for a Voice, aiming to gain concessions on other issues.
“I’ll be … putting urgent, critical matters for First Nations people on the table. These are things that will save people’s lives, before any referendum,” Thorpe said.
“I want the government to support our bill to back the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, implement the remaining recommendations from the Stolen Generations and Deaths in Custody Royal Commissions, and back the Greens’ plans for concrete steps towards a Treaty [with First Nations peoples].”
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( Information from smh.com.au was used in this report. To Read More, click here )