Wednesday, 31 May 2023
Constitution Alteration (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice) 2023; Consideration in Detail
I have tremendous respect for the member for Berowra and for the enormous amount of work that he has carried out on this vitally important issue for our country, but I cannot support the amendments that he is proposing today. The point of the words that are currently contained in the bill, unamended, is that the bill goes beyond just symbolic recognition of Australia's Indigenous peoples. It goes beyond the tokenistic; it is recognition that means something. If you take out clause (2), which is the operative clause, the Voice is rendered meaningless. Indeed, the joint select committee that looked at this Voice referendum heard evidence to that effect. If you really want constitutional uncertainty or if you really want constitutional chaos, then take out the very clause that defines the Voice.
That is what these amendments propose: they take out the operative clause and leave the Voice as totally ill-defined. I don't think that that serves the interests of the nation or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people because, at the end of the day, the Voice is about getting better results on the ground for communities around Australia. We know, and many in this House have seen firsthand, the very important and crucial role the executive, or Public Service, plays in the formulation, the implementation and the progress of policy on any different subject matter. So it is vitally important that the Voice is able to speak to the executive, and I don't think it's too much to ask. It will lead to better results on the ground if this bill is unamended and remains that way.
As I have said, I have tremendous respect for the member for Berowra, and I regard him as a friend, but I am not able to support these amendments today. I commend the bill, unamended, to the House, and I commend the Voice to the Australian people.