Monday, 11 September 2023
Questions without Notice
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice
My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, you've completely mishandled your Canberra Voice proposal, and it's increasingly clear that the Voice referendum is not going to deliver the moment of national unity that the 1967 referendum delivered. How can you in good conscience drive the country to a divisive referendum on 14 October? As the writs are yet to be issued, will the Prime Minister withdraw his Voice referendum so that we can avoid an outcome which sets back reconciliation and divides the nation?
I established a timetable that was very clear for this process, and if people had examined the parliamentary sitting timetable, they could have worked out the date when the referendum was due to be held as well. I said that we would work through the referendum working group and the constitutional advisory group to develop the legislation that was introduced into this house in March, and then we had a parliamentary committee examine that before June. Before even the March date—last year, the National Party declared their opposition—and before the parliamentary committee process went through, the Liberal Party declared their opposition. But the Leader of the Opposition sat on this side of the chamber and voted for the legislation, as did a majority of senators. They voted for the legislation. Under the legislation, the referendum must be held between two months and 33 days and six months from the passing of that legislation, which was passed in June. I announced, so as to give people more notice than was necessary, the 14 October date. The referendum will take place on that day, and Australians will get to determine their view on that date.
The Leader of the Opposition has since then committed, if he's ever elected Prime Minister, to have another referendum if this referendum is defeated. So he wants this debate to just go on ad infinitum in spite of the fact that a majority of the process—
occurred under the former government. It was the former government that established a process under Tony Abbott. It was the former government that appointed Tom Calma and Marcia Langton. It was the former government that appointed Julian Leeser and Pat Dodson to chair the joint parliamentary inquiry.
Opposition members interjecting—
This Leader of the Opposition speaks about division when he appointed the member for Berowra as his Indigenous affairs spokesperson and shadow Attorney-General. I took that as a very positive sign, given the record of the member for Berowra on this, going back more than a decade. It's unfortunate that the Leader of the Opposition has chosen politics over substance. (Time expired)