Senate debates

Tuesday, 17 October 2023

Statements by Senators

Australian Constitution: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice

1:36 pm

Photo of Dean SmithDean Smith (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury) Share this | | Hansard source

On Saturday just gone, Saturday 14 October, Australians rejected Labor's idea to enshrine a legislated Voice to Parliament in our Constitution. They rejected the proposal because, when they inquired, there was no detail. They rejected the proposal because it would make permanent a body even if that body was unsuccessful. They rejected the proposal because even Indigenous Australians were divided on its merits. People should ask themselves: 'Why did some people in our country trust the Labor Party with constitutional reform, when the last time Labor was able to successfully amend our Constitution was almost 80 years ago in 1946?'

But on the weekend not all was lost. In fact, in the 'no' vote, I sense some very, very strong and positive sentiments in our country. I sense a strong and positive sentiment for reconciliation. I sense a strong and positive sentiment for practical outcomes for disadvantaged Indigenous people. And, most importantly, this country is actually united on the principle of constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians. So, in the 'no' vote, there is indeed a pathway to the future. This parliament mostly stands united on that principle, and I believe the Australian community stands united on the principle of constitutional enshrinement of Indigenous peoples. As I've said in this place before, there is no shame in defeating a bad idea, but only if there is a resolution to soldier on and find a better way—a way born from genuine cooperation and one that will enjoy the widest possible community— (Time expired)