Indigenous Voice supporters question referendum strategy

Jesuit lawyer Frank Brennan, a long-time advocate for Indigenous advancement, and Liberal senator and Voice supporter Andrew Bragg said a meaningful consultation process must involve a parliamentary inquiry.

“The proposed wording needs to go through a rigorous parliamentary process, which would be a parliamentary committee where everyone could have a say, but then aim to build a broad consensus in parliament to take ownership of that set of words. .,” Brennan said.

At the Garma Festival in July, Albanese presented a draft amendment to the Constitution, which stated in part that the Voice “may make representations to Parliament and to the Executive Government” on matters relating to Indigenous Australians.

Brennan thinks Albanese’s draft language is too broad and has proposed a narrower amendment that would limit the voice’s advisory role to special legislation affecting Indigenous peoples, such as aboriginal title or liquor bans, which he says is more likely to garner support from conservatives.

Burney declined to say whether the government intended to hold a parliamentary inquiry, saying in a statement to this masthead that the attorney general would have more to say about the government’s consideration of constitutional issues under this process in the coming weeks.

UNSW professor Megan Davis – one of the architects of the Uluru Declaration and a member of the working group – is leading a separate consultation process on the draft amendment through the Indigenous Law Center (ILC ) of the UNSW who will seek the opinion of lawyers specialized in constitutional law. and public law and Indigenous legal issues.

Albanese’s proposed amendment was modeled after language suggested by Davis, ILC members and other Indigenous leaders in a 2018 submission to a federal parliamentary inquiry into constitutional recognition.

Davis said the ILC consultations were aligned with the Voice working group, “not in conflict with it”, and would result in a report to the government and the group “to inform the government’s work in providing a constitutional amendment”.

She said the process was underway before Burney set up the working group and the participants had been selected in consultation with the Law Council of Australia, the Australian Association of Constitutional Law, bar associations and law societies.

But Craven said the UNSW-led consultation process was “extremely problematic” because it was driven by those who had a stake in the formulation of the draft amendment.


“It’s a completely useless exercise that has no intellectual credibility. What’s happening is that the architects of the actual words are evaluating whether those words are right,” he said.

A member of the Voice working group, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, said there was “potential for complications” if the group was not seen as speaking with a united voice.

“I think [Davis] has a belief that his set of words is the best set of words. There is potential for complications because we need a united voice because we risk giving opponents the advantage of destroying this incredible opportunity,” they said.

Davis said the consultations would consider a number of possible draft amendments, including updated wording proposed by the ILC, which committed to “a strong provision to put to the Australian people, not a particular form of words.

Cut through the noise of federal politics with news, opinion and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley. Subscribers can sign up for our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here.

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