All fair-minded Australians want to help Indigenous Australians in disadvantaged communities improve their lives.

The Australian Liberal Students’ Federation supports constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians.

However, the Albanese Government wants to go much further – enshrining a “Voice” in the Constitution, with few limits to its scope and few details.

This is legally risky, with unknown consequences. And it will be permanent.

Australia hasn’t changed its Constitution by referendum since 1977.

It’s a big decision, yet Labor refuses to reveal any details before the vote.

They’re asking Australians to vote without knowing exactly how the Voice would operate.

As the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice) Bill 2023 was being debated in the Parliament, the Labor Minister responsible for the Bill, Senator Watt, on more than 100 occasions, during questioning from Coalition Senators asking for the detail of how the Voice would work and what it would cost, the best Senator Watt could do on behalf of the government was respond: ‘Well, that will be a matter for the parliament,‘ or, alternatively, ‘I refer to my previous answer.

It was without a doubt one of the greatest displays of an exercise in avoiding giving the Australian people the details that, if the Albanese Government were treating them with any form of respect, they would provide.

All voting Australians have a right to make a fully informed decision when considering an issue as significant as changing our Constitution.

Australians expect the Government to provide the necessary and balanced information to support them in making a decision and to ensure transparency and integrity of the process.

Labor has not, and will not do this.

Labor is not interested in telling you the detail on:

  • How much will it cost?
  • How do people get elected to the Voice?
  • What is the scope of the Voice?
  • Will the High Court interpret its scope and powers differently than Parliament?
  • How will the Voice be accountable and not turn into another failure like the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) (1990–2005)?

Labor isn’t interested in providing the detail because they know that if they were honest about the risks, it would get voted down by the people of Australia.

Australia’s Constitution is our most important legal document. Every word can be open to interpretation.

Enshrining the Voice in the Constitution means it’s open to legal challenge and interpretation by the High Court.

Legal experts don’t agree, and can’t know for sure, how any High Court will interpret such a constitutional change. This opens a legal can of worms.

Labor’s proposed Voice model isn’t just to the parliament, but to all areas of “executive government”.

This gives it basically unlimited scope – from The Reserve Bank to Centrelink. Or in the words of a constitutional law professor “from submarines to parking tickets”.

There is also a risk of considerable delays to government decision-making.

This risks dysfunctional government.

Enshrining in our Constitution a body for only one group of Australians, means permanently dividing Australians by race.

Many Indigenous Australians don’t want this. The Constitution belongs to all Australians.

We need to bring Australians together, not divide them.

In 2023-24, the Government allocated $4.3 billion for the National Indigenous Australians Agency, which has 1,400 staff. Their role is to advise Government on improving the lives of Indigenous Australians.

Labor’s Voice would basically replicate this. It’s not clear how the two would interact or overlap.

Once a Voice is in the Constitution it won’t be undone.

Once a High Court makes an interpretation, parliament can’t overrule it.

We’ll be stuck with negative consequences.

For more information visit: https://www.fairaustralia.com.au/why-support-no 

Authorised by Blake Keating, Australian Liberal Students’ Federation, 59 Blackall Street, Barton ACT 2600