The Voice: Constitutional Alteration Bill Third Reading

Jacinta speech on the Third Reading of the Voice Constitutional Amendment Bill on 19 June, 2023.


Today this parliament will pass the legislation to give Australians their say on Labor's Voice.

As I travel around the country I'm constantly asked questions by the people of Australia wanting to understand the Voice, wanting to know how it will work and wanting to know what tangible difference it will make.

These are reasonable questions that deserve answers. On Friday night and into the early hours of Saturday morning, Senator Cash, Senator Liddle, myself and others put those questions to the government. It came as no surprise that they couldn't answer them. To answer one, the minister would point to Labor's design principles as explanation for how the Voice would work. To answer another, the minister would dodge questions by saying all specifics would be up to the parliament.

But it can't be both.

This government is simultaneously claiming its design principles are the detail Australians are asking for while also confirming that nothing can be guaranteed until after the referendum.

Labor's Voice has received criticism from across the spectrum that the proposed wording is 'flawed' and 'risky', with some warning it will open a legal can of worms. Some of this country's top legal experts can't agree on how the constitutional change may be interpreted. What we do know is that the wording of this proposal gives Labor's Voice a near unlimited scope.

When one constitutional law professor warned the Voice may have input on matters 'from submarines to parking tickets', his concerns were mocked in this parliament. The Prime Minister may mock these concerns, but the reality is he cannot guarantee that the Voice won't have input on these matters.

The Prime Minister wants us to blindly trust him to sign his blank cheque and allow his risky proposal to be enshrined forever in the Constitution when he cannot guarantee anything. Labor showed us on Friday night that they cannot define what matters relate specifically to Indigenous Australians that don't affect non-Indigenous Australians. They showed us that they could not say what makes Indigenous Australians different to other Australians.

When asked if Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people are Australians, one Labor minister even had to confer with his advisers and he still couldn't give an answer.

While all of this is important, I ask Australians to look at the root of this proposal and ask themselves if they truly believe that this is the answer. Will an extra layer of bureaucracy and red tape do anything more to help Indigenous Australians? Will a Canberra body of academics and experts do anything more to close the gap? Will a body made for one group of Australians to the exclusion of all others bring us closer together?

I understand Australians want to do everything they can to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in need. I have seen this empathy and goodwill time and time again. But I also have seen it exploited, and I am seeing it exploited now.

The goodwill of many non-indigenous Australians is being exploited by those who seek to profit in money, clout or power off the real problems being faced by marginalised Australians. This is a dangerous and costly proposal.

It is legally risky and full of unknowns. It is exploitative. It is emotionally manipulative. But, worst of all, from the day Mr Albanese put his wording to the Australian people, the process of division was begun.

We are being divided.

We will be further divided throughout this campaign.

And, if the 'yes' vote is successful, we will be divided forever.

I want to see Australia move forward as one, not two divided; that's why I will be voting no.

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  • Lawrence Myers
    commented 2024-05-12 14:39:09 +1000
    This a remarkably clear explanation which should have convinced any Thinking Australian Elector that they should should have voted No in the Referendum…fortunately the No Vote won comfortably by some 60%-40% but the fact that 40% voted for it is a worrying sign that Australia has been breeding a significant number of people who are incapable of thinking for themselves…if they could think for themselves the number voting against the Bill should have been closer to 95%.