A committee launched yesterday led by current and former politicians has declared itself as the leader of the “no” campaign in the upcoming referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. The group calls for another referendum to be held to recognise First Nations people in the Constitution, but without a Voice. It includes Country Liberal Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, former ALP President and Liberal Party candidate Nyunggai Warren Mundine and former Nationals leader John Anderson.
An Indigenous Voice to Parliament was a recommendation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart – a 2017 statement delivered by First Nations leaders. The Voice would be an official body to advise Parliament on laws affecting First Nations people.
The Uluru Statement specifically asks that the Voice be written into the Australian Constitution, which currently makes no mention of First Nations people.
Changing the Constitution would require a referendum – a vote which must be approved by a majority of voters in a majority of states. The Government has promised a referendum on the Voice will happen this year.
The draft question, announced by the Government last year, is: “Do you support an alteration to the Constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?”
The “No” Case
The “no” campaign, called ‘Recognise a Better Way’, says a Voice is the “wrong way” to add First Nations people to the Constitution.
The group has announced three aims. It calls for a referendum to recognise First Nations people in the Constitution without a Voice. It also calls on Parliament to establish a non-constitutional committee for traditional owners, and to increase its support to First Nations community organisations.
Reasons For Opposition
Senator Price declared her opposition to the Voice last year, labelling it ‘racist’. “Why should I as an Indigenous Australian be governed under a separate entity than the rest of Australia based on my race?” she said.
In an interview on ABC radio, Mundine said the Government and ministers should be expected to deliver outcomes for First Nations communities without needing a Voice. He also called for the Constitution to recognise migrants and refugees.
Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe, who has no connection to the ‘Recognise a Better Way’ campaign, has spoken critically of the fact the Voice will not have the power to override Parliament.
Thorpe believes a treaty between First Nations people and the Government should be the first priority.
The treaty is the second of the three demands (which are designed to be sequential) in the Uluru Statement. The Government has supported all three demands, meaning it plans for a treaty to happen after the Voice.
First Nations Survey
The Uluru Dialogue, the custodian organisation of the Statement from the Heart, commissions regular polling from Ipsos on attitudes towards the Voice among First Nations people. The latest poll, conducted between 20 and 24 January, found 80% of First Nations people said they would support the Voice in a referendum. 10% said they were opposed and 10% were undecided.
Pat Anderson, Co-Chair of the Uluru Dialogue, said the results showed First Nations people “overwhelmingly” support the Voice.
“Too often grass roots First Nations voices are drowned out by one or two outspoken people, Indigenous or non Indigenous, who claim to speak for us. This is exactly why we need a Voice… We encourage all Australians not to be swayed by the noisy few but to be reassured that when they place their vote for yes, they walk alongside most First Nations People who want a better future for our country.”