The request of the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people for a constitutionally-recognised voice to the Australian parliament is both reasonable and deserved.
There has been considerable debate in Australia about the merits of a “Voice” to parliament. The matter will be put to a referendum on Saturday 14 October 2023.
I don’t intend writing a lot on the subject, other than to lend my public support to the “Yes” campaign. Australia’s indigenous peoples have suffered centuries of discrimination. Whilst circumstances have improved in recent decades, there is much work to be done to right the wrongs of the past and ensure that all Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders enjoy the standard of living that other Australians take for granted.
The proposal for a “voice” advisory body to parliament, coupled with constitutional recognition, is modest. If passed, these changes will help to ensure that first nations people are consulted about laws that will affect them. The proposal retains all of the Commonwealth Parliament’s authority to make laws as it sees fit, even in relation to the operation of the Voice itself. The Voice would not have the power to compel the Parliament to take any action in respect to any matter, nor would it have any budgetary discretion.
The proposal for an Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Voice is modest, just, reasonable and fair. I think it’s time to say “yes”.