Prolific “no” campaigner Warren Mundine says the Voice will be a “disaster”, and that it won’t improve real outcomes for Indigenous Australians.
His concerns about further added levels of bureaucracy, echoed by the Nationals, comes a day after an emotional Prime Minister Anthony Albanese revealed details about what a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous voice to parliament would look like.
Australians will be asked later this year: “A Proposed Law: to alter the constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?”
An additional chapter would be added to the Constitution if a majority of Australians vote “yes”.
The constitutional alteration Bill will be introduced to the parliament next week, and the government has the backing of the Greens, while the Liberals are yet to form a view. The Nationals are staunchly opposed.
An emotional Anthony Albanese unveiled the wording of the referendum question, and details about the Voice on Thursday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman
The Voice would advise the Parliament and the executive government of the parliament on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
But Mr Mundine said a Voice was “not going to change one iota of anything on the ground of Aboriginal people”.
“In their words it is an advisory committee to the parliament and the executive,” he told ABC News.
“Since 1973 we have been having advisory committees, and all of them have failed to certain extents.
“This whole thing is built on a falsehood that Aboriginal people have never had voices to parliament. (Community) are concerned that the Voice will be just another group of people sitting in Canberra and the local communities and the grassroots people will lose out.”
Warren Mundine is a leader of the ‘no’ campaign. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney said she was “sure” that in the lead-up to the referendum there was likely to be misinformation, disinformation, and scare campaigns.
“I can assure everyone there is absolutely nothing to fear from this Voice,” she told ABC News.
“It will mean better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and every single Australian understands that the 10 year gap in life expectancy is not acceptable in this country.
“Every single Australian will be able to walk prouder and taller the Sunday after referendum day.”
Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney said there was nothing to fear in the Voice. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman
Nationals leader David Littleproud echoed Mr Mundine’s concerns, saying the Voice risked “repeating the mistakes of the past”.
“Adding another layer of bureaucracy won’t work. Indigenous Australians are listened to – they’re listened to like every other Australian,” he told Channel 9.
“You need the bureaucracy in Canberra to get out of Canberra … get into those communities, and listen. Communities should be designing the policies, not bureaucrats.”
The Liberal Party has yet to reach a position on the Voice, with Opposition Leader Peter Dutton on Thursday called for more detail.
He also requested the Solicitor-General’s advice be released.
Opposition leader Peter Dutton is seeking more detail. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Ms Burney said whether or not the longstanding convention to not release Solicitor-General advice would be a decision of Mr Albanese and Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus.
“The most important thing to understand, and Mr Dutton knows this very well, is that we have gone through an incredibly rigorous process,” she said.
Deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley said the party still wanted more details before they firmed up a position.
“We are still asking for more detail, and I think Australians might be a little confused. The Prime Minister said yesterday this would be a ‘modest change’, but then later he said it would ‘change the country’,” she told Channel 7.
“So we’ll keep asking for that detail and ask him questions on behalf of all Australians, but we’ll do it in a respectful way, because it is an incredibly important issue.
“As I say, you don’t get a blank cheque to change the Constitution. We have to do this well and we have to do this thoroughly.”
Historically speaking, without bipartisan support, referendums fail.
Mr Albanese and Ms Burney said the Voice is a result of ‘rigorous’ process. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman
Government ‘confident’ Voice is right
Ms Burney said it appeared to her as though Mr Dutton and the Liberals were “looking for excuses”, and said she was confident the government has got the path to the referendum right.
“I am absolutely confident that we have got the words and the amendments correct. They are simple. They are understandable for the Australian public,” Ms Burney said.
“I think that the Liberals are looking for excuses, and I think they’ve almost run out.”
Mr Dreyfus backed in Ms Burney.
“I’d invite Mr Dutton to have a long, hard think and a long hard look at the simple words that we’ve unveiled yesterday, a and the simple question that will be put to the Australian people on referendum day, and look into his heart and think about tremendous improvements that this will be for our country,” he told ABC Radio.
“If we have recognition of our first peoples in the constitution, and a Voice to make representations to the parliament and the executive on matters that concern Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, that will be a tremendous step forward.
“I hope he can bring himself and his party to support this.”