Australians will know within the next fortnight what question they will be asked at the Voice to Parliament referendum later this year.
While the referendum working group has yet to decide the final wording, Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney confirmed the constitution alteration bill – which will feature the intended question and proposed alteration to the constriction – will be tabled by Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus in the next sitting fortnight.
The referendum working group met in Adelaide on Thursday and despite there being an expectation the group would finalise the question then, a position has not yet been agreed to.
At last year’s Garma festival, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese revealed the draft question: “Do you support an alteration to the constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice?”
The referendum working group and engagement group have been tasked with coming up with a final question.
Ms Burney sought to downplay concerns the process had veered off course, saying they were “so close, it is exciting”.
Senator Patrick Dodson, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney at a meeting of the Referendum Working Group earlier this year. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman
“I can assure you that we are on track. We are taking our time. We are consulting and we are being very deliberate about being on track and very deliberate about getting the work done to make sure this Voice is a voice that people are asking for,” she said.
“Through the working group and the engagement group, we are on track to get this thing done and get it done we will.
“We will finalise the question and the amendments for the Australian constitution and you all will know those words in a very short period of time.”
Ms Burney downplayed claims there was division within the group about what the question should be.
Linda Burney said the group was ‘so close’ to reaching a final position. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
“The work of the working group and engagement group will absolutely inform where we go in terms of finalising that,” she said.
“We are so close, it’s exciting.”
Ms Burney said Mr Albanese would decide the final date of the referendum.
Speaking later in Sydney, Mr Albanese said after the legislation was introduced to parliament there would be a parliamentary committee process which would allow Australians and stakeholders to have an input.
“The legislation will be voted on in June, and then the referendum will be no sooner than two months and 33 days. Six months is the time frame of when it has to happen,” Mr Albanese said.
“So sometime between September and December, the referendum will be held. But of course … it won’t be on grand final day – AFL or NRL weekend, so that means it’s October to December.”
South Australian Attorney-General Kyam Maher also spoke at the press conference, confirming the state government would next week pass legislation for the country’s first Voice to parliament.
He said there would be a special sitting next Sunday, in order to allow as many citizens as possible to witness the historic event.
“The passing of our legislation we hope will provide some comfort to people around Australia in the lead up to a referendum,” he said.
“We will provide some comfort that no harm can come of this … There is nothing to lose and everything to gain from an aboriginal voice to parliament.”