Prime Minister Anthony Albanese outlines government’s Indigenous Voice to parliament referendum

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Anthony Albanese has revealed the wording of a historic referendum that would change the nation forever if successful.

“I would like us to present the Australian people with the clearest possible referendum question,” the Prime Minister told the packed crowd at the Northern Territory’s Garma Festival.

“We should consider asking our fellow Australians something as simple and clear as this: ‘Do you support an alteration to the Constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?’”

Mr Albanese said his government would seek support for the question in time to have a referendum in this term of parliament.

He described the proposal as a “straightforward proposition” being “from the heart”.

“It’s not a matter of special treatment, or preferential power. It’s about consulting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the decisions that affect you,” Mr Albanese said.

“This is simple courtesy, it is common decency.”

Mr Albanese on Friday revealed the sentences he would like to see written into the constitution, including:

  1. There shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
  2. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to Parliament and the Executive Government on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
  3. The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to the composition, functions, powers and procedures of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.

In his wide-ranging speech, Mr Albanese referenced a historic speech from Paul Keating at Redfern of the failure to ask the “most basic human question”.

“How would I feel if this were done to me?” the Prime Minister asked.

Mr Albanese said enshrining the Voice would indicate “a willingness to listen” that won’t depend on future governments or leaders.

He would also seek the support of the Opposition and crossbench.

“The Voice will exist and endure outside of the ups and downs of election cycles and the weakness of short-term politics,” he said.

“It will be an unflinching source of advice and accountability. Not a third chamber, not a rolling veto, not a blank cheque.

“But a body with the perspective and the power and the platform to tell the government and the parliament the truth about what is working and what is not.”

Mr Albanese acknowledged the referendum was a “high hurdle” to clear but the decision was a “long overdue embrace of truth, justice and decency.”

“All Australians have the chance to own this change, to be proud of it, to be counted and heard on the right side of history,” he said.

“To vote the unique Australian gift of the wisdom of the world’s oldest continuing civilisation, into the constitution of our nation.”

Moments after the speech, Greens senator Lidia Thorpe said she would be seeking to meet with the government to discuss the Voice and push for other “critical, urgent” matters for Indigenous Australians.

Senator Thorpe said she wanted to see all of the recommendations in full from the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and the 1997 Bringing them Home Report implemented by the Labor government.

“The Greens will be bringing these critical reforms to the table in discussions with Labor about justice for First Nations people,” Ms Thorpe said in a statement.

“First Nations sovereignty has never been ceded. The Greens will always honour that.”

Originally published as ‘If not now, when?’: Anthony Albanese reveals wording of ‘momentous’ Indigenous Voice to parliament referendum

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