Indigenous Voice referendum details should be released: Jeff Kennett


Kennett said he wholeheartedly supported recognising Indigenous Australians as the country’s first people in the Constitution but believed the Voice should be established solely by legislation, without being embedded in the founding document. But ultimately, he wanted the referendum to succeed.

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“If [the prime minister] is going to go down that path, I think it’s incumbent upon him to actually also give a bit and to either pass or to draft the legislation and make that available for the public discussion,” he said.

“Otherwise, I think he’s at risk, because he is not being transparent, of the referendum being lost in whatever shape or form he puts it up.”

Calma, co-author of the report and a member of the Indigenous expert group advising the government on its referendum strategy, said he did not believe there was much value translating the report into draft legislation before the vote, because it could be altered by further consultation and amendments after the referendum.

“It’s the parliament, not the people, who are going to make this determination [on the model]. All the people are voting on is: ‘Do they think Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should have a Voice?’ That’s a real simple proposition,” Calma said.

Professor Tom Calma says the working group will not be rushed into releasing details. Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

He said more information would be forthcoming before the vote, which will be held in the second half of this year, but said the working groups would not be pressured into prematurely releasing detail by “a few loud voices”.

“This is serious stuff that we need to take time and not be dictated to by a handful of people,” Calma said. “We’ve made really clear that it will happen, and it’ll happen in more than enough time for people to make an informed decision and be supporting a referendum.”

Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney and leading Voice campaigner Professor Megan Davis, who is also a member of the working group, have also stressed that more detail will be available, but it remains unclear how granular this will be.

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Albanese this week rejected calls by Dutton to legislate the Voice first, pointing to the request by 250 Indigenous leaders in the 2017 Uluru Statement From the Heart for a constitutionally enshrined body.

He has maintained that Australians will be asked to vote on principle, not on detail, saying the legislation to set up the Voice will be debated after the referendum.

“The details of how it operates will be the subject of legislation, that’s the whole point. Over a period of time the success of the Voice will be determined by the capacity of the Parliament to enact the laws [regarding] the functioning of the Voice,” he told 2GB this week.

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