Director of photography: Mick Tsikas / AAP
The Albanian government has proposed a preferred form of words to be included in the constitution to consecrate an indigenous voice in parliament, starting with a simple question that we all vote on.
“We should consider asking our fellow Australians something as simple as: ‘Do you support an alteration to the constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and island voice of the Torres Strait?'” Anthony Albanese said in July during a keynote speech at the Garma festival. Arnhem Land.
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He also suggested adding three sentences to the constitution:
There will be a body, which will be called the Voice of the Aborigines and the Torres Strait Islands.
It can make statements to parliament and the executive government on matters relating to the Aboriginal and island peoples of the Torres Strait.
Parliament, subject to this constitution, will have the power to pass laws in relation to the composition, functions, powers and procedures of the voice of the Aborigines and the Torres Strait Islands.
The government is now in the “consultation phase of this major nation-building project,” according to Australian Indigenous Minister Linda Burney.
He promised a public education campaign before the referendum, to answer the most frequently asked questions. But the prime minister said there was “already an extraordinary level of detail on the work done by Marcia Langton and Tom Calma”.
What do we already know?
The PM refers to the co-design report of the indigenous voice of Professors Langton and Calma. They led a group nominated by former Indigenous Minister Ken Wyatt as part of a 2019 election promise to develop options for an indigenous voice.
The group was not allowed to consider the constitutional embodiment of a voice, but was nevertheless able to produce a comprehensive plan on how to operate, whether legislated or not.
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Their report was the result of 18 months of consultations with 9,478 people and organizations, including 115 community consultations in 67 locations, 2,978 submissions, 1,127 surveys, 124 stakeholder meetings and 13 webinars.
How would the national voice work?
The voice would advise the Australian parliament and government on issues relating to the social, spiritual and economic well-being of Aboriginal peoples and the Torres Strait Islands.
Parliament and the government would be obliged to consult him on matters overwhelmingly affecting the Aboriginal and island populations of the Torres Strait, such as native title, employment, housing, community development program, NDIS or asset protection.
The voice would be able to present formal advice in parliament and a parliamentary committee would consider that advice. But all the elements would be unjustifiable, in the sense that there could be no appeal in court and no law could be invalidated on the basis of this consultation.
The co-design report stated that the voice needed “adequate, secure and long-term resources that the Australian government provided on a regional basis” to operate successfully.
Burney said the voice was a way for Aborigines and islanders to directly advise all levels of government on the laws and policies that affect their lives. “It is about drawing a line on the poor results resulting from the long legacy of failed programs and failed policies, and listening to the Aborigines and the inhabitants of the Torres Strait Islands.
“Things like incarceration and removal of children. Housing, health and educational results. This rumor is about making sure that what happens in the federal parliament will be a positive step forward both in terms of us as a nation, but also in terms of life outcomes for First Nations people in Australia. “
How would it be structured?
The report recommended that the national voice have 24 members, with a structurally guaranteed gender balance.
The basic model proposes two members for each state, the Northern Territory, ACT and the Torres Strait. Five other members would represent remote areas due to their unique needs: one member each from the Northern Territory, Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales. An additional member would represent the significant islander population of the Torres Strait living on the mainland.
Related: What is an indigenous treaty and how would it work in Australia?
Members would have a four-year term, with half of the members determined every two years. There would be a limit of two consecutive terms per member.
Two co-presidents of different sexes from each other would be selected by the members of the voice every two years.
The national voice would have two permanent advisory groups – one on youth and one on disability – and a small ethics council to advise on honesty and governance.
How would local and regional voices feed themselves?
The co-design report proposed 35 regions, divided by state and territory. The communities and governments of each state and territory would jointly determine them.
Local and regional voices would advise all levels of government to influence policies and programs and would advise the sector and non-governmental enterprises.
The report outlines their roles, how they would be constituted and the principles they would embody, such as cultural leadership, community-led design and empowerment.
There would be “a clear, two-way flow of advice and communication” between them and the national voice, the report said.
What would a rumor be
The national voice would be an advisory body to the Australian parliament and government. It would not provide services, it would not manage government funding, it would not be a hub for research or mediate between Aboriginal and Torres Strait island organizations.
How are disputes resolved?
The report recommended mediation in the first place. If that fails, things would go to an independent review. The report suggested that there was an agreed list of people with appropriate experience to conduct such reviews, and at least one of the reviewers should be an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
He suggested that the final decision maker could be the competent minister, along with two respected independent Aborigines or Torres Strait Islanders.
What action is being taken?
In a press conference with NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal on Saturday, the PM said he spoke with sports personalities, including discussions with the AFL and NRL, about supporting the campaign.
“I have had discussions with churches, I have discussed with the AFL, with the National Rugby League, with basketball organizations, with netball, with other sports organizations,” Albanese said.
“We want to get in touch with people who can get in touch with young people in particular, but with all sectors of our society”.
On August 17, Burney met with his state and territorial counterparts, who agreed to continue to support a voice enshrined in the constitution.
A statement following that meeting stated that there was a “shared desire by all jurisdictions to place progress in recognition and better outcomes for First Nations peoples above politics.”
Ministers discussed some of the practical steps for implementing voice agreements at the regional level.
“There are a number of things Australians can do right now to make sure they are ready for a referendum, which we are absolutely determined to see happen in this legislature,” Burney said.
People can read the Uluru Declaration from the heart, the final report of the indigenous voices co-design process, and the final report of the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition.
What are people saying about the plan?
The government said it would seek bipartisan support for the voice. Opposition leader Peter Dutton said he was willing to “respectfully listen to the arguments,” but there were legitimate questions to be answered about the details.
“For example, the prime minister says the voice will only deal with public order issues affecting indigenous Australians. I don’t understand what it means because defense policy affects indigenous Australians, as well as health and education, law and order. Every element of public policy affects Indigenous Australians just like every Australian, ”Dutton said.
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Given that the co-design report has been publicly available since late 2021, Langton was clearly frustrated by the constant requests for “details” when she told ABC in July that “when people say they want more details, everything I he says is that they refuse to read our report ”.
Two former liberal prime ministers have publicly opposed the rumor, apparently regardless of its form or function. Writing about the Australian, Tony Abbott said he does not support a “race-based body” and believes that a voice that “entrenches race in the constitution takes us further away”. John Howard warned that the rumor “has the potential to create a body seen as exerting coercive influence on the government.”
In response, Burney said the discussion and debate “must be based on fact”. “The voice in parliament only has an advisory role. He will advise on matters relating to the Aboriginal and island peoples of the Torres Strait. He won’t be able to block or veto the legislation, ”she said.
“John Howard, the prime minister who has refused to apologize to stolen generations for so many years, certainly doesn’t have a strong record when it comes to bringing about reconciliation in this country.”