Prime Minister Anthony Albanese reveals Voice referendum question
By Paul Sakkal
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has become emotional as he stood alongside Indigenous leaders to announce the wording of the Voice referendum, after weeks of intense debate.
The federal cabinet today approved the final wording that will be inserted into the constitution, ending weeks of debate on the proposed constitutional amendment.
The Albanese government has also released significant detail about how the Voice will work after months of calls to release more detail.
Here’s what he said this morning in Canberra:
It will read: 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?”
A new clause to be inserted states: “The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to matters relating to the [Voice], including its composition, functions, powers and procedures.”
“I want to thank sincerely all the members of the working group and all who have engaged with them,” Albanese said, flanked by Indigenous leaders.
“For many … this moment has been a very long time in the making. Yet they have shown such patience and optimism through this process and that spirit of cooperation and thoughtful, respectful dialogue, has been so important at arriving at this point in such a united fashion.”
New detail approved by cabinet includes that Voice members will be elected or selected by Indigenous Australians, not appointed by the government.
It will be encouraged to advise the government early in the policymaking process. Members will have fixed terms and will be subject to the National Anti-Corruption Commission.
TGA recommends steps to ‘stamp out’ vaping among young people
By Natassia Chrysanthos
Vape flavours would be banned, individual product packages would have warning labels and importers would need a permit to bring vapes into the country under a crackdown being recommended by the Therapeutic Goods Administration to stamp out vaping among young people.
Australia will remain a global outlier in maintaining its prescription-only approach to vaping. But it is seeking to strengthen restrictions, given a flourishing black market has emerged since regulations limiting vaping to people with a doctor’s prescription were introduced in 2021.
Health Minister Mark Butler said all health ministers were “determined to stamp out this public health menace” as he received a suite of recommendations from the TGA on Thursday, which followed a public consultation that attracted more than 4000 submissions.
Most state and territory governments have supported a new measure requiring anyone importing vapes to have a permit, making it easier for border force to seize products when they arrive. There was also strong support for warning statements, pharmaceutical-like packaging, restricted flavours and limited nicotine content.
The TGA’s recommendations were backed by many public health associations, health professionals, university researchers and Australian pharmacies.
But it also received thousands of submissions from individuals as well as many from retailers, including petrol stations and convenience stores, who want to remove the prescription model so that everyday Australians can buy vapes.
That was knocked back by the TGA, which acknowledged many individual vapers, retailers, importers and pro-vaping groups wanted to abandon the prescription model, but said changing the regulatory framework was outside its scope.
Images show Senator Lidia Thorpe clash with police at anti-trans rally
By Anna Patty
Dramatic footage shows independent senator Lidia Thorpe thrown to the ground by Australian Federal Police, after trying to crash an anti-trans rally attended by One Nation and United Australia Party senators out the front of Parliament House.
The incident has been referred to the AFP’s Professional Standards Command.
Read the full story here.
Four hours of chaos may have killed off any hope of a Johnson comeback
By Rob Harris
To London, our Europe correspondent Rob Harris reports that Boris Johnson may have ended any chance of rehabilitation and potentially his political career.
The former British prime minister lost his cool during a lengthy grilling by the House of Commons privileges committee on Wednesday as he accused its members of “complete nonsense”.
He was in the dock to fight for his future over the so-called partygate saga, which this time last year had engulfed his leadership and triggered a downward spiral that eventually ended it.
Having already been subject to a police inquiry, an independent probe, and the judgment of his cabinet colleagues, Johnson’s temper flared in response to a suggestion from senior Tory backbencher Sir Bernard Jenkin that he did not seek proper advice before telling MPs that no parties had taken place in Downing Street during lockdown.
“This is complete nonsense, I mean, complete nonsense,” he said. “I asked the relevant people. They were senior people. They had been working very hard. [Then-Downing Street director of communications] Jack Doyle gave me a clear account of what had happened.”
Johnson had previously said a gathering he attended during the second national lockdown was “absolutely essential for work”. He insisted “hand on heart, I did not lie to the House” shortly after swearing on the Bible.
The inquiry into whether he deliberately misled parliament over partygate is likely to end any faint hope he may have of a political comeback. It could result in him being suspended for 10 days, or, worst-case scenario, result in him facing a byelection and losing his seat in the Commons altogether.
Power prices spark row over broken promises
By Michael Foley
Parliament question time has kicked off in federal parliament with an argument over broken promises and soaring power prices.
Opposition MPs repeatedly asked the prime minister to admit the soaring cost of electricity bills, which will rise up to 31 per cent in July, meant that he had broken his election commitment to cut household bills by $275 by 2025.
“The prime minister promised 97 times before the election that he would cut power prices by $275 per year,” said deputy opposition leader Sussan Ley. “Will the prime minister finally admit he has broken his promise?”
Anthony Albanese was not in a mood to admit anything, and fired back with an accusation that the Coalition had broken its own promises when it was in government, when former energy minister Angus Taylor pledged to cap wholesale power prices at $70 a megawatt hour.
“Spoiler alert, it didn’t happen. Not $70, but $286. Missed that much. Promised $70, got $286,” Albanese said.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton accused the prime minister of “making a mockery” of parliament by refusing to answer the question.
This afternoon’s headlines at a glance
Thanks for joining us today. If you’re just joining us, here’s what you need to know:
- Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has become emotional as he stood alongside Indigenous leaders to announce the wording of the Voice referendum, after weeks of intense debate.
- Peter Dutton wants to see the legal advice the government received on the wording for the referendum saying it may not satisfy the concerns of conservatives.
- Footage shows independent senator Lidia Thorpe has been thrown to the ground by Australian Federal Police, after trying to crash an anti-trans rally attended by One Nation and United Australia Party senators out the front of Parliament House. The incident has been referred to the AFP’s Professional Standards Command.
- One of the United States’ top technology regulators has urged Australia to ban TikTok in its current form, arguing the wildly popular Chinese-owned app is a sophisticated surveillance tool that poses a uniquely troubling national security threat.
- Former Greens leader Bob Brown has taken to the airwaves to double down on his decision to cancel his life membership of the Australian Conservation Foundation, after he lashed the organisation for calling on the minor party to vote in the Albanese government’s climate reform.
- Labour organisers will escalate their concerns about the AUKUS defence pact by moving an annual workers’ march to the NSW city of Port Kembla to oppose its use as a base for a future submarine fleet.
Watch: Question time
Question time is due to start in the House of Representatives.
Watch the proceedings below:
AFP refers Thorpe incident to professional standards
By Caroline Schelle and Angus Thompson
Earlier, we reported that independent senator Lidia Thorpe was thrown to the ground after crashing an anti-trans rally outside Parliament House in Canberra today.
Thorpe, clad in an Aboriginal flag, tried to intervene in the small rally as controversial anti-trans campaigner Posie Parker spoke.
The senator was tackled and moved on by police before joining a large counter-protest of trans-rights activists on the Parliament House lawn.
The Australian Federal Police put out a brief statement this afternoon, following the incident.
“The interactions between the AFP and protesters will be reviewed, and an incident has been referred to the AFP’s Professional Standards Command,” it said.
The force said it would not comment further because the matter was under investigation.
Thorpe declined to comment about what happened, other than to say: “I need to seek medical attention, I’ve been assaulted by police.”
Dutton flags Voice wording may not satisfy Coalition concerns
By Paul Sakkal
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has indicated the Voice referendum wording announced by the prime minister earlier today may not satisfy the concerns of conservatives.
Dutton said the Coalition was still considering its position on the Voice and reiterated his long-standing call for Labor to provide more detail about how the proposed advisory body would work.
Some new details were provided by the government today, including on how Voice members would be selected.
The Coalition leader claimed some Indigenous communities expressed doubt about whether the Voice would make practical improvements to their livelihoods.
“I’ve written to the prime minister. I’ve proposed 15 basic questions, pretty common-sense questions Australians are asking. The prime minister hasn’t responded,” Dutton said in a press conference.
“I think it is incumbent on the prime minister … to explain how [the Voice] will deliver practical outcomes for Indigenous Australians.”
The government made a tweak to the third clause of the proposed constitutional amendment, with the aim of giving parliament the ability to determine the legal effect of the Voice’s advice and guard against High Court challenges.
The prospect of legal disputes has been a key sticking point for some Coalition figures, along with the ability of the Voice to advise the executive branch of government including the cabinet.
But Dutton said he remained worried about challenges to the country’s highest court.
“The government can’t out-legislate the constitution,” he said.
“The parliament can’t rectify that, that’s the issue here.”
The opposition leader said the government could be forced to consider the Voice’s advice on urgent policy decisions, which could slow the government’s work.
“What happens there … what would the High Court find in that regard?” he said.
In pictures: Voice to parliament referendum wording announcement
Take a look back at the emotional announcement on the wording for the Voice to parliament referendum.
The gallery below showcases images taken by our photographer, Alex Ellinghausen.
The key change to Voice referendum wording explained
By Paul Sakkal
Prominent constitutional expert and Voice adviser Anne Twomey says the government has made a key change to its referendum wording.
Stay with me as it’s technical, but important.
There have been weeks of intense debate about Australia’s highest court potentially being forced to adjudicate on whether future governments gave proper consideration to the advice of the proposed Voice body.
Some conservative lawyers and politicians have raised concerns about this prospect, arguing it could hinder the work of the government.
Earlier this month, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus proposed seven extra words for the proposed alteration to the constitution. It was designed to give parliament the power to determine the legal effect of the Voice’s advice.
This would allow, for example, the parliament to pass a law saying the government is not mandated to accept the Voice’s recommendations, which would decrease the likelihood of the High Court needing to settle questions on how the Voice’s advice should be treated.
As Twomey explains, the government made a tweak to the third clause of the proposed constitutional amendment to address the concerns outlined above in an attempt to grow support for the Voice.
The original wording announced last year was: 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.
The new wording of clause three, announced today, is: The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to matters relating to the [Voice], including its composition, functions, powers and procedures.
Twomey said the new wording broadens the scope of parliament’s ability to make laws about the Voice.
By using the term “including” and the phrase “matters relating to”, she said, the government would be empowered to specify the legal effect of the Voice’s representations.
The new wording had effectively the same meaning as the seven words proposed by Dreyfus, Twomey said.
“This makes it broader and the intent behind it is it would mean parliament can legislate with regards to the legal effect,” she said, adding that it was a critical change.
“It’s just a bit less in your face [than Dreyfus’ additional seven words], but it’s in there. It is a more subtle way of expressing the same outcome as the seven words.”
In its final advice to the government, the referendum working group said the clause needed to be changed “to put beyond doubt the broad scope of the parliament’s power to make laws relating to the Voice”.
However, the government did not give in to one of the key demands of conservatives: the ability for the Voice to give advice to the executive branch of government, including ministers.
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