Liberal Party to discuss Voice to Parliament position at party room meeting this week – ABC News

Liberal Party to discuss Voice to Parliament position at party room meeting this week - ABC News

The Liberal party room will discuss whether to support the Voice to Parliament on Wednesday, Shadow Indigenous Australians Minister Julian Leeser has said. 

Speaking at the National Press Club Mr Leeser warned the meeting did not guarantee the group would land on a final position.

“The party room will look at these issues,” he said.

“I don’t think people should assume that we will have a completely concluded position on things on Wednesday when we have the committee process to go and there may be some things that come out of the party room that help direct the work of the committee and members.

“I don’t want to pre-empt the way party room discussions go.”

The federal government introduced legislation to have the referendum last week, which has now been referred to committee to be examined before returning to parliament for debate later this year.

The Voice would be a permanent body to advise parliament, representing First Nations people on policies that affect their lives.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has repeatedly argued he and his party have sought more detail on the proposal from the government and have not received an adequate response.

Those who have worked on the plan for the Voice, including former minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt, have previously voiced their frustration at the argument there was not enough detail, saying it was “being used as an excuse” not to support the idea

Mr Leeser, who has been involved in constitutional recognition processes dating back many years, raised a different issue with the Labor proposal.

He reiterated that while he has long supported the idea of a Voice to Parliament, he disagreed with the suggested second clause of the new chapter that would be added to the constitution if the referendum is successful.

The suggested addition would be:

In recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia:

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

“I think the second clause is ultimately the led in the saddle bag of a successful referendum,” he said.

“I think that clause and the symbolic statement at the beginning are those things which provide the greatest risk of judicial interpretation that we haven’t properly considered.

“And I think the referendum has a better chance of success without them.”

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Mr Leeser, who is also the shadow Attorney-General, also questioned the government’s timing of the referendum, saying there was no need to have it so soon particularly if there was not the public support to see it succeed.

“When I go around in my community and ask people seriously what they think of the Voice, the thing people most often say to me is ‘I love the TV program’,” he said.

“I don’t say that with any joy or sarcasm. That is the response I most often get.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said “if not now, when?” in response to Mr Leeser’s calls to delay the vote.

“Indigenous people expect this to be advanced, this will be important to show respect to them but it will also be an important moment or non-Indigenous Australia to recognise the richness and fullness of our history,” he said.

Anthony Albanese stands behind a lectern in a suit looking serious.
Anthony Albanese says it is important to advance the cause of constitutional recognition.(ABC News: Adam Kennedy)

“This is a modest request for recognition and for consultation where matters affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and we know that where consultation occurs you get better outcomes.

“If you don’t run on the field you can’t win … well we will give Australians that opportunity.”

Labor ‘honeymoon’ behind Aston win

After Labor’s historic win in Aston over the weekend, Mr Leeser was asked if the result was also a reflection on how the Liberals have conducted themselves on the Voice debate.

Mr Leeser said there were a number of factors behind the Aston defeat and that the party needed to “listen to what the community” was telling them.

“The people of Aston had been to the polls three times in the last ten months. They had a retiring member and as we saw in the state election in New South Wales, the votes of retiring members don’t always transfer across to people.

“We’ve got a government that is still in his extended honeymoon phase.

“And while we have had a great candidate in Aston, a barrister, counsellor, person, multicultural background, she only had five weeks to get known in the community.”


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