PM second guesses Australian people: No to Indigenous Voice to Parliament


p24996 CLC Forrester & ShawThe Turnbull Government will not put to a referendum the call by Australian First Nations to have an Indigenous ‘Voice to Parliament’ enshrined in the Constitution.
This comes just over a month after Central Land Council delegates met at Brumby Plains, demanding an active role in designing the ‘Voice to Parliament’ ahead of the presumed referendum.
Right: The CLC delegates chose Vince Forrester (on the microphone) and Barbara Shaw (behind)  to represent them in the process they thought would lie ahead. 
A joint statement by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull,  Attorney General George Brandis and Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion yesterday described the proposal as neither “desirable [n]or capable of winning acceptance in a referendum”, but they declined to put the question to the Australian people.
They said the Voice “would inevitably become seen as a third chamber of Parliament”.
The Referendum Council had concerns, they said,  that “the proposed body would have insufficient power if its constitutional function was advisory only” and had not provided guidance “as to how this new representative assembly would be elected or how the diversity of Indigenous circumstance and experience could be fairly or democratically represented”.
“Moreover, the Government does not believe such a radical change to our constitution’s representative institutions has any realistic prospect of being supported by a majority of Australians in a majority of States.”
They said the proposal for an Indigenous representative assembly, or Voice, is new to the discussion about Constitutional change, and dismissed the extensive and valuable work done over the past decade – largely with bipartisan support.
“We are confident that we can build on that work and develop Constitutional amendments that will unite our nation rather than establish a new national representative assembly open to some Australians only.
“The challenge remains to find a Constitutional amendment that will succeed, and which does not undermine the universal principles of unity, equality and ‘one person one vote’.
“We have listened to the arguments put forward by proponents of the Voice, and both understand and recognise the desire for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians to have a greater say in their own affairs.
“We acknowledge the values and the aspirations which lie at the heart of the Uluru Statement. People who ask for a voice feel voiceless or feel like they’re not being heard. We remain committed to finding effective ways to develop stronger local voices and empowerment of local people.
“Our goal should be to see more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians serving in the House and the Senate – members of a Parliament which is elected by all Australians.”
The Government has written in response to Mr Shorten’s call for a Joint Select Committee, and have asked that the committee considers the recommendations of the existing bodies of work developed by the Expert Panel (2012), the Joint Select Committee on Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (2015) and the Referendum Council report (2017).


  1. Consider recent words by Carlos Carrizo to fellow Catalan Parliamentarians that their “job is not to promise unrealisable dreams but to improve the daily lives of people”.
    CLC’s relentless promotion of racist, segregationist, separatist and apartheid policies, while refusing to accept responsibility and accountability, provides ongoing failure to thrive, mostly by denying rights otherwise held as Australians to those within ALR(NT) communities.
    Racists argue racial tagging is more important than equality of rights, responsibilities and opportunity.

  2. If politics really is “the art of the possible”, then I think Turnbull and Co got this one right. A constitutional amendment requires a majority of votes in a majority of states. It’s highly unlikely that this proposal would have gained that level of approval.
    Perhaps a way forward would be for separate treaties to be negotiated with State and Territory governments. I think such a process is already under way in Victoria(?). And then go on from there.

  3. @ Hal Duell (Posted October 28, 2017 at 10:04 am): For a referendum question to be passed, there requires to be a double majority – the majority of votes in a majority of states as you say but also there has to be an absolute majority overall across the nation.
    If either one of these conditions (or both) are not met, the referendum question fails.

  4. Thanks for that, Alex. I was not aware of the need for a double majority. But knowing that, I think Turnbull’s call is even more sensible. A failed referendum is the last thing the move toward constitutional recognition and national reconciliation needs.

  5. It is now 40 years since the last successful referendum was held, which is by far the longest period to have occurred when considering all other intervals from one successful result to the next in the history of referendums in Australia (the next longest period was 21 years, from 1946 to 1967, in part due to there being only one other referendum held during that period).
    It’s also interesting to note that 1977 was the only occasion when multiple questions were successful in that referendum (of which one approved the proposition for electors in the Territories to be able to vote in referendums) and all achieved high percentages of the national vote.
    I’m inclined to agree that a referendum calling for “Australian First Nations to have an Indigenous ‘Voice to Parliament’ enshrined in the Constitution” would fail, and the consequences of such a failure would have serious negative repercussions for both Aboriginal people and society as a whole; this doesn’t seem to have been taken into account by those who support this proposition.

  6. I agree with Malcolm Turnbull. These indigenous people can run for parliament like anyone else. What are the Indigenous senator and MPs doing for their own people?


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