News Indigenous Anthony Albanese: Voice proposal is being kept ‘simple’ to avoid voter confusion
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Anthony Albanese: Voice proposal is being kept ‘simple’ to avoid voter confusion

PM unveils plans for Indigenous Voice referendum

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Proposed changes to the Constitution to establish an Indigenous Voice are simple enough for the public to understand what they’re voting for, Anthony Albanese says.

The Prime Minister on Saturday revealed the proposed question for a historic referendum on the introduction of a Voice to parliament at the Garma Festival in northeast Arnhem Land.

The question that could be put to Australians is: “Do you support an alteration to the constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?”

The details of the Voice, its function and how it operates will then be worked out following consultation, Mr Albanese said.

“One of the things I’m trying to avoid – as occurred at the end of the last century when a referendum wasn’t successful – is people looking for all of the detail and saying well, if you disagree … with one out of the 50 (clauses) but 49 are OK, vote no,” he told the ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday.

“We’re not doing that. We’re appealing to the goodwill of the Australian people.

“That’s why I am optimistic that Australians will embrace this simple concept that where issues affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people they are consulted.”

Mr Albanese recommended adding three sentences to the constitution:

A body to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice; the Voice may make representations to parliament and the executive government on Indigenous matters; and the parliament shall have the power to make laws on the Voice’s composition, functions, powers and procedures.

“This isn’t a third chamber of the parliament … this makes it very clear this doesn’t change in any way the primacy of our democratically elected parliament,” Mr Albanese said.

While future parliaments will then be able to amend any legislation, their actions will be held accountable, Mr Albanese added.

“The thing that enshrining in the Constitution does, it ensures the Voice cannot be eliminated or silenced by a change of government or a change of prime minister,” he said.

Indigenous peoples see a brighter future when the Voice becomes law. Photo: AAP

Mr Albanese said the government hadn’t yet decided on the timing of the referendum, although Labor reportedly favours a vote next year.

Northern Territory MLA Yingiya “Mark” Guyula called on the government to implement all elements of the Uluru Statement alongside the Voice.

“Ideally, an amendment to the Constitution should recognise all three elements of the statement,” he said.

“Voice, Treaty, and Truth should be enshrined and protected together.

“Before I die I want to be part of a federal Treaty process.”

Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney went slightly further than the Prime Minister, indicating more details about the Voice’s make-up would be released before the referendum.

“There will be a lot of information out to the community about what people are voting on. It would be nuts for that not to happen,” she told the ABC’s Q+A, scheduled to air on Monday.

Opposition calls for ‘certainty’

Opposition Indigenous affairs spokesman Julian Leeser welcomed the Voice in principle but called for more detail.

“People need to have some certainty about what they’re voting for,” he told the ABC.

“Without those details, without the answers to the reasonable questions … it’s harder to dispel myths and uncertainties about what’s being proposed.”

Uphold and Recognise chair Sean Gordon estimated the yes campaign would cost $20 million as he prepared to consult with same-sex marriage and republican advocates about raising funds and awareness.

“It needs to be a clear, co-ordinated strategy and a way forward otherwise we won’t have the success,” he told a Garma Festival forum.

-AAP