On Saturday the 14th of October all Australians will be asked to vote on the Voice to parliament. Many constituents have contacted me over the past months asking me for details and more information so they can make an informed decision on which way they will vote. I thought I would briefly outline what I have been asked and what I have learned and share that with you.
The motivation behind the Canberra based Indigenous Voice to parliament is to “close the gap” and to recognise in the Australian constitution the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first inhabitants of our continent. The majority of the people who have contacted me agree that we should recognise the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first inhabitants, and I haven’t had anyone say they don’t want the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians to close. The big question is “will the proposed Voice to Parliament achieve these outcomes?”
Enshrining anything in our constitution is a very serious matter which is why only 8 out of the 44 referendums we have had in Australia’s history have been successful. One of these was the 1967 referendum when the Liberal Prime Minister, Harold Holt proposed that Aboriginal people be counted in the census as the same as non – Indigenous people. The was rightly carried by the Australian people with over 90% of Australians voting in favour.
The majority of people have told me that if the question was simply that we recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the first people in our constitution they would vote yes, but this proposed question is not that, it is so much more and the biggest problem is, there is little detail on exactly what this Voice proposal is all about. It is an emotional plea, with little thought given to the practical outcomes that could be dangerous and have long term negative effects on our country into the future.
Another concern many have raised with me is what are the ramifications practically? The Prime Minister has stated that the Voice will be involved in decision making on anything that affects or involves indigenous Australians. Well, this is everything from education to health care, to roads and everything else. Does this mean that if we want to add another lane to the Bruce Highway between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast the Voice will have to be consulted which could add extra cost and delay the project? Who knows, as there is no detail on this. Does it mean if we want to build a new hospital because the need for health care in our community is overloaded that the Voice must be consulted and this delays a new hospital being built? Again, who knows because there is no detail on this.
Finally, my view is that if the Albanese Labor government want to introduce an Indigenous Voice to parliament, they should do it through legislation. The reason I hold this view is that:
- If the Voice is legislated and when the inevitable issues arise, it is able to be simply amended in parliament at no cost to the taxpayer. In contrast if it is in the constitution, it cannot be changed or amended unless we have another costly referendum. Who buys a car without test driving it? No, the government should legislate it, iron out any bugs and then if it is working and Australians think it’s worthwhile, then put it to a referendum.
- It is pure arrogance to expect Australians to vote on something that they are given little detail on.
- It is a waste of taxpayers’ money, that could be better spent elsewhere.
- There is no detail or evidence it will “close the gap” and we shouldn’t enshrine it in the constitution unless we can guarantee that outcome.
- Regardless of your view on this matter, it is dividing our country. Australians want all Australians to have the same opportunities and be treated the same way regardless of their heritage, religion, gender, sexuality or ethnic origins. The Voice will mean that one group of Australians (indigenous Australians) are treated differently to another group of Australians (non-indigenous Australians) and this should not be the case.
- Indigenous Australians already have a voice to parliament via elected members. The fact is that 3% of Australians identify as indigenous and 6% of parliamentarians in both the lower house and the senate identify as indigenous so they already have a voice to parliament, just as we have people of different genders, religious faiths and sexuality who represent those various cohorts in parliament. We do not need another level of bureaucracy and government in this country.
- Many indigenous Australians do not want the Voice for various reasons. The main reasons are they do not want to divide our country and they do not want a group of Indigenous Canberra elites making decisions or representations on behalf of regional communities they have no ties to and no practical understanding of their unique issues.
Here are some frequently asked questions I have received on the Voice.
If I vote no does this make me a racist?
Not at all.
Should I vote how the political party I normally support votes?
No. This is not a party-political question. There will be Labor voters who vote no and LNP voters who vote yes.
How much does it cost to have the referendum?
The estimate is around $360 million. Many people including me believe that this money could be better spent on more pressing matters such as housing.
In conclusion, I want to say that although I am personally voting no to the Indigenous Voice to Parliament, I respect our democratic system and whatever the good people of Australia and Longman who I proudly represent decide on October 14, I will respect that result. The AEC have provided information on both the yes and no case and if you haven’t received that information, please contact my office and we will ensure you receive that information.