Don’t put voice to the vote, says Mundine

12 Jul Don’t put voice to the vote, says Mundine

GREG BROWN – THE AUSTRALIAN – 12 JULY 2019

Warren Mundine and Liberal MPs are calling for the indigenous voice to parliament to be ­exempted from constitutional recognition, declaring the proposal would fail to win public support in a referendum.

Mr Mundine, a prominent Aboriginal figure who ran as a Liberal candidate in the May election, supported the creation of a national indigenous body but declared it should not be ­enshrined in the Constitution.

“I’ve not been won by that ­because … it is very difficult to get in the Constitution,” Mr Mundine told The Australian. “And if it doesn’t work properly, then how are you going to get it out again? And we have had a track record of failures of referendums.

“I’ve always said you need to be careful about what goes in the Constitution. You have got to get the wording right, you have got to be very careful about what you put into the Constitution ­because then the High Court ­interprets that.

“Everyone was caught by surprise by the section 44 stuff and so they took a very black-letter law approach, whereas previously they hadn’t. I take a minimalist approach. We are talking about something that we don’t really know what it is.”

Liberal MP Tim Wilson said it would be “deeply problematic” to include an indigenous voice in the Constitution, as recommended by indigenous leaders in the Uluru Statement from the Heart in 2017.

“Australia is poorer for not having an organised voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait ­Islanders, and we could legislate one with relative ease after straightforward consultation, whereas all constitutional change is deeply problematic, at serious risk of failure and needs a long build-up to have any chance of success,” Mr Wilson said.

“Why (would) the latter be pursued when the former will tick the same boxes?”

Conservative Liberal MP Kevin Andrews also said it would be a mistake to put the proposed indigenous advisory body in the Constitution, but he was open to a more modest form of indigenous constitutional recognition.

“I think it moves away from the principle that everyone who is a citizen of Australia, regardless of their background, regardless of how long their family may have lived in this country, are equal citizens before the law and equal citizens in the face of the Constitution,” Mr Andrews said.

Victorian senator James Paterson said he did not think the proposals in the Uluru Statement from the Heart would succeed at a referendum. “It potentially undermines our parliamentary system and I think a lot of Australians think that works pretty well,” he said.

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