site advertisement

The Voice and Other Indigenous Matters - The Sydney Institute

Liberal Party of Australia

The Voice and Other Indigenous Matters – The Sydney Institute

As an Arrernte woman of the Central Desert I
acknowledge the Gadigal peoples who are part of Sydney’s metropolitan group of
29 clans – known as Eora Nation.

I was born and
raised in Central Australia, in regional Australia where far too much
disadvantage exists and compounded by the challenges of isolation and distance
especially for those whose home is more remote. It exists too within our major
capital cities.

The many
contributors to disadvantage are complex and very likely different for each and
every individual. Disadvantage is not a constant state. It can change in a
heartbeat. It can be lifelong. It can be inter-generational.

When those
contributing factors (poverty, health, housing, stress and trauma and economic
and social exclusion) and when they exist together its really tough. When they
are mitigated; when we get those right, overcoming much disadvantage is indeed

Disadvantage is not
a permanent, perpetual state – birth does not necessarily condemn you to it. It
is neither a cultural or racial matter but can present disproportionately in
some groups compared to others.

Both my parents are
Arrernte people – the language and cultural group of the area surrounding Alice
Springs. I have close blood family ties to Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunyatjara
peoples of the Central Desert.

My indigeneity is my
identity. I am also so proud to be an ordinary Australian.

I was raised with
culture, language, country and community and I will thank forever my parents
for their belief that these things and personal and professional success must
coexist – in fact they are inseparable.

In my First Speech
in the Australian Parliament, just over 14 months ago I raised my concern about
the divisiveness, risk and implications of a focus on race. I said:

get angry when others seek to define me firstly or only by race, and I know
from experience it is getting worse.” (Liddle First Speech, September 2022)

And yet …. here we
are with a nation divided over race.

This referendum is
currently the cause of conflict in our homes, in our workplaces, on our streets
and between friends and colleagues and strangers.

In Adelaide, just
this week, we witnessed truly ugly scenes.

Protestors hurling
racist abuse, spitting, shouting, foul, obscenities … simply because people
came to hear three Aboriginal speakers explain; why we were voting NO at this
Referendum Question – and why we publicly share why we say NO to voice.

And today a social
media post going viral which looks to be spitting at a passer-by at a Canberra
yes campaign stall.

YES. Even before a
single vote has been cast this Referendum divides us and regardless of the
referendum result the fallout will be enduring.

This division is
palpable but in no way should it be a surprise.

When you load up
with emotion a proposition, when you make it personal – rather than logical and
purposeful, good people do bad things and those who behave badly – just get
given licence to do worse.

The Prime Minister
has split our nation. This is on him. The Prime Minister has delivered a no
compromise proposition to the people and it is the Prime Minister that has
overseen a terribly designed and constructed pathway to disunity!

Our foundation
document, The Australian Constitution, finalised in 1901 talks about the work
of the parliament, the executive government, the judiciary, the governor
general, the states and territories and finance and trade. It belongs to all
Australians – equally.

Yet … There was no
constitutional convention on voice for all Australians to participate.

Australians are
being asked a single question containing two separate notions – one being
recognition in the constitution – the other being a permanently enshrined body
called voice.

The voice
proposition is divisive. It is risky. The details are unknown and if successful
it is permanent.

Let me explain.

I’ve been watching
this since Uluru 2017. Media reports way back spoke of dissent; that dissent
and unrest has been public – from the very beginning.

Since entering
parliament 14 months ago my reservations increased in line with the contact
from Aboriginal people who don’t know what this is, who don’t believe this is
the answer and who tell me they too will say no at this Referendum.

The magnificent
sports stars, celebrities and ordinary Australians are not wrong for wanting to
improve the lives of indigenous Australians, and they are not wrong for
supporting a reconciled Australia – we all want that.

This proposition is
not just about recognition.

The voice part of it
is legally risky.

In the constitution
words matter and Australians know to think very careful about that and they

In the Referendum
Joint Parliamentary Committee looking at this the high court experts – judges,
lawyers and academics could not agree on the extent of risk with the words
“representation” “matters” and “executive government”.

The most prominent
argument was the removal of “executive Government” because it lacked clarity
and yet – the government proceeded. No issue is beyond its scope and no issue
is off limits. Everything is, in fact, at large.

Ian Callinan AC, KC,
Former High Court Judge predicts “ a decade or more of constitutional
and administrative law litigation arising out of a voice … this opens a legal
can of worms. It is unqualified” he said.

There were questions
of a an implied “duty to consult” or a “duty to consider” and no
precedent that a future high court could rely on. The flock of eminent legal
and learned high court experts contributed their views but true to form and
profession there was simply no agreement.

In the end, as with
anything referenced in the constitution, it is not the parliament, not lawyers
but the High Court that would rule on any challenge and any Australian can seek
leave of appeal to the High Court.

Indeed Professors
Marcia Langton and Tom Calma in their Voice Report were told by those consulted
that “non
justiciability must be an essential feature of voice design”
yet Professor Langton said as Chair, she was duty bound to sign off but did not
personally agree with that proposition.

So what else did
they write? What else are they telling us that they do not truly believe in?

A constitutional
body “a committee” for one group means permanently dividing Australians.

Academic and Australian Human Rights Commissioner, Lorraine Findlay argues: “it
inserts race into the Australian Constitution in a way that undermines the
foundational human rights principles of equality and non-discrimination”.

How can it be
seriously argued voice is not a concept of race.

As an Indigenous
Australian, voice allows me to vote, allows me to nominate or be elected to the
voice and the matters it works on are intended to be relevant to me. It is without doubt a concept of them and us.

Permanency in the
Constitution perversely suggests a perpetual state of disadvantage.

Not-withstanding the
good work done by some service providers and public service agencies, the
dysfunction sits in the service delivery system and supply chain; its
complexity, its disconnect and its failure to deliver outcomes rather than

You know the saying
that it is insanity
to keep doing the same thing while expecting a different result

well another committee except that this one in the constitution is, quite
simply, I believe, just that.

I now amplify the
voices of those who are being ignored or silenced right now in this discussion.

Helen Secretary
lives in the Northern Territory and is the equivalent of a mayor in a local top
end community – She says no aguing it is: “a waste of money” and she didn’t
want people considered differently because of their indigenous identity.

From the Anangu
Pitjantjatjara Lands senior Aboriginal lore men and custodians of that most
sacred place, Uluru. Mr Murray George, Mr Clem Toby, Mr Owen Burton and Mr
Trevor Adamson described how they felt betrayed, disrespected and ignored as
their most sacred place “continues to be used for political and
promotional purpose”.

Through a
professional interpreter these senior men said: they don’t want to be associated with
a push for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament. They
don’t see their hopes and dreams delivered by the Voice. They will vote no.

But they know
Australians want and can do better.

These people who say
no exist. These people who say no are real. They are not the product of
artificial intelligence as some have wrongly claimed – and they have found a
way to have voice about voice.

I’ll turn to
constitutional recognition.

I’ve not yet come
across any Australian that disagrees with wanting to improve the lives of
Indigenous Australians – not one single conversation – not anywhere.

I have also not
heard any Australian who does not agree with recognising the 70 – thousand year
old history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders – not a single challenge
to that notion – not anywhere.

The Coalition has
always supported a form of recognition but this proposition is over-reach.

I appreciate that
there are people politically, professionally and personally invested in this
and that may have clouded and galvanised their no-compromise position but this
is such an important decision and is not one to be made on emotion;
intimidation or for posterity.

Its been argued too
that race is already within our constitution and that is true. Section 25 is
redundant – a relic of the past and relates to who cannot vote.

Section 51 gives
effect to “special legislation” for people of any race that deals with
Indigenous cultural heritage, native title and land rights and it allowed for
the Northern Territory intervention.

Section 51 remains
unchanged with this change.

Many of the
architects, the collaborators and the promoters of voice know this too well
because they were there in the early land rights struggle, in the negotiations
on native title and yet here many of them are convincing us voice is, and must
be, the only way forward.

Now let’s move to
some truth telling.

We’re bombarded with
claims and now slick advertising that Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander
peoples do not already have a voice. That is simply not true!

I’m one of 11
politicians in the Australian Parliament today. It’s a pretty impressive
collection of voices.

There’s an
Indigenous ambassador, there are indigenous advocates, commissioners and
there’s the experts in the Coalition of Peaks – comprising more than 80
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations
representing some 800 organisations[1].

The Coalition of
Peaks already speaks to the Parliamentary Cabinet, to Ministers and has no
restriction on who they speak to, or what they speak on.

Australians also have a voice through more than 3000 bodies that are funded
more than $5.3 billion of Commonwealth Indigenous-specific expenditure[2] to improve the lives of our most
– particularly the nearly 140,000 thousand indigenous Australians living in
remote or very remote areas[4].

The role of the
National Indigenous Australians Agency that reports to the Minister for
Indigenous Australians – an Indigenous woman herself, and whose sole purpose is
delivery of Indigenous programs is overseeing the $4.3 Billion investment
through its role of advising government on improving lives through consultation
and engagement.

The Albanese
Government’s own Budget Papers in October 2022 and May 2023 use language of
codesign, collaboration – these are existing concepts, language and practice
within processes of the parliament and in the executive government.

Last week I attended
the Australian Press Club to hear my colleague, Sentator Jacinta Nampijinpa
Price speak on the Referendum.

I was pleased to see
adorning their walls pictures of indigenous speakers, presented a bit like an
honour role.

Eight esteemed
speakers who identify as Indigenous Australians four of whom are coincidentally
also on the government appointed Referendum Working Group – and one of the
eight being a Federal Member of Parliament.

The evidence is
everywhere that Indigenous Australians already have a voice. Maybe we are not
doing enough listening, maybe it’s the wrong voices in the wrong conversations
–whatever the answer its surely NOT YET ANOTHER committee called voice.

Individuals can talk
directly to their local members of parliament – they can participate in and can
contribute to the joint and select committee processes as individuals or
through organisations on matters that interest or affect them – just so many
ways to be heard. Some of these are replicated at a state and territory level.

There’s also the
Australian media.

What is most often
raised about this Referendum question is confusion about what Australians are
being asked – and here we are on the countdown to Referendum on October 14.

Well the answers are
simply not there.

Failure to provide
detail, to respect discourse, appears a deliberate design feature of this
well-financed, well-resourced and well-rehearsed campaign.

We don’t know which
recommendations contained in the report by Professors Calma and Langton are
wholly endorsed by the Prime Minister.

There seems
confusion in the working group itself about the detail. I’ve heard working
group spokespersons reference the body is about negotiation rather than

I like you, heard
the PM tell us this is merely a “modest proposal” and a few weeks later it was
“modest no more”.

From the yes side we
are just seeing YES.

We don’t know how
voice will be funded – that is still being worked out

We don’t know how
its members will be selected – that is still be worked out.

Much of the detail
we are told will come after the

There is no limit to
scope so it entirely feasible yes advocates can legitimately talk about
reparations, compensation and a focus on treaty and truth telling.

In reflection, as a
person who, in addition to my two children taking care of two wards of the
state who at their young age had already had devastating life experiences I
wonder how much focus is on children and their challenges as adults. Of course
it won’t be on them.

Will they hear the
voice of Benny – a child taken away in the Northern Territory by police in a
way that was brutal, inhumane for any child – regardless of the reason he could
not stay.

Will voice step in
for the family, with several children, who had been living on a concrete slab
for two years in the heart of Alice Springs. I don’t think so.

So lets talk about accountability because that’s not beign talked about near

The issues created
by the service delivery supply chain in government, in not for profits in
Aboriginal Community Controlled needs a major over-haul.

Its easy to talk
about this like this. If the driver and the engine is not working separately
and together as they should, the wheels won’t move as they should and won’t
maximise traction with the ground – where it matters the most.

In short its about
parliaments, public servants policy makers, program providers and people doing
better. With much of the money from the Commonwealth going t the states and
territories – the accountability focus is actually quite clear.

Right now I am
demanding accountability and greater transparency for the most vulnerable when
the Albanese Government won’t.

We need to do more
of what we know works and be fearless about stopping what doesn’t and being
courageous in sometimes giving the task to someone else.

For example, Cape
York residents are witnessing
disturbing crime
trends as Aurukun and Kowanyama they’ve had more
offences than it has residents[5].
Cape York unemployment is double the Queensland average[6].

Lets talk native
title and land rights and of benefits reaching rights holders now and the
future flow of entitlement to future generations. Important conversations that
we don’t nearly hear enough of. Just where are the inter-generational benefits

In recent
parliamentary sittings my colleague Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and
independent Senator Lidia Thorpe prompted by heart-wrenching and concerning
stories of the impact of mal-administration and potentially corruption sought a
parliamentary enquiry to hear from the people who depend on these services.
What works and what doesn’t.

But no said the
Labor Government. It was a no from the Greens and no from Senator David Pocock.
They did not support and important and timely inquiry.

accountability and outcomes was our goal. We got nothing. These voices are
maybe too inconvenient, too loud and too uncomfortable because they are talking
about issues too close to home.

The Prime Minister
could have legislated voice but he didn’t!

When it is in the
constitution it is permanent.

Didn’t we want to
avoid everything being about race.

Do we really want to
elevate and amplify difference. History tells us a focus on difference and “the
other” diminishes us all.

accountability, responsibility, doing more of what works and having the courage
to stop doing what doesn’t delivers change.

Being future
focussed and focus on potential, possibilities and performance is the mind-set
that changes lives.

My personal and
professional experience tells me voice is the wrong path.

I’ve worked across
many industries, in the resources sector, in tourism, stakeholder engagement
and in communications and I’ve created opportunity for well over a thousand
Indigenous Australians to forge career change with me.

I have undergraduate
and postgraduate qualifications in management and in business as well as
professional qualifications in governance and ethics and with that experience
and learning I have cemented my position. And, since coming into politics 14
months ago, I can see how, from there we can do so much better.

must use
levers already available to US decision makers. We don’t need more
Canberra-based finger pointers, more reports, more advice, more talk – we need
action, accountability and progress on the ground where it counts.

The irony is that
whatever the result –this country has put us all on notice that we can should,
and must, do better.

The PM and his
Indigenous Affairs Minister have already demonstrated one of the main concerns
about Voice. They only hear the voices they want to hear – muffling those they

The voice will not
likely deal with practical day to day issues for the most marginalised; the
most disadvantaged; or on issues of family violence, poverty, getting children
into school – the experts will continue to do that.

Imagine what that
$364 million dollars and the enthusiasm of those corporate and philanthropics
could have achieved if they committed to those causes – rather than an unknown,
risky and divisive voice.

We’ve already been
told by the voice architects voice will be about treaty, reparations and
compensation and that’s even before people are elected or appointed to it.

No-one can tell the
voice what it can make representations on – not even the minister or the prime

I want to take a
moment to acknowledge and celebrate the significant achievements to date
because truth telling tells us it not all bad.

In my home state of
South Australia, more than half of the indigenous population is in the labor
force – including nearly a quarter employed as professionals or managers.

Nearly 300 –
thousand indigenous Australians in the labor force hold jobs across the broad
spectrum of industries, from tourism, government, health and construction to
education, agriculture, mining, law and so on.

The number of
indigenous businesses grew by 74 per cent between 2006 and 2018 and with that
more than 22 – thousand jobs were created.

Nation-registered Indigenous businesses earn more than $1 billion per year with
revenues growing at an enviable annual average rate of 12.5%. The game changer
was the Coalition’s Indigenous procurement policy.

42% or 145 thousand
indigenous households own a home with or without a mortgage – but yes we can
and should do better.

Between 2016 and
2021, median weekly household income for indigenous households grew by more
than 18%, compared with a growth of 11% for other households – but yes again we
can and must do better.

is not a race of people that needs a voice. It is a group of disadvantaged
people within that race of people, that need a voice. They don’t need this
voice; and they don’t need it in the constitution to make the difference for

issues are greater then we must hear, engage and act more in these places.


On the way here and
as you leave here your will see and hear a barrage of advertising. Its slick,
its emotional and its based on celebrity endorsement – as wonderful,
incredible, contributing Australians as they are.

Think of this
advertising no different to any other. It may come with a great jingle. It may
include great people who have done great things for our country. It may be
everywhere BUT it does not mean that the product is good for you – and this
offering is forever – not for this generation but for the next and the next and
the next.

A deliberate design
feature is we don’t have detail on voice but we can talk about what we do know.

Australia says their work will continue regardless of the referendum result.

The PM has confirmed
that you are not racist if you vote no.

If you want to
really walk together as equals – don’t support the idea of treating people
differently based on race. Don’t condone over-reach, but demand the same not
different and, don’t agree to locking unequal treatment into the Australian
Constitution forever.

Whether you can
trace your ancestry back 70,000 years ago, or you became an Australian seven
years or seven days ago, the Australian Constitution belongs to you equally and
that’s why we all get a vote.

I’d would like to
have been able to vote for constitutional recognition but for me, as an
indigenous Australian, this referendum with its divisive, risky and unknown
voice is the wrong proposition and so I must on polling day say NO.

Thank you

View Original | Disclaimer

Have Your Say

We acknowledge and pay our respects to the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia

Disclaimer | Contact Us | AusPol Forum
All rights are owned by their respective owners
Terms & Conditions of Use