Yes vote supporters at a recent Walk For Yes event in Brisbane. (Image credit: The Uluru Dialogue)
The Op-Ed by Opposition Leader Peter Dutton published in The Daily Telegraph on Friday, September 22 demonstrates a level of ignorance and misinformation that is alarming in a man who is seeking to be the Prime Minister of our country.
It is a tragedy that several leading “No” campaigners, including Mr Dutton, Senator Jacinta Price and Warren Mundine are using the referendum campaign to boost their own political ambitions, even if it means condemning First Nations Peoples to more of the brutal policy failures that were delivered while the Opposition Leader was a Minister in previous governments.
DUTTON: “A Voice would be the most consequential change to our system in history. There is no similar constitutional body anywhere in the world – and there is nothing “modest” about the proposed change before us.”
THE FACTS: The 93 new words proposed for the Constitution make it absolutely clear: “The Voice may make representations to Parliament and the Executive Government”. The Parliament is free to ignore those representations. There are similar structures set up around the world, and indeed in Australia at state and local government levels, to give voice to First Nations Peoples.
Huge crowds attended the recent Walk For Yes event in Brisbane. (Image credit: The Uluru Dialogue)
DUTTON: “Because we are all Australians, we are treated equally under the law. A Voice will change this fundamental democratic principle.”
THE FACTS: As a would-be Prime Minister, Peter Dutton urgently needs a tutorial on our nation’s Constitution. Contrary to his claim here, our founding fathers actually recognised that inequities exist in any society and that we can use our laws to address them; that is why the Constitution established a Senate in which Tasmania has as many Senators as New South Wales, despite having far fewer people. The founders actually recognised the importance of giving Tasmanians a “voice” through representation, that might otherwise be drowned out by the larger states. The Constitution also contains a races power. All Australians are not treated equally.
The Constitution has always divided by race, to the detriment of our people. A Voice corrects this.
DUTTON: “A Voice will not deliver the change and improvements we all desire. The Voice will be more Canberra bureaucracy.”
THE FACTS: When we asked Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through our Dialogues what changes they wanted to improve their lives, they were emphatic: no more Canberra bureaucracy. The Voice is supported by more than 80 per cent of First Nations Peoples precisely because it delivers what they have asked for: the ability to give direct advice to government on the matters affecting their communities.
DUTTON: “If you want to alter our Constitution, details should come before the vote, not the vote before the details.”
THE FACTS: Again, our would-be Prime Minister is failing Constitutional Law 101. The Constitution contains a set of clear, simple principles. It was always the intention that the parliament would debate and decide on the details about how to apply those principles. For example, the Constitution established the High Court in 1901 but was not legislated for until several years later.
DUTTON: “The fact that our best legal minds remain divided on the Voice shows that this constitutional change is risky.”
THE FACTS: There is almost no division in the legal profession. In fact, Australia’s “best legal minds” - our most reputable legal experts including the Law Council of Australia, public law academics, major law firms, barristers and former High Court judges - have repeatedly stated the Voice poses no legal threat. They have also confirmed the prospect of the Voice creating a flood of litigation to the High Court is grossly overstated.
The Law Council of Australia supports the Voice, as does former Chief Justice Bob French and former high court justices Hayne and Gaudron. Most of Australia’s major law firms openly support the Voice, both the most significant plaintiff law firms and blue chip client firms: including Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Allens, Herbert Smith Freehills, Norton Rose Fulbright, Hall & Wilcox, DLA Piper, Holding Redlich, Baker McKenzie, King & Wood Mallesons, Slater & Gordon, Macpherson Kelley, Maurice Blackburn, Piper Alderman, Lander & Rogers, Ashurst, Arnold Bloch Leibler, Gilbert + Tobin, Hive Legal, and MinterEllison.
DUTTON: “No issue is off limits to the Voice and that the High Court – not parliament – will determine the Voice’s powers and remit… If anything goes wrong with a constitutional Voice, we are stuck with it. This Voice comes with a no-returns policy.”
THE FACTS: The 93-word addition proposed for the Constitution, to be voted on by the Australian people on 14 October makes this clear: while the Voice can “make representations”, the Parliament retains “power to make laws with respect to matters relating to the [Voice], including its composition, functions, powers and procedures.”
This means that if the Voice is not functioning well, the Parliament retains the power to update or remodel its functions and powers.
DUTTON: “It will drive us apart, not bring us together. Voting “No” is not to turn our backs on disadvantaged Indigenous Australians.”
THE FACTS: What is driving Australians apart is the relentless flow of misinformation and lies, as demonstrated here by the Opposition Leader. What is driving us apart are the campaign tactics that the No campaign are on the record as using; that is, by stoking fear and confusion when they speak to Australians. By his own actions, by refusing to listen to the voices of First Nations people, Mr Dutton is already turning his back on us.