O’Connor MP wants details about Indigenous Voice to Parliament, elder calls for parliamentarians to ‘hurry up’
O’Connor MP Rick Wilson says he needs to “see considerably more detail” before deciding if he will back a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous Voice to Parliament after WA Liberals called on their Federal counterparts to oppose it.
Anthony Albanese laid out a proposed referendum question to address one of the key recommendations of 2017’s Uluru Statement From the Heart on Saturday.
The Uluru statement was the result of more than 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders uniting to call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice in the Australian Constitution.
Speaking at the Garma Festival in Arnhem Land, the Prime Minister outlined his intention to go to the Australian public “with the clearest possible referendum question” on the matter.
“We should consider asking our fellow Australians something as simple, but something as clear, as this: Do you support an alteration to the Constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?” he said.
“A straightforward proposition. A simple principle. A question from the heart.”He said the question could form “the basis for further consultation” and asked “all Australians of goodwill to engage on this.”
On Sunday, the WA Liberals voted at their State Conference to call on the Federal Opposition to oppose an Indigenous Voice to Parliament “in light of the fact that almost a dozen Indigenous Australians have already made (it) into Federal Parliaments on merit”.
The motion compels the WA Liberal Party State president to now send the wording to all WA Liberal Federal MPs and senators “as an expression of our firm position”.
Mr Wilson said while he wanted to “wait for more detail before arriving at a firm position”, it was the democratic right of the party members to express their views.
“The Liberal Party WA Division vote at their conference is not binding on the parliamentary party,” he said. “At the end of the day all Australians will get to decide at the referendum and my vote will count for no more than any other citizen.
“I see my role as ensuring that people across O’Connor have all the information they need to make an informed decision.”
Mr Wilson said he had always supported the principle of constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians.
“In relation to the Voice I will need to see considerably more detail to satisfy two concerns I have,” he said.
“One, the Australian people have a complete understanding of how the Voice will operate, how it will guarantee representation from communities across O’Connor, and the impact it may have on our current Parliamentary system.
“Two, can demonstrate practical outcomes which will improve the lives of the Indigenous people who live across the vast electorate of O’Connor.”
Menang Noongar elder and Albany Aboriginal Corporation chairman Lester Coyne said he was supportive of the discussion the question laid out by Mr Albanese had created, but he was concerned by the term “Voice”.
“The wording should have power for Aboriginal people to determine their own future,” he said.
“Naming it ‘the Voice’ is ambiguous. What sort of voice, whose voice?”
“There have been recommendations about deaths in custody, there have been recommendations made on closing the gap — they don’t have to react on recommendations unless they are empowered by the constitution.”
Mr Coyne said he was worried people would get too caught up with details as a way of delaying it.
He said people seeking more detail should read the the various documents, such as the Final Report of the Referendum Council, which explains all the “ins and outs of what is good, bad and indifferent, and what needs to change.”
“I’d say we want the referendum as soon as possible,” he said.
“I don’t think we can pander to people who always want more detail — I would have liked more details about the children overboard when John Howard was in power, I would have liked to have more detail on a lot of things.
“Why are ‘more details’ only applicable to our people, and no one else?”
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