Attorney General Mark Dreyfus says the attorney general has endorsed the wording of Voice’s referendum question, but refuses to release the full opinion.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese unveiled last week the question that will be asked to voters between October and December, and the new section of the Constitution that outlines how voice will work.
Pressed repeatedly as to whether the council supported the wording, Mr Dreyfus in response said that he “does support the wording” and that it was not the practice of Australian governments to produce advice for public discussion.
“We are confident that what we have to do is constitutionally sound, it is the right thing to do for Australia,” he told ABC on Sunday.
“I hope the referendum is successful when we get to the end of the year.”
Asked to confirm reports that he had pushed for the words “executive government” to be removed, Dreyfus denied them as “just plain wrong”.
“I have never suggested eliminating ‘executive government,’” he said.
“It has been the position of the Australian government at all times that the Voice…should be able to make representations before parliament and before the executive government of the Commonwealth.
“That has also been my position.”
The attorney general was not drawn to it when asked if the additional wording he suggested was not adopted by the referendum task force.
“I don’t think it matters who said what, when… what matters is where we have landed,” he said.
“Where we have landed is a provision that clarifies the primacy of the Australian parliament in determining the scope, functions and powers of the voice.”
When asked how the Voice would work in practice, Dreyfus said it meant that government departments, ministers and parliamentarians would know what indigenous people “have to say.”
He said Australians were “practical people” and once the Voice is enshrined, parliament will decide how the advisory body will operate.
The attorney general said it was a “possibility” that the Voice could challenge the government in the High Court if the body felt it had not been given the chance to advise a department or cabinet.
But he stressed that the wording of the proposed amendment clarified the power of parliament, which would regulate how it could be carried out.