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Constitutional expert says Voice writing clarifies issues



A leading expert says the proposed wording of the constitutional change for an indigenous voice will ensure that parliament decides the legal effects of their representation.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Thursday unveiled details of the referendum question and a new section in the constitution that recognizes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as “Australia’s First Peoples”.

A key concern has been that decisions could be delayed or taken to court because government decision makers must consider voice representations before they can make a valid decision.

However, constitutional expert Anne Twomey said the addition of words saying parliament can make laws in respect of “matters relating to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, including its composition, functions, powers and procedures ” it was important.

“They are intended to allow parliament to legislate on the effect of voice representations, so it is up to parliament to decide whether decision-makers should consider voice representations when making administrative decisions,” he said.

The bill will go before parliament on Thursday and then head to an inquiry that will receive public comment.

Once the bill is approved, a referendum is expected between October and December.

While the Nationals party room has already opposed the voice, the Liberals have yet to decide whether to oppose it as a party or allow a vote of conscience.

Opposition leader Peter Dutton wants to see the attorney general’s legal advice.

“People want to know the details, how it will work in practice, and most importantly, considered legal advice on what the words will mean,” he said.

He added that he supported the constitutional recognition of indigenous peoples.

Albanese insists that the voice will not be a legal minefield, saying that the referendum task force and several eminent lawyers discussed the issues.

“This form of wording is legally sound and it is the form of wording that we are all confident will garner the greatest possible support from the people of Australia in the referendum,” he said.

“The words that are being proposed are even stronger… (that) that was necessary if you look at the legal advice that was there.”

Nationals leader David Littleproud said having a voice would provoke “10-step lawyers” and make government decision-making confusing.

Legal Council Chairman Luke Murphy said it was a “necessary and overdue advancement of the right of First Nations peoples to self-determination.”

“The right to self-determination is a fundamental principle of international law,” he said.


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