Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s estranged son-in-law has revealed he will be voting against The Voice.
James Brown, a father of two who divorced the former Prime Minister’s daughter Daisy Turnbull in 2021, is now running for the Liberal Party pre-selection to replace the late Jim Molan as Senator for New South Wales.
The former army officer who has served in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Solomon Islands told ABC’s Q&A program that he opposed the proposal for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice – despite his former father-in-law’s support for it.
“I’m someone who I think is honest, who wants to see reconciliation but will vote against this referendum,” he said to audible cries from the program’s left-wing studio audience.
A heckler yelled, “Shame on you.”
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Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s estranged son-in-law has revealed he will vote no to the Voice (James Brown is pictured, second right, on election night in July 2016)
But Mr Brown said establishing a constitutionally enshrined indigenous advisory body would be risky.
“My concern is that the potential risks of a yes to this referendum outweigh the benefits,” he said Monday evening.
“To me, real reconciliation in Australia has to be a coming together of Indigenous Australia and non-Indigenous Australia, so it’s not enough to say this was set up by Indigenous Australia, and therefore its impact should not be taken into account.”
Malcolm Turnbull, who is ideologically linked to the moderate faction of the Liberal Party, wrote a column on the leftist Guardian Australia website last year stating he would vote yes.
“If the federal parliament proposes an amendment to the constitution to establish an indigenous vote in the terms set out by Anthony Albanese in Garma, I will vote for it,” he said.
“While I have some reservations, I am pleased that on balance we as a nation are better advised to approve the proposal than to reject it.”
Nevertheless, in October 2017, Malcolm Turnbull released a joint statement with his Attorney General George Brandis warning that the Uluru statement’s proposal would “inevitably be viewed as a third chamber of parliament” for the Voice.
James Brown, a father of two who divorced the former Prime Minister’s daughter Daisy Turnbull in 2021, is now running for the Liberal Party pre-selection to replace the late Jim Molan as Senator for New South Wales
This followed the First Nations National Constitutional Convention in Uluru, where 250 delegates called for an advisory body to be included in the constitution.
What is Voice’s proposal about?
An elected body of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals who would provide advice to the federal government.
Only Australians of Indigenous descent would be able to determine the representatives.
To come about, a referendum would be held and would require a majority vote in a majority of states.
Unlike the old Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission – formally abolished in 2005 with bipartisan support – the vote would be enshrined in the constitution.
While parliament would determine the composition of the vote, it would not have the power to abolish it without taking the issue to another referendum.
The Voice would advise the cabinet and executive government on legislation, particularly proposed laws affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart – based on input from 250 Aboriginal leaders – called in 2017 for the “establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.”
The final report of the Indigenous Voice Co-design Process was presented to the government of former Liberal Prime Minister Scott Morrison in 2021.
It was co-authored by Tom Calma, a human rights activist, and Marcia Langton, an academic.
Labor Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told the July 2022 Garma Festival in Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory, that he would push for a referendum on the issue, with a vote likely to take place later in 2023.
Following negotiations with Liberal opposition leader Peter Dutton, pamphlets will now be sent to Australians outlining the yes and no issues.
Mr Brown, who is now the Sydney-based CEO of the Space Industry Association of Australia, said there was no danger of voters being portrayed as racists.
“This issue of The Voice, it’s a question that divides Australia, it’s a difficult issue,” he said.
My concern is that I don’t want to hear one side of the debate completely ignored or seen as an illegitimate point of view. There are some people weighing this question, like others on this panel, who don’t want to. go into a voting booth and be told they are a racist if they oppose this referendum.’
The Liberal and National parties will campaign for the no cause, but backbenchers are still free to support the yes cause.
Julian Leeser, a Liberal from Sydney’s north coast who holds the seat of Berowra, resigned as opposition spokesman for Indigenous Australians two weeks ago so he could campaign for the yes cause.
He was replaced by NT Country Liberals Senator Jacinta Price, an Indigenous Celtic woman from central Australia who sits in the Nationals banquet hall.
Andrew Gee quit the Nationals last December because he supported the Voice.
Simon Birmingham, a Liberal moderate from South Australia, remains on the front bench of the opposition but remains coy about how he will vote for the vote.
Paul Fletcher, the Opposition Business manager who reportedly spoke out against a binding no vote for the Liberal Party front bench as a moderate, told Q&A he was not doing the numbers to replace Mr Dutton.
‘No. No. No,’ he said, shaking his head.
As for the race to replace Mr Molan, Mr Brown is in competition with former NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance and former NSW Liberal Party President Maria Kovacic, who ran unsuccessfully in the federal seat of Parramatta in 2022.
Katherine Deves, who failed to recapture Warringah for the Liberal Party last year, pulled out of the Senate vacancy race this week after sticking to her earlier comments referring to transgender children as “surgically mutilated and sterilized.”