The High Court will have no doubt that parliament retains its supremacy if the indigenous voice referendum takes place, says a key figure in its design.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has released details of the referendum question and the new section of the constitution that will describe how voice works and recognize Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as “Australia’s First Peoples”.
The laws will be presented to parliament at the end of next week with the intention of passing them in June, before a referendum to be held between October and December.
Opponents of the voice have seized on comments from various legal scholars who argue that the voice could override parliament.
Megan Davis, a member of the referendum task force, said the text released by the prime minister clarified the draft he released last year.
“All dimensions of this voice must be determined by parliament and parliamentary sovereignty remains paramount or intact,” Professor Davis told ABC TV.
“Not only is it enshrined in the constitution, but it will be made very clear in the second reading speech and accompanying materials… so it will be evident to any future High Court and to all the people who voice and what it does is determined by parliament”.
She said several constitutional lawyers “from across the political spectrum” were confident that the amendment “is one that preserves that parliamentary supremacy.”
Constitutional expert Greg Craven said that the inclusion of “executive government” in the voice framework “really takes the problems that people have identified with the previous wording and multiplies them.”
Opposition leader Peter Dutton has asked Mr Albanese to publish advice provided by the Solicitor General, which Professor Davis said had been crucial to the design of the constitutional change.
Attorney General Mark Dreyfus said he was not “currently planning” to publish the advice.
“Mr. Dutton knows that the previous administration did not make it a practice to publicize the attorney general’s advice, and neither will we,” Mr. Dreyfus told 6PR.
The opposition shadow cabinet is expected to discuss the proposed constitutional change early next week.
Meanwhile, Transport Minister Catherine King said she would be pleased to receive advice from the voice on issues in her portfolio, especially “land use and interactions with the country”.
“The voice provides that real opportunity both for parliament to think about these issues and for the executive to do so as well,” he told reporters.