A leading Yes campaigner says a Voice in Parliament will be more effective than a treaty between Aboriginal Australians and the government, as a Voice “cannot be taken away by future governments”.
Constitutional lawyer Shireen Morris lashed out at ‘non-progressive’ voters such as Lidia Thorpe who believe a treaty should come first before Voice during a panel discussion in Sydney last week.
While a treaty is one of the key components of the Uluru Declaration from the Heart and is an element supported by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Dr Morris said it should not be treated as a ‘magic bullet’ that will solve all problems for indigenous peoples.
‘Look around the world. The treaties have not been silver bullets,’ said Dr. Morris.
Most were raped because the Crown, the colonizer, is the most powerful party. They reneged on their promises.
‘A treaty is subject to political whims, the Voice, however, cannot be taken away by future governments. No one can take it away from you.
Shireen Morris has long been an advocate for an Indigenous Voice in Parliament and has spent much of her career seeking constitutional recognition for Australian First Nations. Dr Morris unsuccessfully contested Deakin for Labor’s seat in the 2019 election
Dr. Morris made the argument to a crowd of 1,000 at a CityTalks Voice event in Sydney on Wednesday.
There were several big names on the panel: Leading Yes campaigner Thomas Mayo was announced as the headline for the evening’s Q&A portion, sitting front and center alongside ABC host Stan Grant.
Earlier, Noel Pearson, Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney and Sydney Mayor Clover Moore had all delivered speeches to the audience.
But it was Dr. Morris, a constitutional lawyer of Indian and Fijian-Indian descent, who pushed through the audience, who hung on his every word.
Dr. Morris said she understood and agreed that Voice is “pursued as a priority,” because “Voice is constitutionally guaranteed [while] a treaty is a political agreement… not guaranteed.’
Progressive No voters like Lidia Thorpe oppose Voice to Parliament in part because they believe that a treaty, one of the movement’s key pillars as part of the ‘Voice, Treaty, Truth’ ethos, should come first.
In ‘practical reality’, Dr Morris said there is no guarantee that future governments will uphold or abide by a treaty, even if the Albanian government were to sign it.
“The treaty is an agreement,” he said. ‘It takes two to tango.
‘If a government doesn’t come to the table to negotiate a treaty, then none of that will happen. There is a misconception on the progressive left that a treaty is better, stronger.”
Dr Morris, who unsuccessfully contested the 2019 election for Deakin’s seat, urged “soft” No voters and people who are undecided not to get bogged down in calls for a treaty.
“Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the treaty is a silver bullet,” he said.
It was Dr. Morris, a constitutional lawyer of Indian and Fijian-Indian origin, who pushed through the crowd.
Dr Morris, pictured with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, urged “soft” No voters and people who are undecided not to get bogged down in calls for a treaty.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese vowed to support the Uluru Declaration from the Heart in its entirety, which includes a Makarrata Commission with the sole purpose of moving towards treaty-making and truth.
But amid open concerns about what exactly a treaty might entail, Albanese appears to have distanced himself from the proposal.
On Ben Fordham’s breakfast news radio show, he explicitly said that the referendum, due in the last quarter of 2023, has nothing to do with the treaty.
He said that the Voice was not about reparations and argued that “this is not about a treaty.”
“This is not about a treaty,” he said four times. “I can’t say it more clearly, compensation has nothing to do with what people will vote for later this year.”
In “practical reality”, Dr. Morris said there is no guarantee that future governments will abide by or abide by a treaty, even if the Albanian Labor government were to sign it.
Mr Fordham asked: ‘I’m talking about after that. There are three stages, after going through the Voice, is it natural to assume that after going through the Voice?’
Albanese said, ‘No, it’s not natural.’
Just last October, he wore a T-shirt to a concert with the slogan “treated” on the front.
And questions and concerns about the details of a treaty were also front and center on the panel Wednesday night.
Thomas Mayo, who once outspokenly defended the treaty and Voice’s role in accelerating it, appeared to back Dr. Morris’s assurances that it should not be a priority.
He said: ‘Treaty will take decades to negotiate due to complexity. The issues in our communities are urgent right now.
‘If it’s going to take decades, why should we wait?’
In March, Mayo stood shoulder to shoulder with a tearful prime minister, Anthony Albanese, when the official wording of the referendum question was announced.
Mr Mayo’s extensive Twitter story, revealed by Daily Mail Australia, revealed that he once hoped a treaty could pave the way for reparations and ‘rent’ for the elderly.
She has since told Daily Mail Australia that she now understands that Voice will “focus on practical issues that are important to indigenous communities, such as better employment and housing outcomes.”
He noted that many of his comments were from “several years ago.”
Meanwhile, defenders of the progressive Yes argue that the priority must be a treaty.
Independent Senator Lidia Thorpe is leading the charge, arguing that a treaty would “set the baseline” to “recognize sovereignty and strengthen voice.”
“Only a treaty will end the war against First Nations peoples,” he maintains.
Dr. Morris also tried to remove any concerns from the audience about the main message of the No campaign: that there is not enough detail in the proposal.
“The constitution is not about details,” he said. It’s all about principles.
Daily Mail Australia obtained a series of old tweets dating back to 2018 and posted by Thomas Mayo, architect of Voice’s referendum question and signatory to the Heart of Uluru Declaration.
Mr Mayo (pictured) has since told Daily Mail Australia that he now understands that Voice will “focus on practical issues that are important to indigenous communities, such as better employment and housing outcomes.”
‘Do indigenous people deserve to be recognized in the constitution with Voice? If we say yes, it will be up to Parliament to decide the details, evolve and adjust those details over time,” he said.
Dr. Morris argued in 2018 that the referendum should be held on January 26, in an attempt to “transform and redeem” the date rather than change it entirely.
She weighed in on the widespread debate over whether Australia Day should be celebrated on a different date, arguing that doing so would be a superficial solution to a complex problem.
Instead, he argued that January 26 could become “the date we do what should have been done in 1788: belatedly include a First Nations voice in the Constitution and establish the Makarrata Commission.”
‘If we did these things on January 26, the date would become a solemn day of historic reconciliation. A day of healing, resolution and inclusion. This seems to me the solution of the radical center.’
What we know about Voice to Parliament so far
Here Daily Mail Australia takes a look at some of the key questions about Voice so far and how the government has addressed them:
What kind of advice can La Voz provide to Parliament and the Government?
La Voz will advise on matters directly related to indigenous peoples.
You will respond to requests made by the government while also having the power to proactively engage in matters that you believe affect them.
The group will have its own resources to research issues and engage with communities at the grassroots level to ensure it best reflects their needs.
How will the members of the Voice be chosen?
The members of the Voice will be appointed by the indigenous communities and will serve on the committee for a fixed period of time, yet to be determined.
The way in which the communities elect their representatives will be agreed by the local communities together with the government as part of a ‘post-referendum process’ to ensure cultural legitimacy.
Who can be a member of the committee?
Members of the Voice must be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
They will be elected from all states and territories and will have balanced gender representation at the national level.
The government has also guaranteed that youth will be included in the committee to ensure representation throughout the community.
Will the Voice be transparent?
The government claims Voice will be subject to scrutiny and reporting requirements to ensure it is held accountable and transparent.
The members of the voice will be subject to the standards of the National Anti-Corruption Commission and will be sanctioned or removed from the committee if there is any misconduct.
Will the Voice have veto power?
Will La Voz function independently of other government agencies?
The committee must respect the work and role of existing organizations, says the government.
Will the Voice handle any funds?
The Voice will not directly manage any money or provide any services to the community.
Their sole role will be to make representations about improving existing government programs and services, and to advise on new ideas emerging from the parties.