Malcolm Turnbull has been urged to “immediately” answer calls for an indigenous “voice” to parliament regardless of his view on whether the body would win support at a referendum.
Launching a comprehensive set of proposals for ways to legislate the voice, as well as how to enact the constitutional reform required, former High Court judge Michael Kirby said the Prime Minister’s initial complaint that the proposal in the Uluru Statement from the Heart was a big idea that was “very short on detail” had now been answered.
“The key contribution is it presents us with models of how the Australian parliament might hear Aboriginal voices and do so more effectively — whether you agree or disagree with the proposals, they invite us to think afresh, and most fair-minded Australians would agree that so far we’ve not done a good job of listening to the voices of indigenous people,” Mr Kirby said.
“Uluru does not ask for special reserved seats in parliament, it does not ask for proportional indigenous representation in parliament, it does not ask for a veto on legislation and it does not expect that what the indigenous people say will always be agreed to or accepted.”
The policy detail was jointly developed by Australian Catholic University think tank the PM Glynn Institute and the Uphold and Recognise group co-founded by Liberal MP Julian Leeser, who now co-chairs a parliamentary committee considering the Uluru proposals due to deliver an interim report by July 30.
ACU vice-chancellor Greg Craven said he had once thought the worst outcome on indigenous constitutional recognition would be “to have a referendum that lost”, which is what Mr Turnbull has warned will happen in this instance, “but I’m beginning to think the worse thing would be that we didn’t have the courage to put one up at all”.
He said the 1999 republic referendum, in which he and Mr Turnbull played key roles, had failed “because people like Malcolm and I were unable to give people confidence in the model, but the great thing here is that we are answering my friend Malcolm; what we’re doing is not only saying yes but saying how it is possible”.
Cape York lawyer Noel Pearson described the Uluru Statement as being “about faith in the possibilities and in the Australian people”.