A voice for Indigenous Australians must be heard by parliament not just by the government if it is to have a meaningful impact on our laws and the administration of justice, says Law Council of Australia President, Arthur Moses SC.
Responding to the announcement by Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt AM of a co- design process for an “Indigenous voice to government”, Mr Moses SC said it was unfortunate the roadmap laid out by the Uluru Statement for a constitutionally enshrined Voice to parliament had not been understood, let alone adopted by the Morrison Government.
“Let me be clear these criticisms are not directed towards Minister Wyatt, but those within the government who unfairly and in a pre-emptive manner dismissed the concept of a Voice to parliament without properly understanding it,” Mr Moses SC said.
“The Uluru Statement from the Heart was conceived from one of the most comprehensive consultations of Indigenous Australians in our nation’s history.
“The whole point of the Voice to parliament is to ensure that our First Nations peoples have an opportunity to propose bills, be consulted on bills, and to express their views on bills before they are enacted as laws of the Commonwealth which may impact upon First Nations peoples. This includes bills about fundamental issues which matter on the ground to First Nations peoples, such as health, welfare and education.
“What is being proposed is a voice to government, not to parliament. If it is not constitutionally enshrined but legislated it could be abolished at any time if the government does not like what it was saying.
“A Voice to parliament has some degree of public accountability on the part of the parliament while a voice to government does not, something that is of great potential significance if the government has closed ears.”
But Mr Moses SC said the Law Council would engage with the work of the Senior Advisory Group.
“I have deep respect for the co-chairs of the group, Marcia Langton AM and Tom Calma AO. I particularly note the