IPA Today

Legislated Voice A Smokescreen For Radical And Divisive Constitutional Change

Written by
19 March 2021

The Institute of Public Affairs commends the Prime Minister Scott Morrison for ruling out a constitutionally enshrined indigenous voice.

However, as I wrote in The Australian today, a legislated voice is being used a smokescreen for a inserting racial division into the constitution:


Noel Pearson’s address confirms that the process for designing a voice to parliament in legislation is a smokescreen for radical and divisive constitutional change.

Ever since the co-design process for a legislated voice was launched in 2019, senior figures in the Voice movement have argued that a model solely in legislation would not be acceptable. As Professor George Williams explained in The Australian in February, Indigenous Australians “have only endorsed the Voice on the basis that it will be enshrined in the Constitution.” Or as Professor Megan Davis has also noted recently, the proposal for a legislated voice is “a welcome next step on the inextinguishable road to constitutional enshrinements.”

Whereas Father Frank Brennan has argued that it was “not only sensible but also imperative first to legislate and road test any Voice” before it could be entrenched in the Constitution, Pearson insists that the legislative step should be bypassed altogether. This view is shared by a joint statement of 43 members of the legal community that “public law experts take a strong view that the question of constitutional enshrinement is so closely connected with the design that it must be determined now.”

The strength of the Constitution is that in not recognising any specific group, it recognises all Australians as being equal members of the political community. Mainstream Australians know that there is more that unites than divides them, and will reject any proposal which seeks to permanently divide Australians because of their race, skin colour, or background.

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Morgan Begg

Morgan Begg is the Director, Legal Rights Program at the Institute of Public Affairs

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