Plenty to Fear from an “Indigenous Voice” By Ian Wilson LL.B
The battle is on, with a leading jurist saying that an indigenous voice to parliament would not undermine the power of parliament:
“Former High Court chief justice Murray Gleeson has declared a new indigenous “voice to parliament” could be created through legislation — with only minimal references in the Constitution — without eroding the power of the nation’s politicians. Mr Gleeson, one of Australia’s pre-eminent legal figures, said the proposal for an indigenous voice — set out in the Uluru Statement from the Heart — would succeed if it maintained “parliamentary supremacy”. Rejecting suggestions by opponents that the voice could act as a “third chamber” of parliament, Mr Gleeson said the proposed new advisory body was a “worthwhile objective” to help governments draft policies that affected indigenous people. “It is difficult to see any objection in principle to the creation of a body to advise parliament about proposed laws relating to indigenous affairs,” Mr Gleeson said. Speaking in Sydney last night, Mr Gleeson, who was appointed chief justice by John Howard, said it was possible to give the new body constitutional status as an “appropriate form of indigenous recognition”. He said a successful model should not be constructed as a “one-line bill of rights”, warning that could “diminish the lawmaking power of the parliament”. The Constitution already gave the federal parliament powers to create special laws specifically for indigenous Australians. He said it should not offend anyone that a new representative body be established to advise the parliament on those laws. The proposal for a voice to parliament had the advantage of being “substantive and not merely ornamental”, suggesting it could be “constitutionally entrenched” but “legislatively controlled”. “Only the federal parliament can initiate a referendum. It has shown little appetite for proposals to limit its own power; and rightly so,” Mr Gleeson said. “Parliamentary supremacy is one of the essential safeguards of our liberal democracy. It is unlikely that parliament will propose a change to the Constitution in aid of indigenous recognition if the effect of the change will be to curtail its own legislative power. “That appears to have been well understood by the supporters of the voice. What is proposed is a voice to parliament, not a voice in parliament.”
This argument is naïve. There is simply no reason why the voice to parliament would not grow like a cancer, just as section 18 C has, to far exceed any limits presently imposed. But it is wrong in principle for parliament to limit itself in this way, because there is no reason why there should be an indigenous voice in the first place. There is nothing special about indigenous people justifying this anymore than say, there would be a need for an Anglo-Saxon voice, or an Italian voice. This is supposed to be a non-racial liberal democracy, and all this goes the way of identity politics and the cultural wars. That is the very point of the referendum, though. Don’t go there: vote NO! NO! Twenty-four point six million times, NO! And I hope the Freedom Movement leaders are talking to each other on this one, for if not, best close it all down and go fishing, as long as fishing is legal.