He's a fool. Referenda are always lost in Australia if they have any significant opposition. National party anyone? But maybe Albo doesn't care about the result. Being seen as "Doing something" may be all he wants
Anthony Albanese will put a referendum to enshrine a First Nations voice to parliament in the Constitution this term even if the Liberal and National parties do not formally support it.
In an exclusive interview, the Prime Minister said he would adopt a “genuinely bipartisan” approach towards implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart with an Aboriginal advisory body to parliament but would not give “right of veto” to the Coalition.
“You don’t need a consensus but you need a broad agreement, firstly, among First Nations leaders and then, secondly, you would seek to get as broad a political agreement as possible for a referendum,” Mr Albanese said.
“So that doesn’t mean that any group would have veto power because my concern is that unless there is a referendum in the foreseeable future, then the momentum will be lost.”
Mr Albanese said there was enough support in the community for a referendum on the voice to parliament to succeed without major party bipartisanship and reiterated that if the Coalition opposed the referendum, it would not stop him putting it to voters.
“We would consider that as a factor but not necessarily a decisive one,” he said. “That would obviously be a factor that we would have to take into consideration … but I’m not giving any political organisation or any grouping a right of veto.
“Julian Leeser’s appointment as shadow attorney-general and as well as Indigenous affairs I see as a positive sign and (there is) enormous goodwill from people in media organisations, in the business community, in the trade union movement and in civil society to really do something that is positive for the nation.”
A voice to parliament is opposed by former Liberal prime ministers Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison, who each characterised it as a “third chamber” even though it would not be able to propose, amend or reject legislation, and would not scrutinise every bill or motion. Peter Dutton, who also labelled it a “third chamber”, recently said he was open to supporting a referendum.
“The nature of the voice to parliament would still be subject of legislation,” Mr Albanese clarified . “It is not … an attempt to bind future governments. It is, though, a clear decision by enshrining it in the Constitution, that a voice to parliament and consultation with First Nations people would be something that couldn’t just be dismissed.”
In the past week, Indigenous leader Pat Turner said she could not see a way forward on constitutional recognition and there was not enough detail on how a national Voice would work, while Greens Indigenous affairs spokeswoman Lidia Thorpe said in an interview with The Weekend Australian that the nation was not ready for a public vote on the voice, and it would be risky to proceed before a national treaty between the commonwealth and Indigenous people.
Mr Albanese feared momentum would be lost if he did not push ahead with constitutional recognition to enshrine a voice to parliament this term and lashed the Greens for saying a treaty should be the priority rather than an Aboriginal advisory body.
“It is now five years since the Uluru Statement from the Heart,” he said. “It is a generous and gracious statement that asks for nothing more than good manners to be applied in that if an issue is going to affect Indigenous people, they should be consulted on it. It also envisages recognising that Australia’s history of this magnificent continent didn’t begin in 1788 – it goes back at least 65,000 years – and that we should be proud of having the oldest continuous civilisation on earth. And that to me is unfinished business.
“Once it occurs, I think it will be like the apology to the stolen generations – people will wonder what the fuss was about. But we need to get it done. And if we don‘t get it done in the next term, then it risks drifting.”
While committed to transitioning Australia from a constitutional monarchy to a republic, Mr Albanese said his priority was constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians with the voice to parliament. A republic would be pursued in a second or third term. “I can’t envisage a circumstance whereby Australia changed our head of state but we still did not recognise first nations people in our birth certificate,” he said.