Bipartisanship on Voice to Parliament a must, says LCA

25 May 2022 By Simon Levett

The Law Council of Australia has urged the new Parliament to progress a referendum on a First Nations Voice to Parliament.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart was released in May 2017 and has been described as a national consensus on Indigenous constitutional reform. The road map was drafted at the end of a three-day constitutional convention of 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander delegates, with the statement culminating in 13 regional dialogues held around Australia during a year-long consultation process.

The election of an Albanese government has been welcomed by the Law Council of Australia, but concerns remain in respect of the timeline of the potential referendum.

There have been successive and strong support from the legal profession on this issue. The Association of Corporate Counsel Australia (ACC) told Lawyers Weekly that they supported “real, fair and practical change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament”.

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Eighteen law firms also issued a joint public response in support of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, as discussed by Lawyers Weekly. These firms were Allens, Arnold Bloch Leibler, Ashurst, Baker McKenzie, Clayton Utz, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Dentons, DLA Piper, Fisher Dore, Gilbert + Tobin, Herbert Smith Freehills, Holding Redlich, Jack McDonald, King & Wood Mallesons, Lander & Rogers, MinterEllison, Norton Rose Fulbright and Russell Kennedy.

Similarly, the Australian Lawyers Alliance – a not-for-profit national association of lawyers, academics and other professionals – told Lawyers Weekly that it gave its full support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Additionally, the Australian Bar Association told Lawyers Weekly that they had a “unified and unanimous voice from the Australian Bar” on this issue.

Now, the Law Council of Australia welcomed the commitment to the Voice to Parliament and noted “the new government’s commitment to progress a referendum on the Voice as a matter of priority in its first term”. It said that it also “urge[s] all members of the 47th Parliament to come together and smooth the path to a successful referendum on this issue through bipartisan support”.

The Law Council of Australia confirmed that the Voice to Parliament would not be a third chamber of Parliament. This is primarily because the Voice to Parliament does not have any veto powers or introduce legislation or change the Parliament.

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The Law Council of Australia stated that “in terms of practical measures at the beginning of the referendum process, the Law Council of Australia would want to emphasise that whatever occurs needs to be led by First Nations peoples”.

The Law Council of Australia emphasised the importance of “a constitutional convention”. Furthermore, “bipartisan support is needed in terms of the public messaging in support of the referenda process” and the eventual “yes vote campaign”.

Bipartisanship on Voice to Parliament a must, says LCA
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