• Labor leader Bill Shorten has called for a parliamentary committee to look at the report on recognition. (AAP)
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has urged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to commence a Joint Parliamentary Select Committee to advise parliament on the next steps towards a successful referendum.
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4 Aug 2017 - 9:29 AM  UPDATED 5 Aug 2017 - 9:52 AM

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has urged Malcolm Turnbull to commence a Joint Parliamentary Select Committee to advise parliament on the next steps towards a successful referendum. 

In a letter addressed to the Prime Minister, Mr Shorten says the ‘best chance of success for any proposal for constitutional change rests on the active engagement of Indigenous Australians in the process’ in addition to strong support across the parliament.

Mr Shorten proposes a bipartisan, parliamentary process be established for working through the necessary detail so that a question for a referendum can be finalised.

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To move forward, Mr Shorten says a Joint Parliamentary Select Committee is the most effective way.  

He says such a body could be set-up immediately and will advise the parliament on the necessary steps to be taken to a referendum, including a proposed timeline.

Mr Shorten says the Committee will have short lifespan with a reporting date at the end of next year to allow the Parliament to consider a proposal in the first half of next year.

The body will work with constitutional experts to develop an appropriate question that genuinely reflects the recommendations of the Referendum Council.

Yesterday at the Garma opening ceremony Mr Turnbull said the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia is based on mutual respect. 

“Our relationship is based on mutual respect and we build that and care for that as we learn from each other and as we learn from you. We learn language, we learn culture, and based on that is respect,” he said.

“As the Prime Minister, one of my most important roles as a leader is to listen. So, we've come to learn, and participate in this festival, respectfully.”

However he made no commitment on the referendum council's final report which angered some leaders.

Prominent Aboriginal Australian Noel Pearson delivered a scathing assessment of the "miserable" political leadership shown by the prime minister and opposition leader towards constitutional reform.

Many senior Aboriginal figures had hoped Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten would commit to an indigenous voice to parliament when they attended the Garma Festival opening ceremony in northeast Arnhem Land on Friday.

But Mr Pearson echoed the bitter disappointment of Referendum Co-chair Pat Anderson, who slammed the "empty platitudes" offered by both politicians as gutless.

"It is such a miserable scene, the leadership scene in Australia," Mr Pearson said.

"But we have never let that in the past determine our fortitude, and we must keep our eyes on the prize."

The former Referendum Council’s final report was released by the Prime Minister last month and recommended a constitutionally entrenched "Voice to Parliament" in the form of a national Indigenous representative body.

Mr Shorten also proposes that a small group of Indigenous leaders be confirmed at this year’s Garma Festival to act as a formal advisory group to the parliamentary committee throughout the process.

He called for the other proposals that came out of the Uluru Statement, a Makarrata Commission and a truth-telling process, be clarified and advanced.

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