Indigenous Voice to parliament will get no veto power under interim proposal

The Indigenous Voice to parliament will be consulted on issues of race but will have no power to veto or overturn policy, according to interim proposals.

Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt.

Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt. Source: AAP

The federal government will be obliged to consult the Indigenous Voice to parliament when crafting laws on race, native title and racial discrimination which impact upon Aboriginal Australians.

But the body will have no power to overturn policy or prevent laws coming into force, according to interim proposals.

Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt on Saturday launched a second stage of Indigenous Voice co-design meetings, saying the consultative process will run for four months, with a final report expected between June and August.


The interim report, meanwhile, was published on Saturday, having been handed to Mr Wyatt .

Along with the obligation to consult the body on race laws, parliament would also be expected to seek its advice on issues broadly relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The national Indigenous Voice would be made up of either 16 or 18 members, either directly elected or drawn from regional and local bodies. Those local Voice bodies will also inform the national Voice.

The report makes clear the national Indigenous Voice will not deliver government programs, provide mediation between Indigenous organisations or serve as a clearing house for research activity.

Mr Wyatt said more consultation with Indigenous communities was crucial and the government had not yet decided on its preferred approach.

"I want to ensure the voices of all 800,000 Indigenous Australians can be heard ... the more people that provide their feedback, the greater chance we have to refine the best possible options and set up structures that enjoy long-term success," he said in a statement.

But federal Labor said many Indigenous people would be disappointed the Voice won't be added to the Australian constitution, and said it was difficult to foresee progress on the issue before the next election.

The party said it remains committed to the full Uluru Statement, including a constitutionally-enshrined Voice, a committee to oversee the process of mediation and treaty-making and a "truth-telling" process.

"A voice must be able to provide full and frank advice. It must be secure and it should not be subject to the whims of the government of the day ... this report fails in that context," a group of Labor MPs led by the party's Indigenous Australians spokeswoman Linda Burney said in a statement.

Three working groups on the issue - taking in 52 members - have met more than 70 times since talks began on the Voice in October 2019.

The government selected its own advisers, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, three separate committees and a senior advisory group. Terms of reference also imposed limits on what participants could discuss.

The federal government has never supported a constitutionally-enshrined Indigenous Voice and Mr Wyatt in November warned a referendum on its addition to the constitution could fail, destroying the entire movement.

3 min read
Published 9 January 2021 at 8:21pm
Source: AAP, SBS