The Indigenous Affairs Minister has sparked widespread confusion and anger after claiming to be a voice in Parliament to try to change the date of Australia Day.
Linda Burney has repeatedly fired back at opposition parties in Parliament this week – Deputy Liberal Leader Susan Ley, in particular – about the scope of the advisory body.
Ms Le Barbour has called on Ms Burney to clarify what the Voice can and cannot represent in Parliament – with Ms Burney refusing to advise on Australia Day on Tuesday.
He said: ‘I can tell you what the Voice will not suggest. It will not advise on parking tickets.
‘It will not suggest a change to Australia Day. It won’t be advised of all the ridiculous things that come with that party.’
But constitutional experts cast doubt on Miss Burney’s claim.
Linda Burney this week dodged repeated questions from the opposition – Deputy Liberal Leader Susan Ley, in particular – about the scope of the advisory body.
Ms Ley hit back in an interview with Peter Stefanovic on Wednesday morning, calling on Ms Burney to return to Parliament to ‘correct the record’.
‘I think Linda Barney is in real trouble here,’ he said.
‘If you mislead Parliament, unintentionally perhaps, you have to go back to the chamber and correct the record.
‘It’s obviously not the case that The Voice won’t be able to make presentations about Australia Day.’
The government has stood firm in its message that the advisory body – if Voice is successful in the referendum – will be able to represent First Nations people in Parliament on all matters affecting them.
Critics and opponents are calling on the government to be more specific, depending on who you ask, in terms of what impacts indigenous peoples.
Ms Leigh asked Ms Burney if the Voice could ‘make presentations to the Chief of Defense Force about military acquisitions or the location or operation of military bases’.
Ms Leigh asked Ms Burney if Voice could ‘make delegations to the Chief of Defense about military acquisitions or the location or operation of military bases’.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese – along with other Labor MPs in the chamber – laughed in response.
The government argues these questions were made in ‘bad faith’. Any advisory body would have no veto power and decision-making would rest with the government and parliament.
Constitutional law expert George Williams told The Australian it was ‘unrealistic’ to expect a party like Voice to Parliament to be represented on the Australia Day date.
The debate over whether the date of Australia’s national day should be changed has been going on for decades, and has widened in recent years.
Mr Williams said: ‘The question is about “aboriginal matters” and they can make representations about a public holiday commemorating the colonization of Australia Day. I just say “probably”, we don’t know, but it’s open to them if they want to, and then it’s a judgment call.
‘(Ms Burney) knows better than I do. It is his community after all. He may be making a judgment that he doesn’t believe they will. That’s why I don’t think he’s wrong, it’s just a judgement.’
Constitutional experts on Tuesday cast doubt on Ms Burney’s claim that the body would not be interested in Australia Day
Other experts say changing the date probably isn’t a high priority, but couldn’t guarantee it would never be on the agenda.
Meanwhile, the prime minister said Australians will have a ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ to improve the lives of First Nations people between October and December.
‘Where’s the downside?’ he asked. ‘What risk are people taking here?
‘From my point of view this is all upside down.’
Mr Albanese said ‘the truth is for most people it will have no impact on their lives’, but it could ‘make things better for the most disadvantaged people in Australia’.
After years of ‘working’ for Aboriginal people, often with the best of intentions, the Prime Minister said a Voice to Parliament would allow Aboriginal people to take a front seat on issues important to them.
There is much concern about what this means. Critics of VOICE say not enough detail is provided about what the advisory body will provide input on.
Mrs Barney said: ‘I can tell you what the Voice will not suggest. It will not advise on parking tickets. It will not recommend changing Australia Day. It will not be advised of all the ridiculous things that come with that party’.
Attorney General Mark Dreyfus tried to clear up that confusion during a news conference.
He listed five key issues that would become the main focus of the advisory group: health, employment, education, housing and justice.
“There can be no harm from this referendum, only good”, he said. “Parliament has done its job and now it’s up to the Australian people.”
Both the Yes and No campaigns will now step up efforts to connect with voters ahead of the referendum, which is likely to be held in October this year.
The Liberal Party, Nationals and One Nation will all oppose the Voice and contribute to official No pamphlets to be delivered to every home.
Labor and the Greens, along with several independents, will collaborate on a Yes pamphlet.
Read more: Bombshell tweets reveal Yes campaigner’s vision for Australia after Voice launches: ‘Refunds, land back, rent paid’
Here’s what we know about Voice to Parliament so far
Here, Daily Mail Australia looks at some of the key questions about Voice so far and how the government has dealt with them:
What kind of advice can the voice give to parliament and government?
VOICE will advise on issues that are directly related to indigenous peoples.
It will respond to requests made by the government, as well as have the ability to actively engage in issues it believes affect them.
The group will have its own resources to research issues and engage with communities at the grassroots level to ensure it best reflects their needs.
How will the members of the Voice be selected?
VOICE members will be appointed by Aboriginal communities and serve on the committee for a period of time, yet to be determined.
Local communities will agree with the government as part of a ‘post-referendum process’ to ensure cultural legitimacy in the way communities elect their representatives.
Who can be committee members?
Members of the Voice must be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
They will be chosen from each state and territory and have balanced gender representation nationally.
The government has also guaranteed that youth will be included in the committee to ensure representation across a wide spectrum of communities.
Will the voice be transparent?
The government said it would be subject to scrutiny and reporting requirements to ensure the Voice remains accountable and transparent.
VOICE members will be held to the standards of the National Anti-Corruption Commission and will be sanctioned or removed from the committee if any misconduct is found.
Will the voice have veto power?
Will the Voice work independently of other government agencies?
The committee must respect the work and role of existing bodies, says the government.
Will Voice manage any funds?
Voice will not directly manage any funds or provide any services to the community.
Its sole role will be to make presentations on improvements to existing government programs and services and advise on new ideas coming through the parties.
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