When I was 12 years old, I asked my parents to give me a copy of the Constitution for my birthday. I’m sure no parent has ever received an easy or, indeed, unusual birthday request. It was definitely a sign that I was very ‘Nerdus Maximus!’
As an adult, my interest in the Constitution developed through studying law at university and when I became a High Court judge’s associate.
The Constitution, drafted in the 1890s, is the invisible pillar that holds together our great national endeavours. But our constitution has one glaring omission: it does not recognize Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The Voice referendum could change that.
The 29-word question asks us to do two things. The first is to recognize Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first Australians. It is a statement of fact which completes our constitution by this recognition.
Liberal MP Julian Leeser (pictured) is one of several members of his party to support Aboriginal Voices to Parliament
The second issue is the creation of an advisory body on issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. That body will be known as the voice.
VOICE will be able to work with all levels of government and public service on issues such as Aboriginal health, education, housing, security and economic development.
Australia is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, yet we know that there is a gap between Indigenous Australians and other Australians in almost every outcome.
For example, the unemployment rate of Indigenous Australians is nine times higher than that of other Australians. Suicide rates are two-and-a-half times higher, and a young Aboriginal male is more likely to go to prison than go to university.
For too long, we have done things for and by the indigenous people, but not with the indigenous people. It’s time we change.
As a liberal, I believe that the best decisions are made when you consult the people directly affected by them, and that when you strengthen a country, you strengthen the communities within it.
Mr Leeser acknowledges the significant gap between Indigenous Australians and other Australians, such as the eight-year difference in life expectancy (pictured with former Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Mr Leeser was an adviser to Mr Abbott in 2001).
The federal member for Berora wrote: ‘As a Liberal, I believe the best decisions are made when you consult the people directly affected by them’ (pictured L-R, Jacinta Nampizinpa Price with Aboriginal Senators Kerin Liddle and Mr Leeser)
Some people have said they fear the Voice is about giving special privileges to Aboriginal people and will result in two classes of Australians. This argument ignores the consequences faced by Indigenous Australians – one in two Indigenous Australians live in Australia’s most socially disadvantaged areas, and one in five Indigenous households live in accommodation without a kitchen or sanitation.
I won’t pretend that after two centuries of relative failure that will change overnight if you vote yes, but I would say we have a better chance if we can create local and regional voices that can talk about issues like protecting women and children, childhood. About school attendance and adult recidivism.
Some have argued against the voice that it would become super powerful and make decisions on every government matter, from submarines to buying paper clips. This ignores the simple fact that the Voice will not make decisions, it will only be an advisory body.
Just as importantly, the priorities for Voice, such as addressing the eight-year difference in life expectancy between Indigenous Australians and other Australians, are far more compelling than some overseas suggestions.
The former shadow minister for Indigenous Australians argued against fears the Voice would become too powerful, writing it would only be an advisory body.
‘The Voice embodies many of the values that I hold as a Liberal and as an Australian,’ Mr Leeser said. (Pictured L-R: Liberal Member for Bass Bridget Archer, Liberal for Yes Kate Carnell and Mr Leeser, who are all supporting Voice to Parliament)
Over the next four months, Australians will have plenty of opportunity to consider the arguments in their own way. I am confident that Australians will take seriously the case put forward for change.
The AEC pamphlet that will probably be distributed to all families in September will contain the official case for the YES case and the NO case. As well, there will be public meetings and local street stalls across the country to answer Australians’ questions in the coming months.
The Voice embodies many of the values I hold as a Liberal and as an Australian. This is a safe constitutional change that will make a meaningful difference in the lives of our indigenous brothers and sisters.
So I will vote yes.
Who is Julian Leezer?
Julian Leeser was born and raised in Sydney and joined the Liberal Party in 1992.
He became Australia’s youngest councilor when he was elected to Ullahra Council at the age of 19, and was elected as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1998 at the age of 21.
Mr Leeser served as an adviser to Tony Abbott in 2001 when the former was workplace relations minister under John Howard.
Prior to his election, he was a senior executive at the Australian Catholic University, executive director of the Menzies Research Centre, a solicitor at Malleson Stephen Jacques and an associate of High Court Justice Ian Callinan.
Mr Lisar became the federal member for the Berora constituency in the 2016 election and has represented the electorate since then.
He is close friends with Aboriginal senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Aboriginal affairs advocate Warren Mundine, both of whom are leading the No campaign in Parliament.
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