Thursday, 1 December 2022

The "Voice to Parliament"

issue has yet to be debated. Yes, there has been some "discussion" but it has largely been along the lines of "if you disagree with having a Voice to Parliament" then you are racist. In other words we are being told that we "must" vote for it. If we do not then we are "racist". 

There is much more to it than that. I will try to cover some of this gradually over time but what I will try to say will be based on my study of Constitutional Law. Like all other students at my law school I was required to do two compulsory units in Constitutional Law, one of those was in Commonwealth Constitutional Law. I am not a constitutional lawyer but I know a little and that little leads me to be very concerned about what the present government is trying to do.

First of all we are being told that we need a referendum in order to change the constitution. That in itself is correct. The means to do so is set out in sec. 128 of the Constitution. It requires what is known as a "double majority" - in other words there must be a majority of people in a majority of the states before there can be a change to the Constitution.  

It is, rightly, a high hurdle. There have been 44 proposed changes to the Constitution since 1901 and only 8 have succeeded.

We are now being told that we will be asked to vote on a "Voice to Parliament" so a change can be made to the Constitution to recognise First Nations people in the preamble. The reason for doing this we are being told is so they can make representations about issues which concern them through a permanent body which cannot be altered except by another referendum.

This is not correct. There is no preamble to the Constitution. What is actually there are the words to the preamble of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900. That act was passed by the Parliament in Britain in order to give legal force to the Constitution. We will not be voting on a change to the Constitution as such. I can only assume that someone, somewhere has advised the government they need to have a referendum in order to change the preamble. The last referendum (in 1999 about becoming a "republic") which tried to change the preamble failed. 

So, we start on shaky and misinformed ground. I will leave you to consider this beginning and continue later.

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