SENATOR THE HON DAVID FAWCETT
Deputy Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
Senator for South Australia
Position on the Voice and Constitutional Recognition
I fully support the constitutional recognition of Australia’s Indigenous peoples.
Indigenous Australians and their local communities are each unique, with a diverse range of views, strengths, and challenges. I support a legislated mechanism to ensure that these local and regional views are heard, strengths valued, and needs addressed.
However, I do not support the Albanese Government’s proposed model, which would change the basis of Australia’s legal system without adequate consultation or detail on how it would work.
As Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner Lorraine Finlay has highlighted, the proposed model goes beyond ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a right to participate in decision-making that affects them. The Human Rights Commissioner—an eminent lawyer with a PhD in constitutional law—is concerned that the proposed model inserts race into the Australian Constitution in a way that undermines the foundational human rights principles of equality and non-discrimination. Further, she believes the model will create constitutional uncertainty in terms of its interpretation and operation.
Given that the Voice would be established by the Constitution, it would be beyond the Government’s power—or even that of the Parliament—to rectify any unintended consequences.
Australia is a representative democracy which has a parliamentary system to provide good governance for all Australians. I do not believe that our law should be changed to differentiate, on the basis of race, how Australian citizens are represented.
Indigenous leaders such as Nyunggai Warren Mundine AO, Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Senator Kerrynne Liddle have all voiced the concerns expressed within Indigenous communities that the model put forward by the Albanese Government will not result in the changes they need.
I will support change that recognises Australia’s Indigenous peoples and effectively meets their needs, but I will not support change that reshapes the foundation of Australian law on the basis of race.