I rise to address this topic from the perspective of somebody who has worked for much of his professional life as an experimental test pilot, which is all about saying: there’s a bid for change, there’s a new proposal, but will it work and will it have unintended consequences, and what are the facts?
Now, that approach doesn’t mean that I’m anti the new proposal. It doesn’t mean that I’m somehow biased against the new proposal. It means that I’m applying due diligence, which is a feature of the engineering world, the aviation world and the financial world. In fact, I would argue that every household does their due diligence in a range of areas.
But I want to come to these two topics that have raised. They are around race and whether asking questions is legitimate. Going first to the question of race, I have a quote:
The draft wording that has been announced goes beyond ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a right to participate in decision-making that affects them. It inserts race into the Australian Constitution in a way that undermines the foundational human rights principles of equality and non-discrimination and creates constitutional uncertainty in terms of its interpretation and operation.
Now, I invite people to guess who actually said that. It wasn’t somebody from this side of the Senate chamber. It was Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner, Lorraine Finlay, a well-established constitutional lawyer and human rights lawyer, somebody who works for our nation from the reference point of what is fair and equitable. That is her assessment. The last part of her assessment goes to constitutional uncertainty in terms of its interpretation and implementation.
It is worthwhile looking at the comments of people like former High Court judge Ian Callinan, who said:
… I would foresee a decade or more of constitutional and administrative law litigation arising out of a voice …
Again, this is hardly someone you would say was stupid or racist.
Professor Greg Craven, who is a constitutional law expert—and he, indeed, has been deeply involved in creating the Voice—said on the Albanese government model:
I think it’s fatally flawed because what it does is retain the full range of review of executive action. This means the Voice can comment on everything from submarines to parking tickets … We will have regular judicial interventions.
If eminent experts who are clearly not stupid, who are clearly not racist, are calling into question both the efficacy and the potential for unintended consequences, it is quite reasonable—in fact, proper—for Australians to say, ‘If you can’t tell us the details, we won’t support it.’