‘Give it a chance’: Julie Bishop backs Voice to Parliament
ANU chancellor and former politician Julie Bishop was asked about the Voice at the National Press Club. Photo: AAP
Former Liberal deputy Julie Bishop says an Indigenous Voice to Parliament would be a “step in the right direction” and she believes Australians should vote “yes”.
Breaking ranks with the Liberal party’s ‘no’ position, the ex-foreign minister, who is now chancellor of the Australian National University, said: “We’ve got to give it a chance.”
But Ms Bishop said history did not offer much hope that the Voice referendum would succeed because it did not enjoy bipartisan support.
Liberal Leader Peter Dutton has taken a hardline position against the Voice, and the Indigenous community is split as high-profile campaigners argue the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ cases.
Ms Bishop, responding to questions at the National Press Club on Wednesday, said from her perspective she hoped Australians would get behind it.
“Personally, my message to anyone who wants to listen to what I have to say is that I believe that it is a step in the right direction,” she told journalists.
“I sat through too many of those Closing the Gap speeches in Parliament to sense that what we were doing was working to close the disparity and inequality between Indigenous and non-indigenous populations.
“In some instances, the key measures were getting worse, not better, so it’s not a question of money, it’s not a question of politicians coming up
with policies, it’s a question of giving Indigenous people the franchise to make decisions to implement policies that will work.
“We got to give it a chance.”
She added: “My position, as private citizen Julie Bishop and as Chancellor Bishop and chairman, is to support the ‘yes’ case.
“I believe that many Indigenous people whom I respect greatly have put a lot of thought into this and they believe that it is a step in the right direction.”
Ms Bishop was asked if she was disappointed the party she had led as deputy for 11 years was actively campaigning for ‘no’ under Mr Dutton.
She didn’t directly answer the question but said the fact there was no bipartisan support was making Australians confused.
“The complexity of this matter is exacerbated by the fact that there is not agreement within Indigenous communities and I’m well aware there are two leading Indigenous leaders on opposite sides of the case,” she said.
“So you have Noel Pearson [as a ‘yes’ campaigner], Warren Mundine [on the ‘no’ side]. I think that confuses people and the challenge for this referendum … is that the more complex the issue, the less bipartisan it is, the less likely it is to succeed.
“We have had something like 44 referenda in this country, only eight have succeeded. I believe all eight had bipartisan support. They were kind of no-brainers – like, I’m giving Indigenous people the vote.”
Ms Bishop said during a recent Australia-Canada Leadership Forum, there was significant interest in how Australia was dealing with the Voice.
She said Canada could not understand “why we’re so far behind”.
“It was suggested we’re about 40 years behind public policy in this space from Canada,” she said.
Ms Bishop said individual members of the ANU council had endorsed the academic board’s support of the Voice and a ‘yes’ vote for the referendum.
She also chaired the Telethon Kids Institute in Western Australia and the individual board members of the Telethon Kids Institute had also backed ‘yes’.