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Indigenous Voice ‘won’t have veto’ power

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese revealed plans for amending the constitution at the Garma Festival.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese revealed plans for amending the constitution at the Garma Festival. Photo: AAP

A group of constitutional experts say an Indigenous Voice to parliament would not be able to veto decisions made by the federal government or cabinet.

The advice was given by experts to a working group on the Voice referendum, which held its latest meeting on Monday.

The working group, which includes Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus and Indigenous representatives, met to discuss how the referendum would take place and how to implement the Voice.

The referendum is expected to be held in the second half of 2023.

The constitutional experts told the working group a proposed draft amendment to the constitution was sound and offered a strong basis for further consultation.

The Voice ‘doesn’t confer rights’

The group said it was important for the amendment to be simple and clear, but also refuted claims the body would be able to veto laws in parliament.

“The Voice does not confer ‘rights’, much less ‘special rights’ on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” a working group communique said.

“Nor would the Voice change or take away any right, power or privilege of anyone who is not Indigenous.”

The draft constitutional amendment was outlined by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at the Garma Festival in July.

It will make recommendations to parliament

The draft amendment said: “The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to parliament and the executive government on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“The parliament shall, subject to this constitution, have power to make laws with respect to the composition, functions, powers and procedures of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.”

The expert group said the proposal should have its own chapter in the constitution if the referendum succeeded.

“The expert group suggested that there may be merit in the draft provision explicitly stating that parliament has the power to confer additional functions on the Voice,” the communique said.

Chance to be recognised in the constitution

At Garma, the prime minister said the draft question in the referendum would be: “Do you support an alteration to the constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?”

Mr Albanese said on Monday the referendum would be a chance for Indigenous people to be recognised in the constitution.

“One of those issues about Australia’s identity is recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our constitution that we will do in the second half of next year through a referendum, we will give people the opportunity to vote on that,” he said.

The referendum working group also discussed the process on how the Voice would be able to be legislated if a referendum was successful.

The working group will next meet in January.

-AAP

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