Voice legislation off to Senate, after passing in lower house

PM swipes at Voice critics

Australians are a step closer to having their say on an Indigenous Voice to federal parliament, with the legislation passing the lower house on Wednesday.

The final vote in the House of Representatives on Wednesday morning was 121 in favour of the bill and 25 against.

The Nationals and a handful of Liberal MPs voted against the legislation, which will set up the referendum for later this year and finalise the wording of the question and proposed change to the constitution.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton voted for the bill to pass.

Debate on the Voice will now shift to the Senate. The legislation is likely to pass parliament in June, ahead of the referendum being held between October and December.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese this week urged Australians to call out incorrect or misleading information about the Voice.

“I respect the fact some people will come to a different conclusion, that’s their right to in a democracy, but it would be good if we kept the debate on a realistic plane and not jump at shadows,” he said on Tuesday.

While the Coalition has flagged it will not support the Indigenous Voice, it had said it would back the legislation to set up the referendum.

However, the opposition nominated several MPs as “authorised dissenters” to vote no in the House, to allow them to input on the referendum pamphlet that will be sent out to all households.

Those voting ‘no’ included Nationals leader David Littleproud and former deputy prime ministers Barnaby Joyce and Michael McCormack.

Liberal backbencher Julian Leeser sought to make changes to the referendum, by removing the references to the voice being able to advise executive government.

Mr Leeser, who quit the opposition frontbench to support the Voice, said the changes would give the referendum a greater chance of success.

“Winning a referendum is hard and I want the Voice to win; the alternative is too dreadful to contemplate,” he told parliament.

“My goal is not to hollow out or to weaken the alteration as some have claimed, rather it’s to remove the central argument of the ‘no’ case.”

indigenous voice referendum

But Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the government would not back the amendments, calling them “neither necessary or desirable”.

“It is important that the Voice’s functions of making representations to the executive government is guaranteed in the constitution,” he said.

“Without that guarantee, a future government may entirely remove the ability for the voice to make representations to the executive … Australians can have confidence in this constitutional amendment.”

-with AAP

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