THE HON MARK DREYFUS KC MP
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
Voice to Parliament to make a practical difference
In just a few short weeks Australians will have the opportunity to vote in the first constitutional referendum of this century – and we all have a very important choice to make.
While the No campaign wants to concoct every nonsense argument imaginable, I want to tell you why I will proudly write Yes on October 14.
The ballot paper will ask you to vote on the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the First peoples of Australia through a Voice to Parliament. The Voice may advise the Parliament and the Government on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
When Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people put forward this simple idea in 2017, they knew that we needed more than just symbolism, they knew we needed a practical form of constitutional recognition so they could get better practical results.
That is where the Voice comes in.
The Voice will be a committee of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who will give advice to the Parliament and Government on issues affecting their communities.
The Voice will improve the way we develop laws and policies relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people because it will give local communities across Australia a voice TO Canberra.
The Parliament and the Government will retain decision-making power over all laws and policies. But we will make better decisions and make sure taxpayer money isn’t wasted because we will be hearing directly from people on the ground about how to improve their communities.
We need this advice where programs and policies have failed to shift outcomes, for example the persistent gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. We have an opportunity to do things better. If Parliament is informed by the voices of local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, we will get better outcomes and save money.
And we need better laws and policies. We cannot risk more of the same.
No Australian would or could be worse off if the Yes vote succeeds. To the contrary, all Australians, and particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, would be better off.
Voting Yes is a simple but powerful act we can all do to close the gap, make a practical difference, and make this country better for all of us.
Tuesday, 26 September 2023
This opinion piece appeared in The Advocate.