Albanese and Dutton need to find common ground on Voice to Australia’s Parliament


An Australian priest backing the Indigenous Voice referendum to parliament fears the result will leave Australians divided. That will be a tragedy, he says.

Father Frank Brennan (pictured), a Jesuit priest and human rights lawyer, blames leadership on both political sides for not seeking common ground.

He hopes a “reconciling spirit” will blow through parliament’s chambers during the next three weeks while elected leaders lay the groundwork for the three-month campaign.

He says he’d like some changes made to the federal government’s proposed Indigenous Voice referendum question.

It’s too broad, he says. Its reference to the Voice making representations to executive government will attract many legal challenges.

He suggests changing the wording from “executive government” to “ministers of state” could broaden support for the referendum.

However, given all major political parties’ reluctance to consider any proposed Constitutional amendments, the wording of the change “might not be perfect,” he says.

Stating his case in Rome

On Saturday, Brennan will deliver a lecture on the referendum at the Pontifical Gregorian University.

His draft lecture notes say he proposes discussing a contemporary Australian perspective on recognising Aboriginal rights.

He will also urge Australians to recommit to “deep inner listening” towards each other and the land.

This will include reminding Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton of their responsibility for the debate’s tone.

“Neither side of the parliamentary chamber has done what was needed to bring the country together, to bring reconciliation in our land, to bring the country to ‘Yes’,” Brennan’s notes say.

“The government has assured parliament that it would have the power to legislate whether and how representations by the Voice need to be considered by the executive government, and should “tweak the words” to ensure that public servants performing routine administrative tasks will not be required to consider representations by the Voice.”

Voters will face a stark choice in the referendum, his lecture notes continue.

“We can vote ‘No’ to a constitutionally enshrined Voice either because we continue to think that all constitutional entitlements should be held ‘in common with all other Australians’ or because we are not convinced that the Voice will work effectively,” the notes say.

“Or we can vote ‘Yes’ because, whatever the imperfections of the wording and the risk of future complications, we think it is high time that Australia’s First Peoples were recognised in the Constitution in a manner sought and approved by a broad cross-section of Indigenous leaders.”

He also plans to tell his audience that only eight of 44 referendums have succeeded in Australia since the federation and he hopes “this one will be the ninth”.

Papal gift

Brennan presented a copy of his new book, “An Indigenous Voice to Parliament: Considering a Constitutional Bridge“, to Pope Francis this week.

His dedication on the gift says he is “hoping and praying for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.”

“May the Australian people bring the country to ‘Yes’, recognising the rights of our First Peoples who have occupied the Great South Land of the Holy Spirit for tens of thousands of years,” he says.



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