Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg says he believes Australians will support a legislated voice in parliament and an amendment to the constitution that requires the Commonwealth to ensure that indigenous peoples are heard.
Bragg, the advocate who is leading efforts to persuade his colleagues to adopt the Uluru declaration, will use a speech at the Sydney Institute on Tuesday night to try to chart a path through internal differences within the Coalition.
Bragg’s efforts have also been backed by New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who used comments at a book launch earlier this week to argue that the Uluru declaration contains “deeply liberal ideals.”
In Bragg’s campaign of support, Berejiklian also noted “a growing mood for change on the issue of reconciliation.”
On Tuesday night, Bragg will tell the Sydney Institute that the Coalition party room is becoming more supportive of change, particularly in the current generation of new MPs.
The liberal senator will say the change is encouraging, but the government also needs to “think about what the people will ultimately support.”
“I believe the Australian people will support parliament establishing a voice and will support an amendment to the constitution that requires the Commonwealth to ensure that indigenous peoples are heard,” Bragg will say.
“I don’t think the Australian people will support an amendment to the constitution, however that is very complex and explicitly creates a new entity in the constitution.”
The Uluru declaration calls for the establishment of a “voice” in parliament that would be enshrined in the constitution. A constitutionally consecrated “voice” cannot be abolished by the government of the day.
The Coalition’s main players have mocked the concept, wrongly, as a third house of parliament, but the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, has embarked on a process of co-designing for the “voice”.
Under a proposal outlined in an interim report in January, the federal government would be required to consult the indigenous voice in parliament when it makes laws on race, native title and racial discrimination affecting Aboriginal Australians. But the voice would not have the power to overturn the policy or prevent laws from being passed.
While Wyatt has tried to reach a consensus position, the government has never fully endorsed the constitutional enshrinement of the Uluru proposal, and has been seeking a legislated option. Wyatt has repeatedly argued that the process should not be rushed because any proposal that ultimately fails in a referendum would delay the cause for many years.
Bragg supports some form of constitutional change. He will say Tuesday night that Uluru calls for constitutional enshrinement and an “established voice in the legislation as part of a package that includes a constitutional amendment that forces the Commonwealth to listen to indigenous peoples is a liberal way of fulfilling what Uluru asks”.
Addressing the negative rejection of colleagues on the proposal, Bragg will say: “Putting the obligation to consult the Commonwealth does not give special treatment to a minority, it provides a duty to consult that should have been there from the beginning.”
Bragg argues that the Liberal Party should lead this debate because “the party of patriots should … push this agenda because it is a patriot agenda.”
“We cannot change the past, but we must ensure that the unrest in Australia concludes with a national reconciliation worthy of a great nation,” Bragg will say Tuesday night.
“Until we do this, we are denying our children their full and proper inheritance.”
Labor Senator Pat Dodson has recently criticized the Morrison government for lack of progress.
“[Wyatt’s] He’s got to lead, he’s supposed to be the leader in the First Nations space, it’s no good jumping around if you’re not leading on tough issues, and this is a tough issue, ”Dodson told reporters in March.
“He is the guy with responsibility, with the prime minister, and they should lead and help the nation heal the wounds of past divisions and discord, and carry us forward to build a better relationship. And if they are not prepared to do that, they should get off the road and let someone else control the place. “