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Politics with Michelle Grattan: Frank Brennan on rewording Voice question

Alan Porritt/AAP
Alan Porritt/AAP

Frank Brennan has been involved over decades in the big debates in Indigenous affairs. A Jesuit priest and an academic expert on the constitution, Brennan has advocated for recognising First Nations peoples in that document.

Supplied/Frank Brennan, Author provided
Supplied/Frank Brennan, Author provided

But he has concerns about the breadth of Anthony Albanese’s proposed referendum question, arguing in his new book that its reference to the Voice making representations to executive government raises the prospect of many legal challenges. This issue of the potential for legal challenges is one that divides legal experts, with a number of authorities maintaining there is no problem.

In this podcast, Brennan elaborates on why he believes the referendum question should be reworded and the form he thinks the question should take.

Anthony Albanese’s proposed wording is:

“There shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.

"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 Peoples.

"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.”

Frank Brennan’s suggested wording is:

“There shall be an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice with such structure and functions as the Parliament deems necessary to facilitate consultation prior to the making of special laws with respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and with such other functions as the Parliament determines.”

This article is republished from The Conversation is the world's leading publisher of research-based news and analysis. A unique collaboration between academics and journalists. It was written by: Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra.

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Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.