Law Council submission to and appearance at Parliamentary hearing in response to the Inquiry into the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice Referendum
4 May 2023
On 1 May 2023, Law Council of Australia President, Mr Luke Murphy, and a panel of expert witnesses appeared before the Joint Select Committee on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice Referendum (Committee) to give evidence on behalf of the Law Council in relation to the Committee’s inquiry into the provisions of the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice) 2023 (Constitution Alteration).
The Law Council’s appearance at the parliamentary hearing followed its comprehensive submission to the Committee, dated 21 April 2023. This submission was prepared with the advice and approval of the Law Council’s Voice Referendum Working Group and drew on input from several of its Constituent Bodies.
The Law Council has supported a constitutionally enshrined Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice since a decision of its Directors in October 2017.
In its submission, the Law Council expressed the view that the proposed constitutional amendment to provide for the Voice is just and legally sound and should be passed in its current form.
The submission articulated the three grounds the Law Council considers constitute the compelling case for a constitutionally enshrined Voice. These are that the Voice will provide:
- on their own terms, for constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first peoples of Australia, through a Voice specifically enshrined within the Constitution;
- a vehicle for substantive change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; and
- a means to give effect to the right to self-determination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The submission also addressed many of the questions raised publicly about the impact of the Constitutional amendment to enshrine the Voice.
The Law Council also distributed a media release on 24 April 2023, in which Mr Murphy reiterated a number of these key points.
On 13 April 2023, the Law Council dispatched a Guide to the legal profession on the referendum for a Voice, which can be distributed throughout the profession, but is not for publication at this stage. The Law Council intends to revise the Guide following the conclusion of the Committee’s inquiry and the passage of the Constitution Alteration, at which point the Guide will be redistributed to the profession and its publication considered.
The Law Council also intends to provide civil education materials relating to the Voice, and will distribute these to Constituent Bodies, once prepared.
The following members of the Law Council’s Voice Referendum Working Group appeared with Mr Murphy and Ms Leonie Campbell (Director of Policy) at the hearing:
- Mr Greg McIntyre SC (Law Council President-elect);
- Dr Tony McAvoy SC (Member of the Australian Government’s Referendum Working Group and Chair of the Law Council’s Indigenous Legal Issues Committee);
- Ms Fiona McLeod AO SC (Barrister and past President of the Law Council); and
- Professor Cheryl Saunders AO (Member of the Australian Government’s Constitutional Expert Group and Member of the Constitutional Law Committee of the Federal Dispute Resolution Section).