Voice failing at upcoming referendum will be a reflection of Albanese government’s political hubris: Frank Brennan

Voice failing at upcoming referendum will be a reflection of Albanese government’s political hubris: Frank Brennan
  • PublishedSeptember 15, 2023

The Voice to Parliament failing at the upcoming referendum will be a reflection of Labor’s political hubris, says Jesuit Priest and Human Rights Lawyer Frank Brennan.

Father Brennan, author of An Indigenous Voice to Parliament: Considering a Constitutional Bridge, told AM Agenda the No vote prevailing would be an important lesson for the Albanese government. 

“I think what we have to do here is learn the real lessons of what has gone on and let’s name it for what it is,” he told Sky News Australia host Laura Jayes on Friday.

“If it is no, it will be the hubris of a new government that said: ‘let’s go for broke we don’t need to do the legislative design first, we don’t need to get the Opposition parties at the same time, we need to sit down and negotiate this confidentially with Aboriginal leaders’.”

Former Liberal prime ministers Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison, all rejected a constitutionally enshrine Indigenous Voice while in office. 

Mr Turnbull and then-Opposition leader Bill Shorten worked together to finalise the membership and mandate of the Referendum Council – the body that initiated the Uluru Dialogues – culminating in the Uluru Statement from the Heart published in 2017. 

Although the Morrison government made no progress on constitutional recognition, the centrepiece of Anthony Albanese’s 2022 election campaign was the commitment to implement the Uluru Statement in full. 

But Father Brennan was critical of Labor’s  a “crash or crash through” strategy, which has resulted in a lack of bipartisan support and dissuaded supporters. 

“There have been 44 attempts to amend the constitution only eight have succeeded,” he said.

“The most successful Attorney-General was Bob Ellicott, he said two words: ‘You’ve got to have all major parties onboard and secondly you can’t have any legal ambiguity or complexity’.”

Despite this, Father Brennan said it was time for Australians to say: “To vote yes you don’t have to be convinced it’s all perfect and you don’t have to be convinced the process is perfect.”

“You don’t have to be convinced that Mr Albanese, Noel Pearson and Megan Davis have got everything absolutely right.

“There are some of us who say look there are imperfections there but wouldn’t we better as a nation moving forward having said yes than no.

“My instincts, unless we get that group to come aboard with yes, then sadly I think [the referendum] will be lost.”


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