Voice questions: Dutton is either lying or else he cannot read

Australian Opposition leader Peter Dutton is either lying or else is unable to read. Those are the only two reasons why he has been asking questions about the detail of the Voice.

It took me just half-an-hour this morning to answer all his questions. I had to refer to just one website.

As Senator Patrick Dodson has said, the Australian people are being asked to vote “on principle, not on detail”.

Australians are not being asked to vote on a specific Voice model.

1. Who will be eligible to serve on the body?

The Voice will be determined by parliament with the input of the community and the Voice itself, and will evolve and change over time.

2. What are the prerequisites for nomination?

The Voice must have a structure that represents and reflects local communities in their diversity, giving those a voice who haven’t had a voice in the past.

3. Will the Government clarify the definition of Aboriginality to determine who can serve on the body?

The Voice must have cultural legitimacy, in that it must be selected by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples themselves in accordance with their own local practices, protocols and expectations.

4. How will members be elected, chosen or appointed?

The Voice is to be established to represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples politically, and while it may draw on the expertise of pre-existing organisations such as community groups and peak bodies, it performs a distinct function to them.

5. How many people will make up the body?

To be determined by Parliament after the Voice is adopted.

6. How much will it cost taxpayers annually?

Depends on the structure which will be determined by Parliament.

7. What are its functions and powers?

The intention of the Voice is to further the self-determination of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples within the Australian state, by giving them greater voice and control in matters that affect them.

8. Is it purely advisory or will it have decision-making capabilities?

The National Voice would advise on matters of national significance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples relating to their social, spiritual and economic wellbeing.

9. Who will oversee the body and ensure it is accountable?

A body will be set up after the structure of the Voice is determined. It will be accountable to Parliament.

10. If needed, can the body be dissolved and reconstituted in extraordinary circumstances?

The Voice should be designed in a way that it can achieve its functions, in particular that it is: provided with stability and certainty, without the risk hanging over it of future abolition; designed so as to be structurally independent of government; and adequately funded and resourced.

11. How will the Government ensure that the body includes those who still need to get a platform in Australian public life?

These details will be worked out once the Voice is constituted.

12. How will it interact with the Closing of the Gap process?

Details to be worked out after the Voice is constituted.

13. Will the Government rule out using the Voice to negotiate any national treaty?

The structure and mechanics will be determined by Parliament after the Voice is enshrined in the Constitution.

14. Will the Government commit to Local and Regional Voices, as recommended in the report on the co-design process led by Tom Calma and Marcia Langton?

Depends on the advice from Parliament after the Voice is enshrined in the Constitution.

15. If not, how will it effectively address the real issues that impact people’s lives daily on the ground in the community?

Once again, this is putting the cart before the horse.

A draft of a possible addition to the Constitution:

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.

What more does one need to understand what the Voice is all about? Unless, of course, one is trying to kill the idea of a successful referendum?

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