NSW Liberal leader backs Indigenous voice saying rewards ‘outweigh the risks’

The New South Wales opposition leader, Mark Speakman, has announced his support for the proposed Indigenous voice to parliament, saying that “the potential rewards outweigh the potential risks”.

Speakman is now one of two state Liberal leaders publicly backing the yes vote, alongside the Tasmanian premier, Jeremy Rockliff. On Friday, Western Australian Liberals leader, Libby Mettam, reversed her position and said she would vote no. Mettam said she changed her mind after the furore in the state over cultural heritage laws.

All other state Liberal leaders have said they will vote no, apart from the Victorian opposition leader, John Pesutto, who has not publicly stated his position but will allow party members a free vote on the issue.

Speakman’s stance comes as Peter Dutton insists he will “fight” for constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians, a policy the Coalition failed to enact in the nine years it was in power.

Speakman said in a statement that he had “taken the time to reflect carefully on the proposed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice.

“It is a proposal for a purely advisory body on behalf of Indigenous Australians, who are far and away the most disadvantaged people in our nation.

“On balance, I think the potential rewards outweigh the potential risks, and I personally support a voice in the Australian constitution.”

In his statement, Speakman said he would not play an active role in the referendum, nor advise people how to vote.

“Recent polling suggests that the referendum is unlikely to succeed and that even if it does, it will only do so by a narrow majority.

“Neither outcome helps our nation’s ongoing journey of reconciliation.”

He urged the federal government to amend the referendum to include two separate questions, the first on the matter of constitutional recognition and the second on the establishment of the voice and to release draft legislation.

“We live in a great country, but our poor, and often disastrous, outcomes for Indigenous Australians are our nation’s greatest public policy failure,” he said.

“They face huge gaps in, among other things, life expectancy, health, education, jobs, housing, child protection, criminal victimisation and incarceration.

“There are no guarantees but, other things being equal, working in closer partnership with Indigenous Australians – and elevating it by embedding it in the constitution – offers a better chance of ‘Closing the Gap’.”

Dutton told the Australian on Saturday that he supported constitutional recognition and legislated local and regional advisory bodies, rather than a constitutionally enshrined national voice.

“A Coa­lition government I lead will fight for constitutional recognition,” he said, saying the public would support it.

“The beauty of our proposal is we propose constitutional recognition as well as a local and regional advisory body in legislation, not in the constitution. In legislation you can make changes. No law can change the constitution.”

If the voice referendum succeeds, its structure will be determined by ordinary legislation. The proposed constitutional change explicitly states that parliament will have power to make laws about the voice’s composition, functions, powers and procedures.

Voice ‘conspiracy’: PM factchecks question on length of Uluru statement from the heart – video

Dutton’s office was contacted for comment about the proposal, and Speakman’s position.

On Saturday, the federal government announced that it would spend $44m to help Indigenous families navigate the child protection system.

Indigenous children almost 12 times more likely to be placed in out-of-home care and the funding is designed to help meet a Closing the Gap target of a 45% reduction in the number of Indigenous children in out-of-home care by 2031.

“The role of government is to listen to communities who best understand their local context, aspirations and what will help families navigate early support services and the child protection system,” social services minister, Amanda Rishworth, said in a statement.

-Australian Associated Press contributed to this report

source: theguardian.com