Australia govt introduces Indigenous referendum bill in parliament

FILE PHOTO: Anthony Albanese, Australia's Prime Minister, attends the 2nd ASEAN Global Dialogue during the ASEAN summit held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia November 13, 2022. REUTERS/Cindy Liu/File Photo

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The Australian government on Thursday took the first formal step towards holding a referendum to recognise Indigenous people in the constitution and set up an Indigenous "Voice to Parliament" to advise lawmakers on matters that impact their lives.

Introducing the bill in parliament, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the referendum, to be held between October and December, would be an opportunity to acknowledge history and help Australians come together "for a more reconciled future."

"We will all stand with a clean heart and a clean conscience and we will know our country is on the path to a better direction," Dreyfus said.

Australians will be asked if they want to change the constitution to create an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice - a consultative committee providing non-binding advice to parliament on matters that affect them.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese last week revealed the question the government wants to set in the referendum and urged Australians to back what he described as a long overdue vote.

Australia's Aboriginal people, making up about 3.2% of the near 26 million population, track below national averages on most socio-economic measures and are not mentioned in the 122-year-old constitution. They were marginalised by British colonial rulers and not granted voting rights until the 1960s.

The government proposed the bill be referred to a joint select committee for consideration and is hoping to pass it by the end of June.

The main opposition Liberal party has not yet decided if it would support the proposed constitutional amendments but its junior coalition partner, the rural-based National Party, has said it would oppose them. The left-wing Greens party and some independent lawmakers have promised to support the "Yes" campaign.

A Guardian poll last week showed public support for the referendum was down 5% but was still backed by a majority, with 59% in favour.

Any constitutional alterations in Australia require a national referendum. To succeed a referendum requires a national majority of votes as well as a majority of votes in at least four of the six states.

(Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Stephen Coates)

Subscribe now to our Premium Plan for an ad-free and unlimited reading experience!

Next In World

Top Polish court rules minister's abuse of power case should be reopened
Kosovo open to new elections in municipalities hit by unrest, minister says
Ukraine seeks UN Security Council meeting, new sanctions over dam blast
Breakthrough on stalled EU migration deal coming this week - official
Thailand's Pita confident of surviving move to thwart his PM bid
Kenyan police fire teargas at protesters marching against finance bill
Clashes between Sudan's warring factions intensify, no end in sight
France's last surviving D-Day commando joins beach landing anniversary
After dam bursts, IAEA says Zaporizhzhia's cooling pond must be protected
Russia probe into Navalny poisoning inadequate -European court

Others Also Read