Legislative Council: Wednesday, September 27, 2023


Federal Voice to Parliament Referendum

The Hon. J.E. HANSON (15:51): About 19 years ago, a then little-known guy called Barack Obama said:

Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope!

With all due respect to Mr Obama, our nation has always had a place in its heart for the notion of audacity—our poets, our sporting champions, our criminals, and even those we choose as our heroes. Indeed, if you go back to the very start of our nation, Australia was the first nation in the world to take its national constitution to the people for their approval, the first nation in the world that chose to do that.

It is fair to say that it did not fly through. Anyone who might be a constitutional observer would know that there was a pretty concerted no campaign, but it did not play on the simple ignorance of petty slogans: it actually argued the issues of the day. It argued that it would, for instance, weaken colonial parliaments of the day, it would lower wages, it would lose jobs, and that it would be confusing back then—I know it seems odd now—as to where the capital city might be.

Of course, we can look back now on how catastrophic it would have been had we listened to those 'no' arguments way back then, to have not had the audacity to hope as a nation. It is fair to say that if you were going to vote yes back then you may have thought something like this:

We have the chance to be part of a moment that brings people together, to work hard for something that we can all believe in. And right now, each of us can be part of something that really matters. To stand together and to show our support for Australians who need it the most.

You can imagine someone going to create our nation, hoping that they were doing the right thing, hoping for the best—but they did not say that. Cathy Freeman said that very recently. On 14 October you will have the opportunity to make history by voting yes.

The referendum really has not changed too much since we started our nation. It is about something pretty simple: it is about listening. When governments listen to people about issues that affect them they make better decisions, they achieve better results, and get better value for our taxes.

I have had a lot of local Liberal voters in the community where I live approach me to say that they will be voting yes; it is disappointing that my local MP, Mr David Pisoni, the member for Unley, is not one of them. It is a pretty bizarre fact that Mr Pisoni in fact was part of a Liberal government that promised and would work towards a policy of legislating a Voice to Parliament, something that doesn't seem to matter too much to him now.

I will be voting yes, and I love seeing how many of us in the Unley electorate are showing support for the yes vote, with so many posters on fences and in shop windows. But I also know from the questions that I am receiving from people I represent in state parliament that the fearmongers are trying to sow the seeds of doubt in our community. Please, if you are listening to this, do not be swayed by false information. There is plenty of negativity around about this referendum. Indeed, former PM John Howard has asked Australia to maintain the rage against the Voice, but to put it simply this is not about rage. It is about listening.

I urge everyone to go into this referendum fully informed. By the time I sit again in this place, it will have occurred. If you do not know, find out. Do not be tricked by the fearmongers. Go to reputable websites, like yes23.com.au and check your facts. What is being proposed federally is a non-binding advisory committee to advise the federal parliament on federal issues. Its job will be to provide advice, not raise money or spend money. Its members will not be appointed by government.

I will choose to listen by voting yes. I hope you will find out the facts and join me so that we can move forward with an even better constitution as a nation that involves everyone in it.