Legislative Council: Wednesday, October 18, 2023


Federal Voice to Parliament Referendum

The Hon. H.M. GIROLAMO (15:56): Australians have been unfairly divided during this referendum—friends against friends, families against families and Indigenous Australians against other Indigenous Australians. The Australian people are not stupid or dinosaurs or other unpleasant names. They are good, hardworking people who have been let down by the Prime Minister. It did not need to be like this.

Australians have spoken and more than 60 per cent of Australians voted against the Voice, myself included. The result could have been different. With a bipartisan agreement to split the referendum into two, recognition would have been supported; I am sure of that. The changes to the constitution for a Voice enshrined in the constitution were clearly not acceptable to a vast number of Australians, with every state voting no and every federal seat in South Australia voting no.

The only location that voted yes was the ACT, which is quite ironic given that this was often referred to as 'the Canberra Voice'. The Australian people said no to a Voice enshrined in the constitution that was poorly articulated and at huge risk of being another layer of bureaucracy with potentially serious legal ramifications. It clearly caused unnecessary division—division I have never seen before in my lifetime.

But there is much work to be done. With the end of Albanese's divisive Canberra Voice that not even our Prime Minister could explain, our parliaments, our public servants and the many programs dedicated to Indigenous Australians must get back to work and seek to close the gap and return to the path of reconciliation. Along with my colleagues in the state and federal parliament, I am committed to real action to improve the lives of disadvantaged Indigenous Australians. They must be our focus with not just talk but real action.

I stand by Senator Kerrynne Liddle's call for accountability. Having previously lived and worked in Darwin for several years, as an accountant I saw firsthand the waste of government funds time and time again through duplication of services and serious gaps in service delivery. I also saw some remarkable work being done by different groups of elders and other Aboriginal-led organisations.

We must see more accountability, more focus on outcomes and more support to enable Aboriginal people to not only survive but to thrive. This will not be done by one Voice in Canberra. It needs to be done by a full review, both state and federal, to ensure issues are identified and resolved. It is so disappointing to see Labor and the Greens blocking Senator Price and Senator Liddle's call for a royal commission into Indigenous sexual abuse and an audit to support practical outcomes and to review the state of Indigenous affairs right across Australia.

I would like to acknowledge Senator Nampijinpa Price, Warren Mundine AO and South Australia's own Senator Kerrynne Liddle for their extraordinary efforts during this referendum. With countless campaign activities across the country, they ensured the commonsense outcome that we saw on Saturday night.

Earlier this year, when the state government rushed through legislation for a state-based Voice to Parliament—which I voted against, along with all my Liberal colleagues—it occurred without proper consultation with the South Australian people. Well, the South Australian people have now been consulted and it is clear that they do not support a State Voice to Parliament. The government must take this into consideration and not ignore the voices of South Australians.

Finally, I would like to say thank you to the many volunteers who gave up their time on Saturday and at pre-poll in the two weeks before the referendum. It is because of their efforts that we had such an overwhelming result. Many of the volunteers for the no campaign had no connection to political parties; rather, they were concerned, hardworking South Australians looking to voice their opposition to such a permanent and concerning proposal. I would like to thank the great volunteers who I worked with at Brighton pre-poll, especially Bridgid and Theresa who helped every day during the campaign, morning and night.