Legislative Council: Wednesday, April 10, 2024


First Nations Voice to Parliament

The Hon. L.A. HENDERSON (15:35): The great Voice debate in this country is surely over. First came the failure of the Federal Voice, with more than 64 per cent of South Australians voting no at the referendum. Now Labor's State Voice has failed before it has even begun. Labor's Voice was legislated in March 2023. The first elections have now been held, at which around 6 per cent of Indigenous South Australians turned out to vote.

Across the entire state just 2,583 formal votes were received. Some candidates were elected with as few as six and 11 votes after the distribution of preferences. Some received none, suggesting that they could not even be bothered to come out to vote for themselves—elected to the Voice with a mandate of as few as six votes, yet able to influence the Parliament, which is democratically elected to represent over 1.7 million South Australians.

In the push for gender diversity through quotas, we have seen a female candidate, who received more primary votes than three successfully elected male candidates in her region, not be elected because, well, that is equality Labor-style. Showing that while gender quotas may hope to ensure female representation around the table, it can have the unintended consequence of inhibiting women from being elected.

It should concern all South Australians that a body as unrepresentative as the Voice, where one can be elected with as few as six votes, can influence the outcome of a democratically elected parliament, the change so great to how the parliament will need to function that it will need to change its standing orders. It is a handbrake on our democracy and gives greater weight to a vote of one group over another, based on race. It is my view that it undermines the very premise of our democracy in that we are all equal—one person, one vote.

While members of parliament, both at a state and federal level, are not able to profit from the Crown, members of the First Nations Voice do not have that same requirement. We have seen people elected to this body—a body that gives access to speak on the floor of the parliament—hold roles where they are profiting from the Crown, from advisers in the Attorney-General's own department to the Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People. It again begs the question of the integrity of the body.

You would have thought that, when the resounding result of the referendum came back showing that over 64 per cent of South Australians voted no, the Malinauskas government would have repealed the State Voice, would have acknowledged that they got it wrong. Instead, we see a state government that has pushed ahead with the First Nations Voice elections, and a government that will not rule out the payment of reparations and compensation to Indigenous communities. How much will that cost taxpayers?

With over 64 per cent of South Australians voting no at the referendum, and with around 90 per cent of South Australia's Indigenous community failing to cast a vote at the State Voice elections, it is fair to say that most South Australians are not behind Peter Malinauskas' State Voice to parliament. It is time for Labor governments everywhere, especially here in South Australia, to recognise the overwhelming will of the people. Premier, it is time to repeal this frighteningly unrepresentative body.