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Solicitor-General says Voice “serves the objective of overcoming barriers”

Callan Morse -

Solicitor-General Dr Stephen Donaghue has shared his views on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

It comes after Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus released Dr Donaghue's 24-page opinion on Friday, following calls from opposition leader Peter Dutton to do so.

Dr Donaghue said the Voice would be an "enhancement" to the system, assisting First Nations peoples in "overcoming barriers" that have made participation in political discussions difficult for Indigenous Australians in the past.

"The proposed section 129 is not just compatible with the system of representative and responsible government prescribed by the constitution, but an enhancement of that system," Dr Donaghue said.

"(The Voice) serves the objective of overcoming barriers that have historically impeded effective participation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in political discussions and decisions that affect them".

As proposed, the Voice would add a new section to Australia's constitution, recognising Indigenous Australians as Australia's First peoples whilst establishing an Indigenous Voice to Australia's federal parliament and executive.

In Dr Donaghue's feedback on the government's Voice proposal, he advised the proposed section "would not pose any threat to Australia's system of representative and responsible government".

(The section) "would not impose any obligations upon the executive government to follow representations of the Voice, and/or to consult with the Voice prior to developing any policy or making any decision," he said.

Dr Donaghue also dismissed concerns that an Indigenous Voice to parliament enshrined in Australia's constitution would trigger numerous high court challenges.

"The suggestion that a consequence of empowering the Voice to make representations to the executive government will be to clog up the courts, or to cause government to grind to a halt, ignores the reality that litigation concerning the validity of decisions of the executive government is already very common, and that it does not have either of those consequences," Dr Donaghue said.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus was supportive of the solicitor-generals viewpoint.

"The Voice is an important reform and it is a modest reform, one that would complement the existing structures of our democratic system and enhance the normal functioning of government," he said in releasing the solicitor-general's opinion.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the solicitor-general's legal opinion is "very clear and unequivocal".

"This puts to bed the absolute nonsense of Peter Dutton and Barnaby Joyce … that they've carried on with, saying that somehow recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our constitution will lead to Anzac Day being abolished, it is complete nonsense," Mr Albanese told reporters on Friday.

"They are just determined to play politics with this."

However Nationals MP Keith Pitt said the view of the solicitor-general would not influence his opinion that all Australians should be treated equally and the referendum should be voted down, suggesting there was still a risk of decisions being taken to court.

"I've seen other (legal) advice which is different. This is always the case until it is tested," Mr Pitt told Sky News.


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