When it comers to the Voice and its ambitions, it all depends who is doing the talking.
Anthony Albanese’s version (National Press Club, Canberra, May 18, 2022):
Good manners tell you when something you do has an impact on someone else, talk to them. That’s all a Voice is. Ask them, and hear them, and listen to them.
Linda Burney’s version (National Press Club, Canberra, July 5, 2023):
The first question I want to address today is why is the Voice needed? And the simple answer is: because the gap isn’t closing fast enough … From day one, the Voice will have a full in-tray. I will ask the Voice to consider four main priority areas: health, education, jobs and housing.
Noel Pearson’s version: (Garma Key Forum, Northern Territory, August 4, 2018):
I want to make an argument about why it is so important to constitutionalise the Voice. The Uluru Statement from the Heart anticipated that, following a constitutional voice, there will be a process of treaty, a process of national, of regional and local agreement-making – Makarratta – and we seek a commission to be established in Australian law to supervise that process of agreement-making.
There are, there’s business that we need to do, and we need to conclude, and that we need to visit what we didn’t do in 1770, we didn’t do in 1788, and at every important milestone over this past 200-plus years we declined to treat with one another about the fundamental question of how ancient Australia survives within the new Australia. That is what we have to treat about.
We’ve got to come to terms with how ancient Australia survives within the new, and we didn’t do it in 1901, we didn’t do it in 1988, we didn’t do it in 2001. Will we be able to do it, or at least commence a process in 2020, the 250th anniversary of that troubling sea voyage up the east coast of Australia? That’s the question for us. It’s a question that will never go away. It’s a question that is most clearly brought to the fore of our minds at Garma every year, and we heard that this morning from Jarwa, and from Ghalarrwuy.
We have to treat with one another about some fundamental questions about the old sovereignty, and the new, and their future co-existence. The Uluru Statement from the Heart talked about that spiritual notion of indigenous sovereignty, the link to the soil via our ancestors, the link that ties us to Mother Nature and to our ancestral bones in the land to which we will all one day return thither to be reunited with our ancestors.
We need a constitutional Voice because the subject matter of discussion that we need to have is heavy business. This is not some kind of service delivery discussion about health, and education, and housing. This is about treating with each other in relation to the most profoundly foundational questions. We will need a constitutional Voice.
Pens of adamant will need to underpin our position of negotiation. That is why I have been steadfast and my colleagues have been so steadfast in arguing that the first step is constitutionalising our position, creating a bridge between the Rock in the centre and the centre of power in the homes of the Ngunnawal in Canberra.
We’ve got to create a bridge, and it’s got to be pinned down in the most fundamental law of the nation where power resides. Without it, we’ll get pushed around, Without it, the question will be deferred again. Without it, we’ll enter into some prosaic discussions about housing, and health, and what Stanner always called that one-eyed hobbyhorses of Australian policy law, everyone’s favourite discussion about how it is that we might lift the indigenes from their misery. Stanner told us in 1968 that was a forlorn discussion.
Until we got to the heart of the matter, all of these hobbyhorses, lined up with great fidelity and energy, will not resolve this issue. We’ve got to have a foundational negotiation, but before we can do that, we can’t just enter it willy-nilly, we need a constitutional Voice for the first nations, a position from which we can never be shifted, a position from which to negotiate with all of the moral and historical power that is ours by virtue of our possession of this land for more than sixty thousand millennia [sic].
So for those of us who’ve come late to this strategy, you need to wake up. Treaty door is the second door. The first door is constitutional enshrinement.