Australians are now one step closer to having their say on an Indigenous voice to federal parliament, as lower house MPs have voted on the referendum’s final form.
On Wednesday The House of Representatives casted their votes to set up the referendum and finalise the wording of the question and proposed change to the constitution.
The bill passed the house 121 to 25 with the Nationals voting against the bill, and a majority of Liberal MPs supporting it.
Debate on the voice will now shift to the Senate and is likely to pass parliament in June, ahead of the referendum being held between October and December.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese this week urged Australians to call out incorrect information about the voice.
“I respect the fact some people will come to a different conclusion, that’s their right to in a democracy, but it would be good if we kept the debate on a realistic plane and not jump at shadows,” he said on Tuesday.
While the coalition has flagged it would not support the Indigenous voice, it backed the legislation setting up the referendum.
The opposition nominated several MPs as “authorised dissenters” to vote no in the house, in order to enable them to have input on the referendum pamphlet which will be sent out to all households.
Deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley says while most people wanted to see the gap closed between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian, the voice would not achieve it.
“A ‘yes’ vote will not result in better outcomes for Indigenous Australians, but it could result in worse outcomes for all Australians,” she told parliament.
“Millions of Australians will vote no, and they deserve better than their prime minister referring to them as undertaker’s preparing the grave to bury Uluru, Chicken Littles or anything else with such deplorable connotations.”
But Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus says the voice was a significant step to fulfilling the Uluru statement.
“If approved at the referendum, there will be four simple lines inserted into the constitution,” he said.
“Those lines will finally recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as Australia’s first peoples in our founding legal document, after more than 120 years of exclusion and omission.
“Through the voice we will listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to create practical change and make a difference where it matters.”