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Indigenous, Political

Monash experts: Referendum outcome

Monash University 4 mins read

Monash University experts are available to comment on the result of the referendum.

Professor Paula Gerber, Monash Faculty of Law

Contact: +61 0410 596 494 or paula.gerber@monash.edu

Read more of Professor Gerber’s commentary at Monash Lens 

The following can be attributed to Professor Gerber: 

“This rejection of the referendum will severely damage relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. It is not going to maintain the status quo; it is a big step backwards. It is a huge slap in the face for Australia's First peoples, and it will take them some time to come to terms with how Australians have voted.  

“This outcome has damaged our international reputation and standing. As Vanuatu’s former foreign minister Ralph Regenvanu said 'a no vote on 14 October would be a blow to Australia’s relationships with the region.'

“This referendum has been described as Australia's 'Brexit moment'. The rejection of constitutional recognition and The Voice may well be followed by 'buyer's remorse' in the months and years afterwards as Australians come to terms with the negative implications of this outcome.

“We are unlikely to see any further attempts to amend our constitution for a very long time, as politicians will think there is no point trying to modernise our constitution because Australians will always reject change. The result is our rule book will become outdated and not fit for purpose. The drafters of it empowered the people to change the constitution, and if Australians always "vote no, because they don't know" then we have given up the power to change the rules to better suit our contemporary society.

“Although this referendum failed, state and territory initiatives to recognise and reconcile with Indigenous Australians will continue. We are seeing progress in:

  • Victoria with the First People's Assembly treaty negotiations and the Yooruk Justice Commission's truth-telling process;

  • South Australia which has passed legislation establishing a state-based Voice to Parliament and is holding elections for Voice representatives in March 2024;

  • Queensland which has a Minister for Treaty and is on its way to establishing the First Nations Treaty Institute and a formal Truth-telling and Healing Inquiry.

  • NSW Also has a Minister for Treaty and the Labor Party committed to funding and beginning treaty discussion as an election promise prior to winning government in March 2023”

Professor Melissa Castan, Director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, and Associate Dean (Staffing) in the Law Faculty

Contact: +61 3 9903 4840 or media@monash.edu

Read more of Professor Castan’s commentary at Monash Lens

The following can be attributed to Professor Castan:

"The referendum campaign has highlighted a number of issues running through our country. We have seen outright disinformation, racism, and a level of vitriolic personal attack that should never be part of our public life. In the weeks and months ahead, questions must be asked about the opportunities for constitutional reform and what this referendum means for bold structural reform.

"First Nations peoples are resilient: they have survived despite 250 years of colonisation. This referendum result does not alter the fact that First Nations peoples have a right to self-determination and we call upon the Federal Government and the Parliament to pursue laws and policies which would give effect to the right of self-determination for First Nations peoples so that they can have input and control over laws and policies that affect them and their communities."

Professor Luke Beck, Professor of Constitutional Law and Associate Dean (Education) of the Faculty of Law, Monash University 

Contact: +61 0403 580 311 or luke.beck@monash.edu

Read more of Professor Beck’s work at Monash Lens

The following can be attributed to Professor Beck:

“It is a great shame that the federal parliament decided to allow misinformation and disinformation during the referendum campaign.

“While the result of the referendum could well have been different if the recommendations of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters were acted upon, the time is right to introduce federal truth in political advertising laws along the lines of what exists in South Australia and the ACT.

“The federal parliament passed up an opportunity to ban misinformation and disinformation during the referendum campaign. In January, the parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters rejected calls to do this.

“The committee said ‘the forthcoming referendum is not the right time to establish a truth-in-political-advertising regime’.

“However, the same committee recommended in June that Australia adopt federal truth-in-political-advertising laws that would apply to all future federal elections and referendums.

“If not now, when?”

Dr Zareh Ghazarian, Senior Lecturer in Politics, School of Social Sciences

Contact: +61 0402 851 224 or Zareh.Ghazarian@monash.edu
Read more of Dr Ghazarian’s commentary at Monash Lens

The following can be attributed to Dr Ghazarian:

“The referendum result confirmed what major opinion polls were showing for months before the poll. The Voice referendum will join the many previous unsuccessful attempts to change the constitution in Australia. While some had hoped that the polls would get it wrong, as was the case at the 2019 federal election, the result broadly aligned with what the polls had been indicating leading into the referendum.

“The loss of the referendum is also important for the Albanese Government and may have political implications for the prime minister who had promised to take action on this in his first term. The government will start 2024 without a win in the referendum as they had hoped. This may have an impact on what the government decides to do in the new year. An early election could be held from August 2024, but with this loss the government may decide to delay the date closer to the final day in May 2025.”

For more Monash media stories visit our news & events site: monash.edu/news

For any other topics on which you may be seeking expert comment, contact the Monash University Media Unit on +61 3 9903 4840 or media@monash.edu

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