Questions and answers about the proposed First Nations Voice to Parliament

Questions and answers about the proposed First Nations Voice to Parliament

5.2.     What are the arguments for voting No?


  • Bertus de Villiers, ‘A Fresh Approach to Aboriginal Self-Government and Co-Government — Grassroots Empowerment’, Brief, vol. 47,1 (2020).
  • Nyunggai Warren Mundine, ‘Do we really need an Indigenous “voice” to parliament?’, September 4, EPOCH TIMES, 2022.
  • Nicholas Hasluck, ‘Sounds of Division in the Voice from Uluru’, Quadrant, July-August, 2019.
  • Biwa Kwan and Monique Pueblos, ‘The Voice to Parliament “no” camp is targeting migrant votes, but community groups say it is a “distraction”’, SBS News, January 31, 2023. *(See also in 5.1 Excerpts: ‘What are the arguments for voting Yes?’)
  •  Amy McQuire, ‘The black “no” campaign is not Jacinta Price and Warren Mundine’, Presence: Independent rights based journalism, April 2023.

What are the arguments for voting No?

Bertus de Villiers, ‘A Fresh Approach to Aboriginal Self-Government and Co-Government — Grassroots Empowerment’, Brief, vol. 47,1 (2020), p. 11.


De Villiers is a professor of Law. He argues for Aboriginal ‘co-governance and self-governance’ to take place according to a grassroots model that would inspire local communities and ensure their involvement in decision-making. De Villiers draws on and describes recent experiences in Hungary ‘where cultural communities have in recent times been given special right of representation, consultation and self-government at a local level in a manner that is unique in international contemporary democratic theory and practice’. He discusses Hungarian developments in order to demonstrate that there can be fresh thinking about democratic processes that are outside the ‘existing box of constitutional and legal dogma’.


‘The missing link: local community involvement

It is axiomatic that whereas the terms “Aboriginal people”, “Indigenous people” and “First Nations” are often used interchangeably to describe the collective body of traditional owners of Australia, in reality there is no singular or uniform set of rules for Aboriginal identity, language, law or culture. There is a rich tapestry of distinct languages, customs, laws, belief systems and interests that share certain communalities but are also diverse and unique to specific communities. The proposal for a Voice so far begs the question: how would the proposed Voice and those who are elected ascertain the views of local Aboriginal communities in general, and native title and traditional owners in particular, on particular policy issues, and ensure local community views are accurately reflected in the national debate? There is a not unsubstantial risk that the deliberations within the Voice may become majority dominated and in doing so alienate itself from particularly rural Aboriginal communities.

If elections for the Voice are primarily ward-based, it is not clear how the interests of different Aboriginal communities within the ward would be reflected in a first-past-the-post, winner-take-all system. If, on the other hand, elections are based on a form of proportional representation, it is also not apparent how the opinion of local Aboriginal communities would be canvassed on a policy matter potentially impacting their lands, rights and interests. Furthermore, a ward- or proportional-based electoral system may bring about a majority-take-all approach within the Voice; this may be inconsistent with protecting the interests of local Aboriginal communities. Therefore, the proposition that a singular elected body would be authorised by legislation to speak on behalf of all Aboriginal communities in Australia on major policies and legislation is fraught with ambiguity and potential inter- and intra-community conflict.’

Nyunggai Warren Mundine, ‘Do we really need an Indigenous “voice” to parliament?’, September 4,  EPOCH TIMES, 2022


In this article, Nyunggai Warren Mundine, who was head of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Indigenous Advisory Council, gives the three reasons for his opposition to the Voice to Parliament proposal: that he believes in liberal democracy, that he believes Australia is not racist and that he does not believe that any Aboriginal person can speak for another.  


‘The Voice Doesn’t Add Anything New

Indigenous Australians are Australian citizens. There is no law, regulation or policy, and no act or decision of the federal government or parliament that doesn’t relate to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Are we going to have long, drawn-out debates on all laws before parliament and all policies of the government that need to be checked beforehand by the Voice? Budgets? Defence? Education? Health? Infrastructure? Commerce and Trade? The list goes on.

This would make the Voice a massive inhibitor of legislation, policy, and government decision-making. Leaving its legacy as one characterised by delay at the very least.’

Biwa Kwan and Monique Pueblos, ‘The Voice to Parliament “no” camp is targeting migrant votes, but community groups say it is a “distraction”’, SBS News, January 31, 2023, (Also in 5.1 ‘What are the arguments for voting Yes?’)


Australia’s diverse society is made up of communities from many cultural groups, including migrants and their descendants and refugees, in addition to First Nations people. Despite attempts to use the Voice proposal as a source of division there is a strong sense of unity and common purpose reflected in this article in which the chairperson of the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia, Mr Carlo Carli, is interviewed.  


‘Indigenous advocates supporting the ‘no’ campaign in the upcoming Indigenous Voice referendum appealed to migrant voters in their launch on Monday, saying they should vote no for the Voice. They should instead back a proposal for a statement in the preamble of the Constitution to recognise “the migrants and refugees” who had “contributed to this country”. “It’s about complementing”, said the leader of the ‘no’ campaign, former Australian Labor Party president turned Liberal candidate Warren Mundine. “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are very open to the multicultural community”, Mr Mundine said. “When we look at Australia we are a liberal democracy in a plural society, so we have many faiths, many cultures, we have many ethnicities. It’s a population of around 26 million. I think the constitution should reflect that and be very praiseworthy of it”.

Mr [Carlo] Carli said the lived experience of migrants and refugees had informed their perspective to embrace the Indigenous Voice. “There’s a direct understanding, they’ve experienced dispossession, they’ve experienced marginalisation. And they’ve found refuge in this country”, he said. “And I think they now see the refuge they found in a country which itself has seen colonialism and a brutal impact on the First Nations people. And I think they want to see that rectified”.’

Nicholas Hasluck, ‘Sounds of Division in the Voice from Uluru’, Quadrant, July-August, 2019, p.70.



In this article, written in 2019, a retired judge of the Supreme Court of Western Australia reflects on the proposed referendum for a Voice to Parliament. He expresses his concern that what he terms a ‘special Voice’ with an advisory role ‘based on race’ may be contrary to the democratic spirit of the Constitution, which is based on all citizens having equal democratic rights. He expresses his support for the peaceful resolution of differences through the enactment of reforms that benefit Indigenous people.


‘It was clear to many observers as the furore ran on that [former PM Malcolm] Turnbull’s comments about a third chamber were not directed to legal technicalities such as a formal power of veto. The crucial factor was how the special voice would be “seen”. He was making a general point about political realities and the appearance of the newly-proposed body within the parliamentary structure. Nonetheless, the proponents of the special voice used their specious claim to propagate the misleading myth that the sole reason for rejection of the special voice proposal was because the Prime Minister had falsely characterised the body as a third chamber of parliament.  Since that time sympathetic journalists and academics have been more than willing to perpetuate the myth. With the benefit of hindsight, it now seems that Malcolm Turnbull didn’t make a sufficient effort to rebut them and to keep the debate focused on the central and very persuasive reason for rejection he provided initially: that the proposal for a special voice to parliament based on race was contrary to the democratic credo of a constitution designed to secure the rule of law and provide equal civic rights for all. That on any view of the matter, and especially when thought is given to how the special voice would operate in the arena of daily politics, the special voice’s Indigenous constituency, defined by race, would obtain a privileged position in the parliamentary process pursuant to an “enshrined” constitutional entitlement, a right of audience not held by individual citizens or by any other section. Malcolm Turnbull appeared to lack the courage and clarity of mind to stand fast and defend his basic point. In contemporary times, in an era of identity politics and corrosive political correctness, one doesn’t have to dig too deep to understand why this might be so. In these troubled times, when it comes to any matter involving race, politicians, and even citizens, have to be very cautious in what they say.’

Amy McQuire, ‘The black “no” campaign is not Jacinta Price and Warren Mundine’, Presence: Independent rights based journalism, April 2023,


Amy McQuire cautions that mainstream media are equating the No campaign with ‘black conservatives’ Jacinta Price and Warren Mundine. She charges Mundine with hypocrisy because he is now saying that the Voice should be resisted because it will not give voice to the diversity of individual nations. Whereas previously Mundine was a prominent member of Howard’s advisory body that saw the dismantling of self-determination and institution of land tenure regimes that were an attack on ‘the right of traditional owners to have control over their own land’. Similarly, McQuire argues that Price is playing the sexual abuse card again along with Dutton with claims that have no basis in fact. McQuire is concerned that these politicised voices that already have a voice in parliament and the media are drowning out the real questions that Indigenous people have about the Voice proposal and whether it will be representative, and the risk of the referendum increasing racist rhetoric.


‘The black conservative “no” campaign reeks of hypocrisy and self-interest, and the most egregious part of it is that it undermines a very sophisticated “no” campaign from other blackfellas who are approaching the issue from a different viewpoint. Many blackfellas I have spoken to are still concerned that the Voice may not lead to change or a challenging of the status quo. There are concerns about the racist rhetoric inevitably drummed up in a referendum year, and concerns about what a Voice design could look like. There are legitimate concerns about when and how we can ask questions and whether a Voice will be truly representative. These questions are drowned out by noise from the black conservative “no” campaign who should not be given any air time because they have had a “voice” for years now, both in Parliament, as hand-picked members of racist government, or as the Senators for the NT CLP – one of the most racist parties in this country’s history. If they want a voice they can have it, but don’t deny others the right too – or the right to ask questions of it.’

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