Former prime minister Scott Morrison has blasted Labor for gambling with Australia’s constitution in his speech against the Voice to parliament.
Rising to speak in the House of Representatives for only the third time since he lost last year’s election, the Cook MP said a failed Voice would be “crushing to the soul” of Indigenous Australians and blamed Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for poorly constructing a proposal that risked the operation of the federal government.
In his speech on Wednesday, Mr Morrison said the Voice risked dividing Australia and would have little impact.
Doubling down on the policy he took to last year’s election, Mr Morrison argued that while he believed in constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians, the Voice should be legislated and not enshrined in the Constitution.
He said the two matters could, and should, be separated.
Mr Morrison said all Australians wished to support and do everything they could to recognise and improve the lives of indigenous Australians, but that was not what the government was proposing to do.
“Permanently changing the Constitution in the way the government proposes will sadly not change the desperate circumstances being experienced in so many Indigenous communities across Australia,” Mr Morrison said.
“I understand that is the hope of this proposal, and hope is a good thing, but hope disappointed will be crushing to the soul, and such disappointment can be reasonably foreseen by proceeding with the government’s proposal.”
He said he echoed the concerns of Opposition Leader Peter Dutton that the Voice model created significant constitutional risk, arguing there were “no limits”.
“Once our Constitution is permanently changed, the scope and role of the Voice will appropriately be open to interpretation by the High Court, who will then also be able to overrule both our elected parliament and our elected executive government in the future in relation to the role and conduct of the Voice,” he said.
Constitutional experts and the Solicitor-General have routinely stated otherwise.
Mr Morrison – an avid rugby league fan – also criticised sporting bodies and companies for interfering in the process of constitutional change.
“Such groups can represent whatever views they like, it’s a free country,” he said.
“However, while keenly interested in the NRL’s opinion on hip-drop tackles and the six-again rule, I respectfully won’t be deferring to the NRL for constitutional advice to guide my decision.”
Mr Morrison is one of more than 100 MPs who will speak this week either for or against the Voice proposal as part of the Constitutional Alteration Bill.
Mr Dutton was the first to speak on Tuesday in a speech quickly lambasted by Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney.