Canberra Liberals leader Elizabeth Lee previously said about the Voice to Parliament that every person had a right to their say on the issue – and those in her party were no different.
Now members of the ACT Opposition have started declaring their standpoints, with views falling on both sides of the vote.
Brindabella MLA Mark Parton on Wednesday (19 April) declared he would be voting ‘Yes’ on the referendum.
It’s not a decision he thought he’d actually make.
“I initially, I’m not going to lie, believed I’d probably fall as a ‘No’,” Mr Parton said.
Mr Parton is the only member of the Legislative Assembly with known Indigenous heritage.
He decided to investigate the issue further, speaking with No campaigners such as Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Warren Mundine, as well as members of his mob on Noongar country in Western Australia and David Collard (who had been involved with the Uluru Statement from the Heart).
After these conversations, Mr Parton came to a different conclusion.
“The more I spoke with [them], the more I arrived at the conclusion that this is part of the reconciliation process,” he said.
While he understood some people had issues with the Voice as they felt it didn’t go far enough for Indigenous peoples, Mr Parton felt this was one step in rectifying past wrongs.
“In my time as a parliamentarian, I’ve learned often the pursuit of perfect can be the enemy of good outcomes,” he said.
“The Voice is far from perfect, but the flaws in it aren’t sufficient enough for me to say no.
“This is personal for me.”
He said while he understood why the Federal Liberals had had to adopt a certain stance, he appreciated that his party had allowed him to make his own decision.
“I won’t be campaigning on the Voice because it’s not for me to tell anyone how to vote in this space,” Mr Parton explained.
“I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer … all you can expect is that people will genuinely examine the issues and come to their own yes or no answer.”
Current acting Canberra Liberals leader Jeremy Hanson has declared he will be voting No.
In an opinion piece penned for City News, the Murrumbidgee MLA said, on principle, he believed the Constitution shouldn’t be changed to “entrench any racially based entity”.
“I fear entrenching a separate, unelected Voice in the constitution would diminish the power of those elected members and the people they represent,” he wrote.
“I do not support something I consider to be taking Australia backwards by institutionalising racial division in our founding document.”
He said he felt the Voice debate was already creating division in the community and feared it would not achieve any real progress on Indigenous issues.
“My suspicion is that the Voice is being presented as some utopian panacea to solve the great disadvantage faced by Indigenous Australians, but will not actually progress closing the gap,” Mr Hanson said.
“A logical and less divisive way forward has been proposed by the Federal Opposition, which would provide recognition for Indigenous Australians in the Constitution and establish regional and local voices through an act in parliament. I support this approach.
“I believe we should all commit to work together to respond to our Indigenous peoples with recognition and with legislation, but not allow a race-based change to the constitution to divide us.”
The ACT Labor-Greens Government has committed to creating a community campaign for the Yes vote, with Chief Minister Andrew Barr previously declaring he wanted the ACT to achieve the highest Yes result in the country.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith reaffirmed this stance.
“The only people who are dividing Australians in relation to the Voice are those who are spreading misinformation and disinformation,” she said.
“This is about ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can have their voices heard in the policies that affect them, it is nothing more and it is nothing less.
“It is vitally important that our founding document, the Constitution, recognises the place of our First Peoples.”
The referendum vote will take place between October and December, with the question to read:
A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?
The proposed constitutional amendment is currently being considered, with a report due by 15 May.