Joint media release with Julian Leeser MP Shadow Attorney-General and Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians
1 December 2022
Labor’s legislation to prepare for the referendum on an Indigenous Voice puts a successful referendum at risk.
Today Labor introduced the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Amendment Bill 2022. This Bill makes the extraordinary decision to abolish the requirement to provide an official booklet to all Australians outlining the case for ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ in the upcoming referendum on the Voice.
The new laws, if passed, will strip away any formal ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ campaign in the referendum on the Voice, preventing Australians from receiving official information on the referendum question and leaving the field wide open for misinformation and interference.
Labor’s removal of these protections for public debate puts at risk a successful referendum and the ability for Australians to consider the arguments in full.
Shadow Attorney-General and Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians, Julian Leeser said, “The Coalition is calling on the Government to maintain a document that outlines the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ case for the upcoming referendum.
“Why are they changing the rules for running a referendum? Why won’t there be an official booklet explaining the changes?
“This is not about whether you vote yes or no,” Mr Leeser said. “This is about ensuring the Government provides information so that Australians can make an informed choice.
“A successful referendum will only occur if the change is clearly explained, and there is transparency and detail,” Mr Leeser said.
Shadow Special Minister of State, Senator the Hon Jane Hume said that the Government had got it wrong if it wanted to ensure a successful referendum.
“The Coalition is concerned by Labor’s changes to the referendum laws. The removal of an official document outlining the cases for Australians on changing their constitution is particularly worrying,” Senator Hume said.
“We have seen misinformation play a role in elections across the world and in Australia. But this is more than just an election, this is changing Australia’s governing document - it could not be more important.
“Labor should trust the Australian people to get this decision right and the best way to do that is ensure they have official information.
“We have other concerns about how ready Labor is to proceed to a referendum without an official ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ campaign, which we will be pursuing,” Senator Hume said.
Senator Hume said that the Coalition welcomed the referral of the Bill to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, and hoped that the Government would amend the Bill through that process.