Indigenous Voice to Parliament in South Australia in disarray

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Indigenous Voice to Parliament in South Australia in disarray

Australia's first - and lesser known - Voice to Parliament has been put on hold over fears it will confuse voters ahead of the referendum on the natio

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Australia’s first – and lesser known – Voice to Parliament has been put on hold over fears it will confuse voters ahead of the referendum on the national Voice proposal.

South Australia had planned to elect representatives to the state’s own inaugural Voice in September, but that has now been put back six months.

The election campaigns were set to overlap with the wider debate on the referendum to change the country’s constitution. 

The decision comes as support for the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese‘s national Voice slides, with latest polling showing the majority of Australians are now against it.

Australia's first - and lesser known - Voice to Parliament has been put on hold over fears it will confuse voters ahead of the referendum on the national Voice proposal

Australia's first - and lesser known - Voice to Parliament has been put on hold over fears it will confuse voters ahead of the referendum on the national Voice proposal

Australia’s first – and lesser known – Voice to Parliament has been put on hold over fears it will confuse voters ahead of the referendum on the national Voice proposal

South Australian Labor Premier Peter Malinauskas (pictured) had hoped to have the new body operating by the end of the year, but that has now been moved back to mid-2024

South Australian Labor Premier Peter Malinauskas (pictured) had hoped to have the new body operating by the end of the year, but that has now been moved back to mid-2024

South Australian Labor Premier Peter Malinauskas (pictured) had hoped to have the new body operating by the end of the year, but that has now been moved back to mid-2024

South Australian Labor Premier Peter Malinauskas had hoped to have his state’s new body operating by the end of the year, but that has now been moved back to mid-2024.

He had previously brushed off concerns about the coincidental timing and had claimed it would strengthen the case in favour of the Yes vote in the referendum.

But in an embarrassing U-turn for the Premier, South Australia has now put the plans on ice, ahead of a predicted referendum vote on October 14.

The state government said revising the timing to March will also allow more time for people to enrol to vote and to consider nominating for a position.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Kyam Maher said work being done in SA was being overshadowed by the national debate over the Yes and No referendum campaigns.

Both the electoral commissioner and the commissioner for First Nations Voice said the referendum was causing confusion about the state voice.

‘We have done so much work to support the South Australian voice and it will be proceeding regardless of the outcome of the referendum,’ Mr Maher said.

‘By allowing for more time, we’re giving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in South Australia the opportunity to fully understand how they can get involved and take the time to campaign, with distance from the discussion about the national voice.’

Under the new schedule, nominations for those wishing to stand for election in SA will open on January 22 and close on February 12.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders wishing to vote in the voice elections must enrol by February 12.

Early voting will open on March 4 and continue to March 16, with polling on March 16.

The decision comes as support for the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's national Voice slides, with the latest polls showing the majority of Australians are now against it (pictured, the PM with NSW Premier Chris Minns)

The decision comes as support for the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's national Voice slides, with the latest polls showing the majority of Australians are now against it (pictured, the PM with NSW Premier Chris Minns)

The decision comes as support for the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s national Voice slides, with the latest polls showing the majority of Australians are now against it (pictured, the PM with NSW Premier Chris Minns)

The SA process, established after historic legislation passed parliament in March, provides for six regions across the state.

Five of those will elect seven members, with the central region including Adelaide to have 11, reflecting the higher Indigenous population.

Two members from each region will then be chosen to make up the smaller group, which will speak directly to the SA parliament.

Commissioner for First Nations Voice Dale Agius said local communities had expressed a need for more time to get involved amid concerns the national referendum was making that increasingly challenging.

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