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“The more you look, the less there is to see”: former High Court judge Kenneth Hayne dissects and dismisses fearmongering around the First Nations Voice

Native Title & Public Interest Law
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Addressing a panel discussion, hosted by senior partner Mark Leibler and public interest partner Peter Seidel at Arnold Bloch Leibler last Friday, Ken Hayne demolished the suggestion made by some commentators that, if the constitutional amendment released by the Prime Minister at Garma in August is made, litigation will “derail the intended effect of the amendment or may derail the ordinary workings of parliament and the executive”.

“I do not share these fears,” Mr Hayne told an audience of around 100 of the firm’s clients, colleagues and friends. “I think they are baseless.”

Mr Hayne was speaking alongside the government’s Special Envoy, Senator Patrick Dodson, who was representing the Prime Minister at the event, lawyer Teela Reid and Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg, who joined the panel from Canberra via Zoom.

In his opening remarks, senior partner Mark Leibler said it was clear how timely it was to hear from the four special guest speakers, “each of whom has accepted my invitation to speak boldly and frankly, in a bid to shift the dial towards a successful referendum.”

As reported in the Australian Financial Review, Senator Dodson said he was aware the risk of a ‘no vote’ was high given that only eight of 44 referendums have succeeded. A ‘no vote’ would be “awful” he said, but would not shut down the overall process of reconciliation.

“If there were to be an adverse result in the referendum, then the government will need to consider that. But it doesn’t diminish the need for a Voice to the parliament because the principle still stands. The parliament needs to take account of what First Nations people think,” he said.

Teela Reid said that while there is always risk in approaching anything like this, "the greater risk is not giving this a shot. The status quo is so dangerous for us right now, something has to change."

As reported in The Australian, Senator Bragg said that the reform was “very legitimately a liberal or conservative notion”.

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“I believe that if you are going to make special laws for people as we do for Indigenous people in Australia, we should be giving people a say on how those special laws and how those policies are deployed. And I think to be doing otherwise is to be running a very illiberal system.”  

To read Kenneth Hayne’s speech, which was published in today’s edition of The Australian, click here.

To read news coverage of the event in The Australian, click here.

To read coverage in the AFR, click here.

To read coverage in the AGE/SMH, click here.

To read Mark Leibler’s opening remarks, click here.

Watch the event summary video here.

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