Conservative commentator Chris Kenny says the opportunity for real change is what prompted him to back an Indigenous voice to parliament.
Australians will be given the chance to vote on the issue under one of Labor’s election pledges to hold a referendum to implement what is one of the key principles of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
“Through this measure there can be an enduring guarantee that Indigenous Australians are consulted about laws made to impact on them. What could be fairer? What could be more just?” Mr Kenny said on ABC’s Q&A on Thursday evening.
“This is not a green left idea. It doesn’t belong to the green left or the progressive side of politics. Many people on the right of politics have been involved in this for a long while.”
Kenny was appointed as a member of the federal government’s Indigenous Voice Senior Advisory Group in 2019.
From a constitutional perspective he says the care taken in crafting the strategy also gave him assurance the changes wouldn’t lead to “judicial activism”.
NSW Liberal MP Julian Leeser considers himself a constitutional conservative and says he also didn’t want to see the changes lead to “unintended consequences”.
However, he was won over by the care taken in crafting the changes and the possibility for more effective reform.
“I do think this is practical. The whole point of having consultative advisory bodies – and that’s all they are – is to make better policy on the ground,” Mr Leeser said.
The difficult nature of passing a referendum requires it not to become split along party lines in order to attract majority support.
“We need to make sure that those people on the right of centre understand that this is not a progressive idea and it is not a symbolic idea,” Mr Kenny said.
“It’s an idea to unite the country behind measures that can actually close the gap. Something we all want.”
Liberal leader Peter Dutton said he is open to working with the government to support the voice to parliament but was waiting for Labor to provide more detail.
Constitutional lawyer Shireen Morris said the large number of Australians in favour of the issue transcended “left and right”.
“I think this is bigger than ordinary political divides and I think there’s a tonne of goodwill on the political right for this issue,” she said.
“I think the advocates in this issue have done the groundwork to do everything possible to get conservatives on side to minimise that nasty side of the debate.
“This is the only constitutional reform proposal on the table that empowers Indigenous people with a voice in their affairs on the one hand, but also upholds and protects the Constitution, protects parliamentary supremacy.”