The Voice Referendum: What Small Businesses Need to Know in Australia

February 20, 2024
minutes to read
Michael Nuciforo
Table of Contents

The upcoming Voice referendum is a significant event that's been making headlines in Australia. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has referred to it as a 'historic opportunity' for the Australian people to decide on an important matter that won't just impact our Constitution but also have far-reaching consequences. As a small business owner, it's essential to understand what this referendum is about and what changes it might bring to the Constitution. In this blog, we will explore the critical aspects of the Voice referendum, including what it is, the proposed changes to the Constitution, when it will take place, and most importantly, what it means for small business owners.

What is the Voice Referendum? 

The Voice referendum aims to enshrine a permanent Indigenous Voice to parliament in the Australian Constitution. This means establishing a federal advisory body to recognise and represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people while also consulting with the government. The key word here is "advisory." The Voice would assist Indigenous Australians in informing the parliament and government about matters that directly affect them, such as those related to native title, employment, or housing. However, it's important to note that the Voice would not have the authority to launch court challenges or invalidate laws. 

How Will the Voice Work? 

The Voice will be advisory, giving guidance and input to the parliament and government on Indigenous matters. It will not compel the government to follow its advice or consult it before making decisions. Instead, a parliamentary committee will consider the advice and recommendations of the Voice before making decisions. This ensures that the Voice serves as a valuable resource for Indigenous Australians while respecting the existing powers of the parliament.

Structure of the Voice 

The proposed structure of the Voice suggests that it will consist of 24 members, ensuring gender balance. There will be two members from each state and territory, including the Torres Strait, and five representatives from remote areas across the nation. One representative will also be designated for Torres Strait Islanders living on the mainland. Members will serve four-year terms, with a limit of two consecutive terms. Half the membership will be decided every two years, and the other members will choose two co-chairs of different genders. 

What is the Exact Wording of the Referendum? 

On polling day, Australians will be asked a simple question: "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?" If the majority of voters support this proposal, the Constitution will be altered to include the following: 

  • There shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice; 
  • The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to the parliament and the executive government of the Commonwealth on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; 
  • The parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have the power to make laws with respect to matters relating to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, including its composition, functions, powers, and procedures. 

Requirements for Referendum Success 

For the referendum to pass successfully, it must achieve a double majority vote. This means that a majority of voters in at least four of the six states, as well as a national majority of voters (more than 50 per cent), must vote in favour of the proposal. It's important to note that a successful referendum can only change the Constitution regarding the specific question the Australian people voted on. Any future changes to the Constitution would require a separate referendum.

What the Voice Referendum Means for Small Businesses 

Small business owners play a vital role in Australia's economy, and they may wonder how the Voice referendum affects them. While the referendum primarily deals with Indigenous representation and constitutional changes, there are indirect implications for small businesses: 

  • Social Responsibility and Indigenous Engagement: As the Voice referendum aims to empower Indigenous communities and address their concerns, it may lead to increased corporate social responsibility initiatives. Small businesses that engage with Indigenous communities and support their causes can enhance their reputation and connect with socially conscious consumers. 
  • Potential Policy Changes: The Voice's advisory role in employment and housing can indirectly impact small businesses. Policy changes influenced by the Voice may lead to new regulations or incentives that affect hiring practices or housing availability. Staying informed about these changes is crucial for small business compliance. 
  • Broader Economic Impact: A more inclusive and representative government can improve economic conditions for all Australians, including small business owners. If Indigenous communities experience economic growth and development, it can create new opportunities for small businesses to expand their customer base or collaborate with Indigenous entrepreneurs. 
  • Reconciliation and Collaboration: The Voice referendum is part of a broader reconciliation effort. Small businesses can contribute to this initiative by supporting Indigenous-owned suppliers, artists, and enterprises. Collaborative ventures with Indigenous businesses can foster a sense of unity and promote Indigenous culture and products. 
  • Community Engagement: Small enterprises often have strong ties to their local communities. Engaging with Indigenous communities and participating in reconciliation events and initiatives can enhance your business's community standing and build valuable relationships. 

Final Thoughts

The Voice referendum is a significant event in Australian history that holds the potential to bring about lasting changes to our Constitution and the representation of Indigenous Australians. While its direct impact on small businesses may be indirect, small business owners need to stay informed about the referendum's potential implications. Small businesses can be part of a more inclusive and prosperous Australia by embracing social responsibility, understanding possible policy changes, and engaging with Indigenous communities. As 14 October approaches, it's crucial to understand the referendum's implications and participate in this historic decision that will shape the future of our nation. Stay engaged, stay informed, and make your Voice heard.

DISCLAIMER: Team Thrive Pty Ltd ABN 15 637 676 496 (Thriday) is an authorised representative (No.1297601) of Regional Australia Bank ABN 21 087 650 360  AFSL 241167 (Regional Australia Bank).  Regional Australia Bank is the issuer of the transaction account and debit card available through Thriday. Any information provided by Thriday is general in nature and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether Thriday is appropriate for you.

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