The Voice to Parliament, apartheid and Cory Bernardi

8 MAY 2023

The Voice to Parliament, apartheid and Cory Bernardi

Claims made by a SKY TV host likening the proposed Voice to Parliament to apartheid have been challenged by a Charles Sturt University constitutional law expert.

Dr Bede Harris (pictured, inset) is a Senior Lecturer and Law Discipline Head in the Charles Sturt School of Business in the Faculty of Business, Justice and Behavioural Sciences.

Dr Harris, who studied in South Africa and began his academic career there during the apartheid era, refutes the claims made by SKY TV host Mr Cory Bernardi regarding ‘apartheid and the proposed Indigenous Voice to Parliament’.

Mr Bernardi, a former Liberal senator, said that if the Voice became part of the Constitution “… we’re effectively announcing an apartheid-type state”.

“This statement reveals not only ignorance about what apartheid was but also about what the constitutional effect of the Voice would be,” Dr Harris said.

Dr Harris cautioned that voters were being subjected to erroneous claims about the Voice.

“Whether you vote Yes or No in the coming referendum, your choice deserves respect, but let that choice be made in full understanding of what the Voice is - and is not.”

Dr Harris said that Mr Bernardi appeared not to understand the most basic facts about apartheid.

“Apartheid restricted where people could live, required separate access to public facilities, deprived people of the right to elect members of parliament and prohibited people of different races from marrying. How the Voice could be described as creating such a system is unfathomable,” he said.

Dr Harris also said that to follow the logic of Mr Bernardi’s statement would mean saying that Norway, Sweden and Finland, each of which has an advisory body elected by the indigenous Sámi people, had systems of government based on apartheid. 

“Most bizarrely, it would also mean saying that South Africa itself has an apartheid government, as its constitution contains a body called the National House of Traditional Leaders which advises the government,” said Dr Harris.

Dr Harris said that it would be important during the run-up to the Voice referendum to have public debates chaired by people who could advise on the accuracy of competing claims, to refute misinformation of the type propagated by Mr Bernardi.

Media Note:

To arrange interviews with Dr Bede Harris contact Bruce Andrews at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0418 669 362 or

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