Leaked memo urges Victorian Bar members to back Indigenous voice parliament

The memo cited the organisation's support of same-sex marriage as precedent

Leaked memo urges Victorian Bar members to back Indigenous voice parliament

A leaked memo is urging Victorian Bar members to back Indigenous voice parliament, reported The Australian.

The Bar’s left-wing faction put together a 20-page memorandum that cited the organisation’s support of same-sex marriage in 2015, when James Peters QC (who was Bar president at the time) came out with a press release championing same-sex marriage as the Marriage Act was being considered for amendment.

The memorandum indicated that based on this precedent, the Bar had a responsibility to make its voice heard on matters involving changes to the constitution. It was sent to the Bar’s 2,200 members, and received signoff from Peter Hanks KC and Rachel Doyle SC.

“In commenting on the constitutional change contemplated by the Voice, the Bar would be doing no more than fulfilling a clear community expectation that we use our legal expertise, independence and courage to inform the public debate; that is in the finest traditions of our Bar”, the memorandum’s authors wrote as published in The Australian.

However, another two-page memorandum from the right-wing faction posited that publicising an opinion regarding the voice would impact the Bar’s independence as the move would be viewed as the organisation getting involved in the referendum’s politics. Political endorsement would hurt the Bar internally, the memorandum warned.

The memorandums were released to members as the Victorian Bar prepares to conduct a poll on whether the body should back the voice. The issue created enough of a divide in the organisation that the Bar Council ultimately opted to have members make the call.

The poll will present the following options to members:

Do you:

i) support a motion that The Victorian Bar Incorporated does not publicly support either the “yes” case of the “no” case in any referendum to alter the Australian Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice;

ii) support a motion that The Victorian Bar Incorporated supports Constitutional recognition of Australia’s First People. The Victorian Bar Incorporated considers that the amendment proposed by the Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution is sound, appropriate, and compatible with Australia’s system of representative and responsible Government which would be enhanced by the addition of the Voice; or

iii) choose to abstain from submitting a vote in respect of the above motions.

The polling window lasts from 31 May to 8 June. The results will be revealed on 9 June.

Recent articles & video

W+K adopts gen-AI tool designed for Australian legal market

HSF, Maddocks confirm roles in $2.3bn PSC Insurance acquisition

Hunt & Hunt announces support for St Kilda Film Festival

G+T helps banks secure ACCC authorisation for mortgage aggregator assurance program

Data Zoo taps KWM for support on Ellerston Capital investment

Allens assists QIC on minerals fund's initial investments

Most Read Articles

High Court affirms right to reliance damages in landmark breach of contract case

KKR snaps up Perpetual businesses in $2bn deal with G+T's help

Clifford Chance recruits partners from Shearman & Sterling, White & Case as it expands US presence

ASX lister raises $121m with Lander & Rogers' help