However, unlike the House of Representatives or the Senate, it would not have the power to make or change laws. The precise structure of the proposed “Voice” has not been set out.
Several senior politicians including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, and former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull have rejected the proposal on the grounds that it would create a “third chamber” of Parliament that would be unacceptable to voters. The Turnbull cabinet formally rejected the recommendation in October 2017.
On Thursday, Mr Joyce apologised for characterising the Voice to Parliament as a third chamber while he was deputy prime minister, saying he had been corrected by the experts.
“I’ve now been reliably told that it’s not a third chamber. If it’s not a third chamber, I was wrong,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
“If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. I was wrong on the banking inquiry and I’m wrong on the third chamber.”
Mr Joyce first offered the mea culpa in an interview with the ABC’s Patricia Karvelas on Thursday.
However, he stopped short of endorsing an Indigenous voice to Parliament on the basis a referendum may not pass and its failure would be “a very bad day for Australia” and “vastly more unsettling” than the 1999 republic referendum loss.
“The one thing I’m right about is you don’t want to fail at a referendum,” Mr Joyce told the Herald and The Age.
Mr Joyce said his preference was to radically redesign the Senate to divide each state into six regions, which would each have two senators. He said this would boost the representation of the regions and, by consequence, Indigenous Australians.
He argued the change could be made by legislation – rather than requiring a referendum – because the Constitution says the Senate is structured the way it is “until the Parliament otherwise provides”.
Mr Joyce said his parliamentary colleagues should “put their conceits aside, forget that I came up with this idea and just make it their own and go forward with it”.
He said he would step up his case for the change and put forward a private member’s bill.
Asked if Mr Morrison should also concede he was wrong to call the Voice a “third chamber”, Mr Joyce said: “I’m not going to speak for the PM, I’ll let the PM speak for himself.”
Mr Joyce has discussed the issue of Indigenous representation with businessman Warren Mundine, and plans to meet with celebrated Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson next weekend.
Michael Koziol is a political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.