“The legislation of the structure of the Voice won’t happen before the referendum,” he said.
“What some people are arguing for is having a debate about the consequences of a constitutional change before you have any idea of whether the constitutional change should happen or not.
“We’re appealing to the goodwill of the Australian people and as I said, the Australian character as I see it.”
Albanese said including the Voice in the Constitution meant the overriding principle would remain intact, although how it actually worked could change over time.
“The thing that enshrining in the Constitution does, it ensures that the Voice cannot be eliminated or silenced by a change of government or a change of prime minister,” he said.
“When it operates, people will wonder why we didn’t do it before. I see this similar to the apology for the stolen generations or the 1967 referendum or native title.”
Although a time has yet to be set for the referendum, there has been concern the government is pushing too quickly.
But Albanese said Indigenous Australians had already waited a long time before getting to this point.
“If you don’t try to get this change – and I recognize that it’s a risk – but if you don’t try, then you have already not succeeded. And we have waited a long period of time,” he said.
If the Coalition decides to oppose Labor’s referendum proposal, the Greens and crossbench Senator David Pocock may hold the balance the power in the Senate.
Greens First Nations spokesperson Senator Lidia Thorpe said she is seeking discussions with the government about their proposal for a Voice, aiming to gain concessions on other issues.
“I’ll be … putting urgent, critical matters for First Nations people on the table. These are things that will save people’s lives, before any referendum,” Thorpe said.
“I want the government to support our bill to back the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, implement the remaining recommendations from the Stolen Generations and Deaths in Custody Royal Commissions, and back the Greens’ plans for concrete steps towards a Treaty [with First Nations peoples].”
Cut through the noise of federal politics with news, views and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley. Subscribers can sign up to our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here.