Liberal MP rubbishes Dutton over ‘divisive’ Voice

Bridget Archer has hit back at claims by Opposition Leader Peter Dutton that the Indigenous Voice will divide Australians.

Bridget Archer has hit back at claims by Opposition Leader Peter Dutton that the Indigenous Voice will divide Australians. Photo: AAP

Liberal backbencher Bridget Archer has delivered a fiery speech in support of the Indigenous Voice, and in defiance of party leader Peter Dutton, who says it will divide Australia by race.

Hours after Mr Dutton was accused of spreading misinformation about the Indigenous voice, as talks on the proposal continue, Ms Archer delivered her own speech in the House of Representatives on Monday.

“We need the national Voice to help the state transition to a treaty and truth-telling process as quickly as possible,” the Tasmanian MP said.

She said the Voice was needed at state and national level, as she also read out contributions from Indigenous members of her community in Tasmania.

“We cannot continue to do the things we have always done. The communities want more than constitutional recognition. They call for positive solutions that will improve the lives of our people,” Ms Archer said.

Ms Archer has previously said she has considered quitting the Liberal Party over its opposition to the Indigenous voice. She has committed to campaigning for a “yes” vote, and has so far been the Liberals’ most vocal supporter of this year’s referendum.

“No, the voice won’t have veto power or act as a third chamber … To claim otherwise is a deliberate and harmful misrepresentation of the facts, and I’m disappointed to have seen this wilfully perpetuated by some,” she said on Monday.

“Nor does the argument that this referendum is dividing the country by race make sense.”

She flagged her intention to support the Voice, arguing it would be more than just a symbolic body.

“This referendum provides an incredible chance to begin writing so many wrongs and to bring about tangible differences in quality of life outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” she said.

“Most Australians agree that the status quo isn’t acceptable and that as a country, we must do better. Here’s our chance.”

Ms Archer’s speech came as MPs debate the legislation for the Voice. Parliament will decide on the wording of the question to be put to the public at the referendum, along with proposed changes to the constitution itself, should the referendum succeed.

Australians will go to the polls at the referendum at some point between October and December this year.

indigenous voice referendum

On Monday, Mr Dutton said the Voice to parliament would take Australia backwards, labelling it a reckless roll of the dice and an “overcorrection”.

“It will have an Orwellian effect where all Australians are equal, but some Australians are more equal than others,” he said.

“This referendum on the Voice will undermine our quality of citizenship. It’s an overcorrection.”

Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney characterised Mr Dutton as spreading misinformation.

“This is not a decision or a plaything of politicians. It is a decision of the Australian people,” she said.

“We have just heard, in [Mr Dutton’s] speech, every bit of disinformation and misinformation and scare campaigns that exist in this debate.”

Debate on the voice in parliament follows the release of a parliamentary committee report on the bill, which recommended it pass without changes.

The lower house is not expected to vote on the Voice bill until next week, when debate will then move to the Senate.

The government hopes the bill will be able to pass parliament by June, putting into effect the timeline for the referendum to be held.

The Liberals support constitutional recognition for Indigenous people but in the form of a legislated body for regional voices, rather than a national entity.

-with AAP

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