PM pummelled over ‘divisive, incompetent’ Voice vote

Looking beyond 'no' after Voice fails

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has been forced to defend his decision to push ahead with the failed Indigenous Voice referendum in a heated question time in Parliament.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said Australians were “questioning the competence” of Albanese after the weekend’s loss by the Yes campaign.

“[They know] he is clearly not across the detailed decisions that he is making, which adversely affect the lives of Australians. Economic decisions have resulted in prices going up and up, energy policy is a disaster with power prices going up and up, the $450 million referendum was against advice and resulted in our country being divided,” Dutton said on Monday.

All states have voted the Voice proposal down, with only the ACT showing a majority for ‘yes’.

Deputy opposition leader Sussan Ley continued the attack on Albanese over his “divisive and incompetently managed referendum”.

“Why did the Prime Minister … focus on inner-city events? Why did he refuse to hold a constitutional convention? Why did he make no effort to achieve bipartisanship? Why did he waste $450 million of taxpayer’s money?” she said.

But Albanese defended his decision to push ahead with the Voice vote, while saying he respected Saturday’s outcome.

“We know that referendums are hard – that is why only eight of 45 have passed. None without bipartisan support. And I certainly accept responsibility for the decisions that I have taken. This was a constitutional change asked for, requested, and imitation from
Indigenous Australians,” he said.

“Australians did not accept the constitutional change that was proposed. But no one is arguing for the status quo. No one can say that to just keep on doing the same thing is good enough for Australia.

“What has occurred in recent times is now a much greater national awareness. We need to channel that into a national purpose to find the answers.”

Earlier, Dutton had rolled back a key Coalition pledge from the referendum campaign.

Ahead of polling day, he had pledged to hold a second Indigenous referendum, if the Coalition wins the next election, to make a simple change recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the constitution.

Asked on Monday if that was still his plan, Dutton would not commit to it.

The Coalition’s policy would be reviewed by opposition Indigenous Australians spokeswoman Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Liberal senator Kerrynne Liddle, he said.

“All of our policy, as I said on Saturday night, is going to be reviewed in the process that Kerrynne and Jacinta will lead now,” he said.

“I think that’s important but I think it’s clear the Australian public is probably over the referendum process for some time.”

Nationals leader David Littleproud said “there’ll be no other referendum”, as the people had spoken.

“The Australian people are over referendums. What they want us to focus on now is the practical outcomes to fix indigenous communities where there are disadvantage,” he said on Monday.

“You’ve got to understand the mood of the nation.

“We don’t want to put the Australian people through this trauma again anytime soon.”

Among the seats to record the strongest votes in favour of the Voice were former Liberal seats now held by so-called teal independents.

In the Sydney seat of Wentworth, held by independent MP Allegra Spender, just over 62 per cent of her electorate voted in favour of the voice. In the Melbourne seat of Goldstein, now held by Zoe Daniel, the vote was nearly 56 per cent in favour.

Liberal frontbencher Paul Fletcher’s Sydney seat of Bradfield, which has been targeted by a teal candidate, was among the few seats to back the Yes case.

Ley said it was wrong to suggest teal-held seats would not come back to her party.

“This is a separate question with separate issues at stake,” she told Sky News. “We did see many Labor seats vote ‘no’ and vote ‘no’ quite strongly.”

Asked if the strong support for the Voice was a political issue for the Coalition, Littleproud said it would not resonate at the next federal election due in 2025.

“All the Prime Minister’s done in 16 months is drive up everyone’s cost of living and divide the country,” he said.

“But he’ll be answerable to the Australian people in 18 months about the cost-of-living pressures.”

Leading Yes campaigners warned Australians ahead of Saturday’s referendum it was a once-in-a-generation chance to change the constitution.

-with AAP

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