Anthony Albanese breaks resolution early, opens fire on Peter Dutton

The holiday political truce is over.

Peter Dutton stands accused of grandstanding and low politics as a war of words between the government and Opposition grows over this year’s referendum to recognise Indigenous Australians in the constitution, the Voice to Parliament.

After a Christmas lull in hostilities, Mr Dutton has been critical of the government’s handling of testing requirements for Chinese visitors after Beijing relaxed COVID-19 restrictions.

But on Sunday he drew return fire from the Prime Minister, who seemed irked by an interview the Opposition Leader gave to a Sydney newspaper.

Mr Dutton had said he was so concerned about a lack of public information before this year’s vote that he had written privately to the Prime Minister to warn him against a “catastrophic mistake”.

The PM suggested he had been insincere.

“People are over cheap culture war stunts,” Mr Albanese tweeted.

“I talked with Peter Dutton on Friday at the [Jane McGrath Foundation] event. He gives a letter to multiple media outlets as ‘exclusive’ on constitutional recognition and the Uluṟu Statement – a letter I still haven’t seen.”

It seemed like a rare moment of live-fire politics for Mr Albanese, who has trained his focus since his election last year less on Mr Dutton than his predecessor as Coalition leader, Scott Morrison.

The Prime Minister’s office has also made little secret of its desire to engage less often with such provocations as they slow down the pace of politics, which some say had grown unsustainably frantic in the Morrison years.

He had also promised to change the conduct of politics.

But Mr Dutton did not seem ready to help with this resolution at a press conference in Noosa on Sunday.

“You can’t just say to the Australian public as the Prime Minister is suggesting, that you vote on constitutional change on a Saturday and we’ll give the detail on a Monday,” he said.

It’s an exchange that puts the two on track for more back and forth in the year ahead.

Mr Albanese announced over Christmas that he would be fast-tracking the referendum for the Voice to Parliament and holding it this year.

The Voice has been central to Labor’s agenda but had not been scheduled until the end of the Parliament. It could now be as soon as September.


The Nationals have already announced their opposition to the Voice.

Mr Dutton, whose political brand since taking over the leadership has mostly been staked on trying to stir the public into scepticism on renewable energy, appeared to sense an opening on Sunday.

The government was deliberately starving voters of information about what their proposal to create an Indigenous advisory body for the Parliament would entail – and that, he claimed, was a risk to democracy itself.

“On the advice of some very clever political strategists, he’s going to rush the constitutional question,” he said.

“It wasn’t proposed for the back end of this year, it was proposed originally for 2024 and he’s made a conscious decision not to release the details. So the Prime Minister has to answer the question, frankly. I mean, why won’t he provide the detail?”

That echoed sentiment raised earlier this week from former Coalition PM Tony Abbott, who said future parliaments would have to work with even a faulty future advisory body because the opportunity to change Australia’s democratic architecture comes up so rarely.

Nationals MP Andrew Gee split from his party last year after leader David Littleproud announced the party would officially be opposed to the measure.

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