Divisive Voice rhetoric ends with a light-hearted spray

Voice referendum: What you need to know

Source: TND

Perhaps not for the last time, Peter Dutton savoured defeat on Thursday.

Employing a favourite tactic of Tony Abbott’s, the Opposition Leader moved to suspend parliamentary business to condemn the government’s handling of the referendum on the Indigenous Voice.

The move failed, but it did give the Opposition Leader a rare extended speaking slot in the relative prime time of parliamentary question time.

“[The Voice] splits our country straight down the middle,” Mr Dutton said.

“No prime minister in good conscience would preside over such a process unless he was seeking political advantage.”

Looking up from his notes, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese returned with: “Why are you supporting it then?”

After a week of intensifying rhetoric about the proposed Indigenous advisory body, some details have been overlooked.

One is that the Opposition’s official stance on the issue is to vehemently oppose a national Voice in the Constitution, but instead pass a law establishing a series of local and regional Voices.

In response to Mr Dutton’s speech, the Prime Minister accused the Liberal leader of spreading “noise and confusion” about the referendum.

“[They are] seeking political advantage by undermining the most disadvantaged group in Australia … Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Mr Albanese said.

The vote split down party lines except for rebel Liberal MP Bridget Archer, who voted with the government.

Burney’s invitation

Mr Albanese will travel this weekend to Arnhem Land and the Garma Festival, where last year he unveiled the wording of the referendum question to be put to voters in the final months of this year.

Mr Dutton declined an invitation to join him.

“I’m not going up there to pretend I’m somebody that I’m not,” he told Sydney shock jock Ray Hadley.

Deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley has also been on the front foot this week, questioning the government’s plans to create a truth and reconciliation commission.

“Exactly what will it do?” Ms Ley asked.

The referendum question contains no reference to the subject of her inquiry, a body called the Makarrata Commission.

But truth and reconciliation tribunals have been run successfully in countries like Ireland, South Africa and Canada.

Ms Ley was on a parliamentary committee that in 2018 recommended establishing a truth-telling, or Makarrata Commission. 

On her feet to respond to another similar question from Ms Ley on Thursday, the Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney suggested she join the Prime Minister at Garma.

“Not only am I inviting the deputy leader to come to Garma, I will even make sure that there is some bug spray available,” she said.

Even Barnaby Joyce cracked up at that.

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