Nationals MP quits party over Indigenous voice

Federal Nationals MP Andrew Gee is quitting the party and will sit as an independent in parliament.

Federal Nationals MP Andrew Gee is quitting the party and will sit as an independent in parliament. Photo: AAP

Nationals MP Andrew Gee has quit the party and will sit in federal parliament as an independent amid a widening split over the the Indigenous voice.

Mr Gee, a former cabinet minister who represents the NSW seat of Calare, said he was leaving the junior Coalition party following its decision to oppose the Indigenous voice to parliament.

“I can’t reconcile the fact that every Australian will get a free vote on the vitally important issue of the Voice, yet National Party MPs are expected to fall into line behind a party position that I fundamentally disagree with, and vote accordingly in parliament,” he said in a statement on Facebook on Friday.

“While I respect the views of my colleagues, this just isn’t right. I didn’t bring on the debate within the Nationals over the Voice or the press conference that followed.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described Mr Gee’s decision as “extraordinary” but said he respected it, and would work alongside the new crossbencher to promote the yes vote for the voice.

“This is quite an extraordinary political development with Andrew Gee making the decision to leave the National Party and to become an independent in the federal parliament,” he said in Sydney.

“Andrew Gee has made a principled statement about his commitment to constitutional recognition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, but also for a constitutionally recognised voice to parliament.”

Late in November, the federal Nationals declared they would not back a proposal to enshrine an Indigenous voice to parliament at a national referendum due to be held in 2023/24.

The junior coalition partner described the voice to parliament, which is set to go to a referendum in the second half of 2023, as divisive and the body would do little to improve the lives of Indigenous people.

Mr Gee said recent flooding in NSW, which brought devastation to rural areas, had also “brought home” the importance of speaking up.

“Now more than ever the communities of our region need their MP in their corner advocating for that support, no matter the political stripe of the state or federal government,” he said.

“While I accept that in politics compromises have to be made, there comes a point where not speaking out freely can compromise the interests of those we represent.”

Mr Gee said it would be “absurd” for him to be expected to change his stance on the Indigenous voice. He said the decision had been difficult, but he would be now able to serve his electorate “free from party constraints”.

“I wish David Littleproud as leader of the Nationals well. He’s a good man and he has my respect. This issue unfortunately runs deeper than the role of just one person,” he said.

“I will continue the vitally important work of securing the bright future of our region.”

Mr Littleproud said he was disappointed by Mr Gee’s decision, but accepted it. He said Mr Gee had always been free to make his own decision and vote accordingly on the Indigenous Voice.

“While the Federal Nationals remain united in our decision to oppose the Voice to Parliament, I have stated from the beginning that one of the great things about our party room is the ability to have different opinions and speak and vote freely on issues that matter to individual members and nothing has changed,” Mr Littleproud said.

“We will continue to work hard for western NSW and find a candidate who will best represent them at the next federal election.”

Mr Gee was elected to the seat of Calare in 2016, after previously serving in NSW parliament.

-with AAP

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