PM says Liberal calls to delay referendum are absurd

Anthony Albanese says Labor has delivered a responsible budget which looks after people.

Anthony Albanese says Labor has delivered a responsible budget which looks after people. Photo: AAP

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says calls from the Liberal Party to delay a referendum on an Indigenous voice are absurd.

Mr Albanese is seeking bipartisan support for the proposal, with the Liberals yet to reveal their final position.

“This is a nation-building effort and I call upon everyone to support it,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“This is not controversial and should not be an issue of partisan politics. It’s a modest proposal.”

In an address to the National Press Club this week, shadow attorney-general Julian Leeser questioned the timing of the proposal and urged the Albanese government to delay the referendum.

But Mr Albanese said the opposition was trying to undermine support for a ‘yes’ vote.

“The idea that the impediment (for their support) is timing is just absurd,” he said.

“The idea that you can simply ignore or dismiss the views of the referendum working group in my view contradicts the very concept of a voice which is about listening.”

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton summoned Liberal MPs and senators to a party room meeting in Canberra on Wednesday to discuss the Indigenous voice proposal.

Meanwhile, former Morrison government minister Ken Wyatt issued a warning to his ex-colleagues ahead of the meeting.

Mr Wyatt, the first Indigenous Australian elected to the House of Representatives, said a decision not to support the voice could come back to bite the Liberal Party.

“Parties that are out of touch will pay the consequence in the future,” he told ABC Radio National on Wednesday.

Deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley said a bipartisan voice process had gone “off the rails” because the prime minister had been unwilling to answer the opposition’s questions.

But Mr Wyatt, a member of the government’s referendum working group providing advice on the voice, said Ms Ley was incorrect.

“This is not all new work, it’s been a culmination from (former) prime minister John Howard, Julia Gillard and subsequent prime ministers,” he said.

“We’ve had this continuity and there have been numerous reports.

“People who argue contrary to that shows they did not give scant attention to even the executive summary of those reports.”

Some elected Liberals have called for a conscience vote on the matter, with NSW senator Andrew Bragg and Victoria’s Jason Wood saying that was in line with party tradition.

Referendum working group member Thomas Mayo urged the Liberals to support a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous voice, something which was long overdue.

“There’s nothing to lose for Australia and everything to gain,” he told Sky News.

“I say to the Liberal Party: reach into your hearts, think about what this (referendum) is for Australia, which is truly unifying.”

Meanwhile, a Newspoll conducted for The Australian and reported on Tuesday night showed 54 per cent of all voters support constitutional recognition and and the voice to parliament, with 38 per cent opposed.

The poll signalled the likelihood that a referendum would meet the critical double majority test to succeed if one were held today.

Liberal senator Hollie Hughes said the only poll which counted was the one on the day of the referendum, due to be held between October and December.

But Mr Mayo said the early polling indicated the sentiment of the Australian people was with the referendum working group and the ‘yes’ campaign.

“(Australians) have walked with us for a long time now … to see these results tells us that we can succeed when the referendum is held,” he said.


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