Liberals commit ‘Judas betrayal’ in opposing Voice

Peter Dutton commits to campaign against Voice

The Liberal Party has committed a “Judas betrayal” of the Australian people with its stance on the Indigenous voice, a leading architect of the Uluru statement says.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton announced on Wednesday the Liberals would back constitutional recognition for Indigenous people but would not support a voice to parliament in an amendment.

Indigenous academic and one of the Uluru statement’s architects Noel Pearson said it was a sad day for Australia that there would not be bipartisan support for such an important national effort.

“Nevertheless, I am certain that every attempt to try and kill and bury Uluru will not succeed [and] the Australian people will rise to the historic opportunity we have to achieve reconciliation at last,” he told ABC Radio National on Thursday.

“A unity ticket between Dutton, [Pauline] Hanson and [Tony] Abbott, I don’t think is going to resonate with the Australian people.

“That’s a voice of fear and prejudice and negativity compared to the Voice of hope and friendship and reconciliation that Uluru offers.”

Mr Pearson said the Liberal Party had made a “disgraceful attempt” to derail the Indigenous Voice but he remained confident the referendum would succeed.

“I couldn’t sleep last night. I was troubled by dreams and the spectre of the darkness of the Liberal Party’s Judas betrayal of our country,” he said.

“I’ve got a great belief that the Liberal Party is greatly out of step with the sentiment of the Australian people on this issue.

“The Australian Constitution actually puts the power in the people to decide this question and thank God we have the Australian people deciding this question rather than the Liberal Party.”

indigenous voice referendum

Yet Liberal MPs insist there is still an opportunity for bipartisanship on the Indigenous Voice referendum after the party revealed it would not support the current model.

Instead, the party will push for a legislated local and regional voice.

Liberal senator Simon Birmingham said there was bipartisan support for constitutional recognition.

“There can still be a means of salvaging something that can provide for the country a unifying, bipartisan moment,” he told ABC News.

“Something that is achieved without the type of risks or concerns to constitution and operation of government that have increasingly been discussed through the course of this debate.”

Unlike Mr Dutton, who confirmed he would actively support the ‘no’ campaign, Senator Birmingham would not reveal his position.

Mr Dutton said he had approached the proposal with an open mind but ultimately a lack of detail made him hesitant to support it.

He disputed claims by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese that he had been consulted on the terms of the voice.

“The Prime Minister misrepresents those meetings … I wouldn’t frame it as a genuine engagement,” he told ABC Radio.

On Thursday, Mr Albanese said Mr Dutton had been part of a government that was in power for nearly a decade but had not advanced the issues they now called for.

“We’ve waited 122 years to recognise in our constitution the privilege that we have of sharing this continent with the oldest continuous culture on Earth (and) I say to Australians: Do not miss this opportunity,” he said in Sydney.

“We need to acknowledge that with the best of intentions and goodwill, what we have done until now is not working.

“We need to consult on matters that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Mr Albanese said Mr Dutton had been driven by internal Liberal politics in his decision – and accused him of walking away from his responsibilities.

“You’ve had this pretence from Peter Dutton and then a pre-emptive announcement yesterday, because of the Aston by-election outcome, driven by the internal politics of the Liberal Party,” he said.

“This pretence of we are up for discussion, whereas everyone knows that from day one, Peter Dutton, the person who walked out on the apology to Stolen Generations … is now walking away from his responsibilities.”

Asked on Thursday if his position could ultimately put him on the wrong side of history, Mr Dutton said he was in favour of practical outcomes for Indigenous people.

“The voice has turned into … an opportunity for there to be input into every aspect of government work,” he said.

“I don’t believe that that is going to deliver the practical outcomes to Indigenous Australians that we all crave.”

The model put forward by Labor, and to be decided at a national referendum later this year, would add a new section to the constitution recognising Indigenous people and enshrine a voice.

The Uluru statement included a call for the establishment of an Indigenous voice, which it said should be enshrined in the constitution.

– with AAP

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