Cancel Voice ‘con job’, Peter Dutton tells PM

Voice referendum: What you need to know

Peter Dutton has launched an extraordinary attack on the Indigenous Voice, again urging Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to call off his year’s referendum “if he realises the Voice is going down”.

The Opposition Leader’s comments came after a week in which the Coalition has repeatedly demanded further detail about the Voice’s and its power.

“Frankly I think the Prime Minister’s at a point where if he realises the Voice is going down – and that’s what all of the polling is indicating at the moment – then he should make a decision that’s in our country’s best interest and say ‘look I’m going to call it off because it’s just going to divide the country down the middle, it’s not going to achieve the outcome that we’re talking about and there are other ways we can provide practical support and consideration to Indigenous Australians’,” Mr Dutton told Sydney radio 2GB on Thursday.

He said the “unintended consequences” of the Voice could be significant, claiming it could have a say in tax policy, the budget or even naming the chief of the defence force.

“They’re setting up a situation here where the Voice will be able to have an influence into every area of public administration,” Mr Dutton said.

“It goes into every area of government responsibility. It’ll grind the whole system of government to a halt and the impact will be felt by everyday Australians, whether they live in an Indigenous community, out in the suburbs, or a regional town, or in a capital city.”

He also launched a personal attack on Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney, accusing her about being clueless of the Voice’s implications.

“I’ve never seen anything like it in the last couple of decades I’ve been involved in politics. The con job that’s going on here is unbelievable,” he said.

“I can’t believe that a minister like Burney, in a very important portfolio, can just stand in the chamber, and essentially either not have clue what she’s talking about, or misrepresent what the Voice is.”

The opposition has targeted Ms Burney this week with questions about issues on which the Voice would advise parliament and executive government – including whether it would be able to abolish Australia Day.

In an impassioned speech in Question Time on Wednesday, she spoke about her experience visiting Indigenous communities “crying out” for a different way of doing things.

“I have been to communities where there are 30 people living in a two-bedroom house … where babies are drinking sweet cordial instead of water because it’s cheaper … where you can’t get in or out because of the road conditions,” she said.

“Do not tell me what I do and do not know about Aboriginal Australia, and do not tell me the proposition the prime minister has outlined is not needed in this country.”

Ms Burney said the Voice would focus on issues specific to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, or matters that affected them differently to non-Indigenous people.

“The word ‘differently’ talks about things like the 10-year gap in life expectancy, about the higher chance that our young people have of being incarcerated than of them going to university,” she said.

“The Voice will not be bothered by culture wars, it will focus on the practicable differences in terms of closing the gap.”

Ms Burney has previously told parliament the Voice would not advise on matters such as Australia Day.

Mr Albanese played down fears the Voice would be able to change laws, and said parliament would not be obligated to take up its recommendations.

“It will be a consultative body. It won’t have a right of veto over the parliament, it doesn’t change any ways in which our laws are made,” he told Sydney FM radio on Thursday morning.

“It simply will have the opportunity to have a voice on those matters that directly affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Legislation to enable the referendum for the Indigenous Voice passed the Senate on Tuesday. The vote will be held between October and December, with Mr Albanese expected to announce the exact date soon.

-with AAP

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