The government has launched an incendiary attack on Opposition Leader Peter Dutton for leading a “misinformation and disinformation campaign” amid heated allegations the No campaign is peddling lies to sink next month’s referendum.
It follows a secret recording obtained by the Nine newspapers on Tuesday, showing No campaign organisers directing volunteers to use fear to dissuade voters from supporting the Voice.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese used Question Time to accuse the Coalition of colluding with the negative campaign.
“[It is] a deliberate strategy of promoting fear, fear over fact … that is what we are seeing,” he said.
“There they are, telling their campaigners to promote fear rather than hope. Promote division rather than unity. Promote the entrenching of values rather than the better future. Promote ignoring rather than listening. Promote exclusion rather than recognition.”
It followed an attack in the House by Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, who called on Dutton “the leader of the misinformation and disinformation campaign”.
“He knows that the constitutional provision is extremely clear. He knows that the legal nonsense that he has repeated for month after month has been dismissed by the former chief justice of the High Court of Australia, Robert French, by the leading constitutional lawyer, Bret Walker, who said of that sort of question that it was too silly for words,” Dreyfus said.
“That is what we have heard repeatedly from this Leader of the Opposition, who will stop at nothing in his campaign of disinformation and misinformation. What have you got to say for yourself?”
Dreyfus accused Dutton of misleading Australians “repeatedly”.
“He knows it. He has misled the people of Australia repeatedly throughout this campaign. And he should be ashamed of himself,” he said.
Dutton responded by accusing Albanese of an “unwillingness to consult” over the wording for the Voice.
He tried, and failed, to move a discussion on “the arrogant assumption that the Australian people will be ready to vote in support of the Voice when they have not been given the details of how will operate and how it will be structured and the Prime Minister’s actions dividing the country in an unprecedented and reckless way,” he said.
“The reality is that this Prime Minister has misled the Australian public.’
On Tuesday morning, Education Minister Jason Clare urged Dutton to condemn the tactics being used.
“It’s now a deliberate strategy of the No campaign to flat out lie,” Clare said.
“You fight the lie with facts, and I think that people are good and honest and fair.”
Governor-General David Hurley on Monday issued the writ compelling the Australian Electoral Commission to hold the vote on October 14.
People have seven days to enrol or update their details to vote in the poll.
Under changes made by the government, Australians can use their Medicare card or citizenship certificate to sign up or alter details.
Postal vote applications opened on Monday, and will close on October 11.
Australians will be asked to vote on constitutional recognition of Indigenous people and to enshrine a permanent advisory body called the voice.
The referendum will have the record for participation of any federal electoral event.
As of June, the national enrolment rate is estimated at 97.5 per cent.
The rate of Indigenous enrolment is 94.1 per cent, and the rate of youth enrolment is 90.3 per cent.
Special Minister of State Don Farrell said enrolment had skyrocketed leading up to the referendum due to the changes.
“The numbers don’t lie – younger Australians are ready to have a say, new Australians are ready to have a say, our First Australians are ready to have a say,” Farrell said.
“If you aren’t enrolled or need to update your details, I urge you to do it now so you can be part of a historical, unifying moment by saying ‘yes’.”
The issue of the referendum writ came as a report by the Governance Institute of Australia found one in five Australians believe the Voice is “unethical”.
Asked to rate the ethics behind an Indigenous Voice, 20 per cent of respondents said the proposal was either very unethical or unethical.
One in five people also said the Voice would be one of the three top ethical issues next year.
Indigenous affairs is seen as the second-most challenging issue to navigate, tying with euthanasia but behind immigration.