More Than Enough Detail Provided on Voice: Albanese

Australian Associated Press is an Australian news agency.
March 24, 2023Updated: March 24, 2023

Anthony Albanese says there is more than enough detail on the Indigenous voice to parliament for the public to make up their mind on the proposal.

Following the release of the question Australians will vote on at the referendum later this year, the prime minister hit back at opposition claims key advice on the voice was being withheld.

He challenged Opposition Leader Peter Dutton to declare his stance on the voice to parliament, warning the request for detail was a well-worn tactic.

“We know from the republic playbook that occurred last century that it is nothing more than a tactic, and it lacks genuineness to just continue to say, ‘We don’t have the detail’,” Albanese told reporters in Melbourne on Friday.

“No matter how much detail is put out, Peter Dutton will say, ‘What about more detail’. That’s the game that’s being played here, and he should make a decision of where he stands on the issue.”

The prime minister said he had met with the opposition leader seven times on the voice, and those concerns were not aired by Mr Dutton during the meetings.

Dutton has urged the government to release legal advice from the solicitor-general on the implications of the voice.

A key concern has been that decisions might be delayed or taken to the High Court because representations by the voice must be considered by government decision-makers before they can validly make a decision.

Shadow attorney-general Julian Leeser said the prime minister was being disingenuous about the opposition leader’s approach.

“Peter Dutton has approached this issue in good faith right from the very start. He said he came to this with an open mind,” Leeser told Sky News.

“I am sad that it’s gotten to this point, I would have liked to have seen the prime minister engage with the reasonable questions that Australians have been asking Peter and myself.”

Leeser said Australians needed to see the legal advice on the voice before a vote was held on the proposal.

Albanese was confident the wording of the constitutional changes was watertight.

“This hasn’t arisen in a vacuum. There’s been all of this work done by the advisory group to the referendum working group. It’s very clear that this is a straightforward proposition,” he said.

He said leadership was about enlarging the country, not “shrinking into old politics”.

Laws setting out the referendum will be introduced to the federal parliament next week, with the vote to take place between October and December.

Deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley said the announcement of the referendum question was an “emotional day”, but more detail on the proposal was needed.

“You don’t get a blank cheque to change the constitution.”

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has warned of significant consequences for the future of reconciliation should the referendum fail.

“It would be a very long time before we returned to any question of recognition. I think it would be a tremendous setback for relations with our First Peoples,” he told ABC Radio on Friday.

Nationals MP Keith Pitt, who says he will vote no at the referendum, said all members of parliament and senators were there to make representations on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, noting 11 parliamentarians were Indigenous Australians.

Pitt said changing the constitution to mean Australians “won’t be treated equally” is not something he could support.