13 April 2023

Dutton says no to Indigenous Voice

| Chris Johnson
Peter Dutton

Peter Dutton announcing that the Liberal Party would formally oppose the Voice to Parliament. Photo: Screenshot.

It’s official – the Liberal Party will oppose the Indigenous Voice to Parliament when Australians vote on the issue in this year’s referendum.

The referendum is now firmly a politically charged issue set to divide Australians even further as the vote draws closer.

Late Wednesday afternoon (5 April), Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton announced his party’s decision to deny First Nations Australians a voice in the Federal Parliament.

He said the party had overwhelmingly rejected Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s model.

But he said his team supported constitutional recognition and more localised representative bodies for Indigenous Australians.

“The Liberal Party resolved today to say yes to constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians, yes to a local and regional body so we can get practical outcomes for Indigenous people on the ground,” Mr Dutton said.

“But there was a resounding no to the Prime Minister’s Canberra Voice.”

The Opposition Leader said having a voice in Canberra was not going to resolve problems for Indigenous Australians, adding that it was Mr Albanese’s insistence on the government’s model and the question being put to the people that was divisive.

“It should be very clear to Australians by now that the prime minister is dividing the country and the Liberal Party seeks to unite the country,” Mr Dutton said.

“We went to the last election with local and regional voices. That is essentially the policy we continue with. It has been well worked through.”

“We want to make sure we can get the best possible outcomes for Indigenous Australians, and we do that through recognising Indigenous Australians in the Constitution … Having a Canberra Voice won’t resolve the issues on the ground for Indigenous communities.”

READ ALSO Voice referendum question revealed by tearful PM

While the decision is binding on Mr Dutton’s front bench, Coalition backbenchers will be free to advocate a yes vote, which some are set to do.

In formally opposing the Voice, Mr Dutton is effectively placing his leadership on the line, but it also weakened the chance of the referendum getting up.

He would not be drawn on whether he would resign if the referendum succeeds.

The Prime Minister announced the proposed question on 23 March following the unanimous passage in the Senate of the machinery bill stipulating how the referendum will work.

The question will read:

A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?

Australians will vote to amend the Constitution to include a new chapter titled Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

The provisions Australians will be voting to approve are:

  • There shall be a body to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice
  • The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to the Parliament and the Executive Government of the Commonwealth on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; and
  • The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to matters relating to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, including its composition, functions, powers and procedures.

Mr Dutton will tell Australians to vote no, saying it was not in the country’s best interest.

READ ALSO Public servants can have their own say on Voice, but they must remember who they are

“I have spent literally months, like many Australians, trying to understand what it is the Prime Minister is proposing,” he said.

“We cannot get the basic detail out of them.

“The fear with the Voice is it changes our system of government forever and we end up with no practical benefit to people in Indigenous communities.

“The Prime Minister has so far changed the wording to be put to the Australian people on three occasions. The latest version was against the advice of the Solicitor-General and the Attorney-General. It’s clear he’s not going to change the wording of that proposal.”

Mr Albanese earlier declared that Mr Dutton sought to undermine the yes vote with “every utterance”.

“I wish that wasn’t the case,” the Prime Minister said.

Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney responded to the Opposition Leader’s announcement by saying his decision was made with a focus on internal the Liberal party politics.

“Mr Dutton’s criticism is predictable,” she said.

“Despite his obsession with the Prime Minister, this is not about politics.”

Mr Burney also reminded everyone that Mr Dutton had boycotted the 2008 apology to the stolen generations.

“In 2008, Kevin Rudd apologised alongside Anthony Albanese and almost all other members,” she said.

“Mr Dutton boycotted that apology. I hope he doesn’t repeat the mistakes of his past.”

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People can ‘self identify’ as anything they want in this day and age (can choose their own gender, race, nationality), so mentioning any ‘race’ or a racial group in an important legal document like the Australian Constitution is not a good idea.

What don’t you understand about “In recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia …”? You seem to be caught up with the colour of their skin. It’s irrelevant. It’s about their unchallenged position in Australian history as the first inhabitants of the land. Can’t you even acknowledge that?

Are you referring to “We lead and influence change across government to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a say in the decisions that affect them.”? Noting that this role relates to NIAA’s interaction with government.
The proposed wording references both the Executive Government and Parliament. I don’t know of any public service agency which is empowered to make representations direct to the Parliament. Do you?

According to their website, The National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) works in genuine partnership to enable the self-determination and aspirations of First Nations communities. We lead and influence change across government to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a say in the decisions that affect them. As such, what is the need for a voice?

Perhaps because the NIAA is a public service agency which answers directly to the MInister & Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians.

Bob the impala7:15 pm 08 Apr 23

Ever thought of asking the people who proposed it, or read their proposal?

Capital Retro10:19 pm 08 Apr 23

It’s like “public transport” in Canberra. We had a great bus service but it was replaced by a not needed and inferior service tram “network” costing billions more and taking more rent-seekers along for the ride.

@Capital Retro
Yeah, CR, nice attempt at … well I have no idea at what you are attempting with your totally irrelevant “analogy” (and with regard to that comment I definitely use the term loosely)
But OK, if you want to present the case to Canberrans – “if you don’t like the tram vote No in the referendum”, go for it.

Capital Retro8:06 am 10 Apr 23

I concede it was a bit deep for you – next time I’ll be more simplistic.

And? The last sentence of the NINA’S purpose pretty much covers the voice and at no extra cost.

@Capital Retro
Yes – perhaps it was deep and meaningless, CR. You could always start with relevance, before you worry about simplicity.

The Australian Constitution is meant to be a permanent important legal document to rely upon and last for future generations. It’s wrong to add race into it; specifically based solely on racial identity (subjective)

The power of the ruler of the second peoples to permanently settle in Australia is embedded in Chapter 1 of the Constitution.
So it’s ok to have an entity specifically based on racial identity -i.e. the BRITISH monarch, permanently in this important legal document but not the original (indigenous) permanent settlers?

Bob the impala7:16 pm 08 Apr 23

Not big on reading the Constitution, are you jorie1.

What race is “British”?

JS what language is the Constitution written in? Of course the British Monarch needs to be enshrined in the constitution as they invented the language spoken in Australia. If the indigenous settlers want to be enshrined in a legal document they can write their own and create their own system of government, not insert themselves in something established only 200 years ago!

@Sam Oak
Heaven forbid that Australia should ever become a republic and remove references to the British Monarch in the Constitution. The sky will definitely fall then, Sam, won’t it? Nevertheless keep pushing to preserve the ‘purity’ of the Constitution.

Ascendancy to the “British” monarchy is based on blood lines is it not? Isn’t race determined by blood lines?

This is not about discrimination based on race, but on heritage and inheritance, based on who was here first, who was dispossessed of their land with no compensation. As a result, they have lost what they had and been pushed aside ever since, as if they were an irrelevant minority without the right to be heard. We all have an obligation to ensure they’re treated better, we have all benefited from their loss of land.

BTW, there is no such thing as different races, as proven by scientific research into DNA. We are all one race, the human race. There are different cultures and the oldest culture alive today understands the history of this land better than us immigrants. If we value their knowledge and work with them collaboratively we all benefit. The Voice will ensure we all hear from them and are able to consider their perspectives. Seems smart to me.

Unfortunately, history, specifically as it relates to the migration timeline in Australia, is irrelevant to a lot of the negative posters on here. To them the race card is much more important – they can, in their minds, present a cogent argument for confirming, their always intended no matter what the facts, No vote.

I actually love their comments about the Voice ‘doing nothing to change the current circumstances of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Island people’ – it’s as if they actually cared about those current circumstances.

I agree there is no such thing as “race” and have specifically said it is a meaningless characteristic above. Which is why it’s so disheartening to see people who claim to be against “racism” use race to define their wish to grant special rights to a specific group of people.

If it’s solely about inheritiance and heritage, I assume you think there should be some form of assessment and proof given for who should qualify to be eligible to qualify to vote on the Voice representatives?

Perhaps you can outline how you believe this should be achieved. The tripartite test? DNA mapping?

Or perhaps as you’ve even outlined yourself, we can recognise that Aboriginality is far more around culture and personal identity rather than biological heritage.

Best thing I’ve heard yet is left wing wokeism arguing amongst themselves whether “race” exists LOL.

It is achieved by people having to demonstrate a long-term (well before colonisation) ongoing connection to the land.

@Sam Oak
I’m sure chewy14 will contest your assessment of his “left wing wokeism”. Mind you it would be pretty hard for anyone not to be left of your ideology.

Nothing like that is currently proposed in the Voice wording. Noting that we don’t have the proposed legislation yet but your statement is different from the standard government approach for defining the Indigenuous status of individuals.

The Calma-Langton report which is the most fully fleshed out proposal simply included the 3 part test.

“… use race to define their wish to grant special rights to a specific group of people”
Why are you persisting with your “left wing wokeism” argument about race?
I thought we’d already agreed that the Voice is about the first ‘occupants’ of the land.
Why does proof of “aboriginality” even enter into the equation? Do you have a problem with people decide to identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander?

“Noting that we don’t have the proposed legislation …” Ummm – you don’t think it’d be a good idea to actually resolve the referendum question first? Or are you making a similar call on Dutton to release the Coalition’s proposed legislation – should the referendum be successful and should they win the next election? You know, just so we have all of the details.

No we didn’t agree about it, and I specifically didn’t reply to your last comment because you avoided the questions raised to go off on a tangent irrelevant to the key disscussion points.

“Why does proof of “aboriginality” even enter into the equation? Do you have a problem with people decide to identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander?”

If you cannot see the inherent contradiction in your points, I can’t help you.

You say it’s not about race but about prior occupation, then in the next breath claim the definitions of who qualifies as Indigenuous are unimportant along with how claims of Indigenuous status are assessed and verified. You raised the issue of Native Title and I’ve shown how the proposed Voice application differs.

How can it be about prior occupation if individuals in the group it applies to don’t have to show evidence of their linkages to that prior occupation and continued connection with the land as used in Native Title cases?

Can you not see the clear flaws in that approach?

“Ummm – you don’t think it’d be a good idea to actually resolve the referendum question first?”

Understanding the breadth of the proposed constitutional change is key to understanding its potential impacts. The point above was simply to highlight that without the specific details of the proposed model, its impossible to know what definitions might be used because the power itself has been designed to be deliberately broad.

But yes you are right in that all we are being asked now is to vote on a change that creates a new vague power in the constitution that will be shaped by parliament over time. A new power with very little detail as to its purpose, desired outcomes and measures of success. A power that will be very difficult to remove if it proves problematic or achieves nothing.

The clear answer for anyone sensible would be to reject it based on those points alone. And yet we still have people trying to use emotional arguments to guilt the public into supporting it because they believe that doing “something” is better than doing nothing, no matter what the area is.

Peter Dutton has belled the racist cat. It is amazing that he wants to recognise King Charles in the constitution but does not want to recognise First Nations people.

Indigenous Australians are not just another ethnic group as they have a connection to the land that we whities cannot truly grasp. We need to recognise this connection in our constitution. Colonialism has done enough damage and we need to move past this ugly divide. Simple recognition is a good start.

It is truly sad that a number of contributors on this blog have expressed such angry comments. I suppose it is easy when you live a comfortable life in the suburbs of Canberra that you can espouse such vitriol at a people who have been dispossessed and marginalised.

Careful, dsact – or the usual suspects will accuse you of “lazy emotional language”.

“Indigenous Australians are not just another ethnic group as they have a connection to the land that we whities cannot truly grasp. ”

Have there been peer reviewed scientific studies into this superpower?

Which bit of their DNA passes on this ability? Is it something we can test for?

I know indigenous people who know a lot less about the Australian environment than I do, and based on the amount of household rubbish scattered around their yard, and their needlessly large inefficient car, seem to care much less for our land than I do.

Perhaps they’re not really indigenous?

I do not doubt some indigenous people have a very strong connection to the land. Some others clearly do not.

Some “whities” also have very strong connections to the land.

It would seem to be racist claptrap to claim that only one ethnic has this ability, but if there is some truth in it, has there been any attempts at what other effects this special indigenous DNA produces. Perhaps it results in a lack of respect for laws and contributes to the high number of indigenous proportions in custody.

Of course not. That would be stupid racist garbage.

But surprise surprise, the Yes vote people are pushing their racist views yet again when they decide it suits their cause.

HiddenDragon8:43 pm 06 Apr 23

Today’s mainstream media coverage of responses to yesterday’s announcement by the federal Liberals has been instructive – but much more so regarding what has not been said, rather than what has been said.

It has been overwhelmingly about politics, personality (i.e. Dutton’s) and process, with precious little about substance.

As much as anything, the fairly unsurprising decision of the Liberals seems to have been an opportunity for several leading players to wheel out carefully honed and rehearsed attack lines including, from Albanese, another plagiarism – we’ve been getting Ronald Reagan’s “if not now, when?” for some weeks to which he has added an obvious steal from Michelle Obama – “when they go low, we go high”. The latter being particularly ironic, given the relish with which he has adopted Noel Pearson’s utterly charming reference to Dutton as an “undertaker” – but as long as you’re wearing an Akubra, you can say whatever you like, and still be treated as a cross between an Old Testament prophet and Martin Luther King.

Lost in all of this is any clear explanation of what is wrong, in practice, with what the Liberals have proposed – but that probably doesn’t matter, because this debate now, in truth, seems only to be about politics and (to quote another American political figure) the “vision thing”.

Yes, the amount of lazy emotional language trotted out over the last 24hrs tells you all you need to know about this.

Not one attempt to explain the actual need and merits behind the proposal, you should just support it because of the vibe.

Capital Retro9:46 am 07 Apr 23

Funny how the first nation people reject the values of the invaders yet wear Akubra hats made from hair of exotic rabbits that the invaders introduced to their land.

A lot of commenters on here have put forward their reasons for supporting the Voice to Parliament. You and the other naysayers just don’t like their reasons. I don’t like your opinion (despite your assertion you are stating fact it is an opinion) – but that’s ok. Your opinion, like mine, is a single vote.

@Capital Retro
Yet another insightful contribution So we shouldn’t vote Yes, because if we do we’ll contract myxomatosis?

Yes, a lot of comments have put forward emotional based reasons for backing the Voice. And when logical flaws in those positions are pointed out, they usually disappear or go straight to ad hominems and strawmen.

Even your attempt to call people “naysayers” is an attempt to discredit others to avoid addressing the sensible points raised.

The constitution provides the foundation of our country’s legal framework. Feel good arguments about “doing something” (anything) aren’t the slightest bit convincing on the need for change.

Capital Retro3:35 pm 07 Apr 23

Sounds like you have already got it.

And you don’t attempt to discredit yaysayers by belittling their opinions as “lazy emotional language” – because they express a desire to acknowledge the First Nations people and, as brucewantstobecool says, provide permanency of an advocacy role for them, in the Constitution. Your argument against it is simply – it doesn’t belong in the Constitution … because you say it doesn’t. Hardly a compelling reason for me to vote No.

“Your argument against it is simply – it doesn’t belong in the Constitution”

Seems the responses aren’t being published, so will keep it simple

This is not remotely my argument and you would have to have not read any previous comments to think it is.

Capital Retro10:25 pm 08 Apr 23

The rabbits are still thriving on City Hill.

brucewantstobecool8:30 pm 06 Apr 23

At the end of the day, I expect the Voice would look much like the advocacy function of the Small Business Ombudsman, but guided by a representative group rather than a stand alone statutory official. Even with constitutional backing, would anyone really expect this body to fundamentally change our system of government? It might embarrass the parliament and executive government from time to time (quite rightly, I would expect), but we are not going to end up with a shadow Parliament chasing havoc via the High Court.

Ombudsman’s legislation: https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2019C00109

Balance needed4:56 pm 06 Apr 23

“Peter Dutton announced his party’s decision to deny First Nations Australians a voice in the Federal Parliament.”

Can the writer even see the inherent bias in this straw man argument?

Trevor Willis4:50 pm 06 Apr 23

First Nations Australians already have a voice in the Federal Parliament. It is called Federal Election and applies to all Australians no matte what colour, sex or religion.
These people actually want a “second Voice” which is complete discrimination>. If it does get approved it will be the start of Apartheid in Australia. Just vote NO to save our country

Indigenous Australians have been telling, showing and explaining their needs to white and indigenous bodies for the last 50 years. It’s not going to be ‘a surprise’ and we’ll find out ‘everything we didn’t know’. We know about housing and health problems and we’ve spent billions on it but we cannot supply every mod con to remote situations. People in major cities have trouble accessing medical specialists with some waiting lists two years long and can’t find a place to rent.. We have had so many building programs that included training locals to build and maintain residences in remote areas but nearly all have collapsed. Remote indigenous groups choose to live in remote areas. Romanticise it with ‘connection to country’ but ‘country’ doesn’t supply you with endocrinoligists, dialysys clinics and heart specialists. Just because you were here first doesn’t entitle you to an unlimited supply of resources that don’t exist anyway. The Voice will give us the same old shopping list of demands and despite blacktivist and Green rhetoric governments actually do do their best but catering for an eccentric lifestyle choice makes it difficult for all concerned. The Voice will just be another piece of guilt ridden revisionist window dressing that will do nothing special for the real people out there.

There are I believe 11 indigenous members of parliament. If you don’t count Lidia, that’s 10 intelligent voices able to provide advice to government. The voice is another symbolic acknowledgment that will do nothing to solve the problems that the indigenous people face. That’s why it is not universally backed by the indigenous themselves. It’s tokenism to make the Government feel better.

Yeah right!
If those MPs, who are Members for … (insert electorate) and Senators for … (insert State/Territory) and also who happen to be indigenous, purely directed their attention to indigenous matters, people like you would be amongst the first to lambast them for not representing their whole constituency.

“The voice is another symbolic acknowledgment that will do nothing to solve the problems that the indigenous people face …”
The same tired argument from those looking for an excuse to vote No. Of course, the voice will not solve all problems facing First Nations people, but neither will do nothing. At least it’s a step in the right direction.

“That’s why it is not universally backed by the indigenous themselves.”
Yes there are First Nations people who oppose the voice. Just as there are a lot of anglos who support it including many in the Liberal parliamentary party, despite Dutton announcing the opposition won’t support it.

Just Saying,
Perhaps it’s just slightly possible for our politicians to advocate on multiple issues at once. Or that non-indigenuous representatives are also capable of progressing issues for their indigenuos constituents?

We have a representative democracy, if everyone has to have a specific representative in every electorate to fully address their issues, what’s the point in our parliament?

The facts are there more representatives of indigenuous background in our parliament than their proportion of the population. The idea that they dont have an adequate voice or that they need special representation outside of normal democratic processes is ridiculous. If that’s the case, it applies almost universally to everyone else too.

“No. Of course, the voice will not solve all problems facing First Nations people, but neither will do nothing. At least it’s a step in the right direction.”

No one suggested doing nothing. This isn’t a choice between the Voice and nothing and it’s disingenuous to suggest it is. As for it being a step in the right direction, I would disagree. Giving people special rights based on their racial background is about as regressive as you can get.

As always, you are entitled to your opinion.

Just Saying,
And as always you are entitled to not back your position up with any logic or evidence when challenged.

Funny to see you challenge others about their positions though whilst unable to explain your own. Well with with anything other than with meaningless emotional arguments, I should clarify.

Thank you

Capital Retro10:50 am 07 Apr 23

That had to be said, chewy.

The same tired arguments from those who think everyone should vote yes.

Capital Retro3:40 pm 07 Apr 23

More platitudes than arguments, actually.

The same tired arguments from those who think everyone should vote no.

Capital Retro11:01 am 06 Apr 23

Ross Solly on ALPBC 666 was offended by Dutton referring to the Voice proposal as “Canberran” this morning.

I don’t recall Dutton saying that but he did refer to it being another Canberra-based agency if it were approved.

I believe Albanese knows it won’t be approved by the electoral majority required so then he will blame the Liberals for the failure to save face.

In the meantime it is a great smokescreen for the huge financial problems and unsustainable migration problems Australia will have to deal with in the short term.

He didn’t say he was offended by Dutton saying the voice was ‘Canberran’, he said that Dutton was calling it a ‘Canberra voice’ (as detailed in this article) and that this is a bum steer as the people in Canberra who live here have nothing to do with the creation of it. We just live here. I tend to agree.

My Mother inLaw who is a rabid Liberal, construes Morrison ‘the Canberra Bubble’ as including Canberrans who just live here, when it was actually about the FIFO workers. Morrison didn’t mind people getting the wrong end of the stick though mind you.

Max_Rockatansky10:03 am 06 Apr 23

Chris Johnson, what is the scope for the advice this new body could provide? Australians with indigenous heritage are impacted by all matters, taxation, education, health, agriculture, infrastructure, welfare, defence, etc. Which matters addressed by the federal government don’t impact Australians with indigenous heritage?

Try any of these – native title, employment, educational outcomes, housing, community programs, the NDIS, heritage protection, incarceration, children. I expect they could provide advice on anything they want, but am sure they won’t waste their time because well….it would be a waste of time and the body charged with reviewing advice would not adopt it anyway. It’s also non-judicial, which means no court challenges and no invalidation of laws.

Why everyone thinks it’s going to be a free for all I just can’t fathom.

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