16 April 2023

Dutton's negative Voice strategy is a dead end for the Liberal Party

| Ian Bushnell
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Peter Dutton

Peter Dutton announcing that the Coalition would oppose the Voice to Parliament. Photo: Screenshot.

Will the Federal Liberal Party survive in its current form or splinter as its leader Peter Dutton insists on crashing through on the Indigenous Voice referendum?

Dutton’s decision to oppose the Voice question has obviously divided the party, and the refusal of a conscience vote to the front bench could mean more resignations to follow after Julian Lesser quit on principle.

Now fully committed, Dutton has dragged the party even further to the right and potentially irrevocably damaged its brand.

He was desperate for a point of difference with the Albanese Government and, after a period of phony consultation, peppered with all manner of muddying of the waters, has gone full throttle, flying back to Alice Springs for some more unsubstantiated headline hunting.

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Even if one accepts Dutton is genuine in his concerns about sexual abuse in Indigenous communities, as a former police officer, he of all people would know the complexities and formalities involved in dealing with such allegations.

Unfortunately, it is painfully obvious that he is exploiting the troubles in the Centre to damage the Yes case by implication that the Voice will do nothing to resolve these kinds of issues.

It portends an ugly and divisive referendum campaign in which the No case becomes ever more extreme.

The almost daily opinion pieces in the Murdoch broadsheet seem to extract any sort of alarmist arguments against the Yes case, from constitutional nitpicking to claims the courts will be clogged with litigation to the very system of government grinding to a halt as every Budget line item goes under the Voice microscope.

One would have thought Indigenous Voice proponents have already had enough of bureaucratic logjam, and the idea will be to expedite action not tie things up in committees.

This is why constitutional recognition on its own is not enough to bring about real change.

Then there is the talk of a shadow government, as if the powerful sectional interests and their lobby groups don’t have a say in what governments do or, more to the point, don’t do.

Or that the Voice will produce just another elitist, unrepresentative body. That’s got nothing to do with the actual referendum question and everything to do with the Parliament.

Even as Dutton blows his dog whistle in Alice Springs, conservatives are abandoning his position because they want the Voice to succeed.

He is leading the Liberal Party into a morally indefensible position.

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Even if the referendum fails, it will not fail by much. It would be a pyrrhic victory and the Liberal Party could be mortally wounded.

While Dutton expends energy on the Voice, the party is bleeding members and support as it ignores policy renewal and contributing to the national discussion on tax, cost of living, housing and the like.

Dutton’s dead end on the Voice doesn’t come in isolation, but follows a shifting electorate’s disillusionment not just with conservative social policies but, importantly, economic policies.

And it’s no point looking to elder Liberal statesmen like John Howard for solace because the chickens are coming home to roost on market-driven decisions his government took that have helped lock young people out of home ownership, produced a crisis in aged care, run-down public education and health and given families exorbitant childcare costs.

It would be premature to talk of the Liberal Party’s death, but unless it can adjust to changed social beliefs and renew its economic stance, it may be left stranded by history.

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The Canberra Liberals’ situation is a good example of what can happen. The right-wing grip on the party has alienated it from the community, cost it support and members, and handed government to Labor election after election.

The Liberal Party needs to define just what party values are worth conserving because people are tired of culture and gender wars.

Instead of being the inclusive party of Menzies, it has become hostage to fringe elements and seemingly committed to economic and tax policies that feed inequity.

Government is built on the centre, and that centre has shifted.

There is a whiff of the marriage equality plebiscite about the Voice referendum. For all the sound and fury being generated by opponents, Australians seem ready to move on.

Dutton is holding the Liberal Party back.

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Vinson1Bernie8:31 pm 19 Apr 23

I find it intriguing that Jacinta Price (apologies I have forgotten her Aboriginal Name) has been sledged for comment on Alice Springs because she is from a tribe next to Alice Springs which is the whole point that a national body cant represent 250 disparate tribes. BTW the Nazis on the left kept on demanding we say First nations people (a recent but Canadian term) but I notice it is listed in proposed legislation as First peoples of Australia. The Idea of regional councils under Camla/Langton proposal with acknowledgement in the Constitution which might mean an extra input to local councils but would lessen the chances of litigation from an national body (litigation risk is unclear depending upon your choice of legal expert which means it is unsure position so hence a dangerous path)


“… Jacinta Price (apologies I have forgotten her Aboriginal Name) …”

Actually, her surname is Nampijinpa Price, Bernie. The fact that you infer she has a separate Aboriginal name perfectly speaks to your attitude to the Voice.

Hmm…reading comments from a justice of one of the highest courts, the penny finally dropped for me……it appears the voice will be a group of non-elected ( they are appointed ) people who in effect can veto pretty much anything the parliament wants to do.

Think about that….those people are the non-elected govt in effect.

So it appears this is a sneaky trojan horse to subvert democracy……..no wonder the Left are pushing for it.


Perhaps you can provide a link to the high court justice’s opinion piece which states that the Voice can “veto pretty much anything the parliament wants to do”.
I really don’t care if you vote No, but I’m calling BS on your reason as there’s no way any sane person can draw that conclusion from the proposed wording.
Seriously, are you so worried the referendum might get up that you have to fabricate the outcome if it does?

Oh I get it … QED – QAnon Erroneous Drivel

Hi steve, perhaps you would like to share with us how they could “veto anything the Parliament wants to do” and, in particular, supply the quote from the “justice of one of the highest courts”.

I see Mark Parton has, today, declared his support for the voice but he would not be campaigning for the change. Which is totally his right.

A fact about him of which I was not aware, until I read an article about his “Aboriginal journey” last year, is that Parton has Noongar (Western Australia) heritage. (Check it out – https://canberraweekly.com.au/opinion-mark-partons-aboriginal-journey)

Never been a fan of his, but I must commend Parton for the process he went through. While initially leaning towards the No side – after discussions with Sen Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, Parton subsequently had conversations with the people from his mob, and the more he looked into it, he said he could not in his heart vote no.

I’m sure the usual suspects will condemn Parton for bringing emotion into his decision. However, it’s refreshing to get an open and honest personal perspective from a conservative and indigenous politician.

I particularly liked this comment from him in the CT:
‘”One of the things that my six or seven years [in the Assembly] has taught me is that sometimes the pursuit of perfect defeats good outcomes,” he said.
“Although I can see that what’s been laid on the table thus far is flawed in some aspects, I don’t think those aspects are enough to lead me to vote no.”‘

GrumpyGrandpa1:05 pm 18 Apr 23

The author really should read Julian Lesser’s statement about his resignation from his ministerial position.

Lesser stated that his decision about the Voice was a personal one, one that was not supported by the majority of the Liberal Party. He went on to say that one of the great strengths of the Liberal Party was that it’s members were free to have a personal opinion, outside of Cabinet policy; something not allowed in the ALP.

If the author wants to refer to Menzies, maybe he should consider the freedoms that Menzies’ party allows it’s members?

Had Lesser been a member of the ALP, he would have been bound to toe the line, or face expulsion from the party and potentially end his political career.

I think it’s fair to say that Dutton is probably a seat warmer! No one in the Liberal party has ever taken on the leadership after a defeat and gone onto become PM.

That said, it’s quite apparent that the author, is left of centre and I suspect he would require Dutton to fully adopt ALP or Green ideology to earn that title of advancing the Liberal Party.

Capital Retro1:43 pm 18 Apr 23

And let’s not forget the other political party who supported introduction of the White Australia policy.

NO! We do not need to change the constitution to give one small group of citizens greater power than the rest!

Yes, it was horrendous how Australia’s Aboriginal people were treated in the past. That is history which cannot be denied, but hopefully we have learned from it.

This doesn’t mean that the Australian people should now be divided into Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, with the former group being granted privileges that the rest do not get!

My vote will be NO!

Gregg Heldon10:27 am 18 Apr 23

I notice you didn’t publish my comment about Ian Bushells apparent attitude towards sexual abuse and domestic violence.
That’s okay. That piece of censorship only confirms my low opinion of Ian Bushnell and his version of Grub Journalism.
Just remember, Operation Pleach confirmed sexual abuse of woman and children and it confirmed domestic violence.

Probably because the left don’t like the truth. Read this paragraph from the UN backed 8 March Principles, PRINCIPLE 14 – SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND RIGHTS:
“Parents, guardians, carers, or other persons who enable or assist children or people
in their care, including persons with disabilities, to exercise their sexual and
reproductive rights, including by procuring sexual and reproductive health services,
goods or information, may not be held criminally liable, unless they have engaged
in coercion, force, fraud, or there was a lack of free and informed decision-making
on the part of the child or person for whom they were caring.”

Ummm … I didn’t quite get Gregg Heldon’s comment within the context of the article. However, your comment has left me completely flummoxed – probably not hard to do, nevertheless, what point are you making?

Gregg Heldon7:04 am 20 Apr 23

My original post (that wasn’t published), was having a go about Bushnell having a go at Dutton being in Alice Springs talking about Child Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence in remote communities and how it was cheap political point scoring.
Having worked in that area, in my mind, it is never cheap political point scoring to highlight these sort of things taking place. People need to know that it takes place. And we need strategies and engagement to eliminate it taking place.
My (not published) post suggested that, if it was Labor talking about it, he would have been more supportive but because it was Dutton, he was dismissive. My point was, it is not a political subject but a basic human rights subject.

@Gregg Heldon
So, Bushnell has a leftist perspective in his opinion pieces. Do you come out against Sky news for their conservative right perspective?

“it is never cheap political point scoring to highlight these sort of things taking place”
Really, you don’t think the fact that Dutton chose to reveal his claims that “young Indigenous kids are being sexually assaulted on a regular basis” at a press conference wasn’t cheap political point scoring? If he had specific information, wouldn’t it have been better to have taken it to the police, rather than a sound bite grab?

While I agree highlighting these horrendous acts is definitely needed to bring about action to address the issue, when it is used as a political football, it needs to be called as such.

Hi Gregg, if you really “worked in that area” you would know that there is mandatory reporting of this crime and that if Dutton is aware of a crime being committed in this way, he must report. He has not done so. That is why he is being accused of cheap political point scoring by trying to tarnish Aboriginal people in this way to lessen votes for the Voice. To call it a “dog act” is an insult to dogs.

HiddenDragon8:20 pm 17 Apr 23

Anyone who has the time and inclination to search Trove will probably find similar things said about Menzies and the then infant Liberal Party when a much more controversial and divisive referendum was put to the Australian people in 1951 –


Menzies lost that referendum (as Dutton is likely to lose this one) but he won the longer term political debate aided by the positioning he achieved on that issue.

This is not to suggest that this episode will turn into a triumph for Dutton which will see him in the Lodge, let alone for several terms – but it would be a big mistake to think that “being on the wrong side of history” (i.e. the current vibe and perceived drift of events and popular opinion) will be fatal for a politician and the party they lead in volatile times and when public opinion can be so fickle and brittle.

The points in this article about the importance of the broader policy debate are well made, but tokenism and window dressing aside, they apply equally to Labor as to the Liberals – as one of Labor’s living legends (or whatever his status in the calendar of saints now is) observed after Penny Wong’s Press Club appearance today.

This is the bombshell Albo tried to hide.

But now it’s out and every Australian needs to hear it before voting on the divisive Voice.

You know how the PM keeps saying the Voice is a “modest change” to the Constitution?

Well, the real agenda behind his Voice referendum has finally been revealed.

Secret government documents the National Indigenous Australians Agency was forced to release under freedom of information laws say that “any Voice to Parliament should be designed so that it could support and promote a treaty-making process”1.

And what’s in the treaty?

According to these secret documents, it must include a “fixed percentage of Gross National Product. Rates/land tax/royalties”.

The documents explain:

…a Treaty could include a proper say in decision-making, the establishment of a truth commission, reparations, a financial settlement (such as seeking a percentage of GDP), the resolution of land, water and resources issues, recognition of authority and customary law…

This a direct quote from the secret Voice documents:

“Australia got a whole country for nothing, they haven’t even begun to pay for it.”

Doesn’t that just tell you everything you need to know?

But it gets worse.

According to these documents, they want to abolish the Australian flag, because “the Australian flag symbolised the injustices of colonisation”.

This is why I get so angry when Albo says this is a modest proposal.

What’s modest about forcing you to change your flag or pay a percentage of the entire economy as reparations?

Sounds like a bloody BIG change to me!

Just to be super clear, this is how their plan works:

❌They enshrine the divisive Voice in the Constitution and it’s there forever.

❌The Voice forces Australians into a “treaty”.

❌The treaty means Australians pay a percentage of the GDP – that is, a percentage of the entire nation’s economy – to the Voice … every year.

❌On top of that, Australians are forced to pay “rates/land tax/royalties” to the Voice.

This is why Albo wants you to think you’re voting on a “modest” change.

Because when Australians find out the truth, there’s no way they’d support it, let alone enshrine it in their Constitution forever.

@Evan Miris
“Secret government documents the National Indigenous Australians Agency was forced to release under freedom of information laws… “

At least, if you are going to scaremonger abouth the Voice to Parliament, tell the truth. Nobody has seen the ‘secret government documents’ released under FOI because it didn’t happen.

You are referring to a letter which Pauline Hanson reported in the Senate on 22-March. She states that she received it from (and I’m quoting from Hansard – https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22chamber%2Fhansards%2F26447%2F0477%22 – “a member of the public who provided an 11-point plan he says was devised by staff within the National Indigenous Australians Agency”. The letter is quoting from a paper supposedly “left behind by a group of six or seven NIAA employees who were having coffee at a cafe in the Woden town centre. This coffee shop in Woden is roughly 450 metres from the NIAA office here in Canberra”

If it’s such a game changer, how come Dutton didn’t refer to it when he announced the Libs were backing a No vote ? Answer – because he doesn’t believe the paper came from NIAA. He knows Hanson’s report is a based on a fabrication from a seriously deluded individual.

Perhaps when you try to manufacturer the facts you should check if they can be easily refuted.

brucewantstobecool11:57 pm 17 Apr 23

From what I can determine, looking at the most recent document released on the NIAA disclosure log, the comments you refer to come from a record of a meeting, with First Nations stakeholders, who expressed their views. Not a formal NIAA policy position, but a record of a meeting and comments that people made in that meeting. Quite the bombshell that First Nations people expressed a view on a treaty process!

Yes … I saw that document released under FOI on 10-March too … as you say, it’s minutes of discussions with various Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Councils and in no way reflects the NIAA. As I responded to Evan Miris if there is a game changer, why hasn’t Dutton used it – the reason, which I provide, is obvious.

Thanks for the article but you didn’t talk about the Voice at all or give any advice about the Voice.
E g. You said Dutton’s decision to oppose the Voice has “dragged the party even further to the right and potentially irrevocably damaged its brand”.
I don’t think it would have mattered what the subject of your article was, you would say the same thing. So why don’t you change the title to say. ‘Whatever the Liberals do, I’ll can prove they’re wrong’.
Fun banter to read but not informative.

What an opinion piece. To think that the author believes the liberal party is about to implode. May I remind them that liberals were in power from 2013-2022. Labor only received a little over 30% of the primary vote. I would say that it’s politics that’s in trouble. No big ideas, just the same old trash.
War,inflation,recession,housing crisis, youth employment and must I continue? Instead we have a debate about giving a racial identity more power! Allow them to elect their own? Doesn’t sound like multiculturalism at all. Instead it’s all about promoting one culture!
Anyways resounding no vote from me. Please argue the point I’ve made and tell me I’m wrong. It’s racism. Even positive discrimination is still discrimination.

Nick Stevens2:55 pm 17 Apr 23

3. 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.”
So item 3 could mean anything, laws to give power to do what ?
Any limitations to those powers ?

Keep it simple, get elected like the rest of us to Parliament, plenty of voice at that pile.

@Nick Stevens
Exactly, Nick, the Parliament’s powers are not specified in the proposed wording. Similarly there are no limitations on the Parliament’s current powers under S51 of the Constitution. What’s the problem?

Bob the impala3:37 pm 17 Apr 23

Nick Stevens, you cited yourself that parliament’s powers include control of the powers of the Voice. It also controls the powers of every other entity it creates, by legislation as with the Voice. You seem to be panicking a little. I suggest a good lie down.

In 2021 according to the ABS most (81.4%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia lived in appropriately sized (not overcrowded) dwellings, where no extra bedrooms were needed to adequately house the usual residents. The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 20 to 24 years who had completed Year 12 or equivalent as their highest year of school was 56.7%, up from 37.1% in 2011. The health situation is more of a personal choice thing for urban living people indigenous or otherwise. Around half of those living in South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia lived in capital city areas. A quarter of the NT’s population live in Darwin. Capital cities provide access to services. So the picture painted that we need The Voice because nothing else is working doesn’t really add up unless it’s a Voice for a small minority of indigenous people that have chosen to live remotely denying themselves reasonable access to services.

Good to see we can get clear and objective analysis of the issues here, rather than horribly biased commentary like those Murdoch media outlets…..

Capital Retro10:07 am 17 Apr 23

The only negativity worse than Dutton’s is that of Bushnell.

@Capital Retro
The only issue is, CR, Bushnell is not proposing himself as the next PM. So whether his opinion is negative, biased or spot on is irrelevant – except to those who wish to provide comment in here.
Nevertheless, I am pleased to see that you acknowledge Dutton’s negativity. That is very relevant.

Capital Retro1:08 pm 17 Apr 23

Thank you for you blessings.

You are welcome, CR – and for my next benediction, I’ll convert you into a climate change science believer

Capital Retro10:51 am 18 Apr 23

I like fiction JS but not science fiction.

Max_Rockatansky8:37 am 17 Apr 23

Ian Bushnell, before we vote on this proposed new Voice, will Albanese make a guarantee to never cancel Australia Day? Voice activists would likely present advice to the Parliament and Executive Government that Australia Day should be cancelled out of respect to Australians with indigenous ancestry.

Your use of the term “Voice activists would likely present advice” shows you you have completely closed your mind on the proposed change to the Constitution. So I would expect that no matter what guarantees Albanese makes, you will a) not believe him; and b) vote No anyway.
Besides even if, in the unlikely event – particularly in the lie of this Parliament, the body did “present advice to the Parliament and Executive Government that Australia Day should be cancelled”, they are not obligated to accept that advice. Again, in your mind, you probably believe ‘make representations’ is the same as ‘enact legislation’.

Of all the issues involved in this complex situation, the fate of Australia Day is down towards the bottom (and I’m a descendant of a First Fleeter). The point of a Voice for Indigenous Australians is about ensuring the vast disadvantages are being addressed. Celebration of a date pales into insignificance when trying to address lower life expectancy, lower school completion rates, higher rates of incarceration, higher rates of alcohol & drug dependency, and higher rates of mental health and other health problems.

calyptorhynchus12:28 pm 17 Apr 23

Why are you so attached to Foundation of Penal Colony in New South Wales Day?

While I understand your position, like the opponents of the Voice, I believe you are reading too much into it.
When taken as writ, the proposed wording of the change to the Constitution will not address any of the issues you, quite rightly, raise. Nor will it ensure “the vast disadvantages are being addressed”.
First and foremost, it will recognise the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the first occupants of the land – a not insubstantial recognition. Then, by virtue of being the first occupants, it will provide for the creation of a body which can make representations to the Parliament and Executive Government on matters affecting ATSIs – the composition, functions, powers and procedures to be determined by the Parliament.
Under the proposed constitutional change, there is no impost on this or future Parliaments to do anything to address the issues facing ATSIs.
Many have called it, and will continue to call it, virtue signalling, without any consideration for the purpose of the Constitution – which is to provide the framework on which legislation is based. The detail of how to address those issues, will be up to the Parliament of the day … legislation passed by today’s Parliament, can easily be overturned by a future Parliament.
Nevertheless, let’s hope, if the referendum is successful, the Voice can set about making representations to the Parliament and Executive Government on how to change the plight of ATSIs – and more importantly, let’s hope the Parliament and Executive Government listens.

Capital Retro2:05 pm 18 Apr 23

What else would you suggest should have been done with the convicts who were being held in deplorable conditions in England?

They were given a chance by being transported to Australia. If they were alive today seeing what minority groups are trying ruin Australia they would choose to return to England.

@Capital Retro
“They were given a chance by being transported to Australia.”

As usual, your capacity for distorting the true facts shines through.

If they take your word, CR, anyone could be forgiven for believing that transportation to Australia was a humanitarian relocation system. Rather, it was a solution to the problem created by the end of the American War of Independence (1783), when America refused to accept any more convicts.

Perhaps you are confusing the poorly treated (both enroute and on arrival) convicts with the £10 Poms who chose to come here.

“… minority groups are trying ruin Australia …” Really? More like minority groups are trying to ruin YOUR KIND of Australia – and not such a bad thing.

Capital Retro6:03 pm 18 Apr 23

Clearly, brevity isn’t one of your strength’s and I am not into distorting facts which seems to be something you claim to know a lot about.

You have no idea what “my kind of Australia is”, either.

@Capital Retro
One idea I definitely have, CR, is your Australia certainly isn’t tolerant of minorities

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