Peter Dutton says he will hold a referendum of his own over Indigenous recognition if the Voice referendum fails and he wins government at the next election.
The Opposition Leader doesn’t like the referendum set down for 14 October but says he would send Australians back to the polls in the first term of a Coalition government to gauge sentiment on recognition for First Nations people.
He said recognising Indigenous Australians in the Constitution was Coalition policy, but enshrining a Voice to Parliament was not.
“We went to the last election and a number of elections before that with that as our policy and that will be our policy going into the next election as well,” Mr Dutton told Sky News yesterday (3 September).
“I think it is right and respectful to recognise Indigenous Australians in the constitution and we will work with the Labor Party to find common ground.”
Asked if he would hold a referendum in his first term, the Opposition Leader said he would.
“I believe very strongly it is the right thing to do. But enshrining a Voice in the constitution is divisive,” he said.
However, he’s been criticised by some on his own side of politics for what they say is the absurdity of the proposal.
The Liberals for Yes campaign said the Coalition had no mandate for a second referendum and that Mr Dutton was ignoring the wishes of First Nations people.
“For politicians to go out and propose something completely alternate to what Indigenous people asked for clearly speaks to our disempowerment as Indigenous people when others think that they have a better solution and a better way forward,” spokesperson Sean Gordon said.
“We put that position forward to the Australian people, which is a very modest position, stating this is how we want to be recognised within the founding document of the country.
“We want a Voice that gives us a greater say in laws, policies and programs that impact us.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also took aim at the proposal, saying Mr Dutton was planning a sequel while trying to sabotage the original.
“For Peter Dutton, it’s all about the politics, never the substance,” Mr Albanese said.
“I’m a big believer in getting it right the first time.”
On the weekend, the Yes campaign announced that John Farnham had given permission for his song ‘You’re the Voice’ to be used in advertising for the referendum. It features in the History is Calling advertisement the Yes campaign is promoting on television and the internet.
It is the first time Farnham has given permission for the song to be used in a commercial.
“This song changed my life,” he said. “I can only hope that now it might help, in some small way, to change the lives of our First Nations peoples for the better.”
But the Opposition Leader said the irony of that song being used is it contains the line “you’re the voice try and understand it”.
“In a sense, it’s the appropriate theme song for the Yes campaign because remember that the key line in the lyrics there is, you know, ‘you’re the voice, try to understand it’,” Dutton said.
“I honestly don’t think most Australians understand it. And they want to be informed.”
Media have also picked up on comedian Wil Anderson first using the line as part of a routine in April.
Asked by The Project on Sunday evening if he was now writing Mr Dutton’s jokes, Anderson commented on another slogan being used by the Coalition in the referendum campaign (If you don’t know say no), saying that one could come back to haunt Mr Dutton at the next election.
But in the referendum, he said it was an invitation to try and find out.
“If you don’t know, go and find out. I reckon if you do find out, you might actually vote yes,” Anderson said.
“You’ll understand it might be this really powerful thing we go through together.”