Dutton rubbished by leading ‘Yes’ Liberal over referendum comments

A leading voice in the Liberal Party’s Yes campaign has slammed plans by Opposition leader Peter Dutton to hold a second referendum on constitutional recognition for First Nations peoples.

The Liberal leader on Sunday committed to holding a second vote, absent a constitutional Voice to Parliament, should October’s referendum fail and the party reclaim power at the next federal election.

That claim was rubbished only hours later by Liberals for Yes spokesman Sean Gordon, who said Mr Dutton did not have a mandate to hold a second referendum and was ignoring the wishes of Aboriginal people.

“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,” Mr Gordon told the ABC on Sunday.

Camera IconOpposition Leader Peter Dutton during committed to holding a second referendum. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

“We want a Voice that gives us a greater say in laws, policies and programs that impact us.

“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.”

Mr Dutton told Sky News recognition of First Australians in the constitution was a policy of the Coalition despite earlier claiming The Voice to Parliament “will permanently divide us by race” and “re-racialise” the Australian constitution.

Asked if he would hold a referendum during a potential first term as prime minister, Mr Dutton said “yes” and that be believed “very strongly” that it was the right thing to do, but did not outline a timeline for a second vote.

Camera IconNationals leader David Littleproud previously refused to support a referendum on constitutional recognition without a Voice. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

“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 said. “I think it is right and respectful to recognise Indigenous Australians in the constitution.

“We will work with the Labor Party to find common ground.”

Coalition partner and Nationals leader David Littleproud previously refused to support a referendum on constitutional recognition without a Voice, but told Channel 9 on Sunday a second vote would “pass with flying colours”.

The discourse comes as the Yes Campaign ramps up with less than two months before Australians return to the polls with a new TV ad campaign featuring John Farnham and Paul Kelly, which also debuted on Sunday.

Mr Dutton said Mr Farnham’s classic You‘re The Voice, which is to be used in the campaign, was an “appropriate theme song” for the Yes vote, stating: “Remember the key is ‘You’re the Voice try and understand it’.”

For its part, the Yes campaign on Sunday called out Mr Dutton’s comments as demonstrating the Liberal leader was “not listening” to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices when discussing constitutionally recognition.

Yes campaigner Kristie Parker, an adviser to the Uluru Dialogue, said it was hypocritical for Mr Dutton to complain about the cost of the Voice referendum, while also proposing to hold a second referendum within his first term.

“This demonstrates that the opposition leader is not listening to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who have very clearly asked for something that will change our lives,” she said.

“Some people have said the referendum is an expensive exercise, and yet here we have the opposition leader, proposing to spend the same amount of money on something that would not change lives.”

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