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Have Libs decided how they’ll vote in Voice debate? Well, yes and no

A split is looming for the Liberals over the Indigenous voice to parliament as its architects warn the party’s opposition is a “vote for business as usual”.

Apr 06, 2023, updated Apr 06, 2023
Liberal member for Bass Bridget Archer (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Liberal member for Bass Bridget Archer (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton announced in Canberra on Wednesday his party’s position on the proposed voice, which is due to be put to a referendum later this year.

The Liberals agreed to back constitutional recognition for Indigenous people but Dutton will campaign for a ‘no’ vote on including a voice to parliament in an amendment.

Instead, the party will push for a legislated local and regional voice.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese conceded a lack of bi-partisan support could result in a referendum defeat.

The model put forward by Labor would add a new section to the constitution recognising Indigenous people and enshrine a voice.

Dutton said the Liberal Party did not support “the prime minister’s Canberra voice” and confirmed he will actively campaign for the ‘no’ case in the lead-up to the referendum.

One of the architects of the Uluru Statement From the Heart, Pat Anderson, said the party’s position was a “vote for business as usual”.

“It is a vote for the domination of Canberra politicians and Canberra bureaucrats in the lives of grassroots communities,” she said.

“It seeks to entrench the status quo which is failing our people.

“Legislative bodies have come and gone, only constitutional enshrinement will guarantee First Nations Peoples will have an enduring say and ultimately improve First Nations lives.”

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The Uluru statement included a call for the establishment of an Indigenous voice, which it said should be enshrined in the constitution.

Liberal backbenchers who support the voice will be free to back the government on the legislation.

But the shadow cabinet will be bound by the party stance not to support Labor’s model.

Albanese said he was aware of Liberals who were considering resigning from the front bench to support the voice.

“It appears some people don’t want a voice, they’d rather have a whisper,” he said.

Tasmanian Liberal MP Bridget Archer confirmed she will campaign for a ‘yes’ vote in a break away from her party.

Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney urged the Liberal Party not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Constitutional law expert Anne Twomey told ABC’s 7.30 program the Liberal proposal for local and regional voices would be “completely and utterly unworkable”.

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