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Legal advice on voice to be made public as Liberals argue over party’s stance

The advice from the nation’s second law officer on the Indigenous voice will be made public, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says.

Apr 18, 2023, updated Apr 18, 2023
Former TAsmanian Premier Peter Gutwein

Former TAsmanian Premier Peter Gutwein

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, who opposes the voice being enshrined in the constitution, has been calling on Albanese to release the advice provided by the solicitor-general to cabinet.

Albanese said while the full cabinet documentation would not be released, the solicitor-general’s view would be made known through Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus.

“The solicitor-general’s view will be made very clear by himself through the attorney-general, which is the appropriate forum for it to take,” he told the ABC’s 730 program on Monday night.

It was not appropriate to release cabinet documents, he added, in line with the process followed by the previous coalition government and past Labor governments.

Albanese said Dutton was raising questions and doubts “by not having any substance to his opposition” to the voice.

He was speaking as another high profile Liberal criticised the party’s stance on opposing the voice.

Former Tasmanian Liberal premier Peter Gutwein has ­accused Dutton of dividing Australians over the proposed Indigenous voice to parliament, saying the Liberals needed to “lead from the centre”.

The party has called for a legislated, but not constitutionally enshrined, voice process involving representative local and regional bodies.

Albanese said he had made it clear there would be local and regional bodies, which may differ across the states and territories.

He pointed to South Australia’s decision to set up a state voice.

“It’s quite clear that the national voice would work with state voices, were they to be established as well,” he said.

“So clearly we want to hear from local communities, working the way up. But you need a national voice as well.”

Albanese said the voice would also ensure rural and remote representatives and gender balance, as well as ensuring regions such as the Torres Strait were properly represented.

The final model of the voice would be legislated once and if the referendum on the voice passed later in the year.

In Alice Springs last week, Dutton said he had brought to the prime minister’s attention in October 2022 the issue of children who had been sexually abused being placed back into the hands of perpetrators.

Asked about this, Albanese told the ABC he was not aware of the allegations.

“I have no idea of what it is based upon,” he added.

“It’s possible that there may well have been a letter somewhere … but he has not raised any specific issue about any claim, about any individual circumstance with me.

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“If he did, I would say to him that he should report that to the police.”

Gutwein, who passed the premiership to Jeremy Rockliff a year ago, told The Australian the ­Tasmanian Liberals had held government successfully for almost a decade by “governing from the centre”.

He said ­federal Liberals had made the wrong call in opposing the proposed Indigenous voice to parliament.

“The federal Liberal Party ­appears to have learned very ­little since its election loss,” Gutwein said.

“The voice was an opportunity to take a bipartisan approach and at the same time exercise their right, in the parliament when the legislation was introduced, to argue very passionately about the things they believe in.”

Gutwein said the voice was an ­oppor­tunity that could have brought the country together.

“What I see from the federal Liberal Party at the moment is that they seem determined to keep the country apart.”

Gutwein backed Rockliff’s ­decision to campaign for a Yes vote alongside Albanese.

Tasmania has the only Liberal government in Australia.

Gutwein said he, his ­predecessor Will Hodgman and Rockliff had all “led from the centre”.

“We have won three consecutive elections and held government post those elections with a majority, so quite clearly that style of leadership works.”

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