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View from the Hill: Peter Dutton’s Risky Call to Campaign for ‘No’ in the Vote Referendum


Opposition leader Peter Dutton has vowed to campaign against the Voice to Parliament as the Liberal Party overwhelmingly supported a “no” position for the upcoming constitutional referendum.

After a special party meeting to determine the Liberals’ position, Dutton accused Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of “dividing the country”.

“We should not be voting for a divisive Canberra vote. That is the problem. We should listen to what people on the ground say,” Dutton told a news conference after a two-hour party meeting.

The Liberals have been working towards a ‘no’ position for months, but the position is a major risk for Dutton. A Newspoll published on Wednesday found a majority of people in a majority of states put their vote back into the constitution.

The national total for is 54% with 68% support among 18-34 year olds. Queensland was the only state that didn’t have a yes majority – and there the yes side got 49%. The poll was a quarterly analysis of 4,756 voter interviews between February 1 and April 3.

Dutton faces some disagreement in his own ranks with Tasmanian backbencher Bridget Archer saying she was disappointed, although not surprised by the decision and stated she would “absolutely” campaign for the yes cause.

Archer has also questioned the Liberal Party’s adherence to the values ​​they professed. “We have to live up to the values ​​we claim to have, and I don’t know if we do.”

The Liberals’ decision also puts them at odds with their former minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt, who was on stage when the prime minister announced the wording of the referendum.

Victorian moderate Russell Broadbent said he supported the Voice “but I will not campaign or tell anyone what to do”.

Wednesday’s decision binds liberal frontbenchers in the referendum campaign, but not backbenchers. Dutton said he expected only a handful of them to campaign for a yes vote.

“There may be three or four people in the back seat who want to defend a ‘yes’ position or campaign, and within our party that is within limits. But the vast majority, I mean, when you talk about the mood that prevailed in the Shadow Cabinet or the Shadow Ministry or even the Banquet Hall, the vast majority (supports) the position that we took – no question.”

The Liberals will not oppose the bill to allow the referendum, which is now before a parliamentary committee, although some backbenchers may speak in connection with the “no” campaign.

The party meeting supported constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians and a local and regional voice. Dutton said the liberal proposals would unite rather than divide the country.

He said many Indigenous elders were not in favor of the vote and quoted an aunt who told him “we don’t want 24 academics – they won’t be our vote”.

Dutton sent a warning to some on his side of politics. “Tone is extremely important in this debate. I will not tolerate – from any of my members or from the public discourse – comments that are derogatory towards Indigenous Australians or anyone advocating a ‘yes’ position. This should be a respectful debate.”

Albanese said the liberal decision was “all about internal affairs and playing old politics. It’s not about Australia’s needs, or advancing Australia’s national interests.” The prime minister said he was “very hopeful” that the referendum would succeed.

Asked about the Queensland vote in Newspoll, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the federal government needed to be “much more proactive” in explaining the proposal.

“I think people are after the details,” she said, adding “I will talk to the Prime Minister about how to provide clear information”.

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