The Liberal Party would trash its own legacy if it did not support the referendum on an Indigenous Voice to parliament, a former Liberal deputy leader, Fred Chaney, warned in a rebuke to leader Peter Dutton.
Chaney, one of the Liberal Party’s most prominent advocates for reconciliation, stood alongside Labor senator and Special Envoy for Reconciliation Patrick Dodson to call for national unity at a forum in Melbourne on Tuesday night.
Dodson said on Tuesday he hoped the opposition would put aside partisanship for the sake of Australia’s national and international reputation.
The referendum on the Voice presented the chance for Australians to show to themselves and the world they could establish a new relationship between white and Indigenous people “with clean hearts, clean spirits and, potentially, clean hands”, Dodson said.
“This is going to be one of the best things we are ever going to have the chance to vote upon,” Dodson said. “If we come off and say ‘yes’, it will be one of the most liberating things. It will free everyone from guilt and shame and embarrassment.”
He said he hoped the opposition would see beyond the partisan politics of the issue and recognise the value and merit of showing the world that Australia was prepared to recognise Aboriginal people in the constitution and give them the capacity to make representations to the parliament and the executive government.
Chaney was minister for Aboriginal affairs in Malcolm Fraser’s cabinet from 1978 to 1980, and served as deputy Liberal leader under opposition leader Andrew Peacock from 1989 to 1990.
Chaney and Dodson, together with the First Peoples Assembly head of engagement in Victoria, Amy Rust, were guest speakers at a packed Voice forum at Brighton Town Hall, convened by the member for Goldstein, Zoe Daniel.
Daniel said the fact that the event was sold out, with an audience of more than 380, was a clear indication of the level of engagement building towards the referendum.
Chaney, a leading member of the West Australian establishment and long an influential member of the moderate wing of the Liberal Party until he quit the party in 1995, was appointed in 2020 as a member of the group that wrote the design of the Indigenous Voice to government.
He said the Liberal Party had a long and proud history of promoting Australian inclusiveness dating back to Harold Holt’s dismantling of the White Australia Policy in 1966.
“Peter Dutton has a choice. He can go into this with an open heart, or he can go down a blind alley of appealing to a minority of Australians who want to turn the clock back,” Chaney said.
The following year, Australians overwhelmingly embraced the 1967 referendum that gave the federal government the power to make special laws for Indigenous Australians in all states, and to count Aboriginal people in the census.
Chaney said that even in the intensely partisan atmosphere of 1975, which led to the dismissal of the Whitlam government, significant numbers of Liberal MPs under Malcolm Fraser were prepared to approach their role as parliamentarians seriously, assuring the enactment of family law, racial discrimination and land rights legislation.
“I think now [many in the opposition] increasing think that the ideology speaks, rather than the facts,” he said.
Chaney, the uncle of West Australian teal MP Kate Chaney, said a visit to any city or country town made it obvious that the old Australia and its attitudes had changed.
“If you want to lead a representative party, you have to represent the change that has taken place,” Chaney said.
An earlier version of this story referred to Fred Chaney as independent MP Kate Chaney’s father. He is her uncle.
( Information from politico.com was used in this report. Also if you have any problem of this article or if you need to remove this articles, please email here and we will delete this immediately. [email protected] )