Liberal Party to oppose Voice to parliament

The Liberal Party will formally oppose the government’s model for a Voice to parliament.

After a two-hour meeting in Canberra on Wednesday the opposition instead voted to support legislated, rather than constitutionally enshrined, local and regional voices.

The Liberal Party has voted to oppose the Voice to Parliament.

Alex Ellinghausen

The party will support constitutional recognition of Indigenous people in the Constitution, but not via the creation of a Voice.

“The Liberal Party resolved today to say yes to constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians, yes to a local and regional body, so we can get practical outcomes for Indigenous people on the ground [but] there was a resounding no to the prime minister’s Voice,” Mr Dutton told a press conference in Canberra on Wednesday afternoon.

“We want to make sure we can get the best possible outcomes for Indigenous Australians, and we do that through recognising Indigenous Australians in the constitution … having a Canberra Voice won’t resolve the issues on the ground for Indigenous communities.”

The party will also commit to working with the government to attempt to reach a compromise position on the wording of the constitutional amendment at the end of a parliamentary inquiry into the wording in May.

Shadow ministers will be bound to support the opposition’s new model.

Earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese accused Dutton of seeking to undermine a Yes vote in the referendum “with every utterance he has made”.

“That’s my assessment. People will make their own assessment. I wish that wasn’t the case. I seek as much support as possible for this change,” Albanese said.

Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley said the government’s approach to the Voice would not lead to practical benefits in local Indigenous communities.

“Today is not a ‘no’ from the Liberal Party, it is a day of many yeses. Yes to constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians, yes to local and regional voices, yes to better outcomes for Indigenous Australians, yes to unite this country behind doing everything we can as a parliament to strengthen outcomes for Indigenous Australians,” Ley said.

Ley said the prime minister had displayed “breathtaking arrogance” and had acted in an unbecoming manner throughout the Voice debate.

“I stand here today disappointed with the prime minister, disappointed with his approach. It’s his timeline, it’s his question and his refusal to meet anyone else halfway, on anything as breathtaking in its arrogance.”

Members of shadow cabinet will be bound by the party’s decision however backbenchers will not be penalised if they disagree.

Moderate MPs including Russell Broadbent, Bridget Archer, Jennie Ware, Andrew Bragg and Richard Colbeck spoke against elements of the party’s position.

MPs in favour included Henry Pike, Paul Scarr, Andrew Wallace, David Fawcett, Keith Wolahan, Matt O’Sullivan, Wendy Askew, and Indigenous senator Kerrynne Liddle.

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