Voice architect Noel Pearson has accused Peter Dutton of being duplicitous and dishonest about the Indigenous Voice to parliament, claiming the opposition leader told him he would not argue the Voice would cause a racial divide before making that claim in parliament.
Dutton sparked outcry when he said on May 22 that the Voice would “re-racialise” the nation.
Speaking on Sky News on Sunday, Pearson said he met with Dutton and Liberal MP Julian Leeser when he was shadow attorney-general. Leeser resigned from that role on April 11, after the Liberal Party resolved to oppose the Voice to parliament referendum in a move that bound frontbenchers.
Pearson said Dutton “assured me he did not take the Voice to be a racial proposition” but has since changed his position.
“I met with him two or three times with Julian Leeser, and at those meetings Peter was very clear. He said I do not agree with the race argument.
“Since Julian’s left the spokesperson role he’s [Dutton] come back to make this completely dishonest argument about re-racialising the Constitution.
“That is not the position Peter took to me when Julian Leeser was in the room. He was very anxious to assure me, in fact, that he wasn’t making that argument.”
“I think he is being a bit duplicitous now in talking about re-racialising the Constitution. He’s taking a very different position now to the position he took with me.”
Dutton’s office declined to comment.
The opposition leader said in Parliament on May 22 that the Voice would have an “Orwellian effect” where some Australians are more equal than others.
“The Voice, as proposed by the Prime Minister, promotes difference. And it’s, sadly, a symptom of the madness of identity politics which has infected the 21st century,” Dutton said.
“The Voice will re-racialise our nation. At a time when we need to unite the country, this prime minister’s proposal will permanently divide us by race.”
Pearson asked how anyone could argue the Voice would elevate Indigenous people to a privileged position given the issues confronting Indigenous people in places like Yuendumu, Cooktown, Aurukun and Alice Springs.
“If you’ve seen any blackfellas on the streets there – would you say they are more equal than other Australians? Who could sustain an argument like that?
“Would you say [Indigenous people there] are more equal than other Australians?”
Pearson said it was crucial that the Voice be established to address issues for local communities and engage with Commonwealth legislators.
“It’s got to work at the local level [to] enable those communities to sit down with the Commonwealth government and hopefully with the state government and make deals about the football oval, the housing situation, the children not attending school.”
“At the national level you need to tackle the laws that parliament is making.”
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